7 Takeaways from Monday's Telling NBA Action
Not every snapshot of a night in the NBA serves as a crystal ball.
But Monday night's scoreboard does offer a telling glimpse of what we may have in store heading into the postseason.
The Eastern Conference story was laid out: the Miami Heat continue to sail while the New York Knicks limp along and hope for good news in the morning.
The Western Conference story is being told in inverted fashion, as the bottom half of the standings creates the more intriguing narrative into spring.
And yes, the surging Los Angeles Lakers managed to inch another step closer to that coveted playoff spot, while the most entertaining portion of the night may have come through the harsh words of J.J. Barea directed at a future Hall of Famer.
Carmelo Anthony Limps off with Knee Injury
Carmelo Anthony injures his knee on Monday
Most injuries aren’t very elegant, but Carmelo Anthony went down in an especially unceremonious surrender Monday night.
Anthony left the game with an injured left knee in the second quarter of the New York Knicks’ visit to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The injury was odd. Receiving an outlet pass alone at midcourt, Anthony seemed to tangle his legs and collapse over himself.
Anthony got up, almost embarrassingly, and headed to the tunnels before it was announced he would not return. Anthony had six points on 1-for-5 shooting before limping off the court, his Knicks trailing 52-30 midway through the second quarter.
As part of an emerging trend this year, the Knicks played well without their superstar. Or, maybe, the Cavs are just that bad. Either way, the Knicks rallied back to win, 102-97.
New York Daily News beat man Frank Isola tweeted that Anthony had been suffering from sore knees.
Carmelo says his right knee has been bothering him for some time. Not sure if he'll play Wednesday vs Pistons.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) March 5, 2013
The injury looked more like a tweak than anything, but you never know when it comes to the knees. Knicks fans await nervously.
Miami Heat Win 15th Consecutive Game
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Initially, it looked like a helicopter crash.
When the indelible LeBron James lifted above Madison Square Garden's nosebleeds on Sunday, landing distressingly on his left knee, it appeared as if the immortal league hero might have broken.
One night later, James was part of the Heat's 15th consecutive victory, a 97-81 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. They are now just two short of the Los Angeles Clippers' season high of 17.
Relatively speaking, James was below average, scoring 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting while adding 10 rebounds and four assists. He did commit seven turnovers.
Still, when your off-night lines look like that, you truly are "King James."
ESPN's Brian Windhorst learned that James was examined Knicks doctors Sunday night, who determined serious damage had been avoided.
Ray Allen and J.J. Barea Get into It
Ray Allen and J.J. Barea have words on Monday
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
J.J Barea was kicked out during the fourth quarter of Minnesota's loss after officials decided a somewhat minor body check from the diminutive guard on Miami's Ray Allen warranted a flagrant-2, and the corresponding ejection.
It appeared to be more of a physical play than a dirty play, and on his way to the locker room, Barea was clearly shown by TV cameras shouting expletives toward Allen that should have come with a warning label (warning: very explicit language).
It wasn’t clear what Allen was shouting back toward Barea, only that he was talking too.
After Minnesota coach Rick Adelman received an additional technical arguing the decision, Allen knocked down three consecutive free throws, helping spark a game-cliching 17-5 run by the visitors.
Zach Harper of CBSSports.com spoke to Barea, who said:
"He hit me with an elbow almost close to my neck. That's part of the game, and then I just gave him a bump back. I've been playing in the NBA for seven years. I've been hit. I get hit harder than that every night. I don't get up crying, wanting to fight. Bynum almost knocked me out for the rest of my life. I didn't get up crying. You know? It's a little bump, so it's part of the game. Don't be like that. That's why the refs got all upset about it, but it's just a little bump.
"That was terrible," he said. "I get hit harder than that every night in the NBA."
USA TODAY Sports
The unbalanced Utah Jazz roster isn't going to win many backcourt matchups.
Utah is big up front, light in the back—a personal ad the Milwaukee Bucks backcourt was interested in responding to.
Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis combined for 54 points to embarrass the Jazz backcourt combo of Randy Foye and Earl Watson, who went scoreless on a combined 0-of-10 shooting in the team's 109-108 overtime loss at home to the Bucks.
Gordon Hayward, meanwhile, shot an extremely inefficient 3-of-16 to score 13 points off the bench.
Utah's best hope, veteran guard Mo Williams, could return by Wednesday from a surgically repaired ligament in his right thumb, the Salt Lake Tribune's Bill Oram reports. Williams has been out since Dec. 22.
Without strong guard play, the Jazz will continue to experience major issues with inconsistency—the same way the Bucks will struggle without the versatility of a legitimate frontcourt.
Lakers Gain Ground with Night off
Kobe Bryant is scoreboard watching
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Kobe Bryant probably didn't think he'd be scoreboard-watching in March.
But he is, and now he's (finally) enjoying the results.
The Los Angeles Lakers are back to .500 for the first time since around Christmas, and are now just two games out of the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference thanks to Utah's loss to Milwaukee.
Say what you will about the Lakers' season-long struggles, but there isn't a team in the league that wants to face them in the first round of the playoffs.
New Orleans Falls Apart Defensively
Tyler Kaufman-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams isn't a man of cliches and excuses.
So when his team fell apart defensively against the Orlando Magic, the forthright voice sounded.
"Defensively, we were about as poor as I've seen us all year long in the second half. That was one of the worst defensive efforts I've seen as far as executing, and we just messed with the game," said Williams, via Bradley Handwerger of NBA.com.
A middle-of-the-road defensive team, New Orleans had performed well on defensive in the first half and led 46-36 at halftime.
Then the wheels came off.
The Hornets allowed 69 points in the second half on 62.2 percent shooting and lost 105-102.
The Warriors Don't Collapse
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
NBA coaches cringe when reporters throw the "must-win" grenade.
Um, they are all must-wins.
Sometimes though, the term fits.
The Golden State Warriors' 122-116 win over the visiting Raptors was an absolute—yup, that's right—must-win.
It was the type of game that has devastated Warriors fans for too many seasons. The let-down game after a series of let-downs. Looking to shake a four-game losing streak and things tightening up in the final quarter of the season, the Warriors badly needed a victory.
Clinging to the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference, the Warriors will battle the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers for the final three playoff spots the remainder of the season.
One of those squads won't make it, and if you study the recent trajectories, there is not much evidence that supports the Warriors' ability to hang on—except for the favorable home schedule.
Home games against teams like the Raptors—the first of 16 visitors in the final 22 games for Golden State—are an absolute must for the struggling squad.
Jimmy Spencer is an NBA Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him at @JimmyPSpencer