After putting on one of the greatest shooting displays in league history the night before, the Rockets still showcased their potentially hyper-efficient offense, but, hey, have you guys noticed Dwyane Wade has been playing really well of late?
Not just really well for Dwyane Wade this season, whom everyone cast aside in November and December as too old and battered to be the same player and too stubborn to adapt. Dwyane Wade has been playing really well. How about this line: 31 points, eight assists, five rebounds, four steals, two blocks, 9-18 from the field and 13-13 from the free throw line.
Not only that, but he was the only starter on the court when the Heat went on a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter to stretch the lead to 12 points after the Rockets had clawed back to be within three. It was a classic D-Wade performance we haven't seen in most Heat games this year. He was flying toward the basket, getting to the foul line, jumping in passing lanes and he even dove way into the crowd and did a double-pump, backwards dunk. 2008 Wade was in the building.
Another important Heat player was in the building, too. LeBron James actually led the Heat in scoring with 32 points and dictated the pace of the game both offensively and defensively when he was on the court. He wasn't near a triple-double, but his absurdly efficient shooting — 71.4 true shooting percentage, 69.4 eFG — and his 25 percent assist rate were good enough to keep the defensively challenged Rockets at bay.
For the Rockets it was all James Harden and not much of anyone else. Harden was brilliant, scoring 36 points with 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Jeremy Lin still hasn't learned to cope with playing the Heat; he shot just 30 percent and had three assists. Shamefully, he was again outplayed by Toney Douglas, who led the bench, which included James Anderson, who played terrifically, to outplay the Heat bench. Wasn't enough to win, but it's enough to infuriate Knicks fans just a little.
Wizards 106, Knicks 96
Speaking of infuriated Knicks fans, New Yorkers will look at this loss and shake their heads, but nowadays, losing to the Wizards isn't humiliating. Since the return of John Wall, more people have been doing it than ever! Wall was terrific, proving that if you're a point guard who's really fast and can jump really high, the Knicks don't have anyone to guard you until Iman Shumpert is fully healthy.
Wall is fully healthy and he showed it penetrating with abandon, finishing with 21 points on 6-9 shooting near the rim and 2-9 shooting on longer jumpers. He should really learn how to shoot those before he takes so many in another game, but he's such a dangerous slasher that, sometimes, he's got to take some. Oh well. He also had nine assists and six turnovers, so the statistical case for Wall carrying the Wizards isn't strong.
But watching the game, it's clear he's the reason for the turnaround. The Wizards play at a faster pace — 89 possessions in this one — his energy is infectious, and Jordan Crawford no longer has to play the point, freeing him up to be the nouveau-Nick Young, but less of a locker room cancer (sorry, Sharp).
The Knicks are susceptible to nights like this against a young, athletic team on the road. They are neither, and when no one other than Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton can create in any sort of efficient way (sorry, J.R.), the offense will struggle for long stretches, especially when the three-pointers (9-28) aren't falling. This was the Knicks' first loss in their last six games, four of which have come against teams under .500, and the other two against the Hawks and Bucks. Enjoy the schedule, Knicks, because February is pretty easy before March and April are going to get pretty damn difficult.
So much for the new-and-improved Warriors defense. Their last two games have come against two of the best offenses in the league, but they've given up 140 and 119 in those games, which seems high even for the Rockets and Thunder. Heck, it seems high for the Don Nelson-era Warriors. Andrew Bogut's return hasn't coincided with stronger D — even though he didn't play — which isn't more than a curiosity at this point, but keep an eye on it come playoff time.
Hawks 103, Grizzlies 92
Another head-scratcher of a loss for the Grizzlies, who, despite "winning" the Rudy Gay trade, have lost, you know, the games since then. Tayshaun Prince scored six points on 3-9 shooting, and Marc Gasol had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, but 4-13 shooting from the 5 is... yeesh. Jeff Teague had 22 points and 13 assists in this one, while Devin Harris continues to have a sad.
Mavericks 105, Blazers 99
Vince Carter! Half-Old, Half-Amazing was at his old tricks down the stretch in this one, icing the game with a long jumper with 26.9 seconds left to put the Mavs up five. He scored 17 off the bench, while O.J. Mayo had 28 points. LaMarcus Aldridge did his 27-point, 10-rebound thing, but was nowhere offensively down the stretch.
Is it weird that this still feels like a letdown game? After losing a heartbreaker to the Lakers the night before, the Nets had a chance to pick themselves up by blowing the crap out of a sub-.500 team. Instead, they grinded their way to a three-point win over former coach Lawrence Frank, who didn't coach a single player on this Nets team. This may be the league's most frustrating team.
Greivis Vasquez had 19 points, 12 assists, four steals and zero turnovers. Him being a great offensive point guard is still a thing, a week into February. Him essentially having the least athleticism of any non-Andre Miller point guard is also a thing, so maybe there's something to this "point guards who can't run or jump" thing. Someone get me an NBA scout on the phone.
The Clippers got a win without Chris Paul, but they scored just 86 points and the win was against the Magic. This is still a team that desperately needs the Point God back, not to mention Blake Griffin, no matter how many times Eric Bledsoe can score 27 points. But Bledsoe did score 27 points with six rebounds and three assists. Trade bait!
The Celtics are still undefeated since the Rajon Rondo injury, and undefeated since the Jared Sullinger injury. Sure, other than the Heat win, they've beaten the Kings, Magic, Clippers without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and the Raptors, but keep convincing yourselves you're better off, Celtics fans.
Jazz 100, Bucks 86
Is Andrew Bynum back yet?
Spurs 104, Timberwolves 94
Are there two teams more banged-up than the Spurs and Wolves? The Celtics and Clippers have a case, but watching these two teams play, it only looks like one of them is missing two of their three best players, and it's not the Spurs, who won their 11th straight game. They had two such streaks last year, the 12th game of which Gregg Popovich sat Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. How is he going to throw the next game with Duncan and Ginobili already out? Time will tell, but he will find a way.
When Tristan Thompson shoots 7-8 and Dion Waiters shoots 9-14 from the field, you just have to realize it's not your night. That realization might also occur when you're the Bobcats and you're playing basketball on any particular night. They have lost five in a row.