Lakers 118, Raptors 116 (OT)
For the second game in as many tries, Kobe Bryant willed the Los Angeles Lakers back to life to get a late win against a lottery team. Bryant put up 41 points -- including a game-tying three in the waning seconds of regulation and a dunk past the entire Raptors squad to put his team up in the closing seconds of overtime -- and 12 assists, as the Lakers stole a win from the Raptors.
Toronto scored 37 points in the first quarter and led by as much as 15. But Kobe was apparently biding his time. The Lakers outscored the Raptors, 30-20, in the fourth quarter, and Bryant's three-pointer sent the game into overtime. The Raptors brought a weak double team with Aaron Gray against Bryant on the decisive possession, and Bryant blew past the slow-footed Gray and slammed home the go-ahead dunk past some poor excuses for help defense. Rudy Gay, somewhat of a disappointment since the Raptors acquired him from the Memphis Grizzlies, can shoulder a lot of the blame for the loss, scoring just 17 points on 26 shots, clanging jumpers out of isolation sets with a chance to win the game at the end of regulation and to tie it at the end of the game in overtime.
Bryant had a nearly identical line of 42 points and 12 assists as the Lakers fought back from 25 down against the last-place New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 28 points, while Kyle Lowry had 15 points and 10 assists. Dwight Howard had a nice night with 24 points and 13 rebounds, although if he hadn't shot 6-for-13 from the line, overtime might have been avoided altogether. For all their travails, the Lakers are just half a game out of the eighth spot in the playoffs, good news with a struggling Utah Jazz team.
Jason Terry has been known for clutch shots throughout his career, but until drilling a three with 35 seconds left in overtime, he hadn't really had one for the C's. But there he was, coming open at the top of the arc off an offensive rebound and running back to the Boston huddle with his signature "Jet" celebration.
The two sides traded runs in the fourth quarter, Boston scoring ten straight, Atlanta coming back from down 12 to tie the game. They'd trade hoops and/or turnovers through regulation and the first bit of overtime, including one stretch with back-to-back-to-back threes by Jeff Green, Josh Smith, and Paul Pierce, but no team would lead by three or more until Terry's shot, which broke a tie and ended up being the game-winner.
Josh Smith finished with 32 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists on some nifty passing -- although it was bad turnovers by Smith, including a forced behind-the-back look, that cost his team the win -- while Pierce had 27. The two teams are now tied for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Bulls 89, Jazz 88
Marco Belinelli is there when the Chicago Bulls need him. After missing a shot to tie the game, the Italian native hit his third game-winning shot of the year Friday night, sinking a corner three with 5.9 seconds to go. Both teams struggled shooting the ball, but grabbed a bunch of their own misses to make up for it. That was the story of Chicago's final possession, as Joakim Noah ripped down his eighth offensive board — the 21st of the night for the Bulls — and the ball ended up in Belinelli's hands just seconds after missing his first look. This time, he was pure, and Gordon Hayward's attempt at a game-winner of his own didn't connect. Belinelli's 22 points tied him for the team lead with Carlos Boozer, while Al Jefferson had a game-high 23 after missing three games with a sprained ankle. The Jazz have lost five of six as they try to hold on to the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.
The Thunder continue to push for the top spot in the West, blowing this one open with a 19-0 run in the second quarter fueled by the team's bench. The lead got as big as 29 points, and Kevin Durant got to rest his legs, finishing with 19 points in just 24 minutes after a game Thursday night against the Knicks that came down to the final possession. Veteran pickup Derek Fisher showed his value to the team by hitting 5-of-6 from the field and connecting on all three three-pointers to finish with 13.
Pacers 115, Magic 86
One game after nearly snapping the Miami Heat's 15-game winning streak, the Orlando Magic were back to themselves, getting crushed by the Pacers. Indiana was without Danny Granger, but it wasn't really an issue: They've been without him for most of the year, anyway, and Paul George reminded everyone why he was the team's all-star this season with 25 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Indiana forced 20 turnovers, held Orlando to 39 percent shooting from the field, and also hit 11-of-19 from deep.
Deron Williams ended this one early with an unreal shooting performance, setting an NBA record with nine threes in the first half after nailing his first eight. He'd drilled four threes to give Brooklyn a 16-0 lead, then kept pouring it on, taking a few heat checks before finishing the first quarter 7-for-7 from deep with 23 points — and with the Nets up 38-14. He ended the first half with 33 points, as many as the Wizards, the first player since Tracy McGrady in 2003 to outscore his opponent in a half, according to the AP. He'd only — "only" — finish with 11, like Stephen Curry did last week, one shy of Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall's record, but it was enough for 42 points and an easy Brooklyn victory.
Grizzlies 103, Cavs 92
After trailing by three at the half, Memphis outscored Cleveland, 32-18, in the third quarter thanks to strong interior play by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph's backup, Ed Davis. Both had strong games against a weak Cleveland frontline of Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson. Cleveland often opted to play small — Zeller only played 18 minutes — which worked just fine for Memphis. Gasol finished with 22 points, Mike Conley had 17 points and 11 assists, and Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 24 points. The Grizzlies have won 11 of 12, including three without Randolph. This was their first win in Cleveland since 2003.
The Mavericks nearly blew a game they couldn't afford to lose, giving up a 15-point fourth quarter lead before Dirk Nowitzki stuck a pair of mid-range jumpers to ensure his team's win. Pretty much everything went right for Dallas: they were hot from three-point range, sinking 11 of 22 threes, and held an 88-73 lead, but Detroit went on a 21-7 run to make it a one-point game. Pistons second-round pick Khris Middleton — he of nine career NBA games and 37 career points — made two threes to give his team a one-point lead, but then Nowitzki hit his shots and Charlie Villanueva missed a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer. O.J. Mayo led all scorers with 22, Nowitzki had 12, and Middleton had a career-high 14, although Brandon Knight was the Pistons' top man with 21. Dallas is now 3.5 games back of the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Heat 102, 76ers 93
17 and counting for Miami. It looked like Philadelphia could be the team to end Miami's huge win streak, as the Sixers led 60-51 in the third quarter. But Miami sprung back, going on a 14-4 run to take the lead, then drilling three three-pointers — including a LeBron James buzzer-beater — to grab a one-point lead at the end of the third quarter. A 17-4 run ensured they'd hold onto it for good. James had 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Thaddeus Young led Phiadelphia with 25 on 12-of-15 shooting. The 17 wins matches the longest streak of the year, by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Blazers 136, Spurs 106
No, you read that right. Damian Lillard had 35 points and nine assists, and the Blazers beat the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs by 30 points, their biggest margin of defeat since drafting Tim Duncan in 1997. It was the most points a team had ever scored at the AT&T Center, and the second-worst home loss in franchise history. You can pin the defeat on the absence of Tony Parker, but the Spurs had won their first two games without their star point guard comfortably. The Blazers shot 61.6 percent from the field and 13-for-21 from downtown — hard numbers to hit against the typically stingy Spurs defense. Let's chalk it up to a fluke, as Portland still sits in tenth place in the Western Conference.
Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, and Marcus Thornton combined to hit 13-of-18 from three-point range to drop the Suns to the worst record in the Western Conference. All three finished with 20 points or more — Thomas led the way with 27 — as did DeMarcus Cousins, who had a really nice game with 14 boards and seven assists. Michael Beasley had a team-high 24 for Phoenix.
The Rockets were cold from the floor, but hit shots from downtown and still managed to pull away on the road against the Warriors, securing the tiebreaker if the teams end up with the same record heading into the playoffs. James Harden was 3-of-17 from the field, but all three shots were three-pointers. That went nicely with the 6-of-8 three-point shooting from Chandler Parsons, who led all scorers with 26. As a team, the Rockets hit 15 threes, getting the win despite shooting just 36.5 percent from the floor.