The Skip Pass is your home on FanRag Sports for insights and nuggets on each game played in the NBA. This is different from your regular game recap or box score. We want to take you inside the game and call out things you might have missed.
Focus Games: Celtics at Heat, Hawks at Warriors
Other Games: Kings at Wizards, Thunder at Knicks, 76ers at Raptors, Jazz at Timberwolves, Hornets at Grizzlies
CELTICS 112 – HEAT 104
Boston survived a big second half push from the scrappy, undermanned Heat to hold on for the road victory. The Celtics led by as many at 17 points on various occasions despite playing without Al Horford, who stayed in Boston after the birth of his daughter. Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk both saw more minutes and responded well. Zeller finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Olynyk had 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks off the bench.
It was a tale of two halves for both sides, as the Celtics locked the Heat down defensively in the first half. Miami had only 31 points at the break and was 0-8 from behind the arc. In the second half, the Heat made a concerted effort to push the pace and attack the basket. After posting Hassan Whiteside for most of the first half, and getting little production, they went to a spread pick-and-roll attack with Goran Dragic and Whiteside. This resulted in 73 second half points. Dragic ultimately finished with 27 points and 17 assists, while Whiteside wrapped up with 25 points and 17 assists.
Where the Heat fell short was production outside of their two stars. Josh Richardson was ok off the bench with 12 points, and Wayne Ellington made his season debut with nine points, but Miami couldn’t get enough overall. Contrast that with Boston, who had six players in double figures and got solid minutes from nine guys, and you have the difference in the game. The Celtics ball movement and trust also showed up, with 26 assists on 40 baskets and only nine turnovers, including just two from the starting five.
WARRIORS 105 – HAWKS 100
For a half, it looked like the Hawks were breaking out of their recent slide in the most improbable place of all. They held the Warriors to just 50 points (low for Golden State) and forced 11 turnovers at the break. Atlanta’s offense was also clicking with 53 points of their own, and they were moving the ball well to get open looks.
Alas, games have a second half, and the Warriors took over and extended the Hawks losing streak in Oakland to five straight years. Golden State turned up the defense considerably in half number two by staying attached to cutters and pushing Dwight Howard off the block inside. Draymond Green, who returned from an ankle injury, blocked two shots in the game’s final minute and the Warriors hung on for the victory.
Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all went for at least 20 points for the second straight game and Andrew Iguodala chipped in 12 off the bench. On the Atlanta side, Dennis Schroder had 24 to lead the way but took 20 total shots. Golden State went under screens all game long and dared him to shoot. That threw the Hawks offense off a bit, as Howard only got eight total shots and 8 FTAs. And the Warriors did an excellent job staying attached to Kyle Korver as the trio of Thompson, Iguodala and Shaun Livingston held him to 1-6 from the field.
WIZARDS 101 – KINGS 95 OT
Bradley Beal went for 31 to pick up for a tough shooting night for the Wizards. John Wall finished with 19 points and 11 assists but struggled with his shot and ball handling all night. He was just 6-16 from the floor and turned it over 11 times. Otto Porter was able to step up with 15 points, and there are points where he looks like the third scorer Washington needs. Unfortunately, he comes and goes throughout a game and can often go missing at times.
For the Kings, it was the familiar story of a lot of DeMarcus Cousins, a little Rudy Gay and not enough else. Cousins had 36 points and 20 rebounds, as he dominated any defender the Wizards through at him. He did get a little jump shot happy at times, but when he’s asked to carry such a huge load on a nightly basis, that will happen.
THUNDER 112 – KNICKS 103
Russell Westbrook put up his third straight triple-double, and eighth overall, with 27 points, 18 rebounds and 14 assists. He’s now averaging a triple-double for the season, but efficiency is somewhat of a concern. He’s shooting just over 43% from the floor and turning the ball over 5.5 per game. That is something to monitor going forward. Enes Kanter added a season-high 27 points off the bench, and Anthony Morrow had another strong outing with 14 points of his own.
It seems unfair to pick on Derrick Rose for this loss, as he had 30 points, but he tied for the team high in FGAs, and that hasn’t been a good barometer for the Knicks winning game this year. The main difference in the game was the New York bench being dominated to the tune of 48-19.
RAPTORS 122 – 76ERS 95
Toronto dominated in all facets, rolling up one of their biggest victory margins of the year. Interior defense was the theme of the night, as the Raptors blocked eight shots and held the Sixers to just 42 percent shooting inside the arc. Toronto also stole valuable in-game rest, with no starter going more than 32 minutes.
JAZZ 112 – TIMBERWOLVES 103
Utah is firing on all cylinders with George Hill back healthy. Hill and Gordon Hayward had 24 points apiece, and Rudy Gobert scored 16 and grabbed 17 rebounds. The Wolves defense had no answer for precise sets Utah runs, as the Jazz shot just over 50 percent for the game and got to the line 34 times.
Karl-Anthony Towns struggled to finish over Rudy Gobert, going just 8-19 from the floor. Zach LaVine was a bright spot for Minnesota, finishing with a line of 28/8/8. Tom Thibodeau continues to push his starters very hard, with everyone but Ricky Rubio playing at least 32 minutes. The Wolves are young but could wear down quickly at this rate.
HORNETS 104 – GRIZZLIES 85
Charlotte used a 17 point second quarter advantage to build a big lead and rolled to the road win. Jeremy Lamb had a second strong game, this time off the bench, with 21 points and nine rebounds.
Mike Conley left the game with a lower back injury, and Memphis had no chance after that. The Grizzlies couldn’t find any sort of easy offense without Conley and with several others players missing the game. If Conley were to miss any sort of time, it would further hamper the already injury-ravaged Grizzlies.