Ten games worth of hoops on Martin Luther King Day culminated in a matchup between two conference heavyweights, but the Pacers once again showed why they're the current class of the NBA.
Indiana went into Golden State and dumped the Warriors, 102-94, on the back of 23 points from Paul George and the team's always exceptional defense. The Pacers held the Dubs to just 40 percent shooting — including 33 percent from deep — and had enough of an edge on the boards to make a difference down the stretch.
All five starters scored in double figures for first-place Indy and Lance Stephenson closed in on a triple-double in the process with 14 points, 10 boards and seven assists, further bolstering his potential All-Star resume.
Steph Curry dumped 24 points and nine assists on the Pacers, though it took him 20 shots to get there and he hit just three of his 11 three-point attempts.
Houston Rockets 126, Portland Trail Blazers 113
Only the Rockets stood in the way of a Texas-triangle sweep for the Trail Blazers, but it turned out to be just enough of a road-block. Houston rolled at home on Monday, 126-113, to remain alone as the Western Conference 5th seed.
And there were stats aplenty. Chandler Parsons put up 31 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. Dwight Howard notched 24 points and 12 rebounds. James Harden dropped 22 points, six rebounds and five assists. Omri Casspi got some run with Terrence Jones out, going for 15 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes.
It's been a pretty good stretch for Portland, but its five-game win steak was snapped convincingly in this one. Houston hit 16 threes against a team that only allows 16 attempts per game from deep, and the Rockets dominated one of the best rebounding teams in the league on the boards, 52-37.
Atlanta Hawks 121, Miami Heat 114
Miami recently snapped a three-game losing streak with a couple of wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Bobcats, but a trip to Atlanta ended with a jump right back out of the win column. The Hawks toppled the Heat, 121-114, behind 26 points from Paul Millsap and 45 from the bench and ensured a losing six-game road trip (2-4) for Miami.
And it wasn't like the Heat didn't score enough. In what has been an ugly trend for the defending champions, Miami gave up another huge point total to an opponent, and this time Atlanta shot nearly 52 percent from the field, 39 percent from three and dished out 33 assists. Seven of the nine Hawks who saw court time scored at least 12 points as the home team took back sole possession of the third seed in the East.
Miami sill possesses the No. 10 defense in the league, according to NBA.com, but since the calendar turned, its vaunted pick-and-roll blitzing defensive attack has been the eighth-worst in the NBA.
Brooklyn Nets 103, New York Knicks 80
This was ugly. The Nets had a double-digit lead before the end of the first quarter and the Knicks never managed to make much of a game of it. Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche combined for 44 points on 27 field goals for Brooklyn, and Carmelo Anthony's 26 points were six more than the combined total of New York's four other starters.
The Knicks shot a pitiful 34 percent from the floor, gave up even more open looks than the Nets' 49 percent shooting would indicate and heard both boos and "Broooklyn" chants on their home floor. They have lost three in a row, while the Nets have won seven of eight and are just 2.5 games out of first place in the Atlantic Division.
What did you think about the game, Melo?
Dallas Mavericks 102, Cleveland Cavaliers 97
A three-pointer could have tied the game for Cleveland with 2.8 seconds remaining, but guard Jarrett Jack committed a five-second violation and that was the end of it. It's a shame, too, for a Cavs team that is desperate for some positive momentum and had fought valiantly to come back from a huge deficit.
Here's how Cleveland was feeling after the loss, via Fear The Sword's Conrad Kaczmarek:
I know the feeling, kid wearing yellow in the front row. pic.twitter.com/br1eScntbL— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) January 20, 2014
Charlotte Bobcats 100, Toronto Raptors 95
In the words of former Raptor Morris Peterson, it appears Toronto is getting fat and sassy. The Raptors, who were one of the league's best stories only a week ago thanks to their total turnaround after the Rudy Gay trade, have lost three of their last four games in a stretch most expected them to sweep.
Toronto has lost some of its defensive focus recently, but equally notable on Monday was its reversion to stagnant offensive sets. The Bobcats' tough defense held the Raptors to 11 points in the opening frame and 35 percent shooting through three quarters. At that point, Toronto's best moment was a heave that didn't count, courtesy of Chuck Hayes:
Kyle Lowry scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth, a period that Toronto won 35-22, but it was too little, too late. Lowry missed a free throw that could have tied it with 25.9 seconds left, and that was the closest his team would get. DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 25 points, but neither he nor Lowry was efficient.
In Charlotte's first game without Kemba Walker, who will miss 10 to 14 days with an ankle sprain, Ramon Sessions stepped into the starting lineup and scored a team-high 23 points. Al Jefferson was the best Bobcat, though, finishing with 22 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists. Backup point guard Jannero Pargo played his first meaningful minutes of the season and had 11 points and four assists.
Chicago Bulls 102, Los Angeles Lakers 100 (OT)
If you think Tom Thibodeau has heard the criticism regarding his players' minutes, you might think again. Either that or he just does not care. Jimmy Butler logged 50 minutes and Taj Gibson snuck inside the Lakers' interior defense and put the ball in at the buzzer for a 102-100 overtime win.
D.J. Augustin — yes, D.J. Augustin, the guy who the Raptors cut earlier this season — went for 27 points on five three-pointers off the bench. Joakim Noah had 17 points, 21 rebounds and six assists and four other Bulls scored in double figures as Chicago just continues to plug along without Derrick Rose and, more recently, Luol Deng. This team is 8-2 in its last 10 games and has cruised up to the sixth spot in the East with a 20-20 record.
The Lakers got 31 off the bench from Nick Young on top of 20 points, 19 rebounds, three steals and five blocks from Pau Gasol, but they gave up 19 offensive boards and turned the ball over 21 times. Can't do that.
Los Angeles Clippers 112, Detroit Pistons 103
The final score is misleading, as Los Angeles had a 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter and Detroit never got in striking distance. The above dunk was one of DeAndre Jordan's seven in the game, and the most interesting matchup here was his battle with Andre Drummond. Jordan finished with 16 points, 21 rebounds and four blocks, while Drummond had 15 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Jamal Crawford had 26 points, Blake Griffin had 25 and J.J. Redick had 20 for the Clippers, who shot 56 percent as a team. Rodney Stuckey scored a season-high 29 points for the Pistons, and Josh Smith had 24 points on 12-for-22 shooting. Brandon Jennings went scoreless for the first time in Detroit, shooting 0-for-7 from the field.
Los Angeles has won six of its last seven despite the absence of injured star Chris Paul. The 17-24 Pistons have lost eight of their last 11, and are now percentage points behind Charlotte in the race for the eighth spot for the weak East.
One team just got its defensive anchor back in the lineup, the other is ravaged by injuries at the moment. But if you bet on the latter you probably won some money on Monday.
The Pelicans went into Memphis without Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Jason Smith and Anthony Morrow and defeated the playoffs-chasing Grizzlies, 95-92, dropping the home team three games out of the final spot in the current Western Conference playoff picture. Anthony Davis was incredible once again, with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and four blocks to lead New Orleans (16-24) to the victory.
Washington Wizards 107, Philadelphia 76ers 99
Bradley Beal shot just 2-for-14 on Saturday against Detroit, but bounced back in a big way on Monday afternoon. The Wizards sophomore shot 8-for-15 against Philly and flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in just under 30 minutes.
Marcin Gortat added 19 points and 11 rebounds for Washington, and Kevin Seraphin had 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench. The Wizards led by 21 about halfway through the fourth quarter. Sixers rookie Michael-Carter Williams scored a game-high 31 points, with six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Philadelphia has lost seven of its last eight games. The Wizards, who have won four of five, reached .500 with the win. They'll have an opportunity to get over that mark for the first time in years against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
Matthew Tynan and James Herbert contributed to this story.