The evening of Friday, January 3, was clouded by a pair of injuries. The best point guard in the world, Chris Paul, injured his shoulder against the Dallas Mavericks. New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson, while not nearly as big a name as Paul, suffered an even worse injury, as he was carted off the court on a stretcher in Boston.
But the news wasn't all bad. The Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors continued their sterling run of play, while the Denver Nuggets ended a season-high eight game losing streak.
In Los Angeles, the Lakers might have found their point guard in Kendall Marshall, who pulled off a feat on Friday that no Laker had achieved since Kobe Bryant in 2002.
Let's get to it!
The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Dallas Mavericks, 119-112, behind an amazing performance from frontcourt duo Blake Griffin (25 points) and DeAndre Jordan (25 points).
And Clippers fans can only wish that was the headline from Friday night.
Instead, everyone is talking about the injury to All-World point guard Chris Paul, who went down with what looked like a shoulder injury. After the game, Clippers' fans' worst fears were confirmed.
Per ESPN's Marc Stein.
Doc Rivers just announced that Chris Paul is likely out three to five weeks at the least with a separated shoulder— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 4, 2014
This is a crushing blow to the Clippers, especially given the fact that the team behind them in the Pacific Division standings, Golden State, has seemingly forgotten how to lose. They will need to rely on backup point guard Darren Collison to provide even a fraction of what Paul gives them on a nightly basis.
When you're holding the ball with the shot clock turned off in a tie game, basic strategy dictates you wait for the clock to wind down before shooting. If you make it, victory is guaranteed. If you miss, overtime is guaranteed. You cannot lose.
Well, Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith didn't get the memo, shooting a three with 21 seconds left on the game clock and the Knicks and Houston Rockets tied at 100. He missed, the Rockets recovered, the Knicks fouled, the Rockets hit free throws, the Knicks lost.
Honestly, I thought we were down two. I shot the ball, and I started hearing Tyson [Chandler] saying, 'No, no, don't take the shot' but by then it was already released. ... That was just bad basketball IQ on me.
Yes it was, J.R., yes it was. The Knicks are now dead last in the Atlantic, at 10-22. They can ill afford to throw any more games away. So perhaps J.R. should learn to count.
Before the Golden State Warriors embarked on their current eight-game winning streak, they often relied on huge comebacks to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But recently they haven't needed to come back, as they have dominated their foes.
That wasn't the case on Friday. Friday was a touch of the old Warriors. Golden State rallied from a 15-point deficit against a game Atlanta Hawks squad, and claimed victory with a three-pointer at the buzzer from Andre Iguodala.
Golden State has now won their first four games of a season-long seven-game road trip. The next three mathups—at Washington, at Milwaukee, at Brooklyn—all appear winnable.
The New Orleans Pelicans held off the Boston Celtics, 95-92, in a tightly-contested, back-and-forth game. But the only thing on the minds of NBA fans at the moment is the health and well-being of Pelicans' forward Ryan Anderson, who was carted off the court in a stretcher following this collision with Boston's Gerald Wallace, courtesy of CBS Sports.
Anderson was rushed to a Boston area hospital. After the game, Pelicans' coach Monty Williams wanted to reassure Anderson's mother. Per NBA.com's Brendan Jackson.
I was more worried about his mother, I know she's at home a nervous wreck so hopefully she hears this message and is cool with the fact that he's OK and in good hands.
His diagnosis came courtesy of the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn.
Let's just hope Anderson makes it back to the court as quickly as possible, with no ill effects.
Don't look now, but there is an actual above-.500 team currently residing in the Atlantic Division.
The 16-15 Toronto Raptors won their fifth straight game on Friday, 101-88, over the Washington Wizards. Toronto came out of halftime on fire, annihilating Washington in the third quarter, 36-16. They got a fine performance from yet another unheralded product of the Rudy Gay trade, Patrick Patterson, who scored 18 points off the bench.
With the Boston Celtics having lost six of their last seven, the race in the Atlantic is quickly becoming as much of a farce as the other two Eastern Division races. Toronto now has a four-game lead over Boston, while Miami has a 6.5-game lead over division rival Atlanta.
This may not be good for fans of tight divisional races, but it's terrific news for the fans in Toronto.
The Denver Nuggets finally ended their eight-game losing streak on Friday with a 111-108 win against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Denver spread the wealth offensively. Six Nuggets scored in double-figures, with Ty Lawson's 18 points leading the pack.
This win was a big one for Denver, who would have dropped a game behind Memphis and into 12th place in the Western Conference with a loss. Before the losing streak, Denver was firmly ensconced in a playoff spot. Now they are 3.5 games behind the eighth-place Dallas Mavericks.
The Nuggets have ended the skid; now they have some serious work to do.
The Los Angeles Lakers ended a six-game losing streak, and avoided losing seven in a row for the first time since 2007, with a 110-99 win over the Utah Jazz.
And they may have just found their point guard in the process.
Kendall Marshall dominated Utah with 20 points, 15 assists and six rebounds. According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Marshall has already put himself into some elite company.
Kendall Marshall (20 points, 15 assists) is the first Lakers player since 2002 to have 20-15 in a game (Kobe had 23 and 15 vs. Washington).— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) January 4, 2014
The Lakers' problems at point guard have been well-documented—Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake have all fallen victim to injuries. Even Bryant, who played some point guard after coming back, was soon back on the shelf with an injury.
The Lakers could certainly use any point guard who can stay healthy...and if he puts up 20 points and 15 dimes, then all the better.