Brooklyn Nets (12-10) def. Charlotte Hornets (9-15) at Spectrum Center, 111-104
With Kyrie Irving still out with the shoulder injury, the Nets relied on Spencer Dinwiddie and Taurean Prince to fill the gap. It worked, and they overcame a feisty Charlotte Hornets team that was not pushed aside easily, 111-104. Once again Devonte' Graham was formidable, with 29 points and 8 assists, and Joe Harris scored 22, both players sinking 6 threes. Even after Brooklyn seemed to be in a comfortable position halfway through the fourth quarter, the Hornets stuck at it, eventually falling short due to an obvious gap in both rebounding and ball security, the latter Charlotte is notably poor at.
Orlando Magic (11-11) def. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-16) at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, 93-87
After 3 straight games scoring in triple figures, Orlando's offense was brought back down to earth in a sluggish battle with struggling Cleveland. The only player who looked comfortable for them was Terrence Ross, who manipulated screens expertly to find open threes on multiple occasions. Collin Sexton was dynamic going downhill, finding multiple drives to score his team-leading 19 points. In the end, it was a scrappy and defensive final term that got Orlando over the hump, as Cleveland led going into the final break. That game stretches out Cleveland's losing streak to 5, whereas Orlando have taken advantage of a below- .500 schedule to win 4 in a row.
Indiana Pacers (14-8) def. by Detroit Pistons (9-14) at Little Caesars Arena, 101-108
In their fourth and final matchup this season, Detroit once again got the better of Indiana at home, ending the series with a 3-1 advantage to the Pistons. After being down for most of the game, Indiana took a 4 point lead into the 4th quarter after a 31-16 third period. That lead lasted only 5 minutes and the Pistons claimed a close one with big games from Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, 25 points each. TJ Warren was excellent in the mid-range, finishing with a game-high 26 points and Malcolm Brogdon with 21. The Pistons were too strong on the offensive glass and shooting the three throughout the game with regularity. Meanwhile, the Pacers were lacklustre defensively over the final minute, and couldn’t execute offensively.
Denver Nuggets (14-6) def. by Boston Celtics (16-5) at TD Garden, 95-108
Two under-the-radar powerhouses went head to head in Massachusetts, but as soon as Nikola Jokic checked out in the first quarter, this game was a foregone conclusion. He was the main spark behind Denver's offense, aggressive and attacking while hitting on a high percentage of his looks. Only Jamal Murray scored in double figures (10 points) outside of Jokic's 30 and 10 rebounds, while the team shot 41.5% from the field. Jaylen Brown was hot early, Jayson Tatum was firing and Kemba connected on half of his shots as the Celtics displayed their full offensive arsenal and showed off on the other side of the ball as well. The Nuggets couldn’t convert anything from outside the arc, 5 of 30 on the game, which was a primary factor behind the disappointing result. The result could’ve been much worse, if not for a small run in the fourth which brought it back to a reasonable margin.
Washington Wizards (7-14) def. by Miami Heat (16-6) at American Airlines Arena, 103-112
Miami's defense, take a bow. The Washington Wizards and their high octane offense were held to just 103 points, as the threes just weren’t falling. Moritz Wagner, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans were hitting, but not very efficiently, as was the case for the whole team. Jimmy Butler's second triple-double in three games combined with a 24 point night from Bam Adebayo was enough for Miami, as Tyler Herro fired in 22 points to help their case. The Heat were making shots, the Wizards weren’t, not something you’d expect to see considering how potent they have been. Miami really doesn’t look like a fluke, they have kept up this high level of play and defensively are up there with the best of them.
Golden State Warriors (5-19) def. Chicago Bulls (8-15) at United Center, 100-98
In a battle between two teams starting off the season in bad shape, this one went down to the wire. Neither team could put points up regularly in the fourth, and the 'game-winner' was a Glenn Robinson alley-oop with over a minute left. Robinson led all Warriors with 20 points, while Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine scored 20 and 22 respectively. As usual, the Bulls were firing threes at will, and the Warriors won because of their efficiency inside. They were missing their free throws, turning the ball over, and yet they still came out with a victory because of the incredible efficiency on their shots.
Minnesota Timberwolves (10-11) def. by Oklahoma City Thunder (9-12) at Chesapeake Energy Arena, 127-139
This game marked the first of two overtime games tonight, and also marked the strangest finish to a game this year. Karl-Anthony Towns was amazing, recording 30 points and 8 assists, Jeff Teague putting up 32 and 9 assists as he clearly came into the game with an attack mindset. After the thrilling ending to the fourth quarter, the overtime period was a buzzkill, as the Thunder scampered away with a comfortable final 5 minutes. For OKC, it was Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who starred, but 5 players hit over 20 points for them. Minnesota spent most of the game behind, and needed a big run at the end of the fourth to take the game in another period, and their struggles with fouls and defending on the interior cost them in the end.
Los Angeles Clippers (16-7) def. by Milwaukee Bucks (20-3) at Fiserv Forum, 91-119
Two championship contenders took the stage in Milwaukee, but only one actually showed up. The Bucks dominated from start to finish in an all-around team effort which saw extended minutes from seldom used rotational pieces. Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 27 with 11 rebounds and Khris Middleton had 17, but it was the defense and rebounding that was most impressive for the Bucks. The Clippers, on the other hand, had bad games from top to bottom, as they seemed more like a bottom feeder than a championship favourite. Ivica Zubac and Kawhi Leonard were their best two, with Paul George, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell all being silenced by the Milwaukee defense. That win gives the Bucks their 14th straight, and keeps them atop the Eastern Conference.
Sacramento Kings (8-12) def. by San Antonio Spurs (9-14) at AT&T Center, 104-105
Overtime game number two, and this time OT was close. The Spurs rallied back from 9 points down with a Marco Belinelli three to send the game to OT after some disgraceful defending from Buddy Hield, and after 5 minutes of slow, unproductive offense, Hield would miss a possible game winning attempt for a San Antonio win. This makes Hield look really bad, but in reality he wasn’t. The only reason the game winning shot was available was because of his offensive rebounding, so it certainly wasn’t his fault. Another well rounded scoring effort from the Spurs and a top heavy offense from the Kings results in a Spurs victory, as they take another game to try and force their way out of the slump.
Los Angeles Lakers (20-3) def. Portland Trail Blazers (9-14) at Moda Center, 136-113
Right from the very beginning, this game was shaped out to be an offensive shootout. Portland couldn’t handle anything L.A. were throwing at them, but Damian Lillard caught fire for 29 points. Anthony Davis ended with 39 after having his way against Anthony Tolliver down low, and LeBron James got 31 points and 8 assists. Nothing that Portland did worked out defensively, and the Lakers ran away with their 20th win of the season in a blowout. Portland still haven’t quite figured it out defensively, and they continue to underperform this year.