10 Takeaways from Saturday Night's Painful NBA Action
Entering Feb. 2, 2013, many expected this to be just another day in the NBA, but that was not the case.
From the emergence of superstars to career milestones, we had it all. Late-game heroics were at a premium, and postseason contenders made statements.
So which players and teams stepped up on this evening of NBA basketball?
Can Tim Duncan's Injury Slow the Unstoppable?
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Led by Tony Parker's 19 points, 12 assists and four rebounds, the San Antonio Spurs held on for a 96-86 victory over the Washington Wizards.
As a result of this victory, San Antonio has made it 10 consecutive wins. The Spurs are now two games ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the best record in the NBA at 38-11.
Just like that, San Antonio is back on top of the Western Conference. Could we see its third consecutive regular-season conference crown?
Not so fast.
Tim Duncan was helped off of the floor with a sprained left knee and right ankle (via Yahoo! Sports). It's unclear how much time Duncan could miss. Either way, one has to be concerned with the Spurs' future if Duncan is out long term.
On a side note, John Wall showed he can ball against the best of them. The youngster picked up 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
Wall is beginning to prove his status as one of the league's fastest-rising point guards.
The Chicago Bulls Are Resilient
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If you didn't know it before, know it now: There is absolutely nothing that the Chicago Bulls cannot overcome.
Matched up with the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks, the Bulls were without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich. Even still, the Bulls managed to secure a 93-76 victory. On the road.
For the season, Atlanta is now 26-20 overall and 16-8 at home, but the Hawks were no match for the Bulls' defensive tenacity and underrated depth.
Taj Gibson finished with 19 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks. Luol Deng tacked on 25 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks. Jimmy Butler added 16 points, 10 boards and three steals.
As for who was running point, Nate Robinson chipped in 20 points, eight assists and three steals, including four three-pointers.
Not only are the Bulls one of the most resilient teams, but they're as well coached and disciplined as any. Chicago is going to make noise come the postseason.
Hopefully, the Bulls will do so without so many starters sidelined by injury.
Kyrie Irving Is a Superstar
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More times than not, a fan favorite is wrongly labeled "elite." Those players often fail to come through when matched up against the truly top-tier players of the NBA.
On Saturday night, Kyrie Irving proved that he is in fact a superstar.
Irving finished with 35 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the floor. Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, went off for 28 points on 12-of-22 shooting.
Irving led the Cavaliers to a 115-110 victory over the OKC Thunder, and Westbrook and Kevin Durant were no match for him in the clutch.
Just check the numbers: Irving scored 13 points in the final 2:51. Durant and Westbrook combined for nine points during that time.
We've known that he's a star for over a year, but Irving could now be considered one of the elites.
Houston Dominates; MKG Taken out on a Stretcher
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Matched up against the Charlotte Bobcats, James Harden of the Houston Rockets secured his first career triple-double.
Harden finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. He did so on 6-of-11 shooting, thus pacing Houston to its fifth win in seven games.
This one came by a score of 109-95.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the true story of the evening. The Bobcats lost rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist after Jeffery Taylor's right hip connected with the back of his head.
MKG was fitted with a neck brace and taken out on a stretcher (via USA Today).
Kidd-Gilchrist has been diagnosed with a concussion. How much time he will miss is unclear, but it is encouraging to see he is doing better than previously expected.
As for Houston, 17 of the Rockets' 26 wins have come against the Eastern Conference. You know, the conference that they don't play in.
Amar'e Stoudemire Is Back
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With Carmelo Anthony held to just nine points, Amar'e Stoudemire reminded the world that he is still relevant.
STAT demolished the Sacramento Kings, going off for 21 points in under 21 minutes. Oh, and did we mention that he played a nearly perfect game?
Stoudemire's final stat line consisted of 21 points and six rebounds on 10-of-10 shooting. He also posted a plus-minus of plus-31.
So what were you saying about Stoudemire being washed up?
Believe it or not, this is the second time this week that STAT has been perfect from the floor. He shot 7-of-7 on Wednesday against the Orlando Magic.
This is a bad, bad man, ladies and gentlemen. It's time the world remembered that.
The Knicks' Three-Point Game Is Lethal
In case you didn't know, the New York Knicks are unstoppable from beyond the arc.
A major reason for that truth is the following statement: When J.R. Smith is hot, there is absolutely nothing you can do to slow him down.
Smith teamed with Amar'e Stoudemire to lead the Knicks to a 120-81 victory over the Sacramento Kings. He finished with 25 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals on 9-of-16 shooting from the floor.
Most impressively, Smith hit seven three-point field goals.
Paired with Steve Novak's five three-point bombs, the Knicks had all the offense they could ask for from just two men. Fortunately, Stoudemire provided the aforementioned interior presence.
Overall, the Knicks finished with 19 three-pointers. It was the 30th time they hit at least 10 threes and the sixth with at least 15.
Andrew Bogut Makes Warriors Even More Dangerous
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David Lee is an All-Star, and Stephen Curry is widely considered to be a snub, but Andrew Bogut will be vitally important to this team's postseason success.
Bogut continues to dominate the defensive end of the floor, blocking three shots and limiting Marcin Gortat to 2-of-7 shooting. That helped the Warriors take down the Suns 113-93.
This is the second consecutive game where the Warriors have held a team under 97 points. They hadn't achieved that feat in two weeks.
The offense will be dominant with or without Bogut. They possess a plethora of three-point shooters and have a dominant interior force in David Lee.
But this team becomes potent on both sides of the floor with him.
Milwaukee Bucks Have Something Special
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In a battle between Eastern Conference foes, the Milwaukee Bucks won 107-98 over the Orlando Magic, moving them to 25-21 on the season.
And what an impressive victory it was.
Monta Ellis led the charge with 21 points, 11 assists and four rebounds. Brandon Jennings added 20 points and five assists, while Ersan Ilyasova tacked on 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
The true star of the evening, however, was Larry Sanders.
Sanders dropped 17 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and six blocks to solidify the Bucks' interior defense. This has been the theme of the season for Milwaukee, as its opportunistic defense has complemented its high-octane offense to perfection.
Come the postseason, that's exactly what will make this team so dangerous.
T-Wolves Eat Opponents with Defense
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The Minnesota Timberwolves smothered the New Orleans Hornets, picking up a much-needed 115-86 victory.
This was yet another example of Minnesota's ability to dominate defensively, and it marks the second time in three games where the T-Wolves have held teams below 96 points.
A major reason for their defensive success is small forward Andrei Kirilenko. After a year's hiatus from the NBA, AK-47 is picking up where he left off.
He finished with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals, and he's working with Greg Stiemsma to create a formidable defensive attack.
Although their wins may be limited by the absence of Kevin Love (along with all of the other injuries they've had to deal with this year), the T-Wolves are a legitimate defensive force.
Damian Lillard Working Postseason-Caliber Magic
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Damian Lillard may be a rookie, but his latest heroics are nothing new for him and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Lillard dropped 23 points and eight assists en route to a 105-99 victory over the Utah Jazz. This moves Portland to 24-23 overall and 17-8 at home.
The Rookie of the Year front-runner continues to work his magic.
Joining Lillard was J.J. Hickson, who added 21 points and 11 rebounds. This marks Hickson's 26th double-double of the season, placing him third in the NBA in that category.
The Blazers are now just one game behind the Houston Rockets for eighth in the Western Conference. A postseason push may be in the works.