NBA Scores And More: Hawks Stop Magic, Dwight Howard; Carmelo Anthony Saves New York

Do the Hawks have a legit plan to handle Dwight? Or is the Jason Collins Theorem just fool's gold? In other action, Carmelo Anthony lifted the Knicks (again) and the Hornets won a crucial tiebreaker over the Blazers.

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Magic Vs. Hawks: Dwight Howard Solved As Atlanta Beats Orlando

Dwight Howard was, as the headline says, solved by the Atlanta Hawks as the Orlando Magic fell to their Southeast rivals 85-82. Howard managed to total 17 points and 13 rebounds, but shot just 4-13 from the floor and played only 32 minutes due to foul trouble. The question is whether Howard was solved for just one night in March, or if Atlanta has a legitimate solution that can translate to the inevitable first-round NBA Playoffs series between the two, which will begin in two weeks.

The Magic are locked in to the No. 4 seed in the East; the Hawks will be the No. 5 seed. That means they'll hook up in the first round, with Orlando getting the home court advantage. Atlanta has struggled to handle Howard in the past; Orlando whipped the Hawks by an average of 20 points per game in a 4-0 sweep in last spring's East semifinals. Howard averaged 21 and 13 in that series, but more importantly shot 27-32 from the floor. (Yep, 84 percent.) The Hawks edged the Magic on Wednesday largely because Howard wasn't efficient, and wasn't on the floor for 40 minutes. How'd they do that?

With Jason Collins, largely. The smart but limited vet goaded Howard into two quick fouls in the first quarter; Larry Drew never left Collins in the game when Howard went to the bench, and it's worth noting that Dwight got his points when Drew needed offense on the floor and left Collins on the pine. Collins is such a drain on offense compared to Hawks like Marvin Williams and Jamal Crawford that it's a balance Drew has to find in each game and, really, each quarter. It worked Wednesday, but it's so tricky, and Howard has shown he can overcome even great defenses. He "figured out" the Celtics last postseason, remember?

Either way, if we can get a competitive series in the Southeast instead of a series of blow-outs, we all win. This is a good step for everyone but Magic fans.


Nets Vs. Knicks: Carmelo Anthony Saves New York From Invading Horde

Carmelo Anthony broke the 30-point mark for the third straight game, hanging 39 on the New Jersey Nets as the New York Knicks took a 120-116 victory over their cross-river rivals on national TV on Wednesday. The Nets' offense was nearly unstoppable in the first half, as N.J. hung 68 on the board by halftime and led by 10. But New York retook the paint in the second half, and Brook Lopez (22 points in the first half, four in the second) calmed way down.

New York's defense wasn't good in the second half, per se; Anthony Morrow popped in 14 in the third quarter himself, and Deron Williams -- back from a wrist injury -- scored 16 after the break. But the Knicks stemmed the bleeding just enough, and their offense was immaculate. The game was close the entire fourth quarter; the Nets made mistakes that the Knicks were able to capitalize on.

One of those was a three-point foul by Jordan Farmar on Chauncey Billups that allowed New York to tie the game; the most egregious was perhaps Travis Outlaw's traveling violation in transition with the score knotted at 114 and 90 seconds left. 'Melo responded with a jumper for his only two points of the fourth, and the Knicks would never trail again.

The Knicks are now 37-38. They next play Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that has beaten New York three times this season.


Blazers Vs. Hornets: Carl Landry Helps Lift New Orleans Over Portland In Key West Battle

The New Orleans Hornets refuse to give up, knocking off the hot Portland Trail Blazers 95-91 on Wednesday, with David West's replacement Carl Landry busting out for 21 points, essentially mitigating LaMarcus Aldridge's 24-point outpouring. Landry, acquired from Sacramento at the trade deadline, struggled as a sixth man in New Orleans. But West's injury has been met with a breakout for the former Rockets forward; Landry has averaged 21 points over the three games since West's injury, and the Hornets have gone 2-1.

The Blazers didn't get a whole lot of offense beyond Aldridge and Andre Miller (19). Nicolas Batum shot 0-7, Wesley Matthews scored just seven points and Brandon Roy contributed just five off the bench. Portland hung 31 on N.O. in the first quarter, but didn't break 21 in any period beyond that. The Hornets' offense is no great shakes, so the Blazers held a lead until the fourth, when Willie Green (!) fueled a 16-4 run that turned the game.

With the win, New Orleans earned a tiebreaker over the Blazers by virtue of a 3-1 season series victory. The teams are currently tied for the No. 6 seed in the West. As it currently stands, the No. 6 seed would play the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, and the No. 7 seed would draw the L.A. Lakers.


Rockets Vs. 76ers: Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia Defense Knock Out Houston

The Houston Rockets desperately needed to beat a good Philadelphia 76ers team to keep a reasonable reach on the No. 8 seed in the West's NBA playoff picture. But Houston's offense didn't get on track in the second half, and the Rockets -- a bad defensive team -- couldn't stop Jrue Holiday or Thaddeus Young, leading to a 108-97 Sixers victory. Holiday had 24 points on 8-12 shooting and 12 assists. Young scored 22 off the bench, hitting 11 of 19 shots and picking up nine rebounds.

Houston led by three at halftime despite a horrid second quarter in terms of offense; the Rockets' defense imploded in the third quarter, giving up 32 points on 61 percent shooting. In the fourth, Houston conceded, scoring just 15 points on 26 percent shooting and allowing Philly to run away with it.

As the Memphis Grizzlies continue to dismantle (almost) everything in their path, it seems as if Houston is done. That's too bad, because this is a fun team that had no business being in the race.

In other action:

Bobcats 98, Cavaliers 97: Anthony Parker missed a runner at the buzzer to allow Charlotte to continue clinging to hope for a playoff bid. Boris Diaw had 26 points, including the winning free throw.

Pacers 111, Pistons 101: Indiana did its job, punching out the Pistons. (Not literally!)

Bucks 104, Raptors 98: Milwaukee also kept pace, though it needs a good deal of help (as in losses) from the teams in front of it.

Heat 123, Wizards 107: LeBron James scored 35 and had eight assists; Dwayne Wade scored 33 and had nine assists. I think this is some kind of Ponzi scheme! John Wall punched Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the ribs, and the refs needed 20 minutes to sort it all out.

Grizzlies 110, Warriors 91: Memphis is on some kind of rampage. Tony Allen and Mike Conley scored 41; Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis only put together 26. Curry, in particular, was awful, shooting 2-14 and giving up six turnovers.

Bulls 108, Wolves 91: Chicago dismissed Minnesota with ease, as Carlos Boozer had 24 points and 14 rebounds. Derrick Rose shot 5-14, but 4-9 from long-range.

Nuggets 104, Kings 90: Sacramento's winning streak is over! Marcus Thornton scored 27 and Tyreke Evans added 22 off the bench, and the Kings had a double-digit lead at halftime. But Denver owned the second half. Ty Lawson scored 20 to lead the charge.

Mavericks 106, Clippers 100: Dallas just edged the Clippers, with Blake Griffin hammering the Mavs for 25 points and 17 rebounds. Dirk Nowitzki had 24 of his own, and Jose Barea came up with a decisive 22 off the bench.

Thunder 116, Suns 98: Something ugly went down in Phoenix, and I'm not talking about an 18-point blowout. SB Nation Arizona reports that Zabian Dowdell was ejected with one minute left after responding to referee Ken Mauer, who reportedly had told Dowdell to "stop acting like a little b---h." Dowdell apparently said something about saying that off the court, and Aaron Brooks also chimed in, and Mauer booted them both.

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