Saturday was a busy day around the NBA with 12 games on schedule. Oklahoma City took care of business on the road in San Antonio, Dwight Howard dominated one of the best young centers in the game and Portland escaped with their 23-5 record in tact -- but just barely.
Here's a roundup of a hectic day in the NBA.
Oklahoma City Thunder 113, San Antonio Spurs 100
Oklahoma City jumped out to an early lead against the Spurs, who were playing without Kawhi Leonard. Gregg Popovich's squad tried to reel in the NBA-leading Thunder in the third quarter but Russell Westbrook was having none of that.
San Antonio got within three points early in the fourth, but the Thunder's bench -- including valiant efforts from Reggie Jackson and Steven Adams -- pushed Oklahoma City over the top. Westbrook finished with 31 points and eight assists.
Anthony Davis is for real. That can't be stressed enough. The sophomore had 21 points and nine rebonds against one of the best power forwards in the NBA in LaMarcus Aldridge. That's no small task considering Aldridge has been playing like a legitimate MVP candidate this season. Tyreke Evans helped the Pelicans with 21 points off the bench, adding six rebounds and six assists.
Portland took the lead early in the second half, but lost it to New Orleans with three minutes to play in the fourth quarter.. The Trail Blazers played tough defense, and Damian Lillard hit a three-pointer with 1:27 left that gave Portland their final lead. New Orleans had two three-point shot attempts that would have tied the game with less than five seconds left, but ultimately fell to Portland at the Moda Center.
Memphis Grizzlies 97, New York Knicks 87
Despite another exciting outing from Knicks rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., New York fell to the Memphis Grizzlies in an early morning game. Memphis got a strong showing from Zach Randolph, who logged 25 points and 15 rebounds as the Grizzlies stopped a five-game losing streak against the defensively inept Knicks.
Mike Woodson insisted on starting Andrea Bargnani, despite all advanced statistics and common sense. Even with Tyson Chandler back, the Knicks looked out-of-sorts on the glass and stagnant on offense. There was one bright moment.
Hey, that was fun! Right? Dunks! If you're going to lose by 10 at home you might as well do it in style. Anything to wash the taste out of the mouths of Knicks fans from Wednesday night.
Washington Wizards 106, Boston Celtics 99
The Atlantic Division-leading Boston Celtics now have a record of 12-16. Let's just let that sink in for a moment. Washington is an electric team when their two young guards, John Wall and Bradley Beal, get things clicking. When they don't, they can find themselves in a bit of trouble. That was the case Saturday afternoon as the Wizards were down early following a 14-point first quarter.
Washington rallied as the Celtics buckled, with the Wizards pushing a second half comeback into a seven-point win. For Boston, Avery Bradley continued to impress, scoring 26 points on 12-of-18 shooting.
Oh, and this happened:
Milwaukee Bucks 116, Philadelphia 76ers 106
The Bucks won a game. This is not a drill. Call your loved ones. Caron Butler made his way back into the lineup for Milwaukee, dropping in 22 points while adding 11 rebounds. Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 27 points alongside five rebounds.
Thaddeus Young continues to impress the league with his hot play as of late. He did his best for the Sixers on Saturday night, adding 30 points and 10 rebounds in the loss. These two teams are a combined 14-41. What do you mean you weren't watching?
Utah Jazz 88, Charlotte Bobcats 85
Utah, not to be outdone by the Milwaukee Bucks, decided to win a game of its own, this time against the defensively-efficient Bobcats in Charlotte. For the Cats, Kemba Walker poured in 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting, but had five turnovers. It's not surprising Charlotte dropped a game to the Jazz as the Bobcats were playing their fourth game in five nights.
That fatigue showed as Utah's Trey Burke scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to push the Jazz past Milwaukee and on to a record of 8-22. The real story, of course, was Charlotte revealing its new logo for the 2014-2015 NBA season.
The 2014-15 Charlotte Hornets logo is unveiled: pic.twitter.com/CEkFOxCMfA— Ben Swanson (@CardboardGerald) December 22, 2013
The Warriors certainly appear to be happy their
backup point guard starting small forward is back in Andre Iguodala. He had a quiet night scoring, but worked within the offense well and his hamstring didn't seem to bother him.
Golden State shared the load offensively. Despite shooting just 38.8 percent for the game, the Warriors killed the Lakers in transition and locked down on defense, forcing L.A. to shoot just 4-of-20 from behind the arc, its favorite place to score.
Denver was on the second night of a back-to-back and was clearly out-matched talent-wise against the Clippers. Clearly:
Fancy dribbling aside, Los Angeles got the bulk of its scoring from Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin. Playing efficiently, Crawford scored 27 points including six three-pointers on 10-of-20 shooting. Griffin grabbed 16 boards on his way to dropping 24 points on the hapless Nuggets.
In his first game back after tearing his retina in mid-November, Matt Barnes provided 10 points, three assists, three blocks, and three steals.
Denver's leading scorer was Wilson Chandler who scored 19 points.
Sacramento Kings 105, Orlando Magic 100
Sacramento hit a season-high 12 three-pointers against the Magic on Saturday, well over the team average, to put Orlando away at home. Rudy Gay had a very Rudy Gay type of night, just barely squeaking past the more-shots-than-points limit by scoring 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting.
Orlando looked to be in full on tank mode, letting Sacramento rip its two-point lead away at the start of the fourth quarter. Whether it's a comedy of errors or just a tragedy, the Magic aren't winning against lower-level teams like the Kings at home and that should tell you something. Aaron Afflalo finished with 26 points for Orlando.
Chicago Bulls 100, Cleveland Cavaliers 84
Chicago finally got a little relief as it beat the Cavs at home. Joakim Noah scored 11 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for the Bulls while Carlos Boozer added 19 points and nine boards. Point guard D.J. Augustin completely out-played Kyrie Irving, logging 18 points and 10 assists for the Bulls.
Something has gone horribly wrong in Cleveland, and it starts with Irving. His play has been a bit inconsistent as of late, and a young Cavs squad can't afford him off nights.
Houston Rockets 114, Detroit Pistons 97
Dwight Howard monstered Andre Drummond for 35 points and 19 rebounds, a testament to the skills he still has tucked inside his aging body. In a bummer for Houston, backup Patrick Beverley fractured his hand in the first half of the game, leaving Aaron Brooks as the Rockets' only remaining point guard. Championship!
Detroit's system of run-and-post didn't do much good against the Rockets, who basically do the same thing but with much better three-point shooters, much better post players, and much better, uh, runners. Josh Smith recorded 19 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks as a consolation prize.
Phoenix Suns 123, Dallas Mavericks 108
You can't teach an old dog new tricks, especially if that trick is defending the fastbreak or stopping the Phoenix Suns from making 15 threes. The Mavericks fell by big numbers as Eric Bledsoe led all scorers with 25 points. Gerald Green was crucial for the Suns off the bench, shooting 4-of-8 from behind the arc and finishing with 22 points. Channing Frye added four made threes of his own for a total of 18 points and eight rebounds.
Dallas, on the other hand, was abysmal from long range, shooting just 17.6 percent from three while its top scorer was Dirk Nowitzki with 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting.
But hey, Vince Carter old man dunk!