It’s a new day in Washington, D.C. They finally have a real basketball team. In last night’s 93-83 win over Atlanta, John Wall played for the first time this season to a standing ovation. Then he went out and put in 14 points and four dimes in 20 minutes off the pine. He was also a catalyst in the game’s biggest stretch. With both teams in a daze to start the fourth, Wall came in and had back-to-back double-pump buckets in the lane that woke the Wizards up. Despite looking a little too soft after sitting out the past few months (at least he didn’t look like this), it felt like he’d never left – he had the explosive coast-to-coast forays, a few ugly jumpers and the occasional energetic explosions that make the Wizards interesting … The Clippers never lose once they get the lead heading into the fourth quarter, but yesterday afternoon, L.A. blew a 13-point lead after J.J. Redick (21 points) turned into Reggie Miller and put Orlando up for the first time all game with a step-back triple in the last minute. It put a bow on top of a great second half from the Magic. Redick overcame a slow start, Arron Afflalo (30 points, seven boards, seven assists) turned into Michael Jordan, and Nikola Vucevic (18 points, 15 rebounds) continued to be the best player no one knows about … The Clippers jumped out 20-7, and the Clippers’ broadcast was talking about how they were expecting a high-scoring game. Ya think? The first time Blake Griffin touched the ball, literally seven seconds into the game, he transitioned right into a layup. Andrew Nicholson just let him go. Later, Griffin caught a lob on Redick’s head after Redick moved out of the way like he was playing on the Eagles’ offensive line. Willie Green even caught his first dunk since the And1 Mixtape Vol.8 after he got out on the break and the Magic basically let him go. But ironically, it was Orlando that was the more exciting team in the first half. Mo Harkless had a driving baseline jam that caught everyone in the building by surprise. Then, there was Josh McRoberts continuing his year-long persistence to prove he’s the next Larry Bird, throwing all types of wild no-look and behind-the-back passes. But the best part of the opening 24 minutes was Ish Smith. He dunked all over Eric Bledsoe – plus the foul – and just as the crowd was admiring the replay, the dude airballed the free throw by three feet … Blake Griffin (30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) gave first class tickets to all of Orlando’s young bigs for the “How to take no prisoners in the post” show. He’s improved his jumper this year, but yesterday, he looked like Sherlock Holmes in the post, breaking down in his mind how he’d remove a Magic player from his sneakers before hitting the shot. He banked in a handful of jumpers, and also had a nice turnaround lefty hook in the third quarter. Yeah, he also caught a couple of sledgehammers, but it was the rest of his game that was really impressive … Is Chris Paul (16 assists, four steals) the MVP? Since when did this movement start? Yeah sure, when Paul was on the court against Orlando, L.A. outscored them by like 100 in the first half. But if Kevin Durant and LeBron James are getting invites into the MVP VIP room, then CP3 is still trying to get in the building (we guess that’s better than everyone else – they’re not even allowed on the premises) … Keep reading to hear about what Jrue Holiday did for the 17th time this season …
In Houston’s 107-100 loss in Philly, one late possession symbolized the Rockets’ night. They missed four triples on one trip down the court, with James Harden (29 points, nine boards, six assists) airmailing the last attempt. For the game, they went 8-for-32 from deep, and Jrue Holiday (30 points, nine assists, four steals) did just enough against the Beard to hold him off, despite Harden putting him on skates at one point. Holiday’s led Philly in points and assists in 17 games this season. Only LeBron and Tony Parker have done it more … During the second quarter, the broadcast spent a few minutes talking All-Star voting, and did a quick run through the stands with the camera, stopping on a few kids in jerseys who looked exactly like Beavis and Butt-Head … In college ball, No. 5 Indiana only beat No. 8 Minnesota by seven, but if you watched the first half, you know this was a complete mismatch. The Hoosiers lost most of a 23-point halftime lead in the closing moments of the game, but before that they looked like a better offensive team than the Pacers. They hit seven triples in the first half, and were on pace for 104 points at halftime. Victor Oladipo (20 points), Cody Zeller (18 points) and Jordan Hulls (19 points) all had big games … And the top-ranked team in America lost yesterday afternoon. Duke went down to play No. 20 N.C. State and were manhandled inside at times, 84-76. Duke never handles themselves against long and athletic frontlines (think Michigan State from a few years back, LSU when they had Tyrus Thomas, and Arizona and Derrick Williams two years ago). Yesterday, it was C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell giving the Blue Devils interior bleeding. Leslie dropped 25, and spearheaded the game-deciding run, and Howell had 16 points and 18 rebounds of his own. Even Lorenzo Brown, a point guard we’ve been hard on in the past, littered the floor with 13 dimes … In other major story lines from last night: without Paul George, Indiana took care of business against Charlotte, 96-88. David West finished with a triple-double (14 points, 12 boards, 10 assists); Al Jefferson had 20 and 10, and after Brandon Knight missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, Utah had a W against Detroit, 90-87; Phoenix and Luis Scola (22 points) surprised Chicago with a 16-point win in the Windy City; Shawn Marion (20 points) and Dallas blew out the Grizzlies by 21; and the Heat destroyed Sacramento, 128-99, after Mario Chalmers had the game of his life, finishing with 34 points and 10 three-pointers … We’re out like Peyton Manning.
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