Rockets 87, Timberwolves 84
In many ways, this win was more impressive than any the Rockets have had during this torrid stretch of play. Usually, they crush teams by zipping by them on fast breaks and overwhelming them with their speed. On this night, though, the Timberwolves largely took all that away, especially in the second and third quarters. And yet, Houston still found a way to win down the stretch.
A lot of credit goes to James Harden, of course. As good as he's been this year, he's sometimes struggled when being counted on to carry a team home down the stretch. Such is life when you are the focal point instead of the third option behind Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. In this game, though, Harden generated decent looks late and knocked them down, carrying Houston when it couldn't rely on just speeding by the Timberwolves in the open floor.
For the Timberwolves, Kevin Love is clearly still not right. Love took the same kinds of shots he did last year, but he just missed them.
Knicks 99, Suns 97
First, let's marvel at J.R. Smith. That was an incredible shot, and Smith continues to have an outstanding season. Where would the Knicks be without him?
Done? OK. Let's at least note that the Knicks may be in a bit of short-term trouble with Raymond Felton out 4-6 weeks and Carmelo Anthony still banged up. This might be as good a time as ever for Amar'e Stoudemire to come back, because the Knicks could use another shot in the arm.
Nuggets 126, Lakers 114
Smart people correctly lauded the Lakers for winning in New York, but they also noted that L.A. still had plenty of things to work out before they truly could be seen as a contender in the West again. One such thing: half-court defense. With or without Dwight Howard, it was really bad. Even when the Lakers got an initial stop, the Nuggets' athletic big men often found ways to get the rebound.
Don't let Kobe Bryant's 40 points fool you. The Lakers' star played brilliantly again, but as usual, the strategy wasn't sustainable. When the Lakers can't get stops, Bryant tends to take more shots. On this night, he hit them and kept his team in the game, but he wouldn't try to do that if the rest of the team showed up defensively.
Meanwhile, Corey Brewer proved once again why he's a valuable NBA rotation piece. Twenty-seven points was impressive. Six of seven from three-point range was too. He won't be that hot every night, but he will always play hard and hit some threes.
Warriors 94, Jazz 83
Golden State keeps picking up signature wins. Energy Solutions Arena is a very difficult place to play, and the Warriors made it look like it Verizon Center. It's getting harder and harder not to notice these guys.
76ers 99, Grizzlies 89
Every so often, Dorell Wright has these kinds of games. Wright hit five of his eight threes and eight of his 11 field goals to score a game-high 28 points in the win. Elevated into the starting lineup, Wright flashed the kind of skills that make you wonder why he doesn't play like this more often. Then, you remember that he's basically a three-point shooter and it all makes sense again.
The Grizzlies definitely missed Rudy Gay in this one, but this loss continues a concerning trend of playing down to their competition. It's becoming more difficult for Memphis to generate the kind of offense it needs to stay near the top of the Western Conference.
Bucks 108, Nets 93
The Nets are simply a mess right now. Sure, Deron Williams didn't play, but this was a 13-point game at halftime. The Nets' customary late run didn't materialize, and they fell to .500.
Hawks 126, Pistons 119
The Hawks tried as best they could to blow this game, but the Pistons wouldn't quite oblige. Detroit's bench terrorized Atlanta's in the fourth quarter, but just didn't have enough left to steal the game in either overtime. Of course, if Al Horford could hit two free throws, the game would have ended in regulation. Nevertheless, it eventually finally ended.
Andre Drummond had 16 points and 12 rebounds in 36 minutes. This is apparently what happens when you give him normal playing time.
Spurs 100, Raptors 80
San Antonio, unsurprisingly, is where five-game winning streaks from bad teams go to die. This was a game for about 32 minutes, but the Spurs closed the third quarter strong and put it away.
Blazers 109, Kings 91
LaMarcus Aldridge has been pretty up and down all year, but this was one of his strongest performances. When he drops 28 and 12, it makes it so much easier for everyone else to do their jobs well. That probably explains why Nicolas Batum and J.J. Hickson had such efficient performances.
Heat 105, Bobcats 92
The most notable thing that happened in this game was Dwyane Wade pretty clearly kneeing Ramon Sessions intentionally in the groin. As for the game itself, Wade was too much down the stretch, as the Heat eventually pulled away to give Charlotte its 16th straight loss.
Cavaliers 87, Wizards 84
One of these two teams had Kyrie Irving. The other countered with Shelvin Mack and Garrett Temple. In a tight game, that proved to be the difference, as Irving made an incredibly difficult pass to Tristan Thompson for the game-sealing three-point play with less than a minute remaining.
Hornets 97, Magic 94
New Orleans' two leading scorers in this game were Robin Lopez and Greivis Vasquez. In a related story, the Magic did not hit a field goal in the final six minutes of the game.