10 Takeaways from Sunday Night's Intense NBA Action
Sunday's full slate of NBA games gave you more fast-paced action than you could have gotten from the Daytona 500 and more star power than you could have hoped to get at the Oscars.
It started off with the Los Angeles Lakers showing us something from the team that everybody originally figured would work their way into the NBA Finals, and finished with the Oklahoma City Thunder reminding us all why it's nearly a foregone conclusion that they'll be able to make their way back into the Finals.
Of course, along the way there was a look at the San Antonio Spurs, who might have an issue with my comments about the Thunder making it back to the Finals, and the Miami Heat, who scoff at any of the other teams thinking they've got a shot at knocking them off the pedestal.
There were also Rookie of the Year candidates on the schedule, as well as last year's Rookie of the Year Award winner, and a look at the Knicks, Nets, Grizzlies and Warriors along the way.
If you missed even a minute of the action, I'll give you a rundown of what we learned and can take away from the day's huge games.
Miami's Still Solid and Cleveland's Still Knocking
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The Miami Heat completely blew a 22-point lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers, yet they still figured out a way to hold the Cleveland comeback charge at bay long enough to get their wits about them and finish the game off.
Not only did LeBron James have another solid performance while having a poor second half, Dwyane Wade made up for a terrible first three quarters by having a 15-point fourth that won the game for the Heat.
Then there's the Cavaliers.
Cleveland played two bad quarters of basketball in which they were able to put together runs to get back into the game, only to give up another bigger run in return—at least until the third quarter.
Down by 22 points in the third, they had every reason to take the message from Miami and coast the rest of the way to a double-digit loss. Only they didn't let up.
Irving had a solid fourth quarter, C.J. Miles scored 11 points in 40 seconds, and the Cavs put together a run that led to a 23-point third-quarter swing, going into the fourth up by a point.
Much like many other more skilled teams have over the past few weeks, Cleveland did eventually succumb to the Miami machine in the long run. But the fight they put up proved what everybody seems to say about them daily: They're on the verge.
Jarrett Jack God Mode Will Never Die
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With the Golden State Warriors doing the same-old "struggle early on" act that we've seen time and time again over the season, there was no way anybody was changing the channel before the final seconds ticked off the clock.
The reason? Jarrett Jack God Mode.
He's got a cheat-code mentality that flips on like a switch when the fourth quarter comes along, and he's done it all season long, including their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Jarrett Jack, ladies and gentleman. ... His 3 gives Warriors lead— Marcus Thompson (@gswscribe) February 24, 2013
Jarrett Jack has requested god mode. Request approved.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) February 24, 2013
Jack didn't put together his normal dominant string of clutch shots, but four fourth-quarter assists and the three-pointer that put them ahead was enough of his cheat-code game for the afternoon.
New Orleans Is a Well-Built Team
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It seems a bit like they just happened upon it, and in a way a lot of it did just fall into place, but the New Orleans Hornets work together well. Or, at least they do against the Sacramento Kings.
With Anthony Davis in the middle (who had 20 points and eight rebounds), all they really need is a few good shooters and they'll be halfway decent.
But they've gone beyond that.
Rather than just decent shooters, they have two incredible stretch-4s in Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith, both of whom can hit jumpers.
Not only that, but they've got another solid defensive big man to put up next to him in Robin Lopez if they need to put forth a defense-first lineup.
Add in a pass-first point guard in Greivis Vasquez (whose development has been ridiculous this year) and a phenomenal isolation player in Eric Gordon, and all they really need is a few years to grow before they start to look like a damn fine team.
Owners Need to Restrain Themselves
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In what was simultaneously a shot at the Lakers—somewhat facetious and completely hilarious—Cuban quipped that the Lakers should use their amnesty provision on Kobe.
Since those comments, the Lakers have beaten the Portland Trail Blazers and, now, the Dallas Mavericks and Kobe has averaged 39 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
Kobe's response following the win?
Amnesty THAT— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 24, 2013
Don't provoke the league's best players. It's only going to make you look stupid.
Derrick! Derrick! We Need You!
The Chicago Bulls were a disaster for 48 full minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder to wrap up Sunday night's games, and it was in every facet of their game.
Some nights the defensive effort just lapses, and it's good to have some kind of offense left to fall back on. The only problem is that Chicago doesn't have that offense.
When we all saw Derrick Rose dunking in the pregame, there was bated excitement as we know there's no set return date, but there's also hope that he returns when there are shots like that surfacing from time-to-time.
Chicago might have a good chance at making some noise in the playoffs without Rose, but when games like these come along and they start to have troubles on defense, they could really use somebody to do nothing but get buckets.
Portland's Bench Is Somehow Overrated
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The Portland Trail Blazers pulled off a big 92-86 win over the Boston Celtics, and while it probably won't propel them into the playoffs, it's most certainly a marquee win for the team.
Portland has shown flashes of terrific play, and they would be a solid team with the potential for some postseason play but for one huge problem: They've got absolutely no bench.
All season long we've heard critics talk about Portland's bench with laughter. But even that might be a little bit too much credit.
If it weren't for Victor Claver somehow walking his way into 10 rebounds, the night would have been a complete wash for the guys on the bench.
When you have names like Claver, Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland coming off the bench, you've got to be proud of the squad on the floor.
At least they picked up Eric Maynor as a castoff from Oklahoma City before the deadline.
Gortat's "You Should Have Traded for Me" Game Was Underrated Moment of the Night
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In his first game following the trade deadline, at which he wasn't traded, Marcin Gortat and the Phoenix Suns lost miserably, 113-88, to the Boston Celtics.
Gortat seemed uninterested, coasted through the game and ended up with just 10 points and six rebounds.
Sunday, he seemed to snap out of his funk a bit.
With Tiago Splitter and DPOY candidate Tim Duncan alternatively guarding the big man, Gortat put up 21 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a big middle finger to the rest of the league.
There were rumors flying around leading up to the trade deadline, and Gortat showed those teams what they are missing out on with his latest performance.
Marc Gasol Is Definitely a Centerpiece
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With the way the Memphis Grizzlies play, they don't need to be built around guys who score in bunches like Rudy Gay or even Zach Randolph.
Instead, they can focus on putting their eggs in the Marc Gasol basket. It's going to lead to a lot of games like their 76-72 win over the Brooklyn Nets, but a win is a win I suppose.
Gasol scored 14 points on an efficient 6-of-11 shooting, pulled down seven rebounds, had four blocks and proved that he was the league's best passing big man with five assists.
Beyond the complete stat line that he put up, Gasol put together an absolute defensive clinic holding Brook Lopez to just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting and leaving the big man befuddled every time he stepped out to put a hand in his face.
New York Needs to Stay Feisty
The New York Knicks put down a complete game against the Philadelphia 76ers, winning 99-93, and it was all thanks to the unwillingness to settle for jumpers.
If it wasn't Carmelo Anthony or Tyson Chandler banging down low, it was Amar'e Stoudemire or even J.R. Smith doing their best to get to the rim and keep the Philadelphia bigs on their toes.
While the Knicks let Philadelphia get back into the game, they played with a feisty chip on their shoulders, culminating with Tyson Chandler's dust-up with Spencer Hawes that led to a shower of cheers from the crowd.
New York hasn't displayed an edge all season, and it was nice to see them take a few bumps personally and even get into a bit of a scrape here and there.
The Lakers Run Is for Real
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We've talked about the recent Los Angeles Lakers run with hushed tones followed by screams after each win.
Every time they finish off an opponent, it's almost like a collective sigh of relief from everybody who picked the Lakers as their preseason NBA champions.
Well, we looked at this game against the Dallas Mavericks as a possible trap game before they went on down the road to take on the Denver Nuggets on Monday, but they ended up pulling it out thanks to some huge defense from Metta World Peace.
They've won 11 of their last 14 games and are a game below .500. The last time they were this close to breaking the .500 mark, it was January 1 and we were all waiting for them to reel off a streak of wins the rest of the way.
This time, it seems to be for real.