5 Takeaways from Tuesday Night's Wild NBA Action
The NBA was rife with pure basketball insanity on what might otherwise have been a quiet Tuesday night. Five games may not seem like much, but there was more than enough contained therein to constitute a satisfactory schedule.
And then some. There were riveting fourth-quarter comebacks, offensive outbursts that may or may not have been cause for shock, and at least one gritty victory pulled out by a star-studded team on the ropes.
Throw in a pair of unlikely career-highs and another near-NBA record, and you've got yourself another noteworthy slate of action in the Association.
The NBA: Where Tuesday Night Happens.
Indiana Pacers, Offensive Juggernaut
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Ladies and gentlemen, the Pacers offense has arrived. They dropped 114 points on the Atlanta Hawks in an 11-point victory. Paul George (29 points) was one of seven Pacers who scored in double-figures, while the team, as a whole, shot 48 percent from the field.
The win was Indy's fourth in a row and marked the fifth time in six games that the Pacers topped the 100-point plateau. This, after hitting triple digits just seven times through their first 43 games.
As a result, the Pacers have climbed from 29th to 22nd in offensive efficiency in less than two weeks. That's still a ways off from last season, when Indy finished ninth in offensive efficiency, but is a significant improvement nonetheless.
The loss of Danny Granger—and subsequent thrusting of Paul George into a starring role on the wing—seemed to set the Pacers back further than anyone imagined it would.
But George is finally putting it together, to the point where he'll now represent the Pacers at the All-Star Game in Houston. The steady hands of George Hill and David West, along with the emergence of Lance Stephenson at shooting guard, have helped to offset Roy Hibbert's inexplicable decline as an offensive threat.
And with Granger due back any day now, the ceiling of the Pacers offense should only improve. Couple that with Indy's second-ranked defense, and the Pacers, at 30-19, have the look of a legit contender in the Eastern Conference.
A Statement Win for the Los Angeles Lakers
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Don't pound that last nail into the Purple-and-Gold coffin just yet. The Lakers emerged victorious from their first trip to the Barclays Center, despite a litany of absences and setbacks that'd make for a solid All-Star squad.
Dwight Howard missed his third straight with a partially torn labrum in his shoulder. Metta World Peace was banned for his fisticuffs with Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight. Kobe Bryant was dogged by a sprained elbow that also came by way of Knight. Pau Gasol left in the fourth quarter after aggravating the troublesome plantar fascia injury in his right foot.
It was no surprise, then, that the Brooklyn Nets pounded the Lakers on the boards—52-40 overall, 20-5 on the offensive end—or that Brook Lopez piled up 30 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks at L.A.'s expense.
What was surprising, though, was that the Lakers not only held their own, but might've also come away with their most encouraging result of the season. They led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter and scored the final 10 points of the game while the Nets crumbled down the stretch.
The final score, 92-83, says the Lakers are far from finished. They've won three in a row and six of their last seven, and would be 4-0 on this Grammy road trip if not for a fourth-quarter collapse against the Phoenix Suns.
But they won't know for certain whence their fortunes lay until Wednesday. Pau's due to undergo an MRI on his right foot to determine the extent of the damage. If it's torn, as is suspected, he could be out another six weeks, if not longer.
Couple that with Dwight's ongoing shoulder issues and Jordan Hill's season-ending hip injury, and that might be all she wrote on the Lakers' 2012-13 season.
Houston Rockets' Launch Party
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It's no mystery that the Houston Rockets like the three-point shot and know how to hit 'em. They came into Tuesday's action having attempted the most treys in the NBA, with the second-most makes sprinkled thereabouts.
But their 140-109 win over the Golden State Warriors was a different story entirely. The Rockets launched 40 three-pointers and made 23 of them, tying an NBA record and setting a new franchise mark by a mile.
Or 23 feet, nine inches, if you prefer.
The demolition (and subsequent embarrassment among the Warriors) was such that Mark Jackson instructed his squad to keep Houston from breaking the league mark for threes at all costs. That prompted Golden State rookie Draymond Green to deliver a hard foul on a three-point try by Houston's Patrick Beverley with 34 seconds left, which, in turn, led to an argument between (and the ejections of) Green and Rockets forward Marcus Morris.
We'll see if the Miami Heat, who rank among the bottom half in most statistical categories related to three-point shooting, have an answer for Houston's hot hands on Wednesday.
Down Go the Memphis Grizzlies
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The Memphis Grizzlies played about as poor a fourth quarter as you'll yet see from a purported NBA title contender.
Against a Western Conference cellar dweller no less.
In the final period, the Grizzlies' usually staunch defense surrendered 31 points, including 15 from Goran Dragic, on 10-of-16 shooting to the Phoenix Suns while giving away what turned out to be a 96-90 defeat. On the other end, Memphis' anemic offense managed just five makes in 15 tries and sloppily surrendered possession on seven other occasions.
Even a season-high 29-point outburst by Jerryd Bayless couldn't save the Grizzlies from suffering their third defeat in five contests. As a result, the Grizz' once-ironclad grip on a top-four seed in the Western Conference has slipped to mere percentage points in the standings...
A New Normal for the Denver Nuggets
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...Just ahead of the Denver Nuggets, who topped the visiting Milwaukee Bucks, 112-104. The win extended Denver's current win streak to a season-best seven games and improved the team's home record to 21-3—the second-best such mark in the NBA.
Strange as it may sound, the Nuggets had to overcome a career-high night from Bucks big man Samuel Dalembert, who dropped 35 points (on 17-of-21 shooting), 12 rebounds, two assists and a block off Milwaukee's bench. Dalembert's efforts allowed the Bucks to build a 17-point lead in the first half. One at which the Nuggets chipped away, slowly but surely, until they finally caught up in the fourth quarter.
Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson registered 22 apiece, Corey Brewer contributed 20 points in 27 minutes off the bench, and Kenneth Faried picked up his 20th double-double of the season to put the Nuggets within striking distance of home-court advantage in the Western Conference.
Clearly, this squad has survived the ridiculous rigors of a road-heavy early-season schedule just fine. The Nuggets will play seven of their last nine games in February away from the Pepsi Center, and have won just 10 of 25 on the road to this point.
But, at long last, they're putting their considerable pieces together and will have plenty of flexibility with which to make moves prior to the February 21 trade deadline. With the way the Nuggets are playing—and, conversely, with the way the Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Clippers are coming apart at the seams—don't be surprised if general manager Masai Ujiri decides to cash in some of his chips in an attempt to turn the Nuggets into more than just a playoff pest out West.