The evening of Tuesday, Jan. 28, promised a heaping helping of juicy matchups in the National Basketball Association.
In Portland, fans saw a clash of styles between the explosive Portland Trail Blazers and the grit-n-grind Memphis Grizzlies. Surprisingly, the Grizzlies turned the offensive tables on the Blazers, scoring 61 first-half points.
In Houston, the matchup between the Rockets and San Antonio Spurs went right down to the wire, despite each team missing key players. In the end, the Rockets made the plays needed to knock off the Spurs for the third time this season.
The fans in Cleveland got a chance to see New Orleans Pelicans phenom Anthony Davis in action. The 20-year-old big man did not disappoint (unless you wanted to see the Cleveland Cavaliers win, that is).
Even after their disappointing 97-90 loss to the second-place Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs still hold a four-game lead in the Southwest Division (five in the loss column).
But the Spurs are now 0-3 vs. Houston...and 33-9 against the rest of the league. That's right, folks: We're halfway through the season, and 25 percent of the Spurs' losses have come against Houston.
The Rockets have beaten San Antonio when both teams were healthy. And they've beaten them in games like Tuesday's matchup, when both teams were shorthanded (James Harden was out for the Rockets, and both Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter were out for the Spurs).
Come playoff time, a veteran team like the Spurs won't be cowed by their inability to beat Houston in the regular season, but games like these might just give the young Rockets the confidence they need should these two meet in the postseason.
Though his New Orleans Pelicans are far from a contender, watching budding superstar Anthony Davis ply his trade on a nightly basis has been one of the hidden pleasures of this NBA season. And if you miss the chance to catch Davis in person or on TV, you still need to check the box scores to see what kind of mind-blowing line he'll put up next.
Davis had another one of his stat-stuffing specialties in Tuesday's 100-89 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers: 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting, seven rebounds, three assists, one steal and eight blocks. The only stat he didn't register was turnovers...which isn't a bad thing.
An eight-block game has become routine for Davis, if not for the rest of the league. Per ESPN Stats:
Anthony Davis has 3 games with at least 8 blocked shots this season. The rest of the NBA has 3 such games this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 29, 2014
But the most unbelievable stat associated with Davis is 20: as in "20 years old." It boggles the mind that he could be so good at this age.
There is no shame in losing to the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies, as the Portland Trail Blazers did on Tuesday, 98-81. But the Blazers didn't just lose—they were run off their home court by the Grizzlies offense.
Memphis lit up the Blazers in the first half, scoring 61 points—not exactly what you'd expect from a team which came into the game ranked 25th in points, per Basketball-Reference.com.
While Portland's 20th-ranked defense has been a liability all season, it's usually been able to score enough to make up for it. But when you give up huge point totals to teams like Memphis, you're not going to win many games.
And the Blazers haven't been winning many games recently, per Bleacher Report's Jared Dubin:
BTW, Portland's lost 4 of 6 and plays IND, OKC, LAC and SAS within the next 3 weeks.— Jared Dubin (@JADubin5) January 29, 2014
The good news for Blazers fans is that Portland has already beaten all four of those teams this season. The bad news is the team is not playing like those world-beating Blazers of late.
Andrea Bargnani is out, Mike Woodson is playing small lineups and the New York Knicks are winning.
Coincidence? Maybe...maybe not.
With Tuesday's 114-88 win over the Boston Celtics, New York jumped to 3-0 since the Italian big man went down with an elbow injury. The Knicks thrashed Boston early and often with hot shooting and crisp ball movement. Reserve guards J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for 33 points.
Even head coach Woodson seems suddenly enamored with small-ball, per NBA.com's Adam Zagoria: "We're back to playing small-ball again and the ball's moving. Guys are feeling good about themselves, which is kind of nice to see."
Of course, the Knicks will need to continue winning, and winning big, or else Woodson will probably go back to starting Bargnani.
The Orlando Magic have the second-worst record in the NBA, at 12-34. Any playoff contender should beat them, particularly at home.
But fans of the Detroit Pistons have learned to take nothing for granted during the team's four-game losing streak, during which the Pistons lost to the 8-36 Milwaukee Bucks. The Pistons finally snapped that slide on Tuesday, taking care of the Magic, 103-87.
Point guard Brandon Jennings led Detroit in scoring with 20 points, while big man Andre Drummond grabbed 17 rebounds to go with his 13 points.
With the win, Detroit remains tied with the Knicks for the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference, just a half-game behind the Charlotte Bobcats. They'll continue to gain ground, so long as they don't take any team for granted.
The legendary Los Angeles Lakers franchise was playing for very unfamiliar stakes on Tuesday, per NBA Legion:
If the Lakers lose tonight, it'll be the first time since 1974 that they're in last place this late into the season.— NBA Legion (@MySportsLegion) January 29, 2014
Indeed, the Lakers met their date with last place—some four decades in the making—after losing to the Indiana Pacers, 104-92.
The Lakers did make a game of it, however, going into halftime tied at 49 with Indiana, the team with the NBA's best record. But this Lakers-Pacers matchup was a far cry from the 2000 NBA Finals: Indiana pulled away in the second half for the win.
If anything, Tuesday's performance was a moral victory for the Lakers. And that's probably the best they can hope for against the league's elite at the moment.
Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors, is one of the most raucous atmospheres in the NBA. Even bad Warriors teams tend to be much better at home than they are on the road, thanks to that rowdy home-court advantage.
But that hasn't been the case recently.
Tuesday's 88-85 loss to the Washington Wizards was Golden State's fourth loss in its last five home games. Wizards' guard Bradley Beal carried Washington down the stretch, scoring of 18 of his 20 points in the second half. Stephen Curry had a chance to tie the game with a three at the buzzer but missed badly on the final attempt.
The Warriors are now 13-8 at home on the season. Last year's less talented Warriors team finished 28-13 at home.
Golden State has to do a better job of taking care of home court, or the Warriors will be starting on the road come playoff time.