Knicks 100, Nets 97: Brooklyn started out the game on a 21-5 run, playing some of their best interior defense since Brook Lopez went down (which is a weird thing to type). Deron Williams was attacking. Things were clicking and the Nets shot 67 percent in the quarter.
But starting with a 12-2 run in the middle of the second quarter the Knicks owned the rest of the game. Part of that was Carmelo Anthony, who had 14 points in the second quarter, 15 in the fourth when it mattered and a grand total of 45. The Knicks were moving the ball, getting and hitting three point looks — 14-of-28. Andray Blatche had 23 to lead the Nets. It was another fun, close game between these teams. But old man Jason Kidd was the difference when it mattered most. (He missed the free throw on the and-1, but ‘Sheed did not yell “Ball Don’t Lie.”)
Clippers, Bulls: The Bulls did everything by the books. They created 4-on-3 opportunities in the high post for Joakim Noah (6 assists) to pick apart the defense. They got Carlos Boozer open looks along the baseline, where he used his power to overwhelm (24 points) the Clippers frontcourt. And of course, the halfcourt defense was wonderful.
But here’s the thing — the Bulls can do everything right schematically and still lose because the talent just isn’t on par with the league’s elite teams. Marco Belinelli clanked his way to a 6-for-22 shooting performance. Should Belinelli shoot 22 shots ever? Probably not, but these are the types of realities good teams will force the Bulls to face. —D.J. Foster
Nuggets 101, Pistons 94: The Nuggets led the entire second half, but these are a scrappy Pistons bunch and they made Denver work for it. The real key for the Nuggets was their bench — Corey Brewer had 15 points, JaVale McGee 12 and Andre Miller 11. And the three did it shooting 66.7 percent. Ty Lawson also filled up the stat sheet with 26 points, getting 16 of those in the second half. The Pistons Greg Monroe had 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Wizards 77, Hornets 70: Even Anthony Davis’ return couldn’t save this from being an ugly affair. The Wizards shot 32.9 percent and won (the Hornets were 32.5). Washington scored just 11 points in the first quarter, but that was better than New Orleans 10 in the fourth quarter. Heck, Jordan Crawford outscored the Hornets by himself 14-10 (Crawford finished with 26). Davis had 13 points and 8 rebounds in his return.
Baseline to Baseline recaps: Indiana gets a little revenge
Pacers 95, Bulls 90: Last year in the first round of the playoffs the Bulls brushed the Pacers aside with ease — this game was evidence of how much better this year’s Pacers are. Roy Hibbert had 20 and is much tougher in the paint, David West had 14 (he wasn’t even a Pacer last year) and Indiana’s overall defense is much better. Derrick Rose had 24 points but only two in the fourth quarter — and he even kicked out a key late shot to Brian Scalabrine (who missed it). I’ll still take Chicago in a seven-game series (especially with Luol Deng and Taj Gibson back, both of whom are out injured), but the Pacers are going to be a very tough this year.
Cavaliers 91, Knicks 81: Spare me the “second night of a back-to-back” excuse for the Knicks — except for Carmelo Anthony, he has looked almost as tired as Demi Moore. But aside that this loss was all their normal issues on display, just sloppier. New York had 22 turnovers and that really was the key state here, but there were other problems as well. ‘Melo was bad. Toney Douglas was 3-12. As a team they shot 3-20 from three. On the other side Anderson Varejao was a beast (10 points, 15 boards, 7 offensive) and was a defensive force that turned this game. Trade offers are going to come rolling in for that guy soon. Antawn Jamison led the way with 15 points, but it was a balanced attack and the entire Cavaliers team fought harder.
Bucks 105, Houston 99: Milwaukee raced out to a 12-0 lead as Brandon Jennings was getting the outlet pass and just beating everyone down the court. The Rockets were getting good looks from the outside early, the Bucks were packing the lane, but the Rockets started 1-12 from three. Then things turned around late in the second quarter and that carried into the second half. Houston found its shot, its legs and the lead. That’s when the Bucks bench happened — Stephen Jackson came and scored seven quick points (when his bad shots fall he’s tough to stop) and suddenly the Bucks were on a 14-4 run and back in front. I like what Scott Skiles did — his bench was hot so he rode them the entire fourth quarter. Mike Dunleavy and Jackson each had nine points in the fourth and the Bucks held on to win.
Wizards 92, Bobcats 75: It was Randy Wittman’s first game as Wizards head coach is a win, but it wasn’t really anything he did — Charlotte is just this bad. Washington is a much more talented, better team and it showed when they were up 20 at the half. Washington’s defensive effort seemed pretty good, but again we need to see it against real competition before judging. Andray Blatche had 17 points and 10 rebounds, good luck getting that kind of production out of him consistently, Randy.
Thunder 101, Hornets 91: This pretty much typifies the Hornets this season — they never led in this game (their ninth straight loss), but they fought hard and refused to let themselves get blown out. Jarrett Jack is New Orleans primary scorer and had 20. The Thunder looked like they got a little bored in the second half, but the game was never in doubt.
Nets 97, Sixers 90 (OT): Deron Williams owned this game. Owned. He had 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime alone, including the step-back three to win it all. He had 34 points on the night and when you throw in his 11 dimes he accounted for more than half of the Nets points all by himself. The Sixers have a beautiful, balanced attack but when they get to the playoffs and they need a bucket, who is the guy who can go get it for them? Jrue Holiday (12 points in fourth quarter and OT)? Maybe. New Jersey, for all the flaws on its roster, has one of those guys who they know can take over.
Spurs 105, Hawks 83: It’s been 14 years since the Hawks beat the Spurs in San Antonio, so how did you think this was going to end? San Antonio was solid all around and had 17 from DeJuan Blair, including 8 in the fourth quarter. Also, Tiago Splitter is tearing it up of late, he finished with 16. If he is a real inside presence for the Spurs in the playoffs, they are much more dangerous. He’s looking like the guy the Spurs thought they were getting out of Europe.
Heat 101, Pistons 98: This was another game where the Heat were much more talented but not necessarily the team playing harder. (To be fair, fourth game in five nights and still no Dwyane Wade; but the Pistons were shorthanded as well.) Austin Daye had his best game of the season and single-handedly kept it close with 18 first half points (Detroit was down six at the break). Detroit came back from being 10 down midway through the fourth quarter to tie it all up at 90-90 with 3:30 left. Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe played well, reminding us there is a youth movement in Detroit.
Down the stretch the Heat played better defense and LeBron first set up Chris Bosh with some sweet passes (Bosh finished with 27 points) then got to the line himself for four key free throws (32 total points). Miami is now 8-1 without Wade.
Timberwolves 105, Mavericks 90: Yes, but Dallas now has those shiny rings. Minnesota got good games from its stars — Kevin Love had 31 points and 10 rebounds; Ricky Rubio had 17 points and 12 assists. Minnesota played good defense in the second half and Dallas fell in love with the jump shot and didn’t attack. As a result, Minny took 33 free throws, Dallas 10. When Dallas’ jumpers didn’t fall at an alarming rate, they were in trouble.
Raptors 111, Jazz 106 (2OT): I didn’t put Dwane Casey in my list of guys up for coach of the year, but he has made the Raptors a team you have to respect. Toronto was down 18 early but fought back. They trailed by 7 midway through the fourth but fought back. Linas Kleiza was a monster, with 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtimes he was the Raptors best player. Jose Calderon hit some big shots as well, but those felt a lot more like prayers than shots. This is an impressive road win on back-to-back nights for Toronto (they beat Phoenix the night before).
Nuggets 122, Kings 93: These two teams just play at different paces with different levels of energy. Denver was beat Sacramento to every spot on the floor all night long. The Nuggets took control of this game with a 13-0 run in the second quarter and that was that. Denver had 92 of its points in the paint. Think about that. Ninety-two.
Warriors 101, Portland 93: On its third game in three nights Portland tried to pound the soft interior of the Warriors defense, and that worked for a while with LaMarcus Aldridge leading the way (he finished with 18 points). But Golden State came back because they just shot lights out all night. They shot 51.9 percent as a team and hit 11-20 threes including 5-of-6 during a key stretch in the third when they took the lead for good. Hot shooting nights win games and Portland didn’t have the legs under them to respond.
Baseline to Baseline recaps: Knicks love their ‘Melo iso
Knicks 91, Bobcats 87: Every good team has a bad team that just gives them fits. Maybe the Bobcats are that for the Knicks. Or, maybe we are overestimating the Knicks.
The Knicks played pretty good defense in this one — particularly Tyson Chandler, who controlled the paint (as the Knicks hoped he would). Sure, Charlotte isn’t a very good offensive team, but you take the small victories where you can get them with the Knicks defense.
The problem is, you get no consistent run of good play from the Knicks at both ends. New York had flashes of good offense in this game, sweet back cuts and ally-oops, movement off the ball. Even a few fast breaks.
But so much of the game — especially late when the game was on the line — the Knicks ran stagnant isolations. The game was tied at 82-82 with 2:55 left and the Knicks sets were: Carmelo Anthony wing isolation (against D.J. White) on the left; Carmelo isolation on the left; Carmelo wing isolation on the right; and finally an isolation that resulted in a missed Carmelo jumper. You get the idea. It was enough for the win, ‘Melo finds ways to score, but the Knicks offense does not impress some nights. Anthony and Amare Stoudemire combined to shoot 13-of-43 (30.2 percent). They don’t have much scoring beyond those two, they can’t both have off nights.
Raptors 97, Timberwolves 87: Um, don’t tell anyone, but Andrea Bargnani is playing really well lately. He had 31 points and 9 rebounds, and this season has seemed a lot more comfortable in the offense. He’s playing like an All-Star. The Raptors played great defense — Amir Johnson held Kevin love to 13 points on 16 shots, ending Love’s 20 point, 12 rebound streak. Dwane Casey has made a huge difference up north.
Hawks 106, Nets 101: Atlanta raced out early and, while the score looked close at the end, Atlanta was never really in danger. The Hawks were up 31-18 after a first quarter where Atlanta shot 63.6 percent and the Nets shot 29.4 percent. It was a night where Josh Smith’s jumper was falling (26 points), Jeff Teague was perfect from three (20 points) and Joe Johnson got good looks and drained them. Credit the Nets for fighting the whole way and not rolling over, but their defense is bad.
Bulls 92, Pistons 68: Detroit hung around early — it was 21-21 at the end of the first quarter — but, really, how did you think this would end? The Pistons got worn down by the Bulls defense and shot just 39.4 percent for the game. Carlos Boozer had 23, Derrick Rose 22 and the Pistons had no answers.
Hornets 94, Nuggets 81: New Orleans just kind of had its way inside against Denver, with Carl Landry scoring 21 and Chris Kaman had 20. Even on the perimeter the looks the Hornets got were good ones and they knocked them down. The Nuggets have had a couple rough defensive outings (the Spurs game) lately, just something to watch.