10 Takeaways from Sunday Night's Compelling NBA Action
The NBA had their usual full slate of action starting early on Sunday, take us all the way through the night and finishing up with the Los Angeles Lakers ending up at .500 for the first time since 2012.
We saw a huge comeback by the Miami Heat, a below-the-belt punch, a ton of assists from a particular big man, the real leader of the Indiana Pacers, and a second-year second-round pick come out and have a huge game.
It was a night in which we were able to realize that Gregg Popovich should probably win his third Coach of the Year Award, why the Washington Wizards are a completely different team with John Wall, and why the Sacramento Kings are actually watchable.
So if you missed a single second of what went down on Sunday, I've got everything you need to know about the day that was in the NBA.
Dallas May Have Registered the Worst Quarter of the Season
The Dallas Mavericks have been doing their best to hang on this season and at least put together some semblance of a run down the stretch.
It seemed as if they were going to give a challenge to the Houston Rockets, but it ended up being just another letdown for Mark Cuban's Mavericks.
They were down by just three points after the first half, and then came out to a crazy Rockets squad in the second half.
Dallas scored all of 17 points in the third, and gave up 44 to Houston at the same time. That's a 27-point swing in only 12 minutes.
Move to have the Mavericks never play third quarters the rest of the year? Is the motion seconded?
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 4, 2013
Final score: Houston 136, Dallas 103
Sacramento Can Be Scintillating
Up to this point, the Sacramento Kings average just 98.2 points per game—good enough for 13th in the NBA, but not quite good enough that we would expect what has become of them in the past few weeks.
Sacramento beat the Charlotte Bobcats 119-83 as six players scored in double-figures and John Salmons put up another hot game, scoring 22 points.
The Kings have scored at least 100 points in 10 of their past 11 games and have played in entertaining fashion for at least their last four.
They're only 4-7 in the recent stretch, but they're averaging 110 points over the last 11 games. And if they could figure out how to play defense every once in a while, they might be a bit of a dangerous team.
Even better, they even played as a bit of a team against the Bobcats after going into complete isolation mode in their 130-102 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.
Assists scorecard. Manu Ginobili 15. Sacramento Kings 15.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 2, 2013
Sacramento finished with 26 total assists in this one, and wouldn't you know it, their offense was terrific.
David West Is Still in Control of Indiana
He's the big, bruising power forward with range to hit an 18-footer on command, and while he's not getting the love that Paul George is, he's doing all the work George has done and then some.
Against the Chicago Bulls, West went to work on Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Vladimir Radmanovic and Nazr Mohammed, regardless of how they played him.
West realized that George was having an off night, so he started shooting, kept shooting, and never stopped shooting.
He ended up with 31 points on the night on 11-18 shooting.
While George will continue to get the attention, West will continue to be the solid, consistent offensive weapon that the Pacers need in every game.
What's become interesting, however, is that the Pacers need George to be more successful on offense in order to open the post up a bit more.
Indiana has won 18 of 27 games when George scores at least 20 points, while winning just 10 of 20 in West's 20-point games.
It seems that while West is capable of scoring plenty of points, he's more apt to sit back and let George be the primary option, then stepping in when needed.
Marc Gasol and Joakim Noah Are in a Weird Battle
It's a debate that doesn't rage too often, but once it does people tend to get extremely defensive of the guy they're more fond of.
While Joakim Noah might be the more consistent passing big man when it comes to racking up assists, Marc Gasol is hanging out right behind him.
Both big men put their passing abilities on display on Sunday, with Gasol completely dominating the Orlando Magic on his way to 11 assists, and Joakim Noah becoming the King of the Extra Pass.
Marc Gasol: career-high 11 ast tonight; 1st center with 11 ast since Marcus Camby in 2008— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 4, 2013
Gasol's 11 assists trumped Noah's five, but both showed how well they are able to create extra and unique opportunities that other teams don't have.I t seems obvious that we're down to Gasol and Noah in terms of the league's best passing big men.
Never Underestimate a Referee's Decision
Watching Serge Ibaka's low blow of Blake Griffin late in Oklahoma City's 108-104 win over the Los Angeles Clippers makes one thing certain: It was a malicious shot.
The first run through and it seems as if he was going right for Blake's—ahem—boys. A few more times and you could make some different assumptions.
Look at Ibaka's eyes when he takes the swing. He's looking up at the rim. Wasn't exactly looking at where he was chopping.— Royce Young (@dailythunder) March 3, 2013
In the end, the swat is definitely open to interpretation, and the referees called what they called.
The point here is that there is an incredibly fine line that wasn't crossed with Ibaka's swing, and if he had crossed it, a very different story could have arisen.
Ibaka scored a late three-point play and had a key block following the flagrant-1 down the stretch, and it was really the key to Oklahoma City's victory. Had he been thrown out instead, it could have been a different outcome.
Wall Is Washington
While the Washington Wizards floated around the league waiting for their banged-up team to heal for the first chunk of the season, they had no offense to speak of and no way of closing out games late. The result was a ton of losses, and wins coming at a premium.
In 25 games since John Wall's return, the Wizards are 14-11 and are looking every bit like a solid Eastern Conference team, even one that could (hypothetically) make the playoffs.
The 90-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers was thanks to the tremendous play of John Wall down the stretch, something he's been struggling to do over the past few weeks.
After all he's been through past few weeks, John Wall really needed that game for himself & to remind others that he can be clutch #wizards— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) March 4, 2013
With Wall stepping up as the leader we always knew he could be on the floor, this Wizards team becomes immensely intriguing. They're not a playoff threat by any means this season, but they're definitely one to watch out for next year.
Who Needs Tony Parker?
After it was announced that Tony Parker would be out a month with a sprained ankle, nobody seemed to freak out.
In fact, it was barely news.
Parker turned his ankle, he'll be ready in time to get back into shape for the playoffs, and that was that. We instinctively knew that the Spurs would be fine without him.
Lo and behold, in their first game since losing Parker, the Spurs beat down the Detroit Pistons 114-75 and the team put together 35 assists as a squad.
That, plus Tim Duncan's 16-point, 11-rebound, six-assist, five-block night (in just 26 minutes) was enough to give the Spurs faith in the old guard and Gregg Popovich's brilliance.
This month might just win him his third Coach of the Year Award.
The Spurs probably have the best bench in all professional sports. Big credit to Gregg Popovich for using his roster like a chess master.— Keviη Stott (@KevinStott11) March 4, 2013
It's to the point that I've nearly convinced myself that Pop could have taken over any team in the league on January 1 and figured out a way to get them into the playoffs. Even the Bobcats.
The Lakers and the Playoffs Are on a Collision Course
For the first time since 2012, the Los Angeles Lakers are above .500 and eyeing a playoff spot with fevered ferocity.
Los Angeles did everything they could to give the game away to the Atlanta Hawks, but Josh Smith missed shots and made bad passes down the stretch and the Lakers pulled out a 99-98 win over the Hawks to bring their record all the way up to 30-30.
The last time the Lakers weren't below .500 the Mayans were still expecting to kill us all.— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) March 4, 2013
The Lakers have suddenly won 13 of their past 18 games, they've strung together wins against good teams and against teams they should beat, and it's starting to feel like a foregone conclusion that they'll make their way into the playoffs.
Sure, they've got a bunch of games on the road over the next few weeks, but it seems as if they're doing just enough to win their big games.
Los Angeles is still two-and-a-half games behind the eighth seed in the Western Conference after Houston's win over the Mavericks. However, they're the same number of games behind the seventh seed after Utah has won just three of their past eight games, and three games back of Golden State, who are 4-10 since the beginning of February.
Switches Can Be Flipped
The Miami Heat found themselves down by 16 points against the New York Knicks just before halftime, and it looked as if the Knicks actually had the formula to beat the Heat.
Twenty-four minutes and just 34 second-half points later and the Knicks had fallen by six to the Heat, 99-93, just like their previous 13 opponents.
First half Miami coasted—they rotated poorly on defense, Chris Bosh bricked shots, they let Tyson Chandler control the paint, three-pointers didn't fall and they looked absolutely abysmal.
Eight points in the first six minutes of the third quarter from Bosh led to New York's lead being cut to just four points.
From there it was more back-and-forth than anything, until LeBron James took over in the fourth and Miami's Big Three completely flipped the switch, completing a 24-point turnaround.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Daryl Morey Can Do No Wrong
It's hard for a team to key in on a pick past the lottery and know for sure that he's going to be a good player. There's an inkling, a hope and a desire that they're going to pick someone up, but there's never a guarantee.
That's why whenever a second-round player turns into something more than a decent rotation player, people start to praise the team's front-office minds.
Chandler Parsons has done just that for the Houston Rockets and GM Daryl Morey with his season so far, and especially his game against the Dallas Mavericks.
Parsons put down 32 of Houston's 136 points, made six of seven three-pointers and 12 of his 13 shots overall. All in just 30 minutes of floor time.
On top of that, Houston got 21 points each from Jeremy Lin and James Harden, along with a double-double from Omer Asik—all Daryl Morey babies.
Props to Morey for going all-in on Parsons when he traded away Chase Budinger—it was obviously a good decision. You know what? Props to Morey on just about everything from the past two years.