Brook Lopez scored 20 points and his partner Kris Humphries had 16 points and 15 rebounds as the New Jersey Nets upset the Boston Celtics 88-79 in Newark on Monday. The Nets have now won five straight, and are only 5.5 games out of a playoff spot. That seems like a great margin, but if you've paid attention to the teams battling for the No. 8 seed in the East, you'd know that anything is possible.
New Jersey went on a 14-1 between the third and fourth quarters to pull what proved to be an insurmountable lead. Oddly enough, Deron Williams, Lopez and Humphries were on the bench for all of it. But so was Kevin Garnett, and this is where the Celtics miss Kendrick Perkins -- there's simply no second defensive big man to rely on right now. A healthy Jermaine O'Neal could solve that problem, but a healthy Jermaine O'Neal isn't an option right now, or maybe ever. (The 14-1 run, by the way, included six points from Sundiata Gaines and five from Travis Outlaw. Stars!)
The Celtics slipped into a tie with the Chicago Bulls for the No. 1 seed in the East, and by virtue of their win over the Spurs, the Miami Heat moved a full game closer. The No. 1 seed in the West is likely more vital this season than in any of the past three, because the No. 7 Sixers and No. 6 Knicks pose greater challenges than whoever lands at No. 8, unless, of course, the Nets land at No. 8.
In other action:
Nuggets 114, Hornets 103: Chris Paul's 27 points and 10 assists couldn't Ty Lawson's 23 points and 10 assists. More accurately, CP3's team couldn't keep up with Lawson's. Raymond Felton added 22 and 12 off the bench, meaning Denver's point guards contributed 45 points and 22 assists. Well done!
Rockets 95, Suns 93: Kevin Martin scored 23 on 8-16 shooting as the Rockets edged Phoenix. The Suns trailed all game long and made it interesting in the fourth, but couldn't pull a lead. Josh Childress played nearly the entire fourth, with seven points, four rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal. It turns out he's good!
Jazz 112, 76ers 107: Philadelphia trailed by as many as 21, but came back with brilliant fourth quarter performances from Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Elton Brand. Alas, Andrei Kirilenko scored seven in overtime. Jazz win.
Kings 129, Warriors 119: I might finally understand we so many are so down on these Warriors. The Kings ripped out to a 19-3 lead and dominated vast stretches of the game. Marcus Thornton dropped 42 points on Monta Ellis, 26 of which came in the first half. Samuel Dalembert had a career-high 27 points with 16 rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins fouled out in 26 minutes, but not before he racked up 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. This is a 90-minute road trip in the car for the Warriors. I know they played Sunday at home, but jeez.