Carmelo Anthony ruled the night again as he followed up a 50-point performance against the Miami Heat with a 40-point outburst on Wednesday to help lift the Knicks to their 10th-straight win. He now has scored 90 points over his last two games, and the Knicks have moved into sole possession of the No. 2 seed in the East. Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz slipped up and fell out of the playoff bracket again due to a loss to the Nuggets. Here's a rundown of the NBA action from Wednesday night.
Knicks 95, Hawks 82
The Knicks are the hottest team in the NBA, and on Wednesday they picked up yet another win. Tyson Chandler and the Knicks defense helped limit the Hawks to just 26 points on the paint, while Carmelo Anthony dropped 40 points on 17-27 shooting and J.R. Smith added 19 points on 15 shots. Melo led all NBA scorers for the evening.
The Knicks extended their league-leading winning streak to 10 games and moved into the No. 2 spot in the East with the victory, and it wasn't even that difficult to do. The Knicks never trailed at any point during the fourth quarter, even though the game was on the road against a playoff-caliber opponent, and New York held Al Horford and Josh Smith to just 19 combined points on 9-23 shooting.
Seth Rosenthal of Posting and Toasting noted Melo's strong performance in his game recap:
Just like Tuesday, though, Melo kept New York afloat. Wearing that same glassy expression, Melo varied his approach a bit this time, firing off another barrage of jumpers while mixing in some drive-by buckets and dazzling moves out of the post. DeShawn Stevenson, Josh Smith, and Dahntay Jones each took turns hassling, but Melo paid them no mind. Again, the guy has quite obviously been in a zone this week. Melo looks totally glazed over, as if he's been hypnotized. I'm not sure he even notices defenders in his vicinity.
Kyle Korver helped the Hawks stay in the game with a team-high 25 points and 6-10 shooting from deep. Knicks coach Mike Woodson may be excited about his team's 10th win in a row, but he still thinks they need to shore up their defense. Here's looking at you, Iman Shumpert!
Nuggets 113, Jazz 96
The Utah Jazz can't seem to get out of their own way sometimes. Utah failed to keep up with a strong playoff team and once again slipped out of the No. 8 seed last night with a loss in Denver. The Nuggets scored 58 points in the paint on an impressive 29-43 shooting in that zone, and they pulled away in the second half for the victory. Denver upped its lead to 21 points at one juncture in the final two frames, and Danilo Gallinari scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the second half.
Seven Nuggets players scored in double figures to easily overcome 16 apiece from Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, and Jazz fans at SLC Dunk didn't like their feeling about the different impressions the two teams created on Wednesday night:
You blew it, Jazz.
You screwed up. The records, the quality of these two teams right now, they speak for themselves. And note what kind of team Denver is: A young team with both a promising future and among the better teams today, filled with players who are still improving, led by a high-quality coach, balanced by experienced vets who have tangible skills that help teams win, and built on depth and teamwork rather than one high-profile superstar.
The Denver Nuggets are exactly the kind of team the Jazz have tried, and failed, to construct.
The Jazz are in a tough spot now with the Lakers holding a one-half game lead for the final spot in the West bracket. In contrast, things got comfortable enough for Denver that Kenneth Faried channeled his inner Sam Cassell at one point:
Jeff Green scored a game-high 34 points and the Celtics overcame a 58-28 deficit in points in the paint and a 52-34 rebounding hole to pull out a win. The Pistons shot just 36.6 percent from the field on the night and Andre Drummond (4-6) and Jonas Jerebko (6-10) were the only two Pistons players to finish the night shooting better than 50 percent from the field. Boston gained some breathing room over the Bucks for the No. 7 seed with the win.
Milwaukee played sub-par defense again and got burned by the Timberwolves on Wednesday. Their four-game home stand came to a disappointing end as they dropped back to two games under .500 for the season and settled into the No. 8 seed spot more firmly.
For all intents and purposes, the Bucks are done simply chasing a playoff spot. Win the games they're supposed to, and there's a good chance Milwaukee moves up and avoids the Miami Heat.
We expect to see the Bucks motivated by this prospect, focused on the task at hand, eager to solve their defensive problems, and starting to find themselves clicking as an offense.
Wednesday night, we were treated to the reality that, for all their offensive firepower (sporadic as it may be), the Bucks are still just as capable of losing to sub-.500 teams as they are of beating playoff teams on any given night.
Stephen Curry scored 20 points on 6-14 shooting, Jarrett Jack stepped up with 19 points on 8-11 from the field and David Lee busted out with 23 points and 16 rebounds as the Warriors overcame 21 points from Eric Gordon.
Chandler Parsons exploded for 29 points on 12-18 shooting and Omer Asik added a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double for the Rockets to help Houston slide by a Kings team that got 22 points from Tyreke Evans, 21 from Marcus Thornton and 20 from DeMarcus Cousins.
Grizzlies 94, Blazers 76
Memphis handled business and the Trail Blazers never led at any point in the game. Damian Lillard struggled with 17 points on 19 shots and five turnovers, while Mike Conley poured in 20 points on 11 shots and Ed Davis added a double-double off the bench for the Grizzlies.
Another game that could have been an even bigger blowout. The Nets simply operated on a different level than the Cavaliers.