Lakers fall at Denver
The Nuggets beat the Lakers 119-108 on Monday to win their ninth straight game at home and snapped the Lakers’ four-game winning streak in the process, taking the season series 3-1. Danilo Gallinari, who was expected to play, was a late scratch with his lingering thigh bruise. Wilson Chandler came through with 23 points and three 3-pointers on 10-of-18 shooting in a start in Gallo’s place. Like I mentioned, Gallo was a very late scratch, so it would be surprising to see him miss Wednesday’s game at Portland. Ty Lawson stayed hot with 22 points and eight dimes, and has scored at least 20 in seven straight games, and Andre Iguodala had his seventh double-double of the season, and second straight, with 14 points and 12 assists on 6-of-9 shooting, which his owners were psyched about seeing. Kenneth Faried also double-doubled with 12 points, 10 boards, three steals and two blocks, while Corey Brewer also helped make up for the absence of Gallinari with 16 points and a 3-pointer on 6-of-15 shooting. JaVale McGee paid off for owners who rolled the dice on him with seven points, seven boards and four blocks in 23 minutes.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 29 points, six boards and nine assists on 12-of-23 shooting, but missed his only 3-point attempt. He hit four of them on Sunday, but had made just two 3-pointers since Jan. 21 prior to that game. Steve Nash said after Sunday’s game, when he went off for 20 points, four assists, a steal and four 3-pointers, that he doesn’t “have much freedom” due to his lingering back injury. He also didn’t sound too worried about the problem, but it’s something worth keeping an eye on. Nash had 16 points, five assists and six turnovers on 6-of-8 shooting Monday, so his back is at least letting him play, and he finally looks like he’s meshing with Kobe and company. Dwight Howard had 15 points and 14 rebounds, but also missed 11 of his final 12 free throw attempts on the night, hitting 3-of-14 of them in the loss. Anyone (attention: Mike D'Antoni) who doesn't think Dwight's free throws aren't costing the Lakers big time is wearing blinders. Metta World Peace bounced back with 15 points, three steals and two 3-pointers, while Antawn Jamison had 14 points, three boards and three 3-pointers. This wasn’t Earl Clark’s night, as he hit 4-of-9 shots for eight points and just one rebound in the loss.
Atlanta routs Pistons in Detroit
Al Horford hit 10-of-13 shots for 23 points and tied a career high with 22 rebounds, and kicked in a couple steals, blocks and a rare 3-pointer in the easy win. Josh Smith added 23 points, seven boards, four assists, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer, while Jeff Teague stayed hot with 20 points, 12 assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. Kyle Korver started at small forward on Monday, sending Devin Harris to the bench, and hit five 3-pointers for 15 points in 32 minutes. He’s now gone 49 straight games with a 3-pointer. Harris, who scored 21 points in his last one, had 11 points in just 13 minutes, but has still managed to hit double digits in scoring in three straight. Zaza Pachulia was out with a sore Achilles. The Hawks, who were up by as many as 26 points in the third quarter, have won five out of their last six games with Monday’s 114-103 win. The Hawks’ schedule is nearly perfect the rest of the way, so owners of Horford, Smith and Teague should prepare to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Brandon Knight missed Monday’s game and could miss a few more with a knee injury, and Rodney Stuckey is the guy who will benefit the most. With Will Bynum serving a one-game suspension and Jose Calderon unable to throw it into the ocean last night, Stuckey hit 10-of-17 shots for 22 points, five rebounds and a steal on 10-of-17 shooting. Obviously, he’ll be real inconsistent once Bynum and Knight are back, but is a fine play for as long as Knight (who is day-to-day) is out. Calderon was 3-of-11 for seven points, five boards, nine assists and a 3-pointer, and should shoot it better on most nights. Jonas Jerebko came out of nowhere for a season-high 21 points, six rebounds, a steal and 3-pointer on 9-of-12 shooting in 24 minutes. Just keep an eye on him. It sounds like Andre Drummond could be ready to return in about two weeks from his back injury, but the Pistons’ playoff schedule isn’t great. They go 3-3-3-3-4-2-2 weekly to (weakly) end the season.
Wizards take down Raptors for third straight win
Bradley Beal hit 8-of-13 shots and two 3-pointers for 20 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal, and is clearly feeling it right now. And given the Wizards’ 3-4-4-4-4-3-2 finish, Beal’s owners have to be giddy. John Wall hit just 3-of-11 shots for 10 points, five boards and seven assists, and will bounce back. Emeka Okafor had eight points and 13 rebounds, but didn’t block a shot (again). I don’t know what the problem is, but Okafor has blocked a shot in just three of his 11 February games for five total, but has hit double digits in rebounds and points in six of those games. Martell Webster had 12 points and two 3-pointers to stay relevant, while Nene just missed a double-double with 11 points, nine boards and a block. Trevor Ariza has been a hot topic lately, but had just eight points and six boards on 3-of-9 shooting in 26 minutes. He’s going to be inconsistent coming off the bench behind Webster, but at least the minutes are there.
Amir Johnson started on Monday, moving Landry Fields (five minutes, zero points) to the bench, and had six points, 13 rebounds, a steal and three blocks in 37 minutes. DeMar DeRozan went off for 25 points, a steal and a block on 9-of-17 shooting, but as usual, didn’t hit a 3-pointer. Kyle Lowry was solid with 18 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers on 6-of-17 shooting. He’s must-start the rest of the way. Rudy Gay hit just 1-of-11 shots and has now hit just 81-of-216 shots (37.5%) in the month of February. He can’t shoot it this poorly the rest of the way, so just keep rolling him out there and wait for the slump to end. Jonas Valanciunas had four points and three rebounds in just 18 minutes, and if I own him, I’m probably ready to let go after this one. Alan Anderson played 24 minutes, but missed all four of his shots for four points, three rebounds and four fouls. He could be better than this on most nights going forward, as the minutes are there, but his shot isn’t falling consistently.
Andrea Bargnani had eight points in 21 minutes on 4-of-11 shooting, but his elbow injury is still impacting his shot (he was 0-for-6 in his previous two games) and the boos he’s hearing from the crowd appear to be shaking what little confidence he had. “I can’t say I’m happy about it,” he said of the booing. He still has a chance to get things turned around this season, but if I owned him, I’d be scouring the wire for someone who can help my team right now. After a four-game week next week, the Raps go 3-3-3-4-3 to finish out the season.