7 Takeaways from Friday Night's Post-Trade Deadline NBA Action
The NBA was clearly glad to be done with the trade deadline. With the stress of player movement out of the way for the remainder of the 2012-13 season, the league could finally get back to the business of playing basketball without fear of having to pack their bags and change addresses in the middle of a contentious campaign.
And it showed. The last Friday of February featured no shortage of fantastic affairs amongst a 12-game slate. Six of the games were decided by single digits, including both of the West Coast closers.
Not that blowouts weren't prevalent or anything. The Indiana Pacers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics all took their opponents to task.
All in all, it was a great Friday to be a fan of the NBA, with plenty of noteworthy results that will have an impact during the stretch run.
Dr. Jekyll Ain't Got Nothin' on the Denver Nuggets
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I get that playing their home games in high altitude is a significant advantage for the Denver Nuggets, but their seeming inability to win games at sea level is starting to border on absurdity. A 119-113 loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday dropped the Nuggets' record outside of the Mile-High City to 11-19, as opposed to their 23-3 record at the Pepsi Center.
With a disparity between home and road of that magnitude, it's imperative that the Nuggets snag a top-four seed in the Western Conference if they're to win a playoff series for the first time since 2009.
Too bad they've fallen three games back of the Memphis Grizzlies in the race for fourth place, due in large part to a recent run of road losses.
The Raptors' Rudy Roll Resumes
Never mind that 88-82 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday—the Toronto Raptors are far better off with Rudy Gay so far. Their 100-98 win over the New York Knicks on Friday was their seventh in 10 tries since snagging Rudy from Memphis at the end of January.
Gay contributed heavily to this particular victory, too. He poured in 32 points, his most as a Raptor, on a relatively efficient (for him) 11-of-23 shooting from the field. Rudy tallied 17 points in the third, just two fewer than the entire Knicks team in the period.
In the bigger picture, the win pulled the Raptors to within four-and-a-half games of the eighth-place Milwaukee Bucks, who will now count on the arrival of J.J. Redick at the trade deadline to stem their ongoing skid.
The Indiana Pacers Don't Discriminate
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The Indiana Pacers don't care if you're a top-tier team or a struggling squad counting ping-pong balls; they will beat you down just the same.
The Pacers followed up a 34-point shellacking of the Knicks on Wednesday with a 32-point pounding of the Detroit Pistons on Friday. Six Pacers scored in double-figures, including a game-high 18 from David West.
As a whole, Indy shot a sizzling 56.2 percent from the field while limiting Detroit to 35.4 percent on the other end. It was the sort of dominance you'd expect to see from a team that's now the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
And that's handled the Miami Heat not once, but twice this season.
No Waiting for Mr. Robinson
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The Houston Rockets aren't exactly standing around and twiddling their thumbs while Thomas Robinson takes his physical. They fended off the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center on Friday, 106-96, with James Harden and Carlos Delfino pouring in 22 points apiece and combining for 10 three-point makes on 16 attempts.
This came just two days after storming back from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
Robinson might have a tough time fitting into the Rockets' brigade of three-point bombers, but if he can provide a bit of rebounding, athleticism and interior scoring, he should be able to carve out a spot in Kevin McHale's rotation just fine going forward.
And even if he doesn't, Houston has plenty in the tank to stake its claim to a playoff spot over the second half of the season.
How to Stop a Skid
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If you're the Oklahoma City Thunder and you're struggling, there's one surefire way to turn things around: tell Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to go off.
That worked out quite well against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. Durant and Westbrook combined for 64 points (on 22-of-39 shooting), 14 rebounds and 16 assists in a 127-111 win at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Of course, it helps that the T-Wolves are still without Kevin Love and, as a result, are all but destined for another trip to the NBA draft lottery. Still, a win's a win, and after three losses in a row, the Thunder were in dire need of a positive result.
They need to avoid falling completely out of sight of the San Antonio Spurs in the race for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Vintage Kobe Comes to the Rescue
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It'd been nearly a month and a half since Kobe Bryant last went off for 30-plus points. He scored 31 in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks on January 15.
And he hadn't topped the 40-point mark since December 26, when the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Denver Nuggets.
The Black Mamba brought both of those droughts to a swift end on Friday night. He scored 40 points on 15-of-23 shooting, every one of which the Lakers needed in staving off the Portland Trail Blazers for a 111-107 win.
It was precisely the sort of game the Lakers would've expected to see from their team sans Pau Gasol. Kobe led the way in scoring, Dwight Howard in rebounding (16 boards, with 19 points) and Steve Nash in assists (six dimes), with Antawn Jamison (16 points) and Jodie Meeks (10 points) providing scoring punch off the bench.
The win moved the Lakers within two games of the .500 mark for the first time since January 4. Unfortunately, it didn't move them any closer to a playoff spot, since the Rockets pulled out a "W" of their own in Brooklyn,
The Fashion Police Descend on Oracle Arena
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The Golden State Warriors' 107-101 overtime win over the league-leading San Antonio Spurs was remarkable enough, albeit against a Spurs squad that had played in LA the night before.
But the real story (unfortunately) was the Warriors jerseys...and how atrocious they were, at least on television. All the talk coming into the game concerned the sleeves on Golden State's new duds, but those were only a part of the assault on the eyes that the uniforms represented.
There were the mismatched, pinstriped shorts, the bright yellow hue that blurred out the names on the back and, of course, the V-necks that made the players look like they'd just stumbled out of an American Apparel store on the way to Oracle Arena.
Unfortunately for folks who watch basketball, the fact that Golden State won while wearing these monstrosities practically guarantees that the Warriors will be donning them again at some point.
Tim Gunn, your thoughts?