ABOUT LAST NIGHT
The Cleveland Cavaliers notched their 13th straight victory, tying their franchise record, by defeating the Sacramento Kings, 101-95. They needed a fourth quarter rally, and the reliable heroics of LeBron James to do it. With the game tied at 95, he provided the difference, hitting a runner of the glass, then draining a three. He finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks on 12-18 shooting.
In our Game of the Night, the Celtics outscored the Mavericks, 50-33 in the second half, to come away with a 97-90 victory. Boston was missing Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown, but Terry Rozier (12 points, 9 rebounds), Daniel Theis (7 points, 11 rebounds) and Shane Larkin (11 points) all played well off the bench to help offset their absences. Of course, when it was time to put the game away down the stretch, it was Kyrie Irving who took over, scoring seven points of his 23 points in the final few minutes of the game.
Irving described his approach in clutch moments by saying, “It’s just a constant masterpiece that you have to paint. Sometimes it’s going to be all scribble and stuff like that, it’s OK to get out of the lines.”
In their first game without Steph Curry, the Warriors turned to Kevin Durant, who did not disappoint. He submitted a triple double, with 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Warriors took care of business with a 101-87 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
“It’s fun when you get to create and be creative out there, whether it’s passing to JaVale for a lob or shooting a pullup or a jump shot — all the stuff that you work on in those situations,” explained Durant. “Tonight, it felt like I could go in my bag of tools, my bag of tricks to pull some stuff out. I don’t expect it to be like that every single game, but tonight I thought it called for it.”
The Pacers found themselves trailing the Chicago Bulls by 15 points with nine minutes remaining in the game, but Victor Oladipo rescued them, capping off a fourth quarter comeback by pulling up and nailing a three with 31.1 seconds on the clock to give the Pacers their first lead of the game at 97-96.
“Nobody stopped me,” said Oladipo, who finished with 27 points and 8 rebounds. “I could’ve kept going and drove into the defense, or pull up for the 3, shoot the ball with confidence. That’s what I did.”
His big shot saved the Pacers from an embarrassing home loss to the lowly Bulls, who are now a despicable 3-20 on the season.
DeAndre Jordan sprung for 18 points and 21 rebounds, and Danillo Gallinari returned for the injury ravaged Clippers, but he shot a yucky 2-13 from the field, and Los Angeles lost, 113-107, to the Timberwolves.
“It’s very difficult,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s frustrating. Nobody likes to lose. We’re losing a lot of games.”
He’s not wrong. Los Angeles is now 8-15 and trade rumors are swirling around Jordan, as is speculation as to how long Rivers will remain the coach.
As for the Timberwolves, they’re headed in the opposite direction, and seem on their way to making the playoffs for the first time since 2004. They were led by Karl-Anthony Towns and his 21 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks on 9-14 shooting.
The Milwaukee Bucks kicked off the fourth quarter with a 14-1 run, but still had to sweat out a 104-100 victory over the Detroit Pistons. Eric Bledsoe helped keep the Pistons at bay, hitting a clutch jumper and tipping in his own miss in the final minute of the game, before the Bucks clinched the game by hitting their free throws.
The win came despite Andre Drummond’s 27 points, 20 rebounds and 6 assists on 12-16 shooting in yet another magnificent performance. Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Bledsoe finished with 22.
After starting 14-6, and catching the attention of NBA fans and followers, the Pistons have now lost four in a row, just in time to have to face Golden State and Boston this weekend, two teams that will be looking to avenge prior losses to Detroit this season.
Still without Anthony Davis, the Pelicans got a huge performance from DeMarcus Cousins, who led them to a 123-114 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets. Cousins exploded for 40 points and 22 rebounds, and Jrue Holliday contributed 27 points and 7 assists.
The Nuggets, who are missing more than just one key player, now also have to deal with a pissed off coach. The loss, which dropped Denver’s road record to a paltry 3-9, inspired some harsh words from Mike Malone.
“It’s becoming the same story every single night. And until our guys start taking it personally, until our guys start understanding the importance of playing defense and guarding your man 1-on-1, forget playoffs. That is a word we should not use with this team. Let’s just talk about being real honest. We are a bad basketball team on the road. We are a very good team at home. Unfortunately, in the NBA, you have to play 41 games on the road, and right now we are a bad road team.”
This loss could also come back to haunt them in April, as the Pelicans and Nuggets are fighting for position in the Western playoff race.
With just six seconds left, DJ Augustin knocked down a three pointer to force overtime between the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks. From there, his Magic were able to come away with a 110-106 victory. Evan Fournier led Orlando with 27 points, but he also injured his ankle on the first possession of overtime. X-rays were negative, and he’ll be reevaluated today. Nikola Vucevic added 22 points and 16 rebounds for the Magic, while Aaron Gordon provided 24 & 15. Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 26 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists.
Last but not least, the Knicks earned a 99-88 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden, and the Spurs defeated the Heat, 117-105.
THE NIGHT AHEAD
Game of the Night – Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz (10:30 pm, Turner Network Television)
The Jazz have been dealing with a mess of injuries this season, but they’ve hung tough, winning seven of their last nine games. They’re living proof of that good coaching and chemistry can enable the sum to be greater than the parts. Of course, they’ve got a real challenge on their hands tonight, with the Rockets paying a visit. Houston has won seven in a row, and 13 of their last 14 games. Their high powered offense will get a good test against the defensive minded Jazz, and it should be worth staying up late for.