10 Takeaways from Sunday Night's Thunderous NBA Action
The NBA had their usual Sunday chocked full of games from start to finish. And with upward of 12 hours of non-stop basketball on the docket, there was something for everybody.
Of course, the top two stories of the day were an event that was a long time coming, and an event that was instantaneous and explosive.
The Lakers finally wriggled their way into playoff seeding, winning against the Chicago Bulls and running their record to 33-31, while DeAndre Jordan broke the Internet with a monster of a dunk over Brandon Knight.
The bookends put solid talking points on each end of the day, while there was a lot of fun happening in between.
There were a few late game-changing shots, a solid showdown between the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder, some terrible three-point shooting, and another win for the Miami Heat.
So let's get down to it, and if you missed even a minute of Sunday's action then go ahead and run through everything you need to know from the day that was in the NBA.
Orlando Is Hot for Dwight...I Guess
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The Orlando Magic were 12-13 at one point in mid-December. Since then, they've had losings streaks of two, three, five, 10 and 12 games, running their record all the way down to its current 18-46 form.
In other words, things haven't been looking good, winning just six of their last 39 games. However, with their win over the ice-cold Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando has won two of their past four and three of their past eight.
Sure, that sounds downright atrocious for any halfway-decent team, but for these Magic, that's a hot streak.
With the Los Angeles Lakers making their first trip to Orlando Tuesday night, and Dwight Howard's first game back in the Amway Center, they're hitting their slightly-less-than-terrible stride at just the right time to potentially put together an upset.
Kobe on Dwight: "I'll talk to him before we get down to Orlando and try to put a little bit of that a--hole in him for the game."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 10, 2013
Kyle Lowry Can Rudy Gay
With the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers locked in a close game in the fourth quarter, somebody had to take the big shots with neither Kyrie Irving (in-game shoulder injury) and Rudy Gay (stiff back) on the floor.
Cleveland ended up seeing shots go up from the likes of Shaun Livingston (just needed a roll), C.J. Miles (clank city) and Dion Waiters (rough from the free-throw line).
Where the problem arose for Cleveland was that nobody told them they just needed to simply mimic their young All-Star guard; somebody should have driven to the rim.
Kyle Lowry, meanwhile, mimicked Rudy Gay's usual terrible jumper late, and the shot fell. Toronto won and jubilation was rampant in Toronto.
Lowry scored just four points in the fourth quarter, but that fade-away jumper gave them the lead and iced the game. Plus, it was a nice change of pace after Gay missed roughly 873 jumpers at the end of the Raptors-Lakers game a few days back.
Props to Brandon Knight for Trying
There are two main highlights of Brandon Knight's season so far. First he was mercilessly crossed over by Kyrie Irving during the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Weekend, and now he's been dunk of the year'd.
"What doesn't kill us makes us stronger... But I'm dead." - Brandon Knight, probably.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) March 11, 2013
We need a new word for what DeAndre Jordan did to Brandon Knight. "Posterized" isn't going to cut it here.— Adam Fromal (@fromal09) March 11, 2013
Dear Lord, please let Brandon Knight win a championship. He's suffered enough.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 11, 2013
It's a shame that he's had a solid sophomore season, yet he's going to be remembered for getting crossed to the ground and annihilated by DeAndre Jordan.
However bad the crossover was, and however atrocious that dunk was, I'll give Knight all the credit in the world for doing his best to play some defense.
For every posterization, there's an equal and opposite attempt at defense that gets totally overlooked.
The Bucks Are Spreading It Like Peanut Butter
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While the Milwaukee Bucks did their best to blow a lead against the Sacramento Kings, they played their first three-and-a-half quarters to perfection. It was a clinic in team offense, as six players scored at least 10 points (and Marquis Daniels right there with nine).
The Bucks have averaged over four players landing in double-figure scoring ever since J.J. Redick's arrival at the trade deadline, and they're learning how to spread the ball around more and more with every game.
Brandon Jennings has averaged over 13 assists over the course of their past five games, and the entire team seems to be making the extra pass.
Of course, they're still the same ol' bucks with the clock winding down and the score close late in the game.
The best part of that game was Ellis looking Jennings off the entire last possession while he had Jimmer iso'ed in the corner.— Gabriel Harber (@CrazyGabey) March 11, 2013
Translation: Monta Ellis, have it all.
Every Misstep Kills Boston
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The Boston Celtics play in a very rough-and-tumble, punch-you-in-the-eye style of basketball that lends itself to low-scoring games and defensive struggles.
Offensive weapons elude them, while they've got an abundance of meanness and muscle, giving the squad an obvious style and identity.
A problem arises, however, when they're playing just a slightly imperfect game, or younger and faster teams. Both issues arose in their afternoon game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With a one-point lead early in the second quarter, Oklahoma City was able to take advantage of a series of missed shots from Boston, whose defensive pressure became lax on the other end of the floor. Just over two minutes later, Boston found themselves in an 11-point hole.
As a result, they had to play white-knuckle defense and chip away the lead. They broke it back down to five points at halftime, then to three by the end of the third quarter.
A bit of galloping to start the fourth by OKC and Boston's in a 10-point hole before they had time to blink. At that point, chipping away was useless, as Oklahoma City held strong and extended the lead periodically throughout the fourth.
Things never really got out of hand, but they were never able to take control of the pace as much as they would have wanted to.
The lesson here, methinks: Even the Celtics need to shoot better than 38 percent to beat the Thunder.— Celtics Town (@CelticsTown) March 10, 2013
Minnesota Is Playing at Historic Lows
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The Minnesota Timberwolves scored 77 points to Dallas' 100, and they did it all while getting just six points from behind the three-point line.
Minny made just two of their 18 three-pointers, dropping their three-point shooting on the season to 29.3 percent. Which is bad...like really bad.
J.J. Barea: "I think we're going to break the record for bad 3-point shooting."— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) March 11, 2013
Looking back to last season, only one team dropped below 30 percent, as Charlotte shot 29.5 percent. Beyond that, you've got to go all the way back to 2003 to find a team dipping below that mark.
Should Minnesota end the year below Charlotte's mark last season, they'll have the worst three-point shooting season since the 2003 Denver Nuggets shot 27.8 percent.
The only difference between the two teams is that the '03 Denver team knew when to hold back, shooting just 10 three-pointers a game, versus the Wolves' nearly 18 a game.
Anthony Davis Is Ramping Up
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While Anthony Davis has been slowly ramped with playing time over the course of the past month, he's also ramped up his efforts on the floor as he continues to get more comfortable with his Hornets teammates and the pro game.
Not only has he been a defensive machine for the Hornets, he's been rebounding like crazy and turning into an even more efficient player on offense.
Davis played a key role in their 98-96 win over Portland, grabbing a huge offensive rebound leading to a Ryan Anderson three-pointer to put the Hornets ahead with seconds remaining.
Damian Lillard would answer with his own three, but the Hornets would eventually put Portland away thanks, in large part, to the final effort of Davis' teenage basketball career.
On his final day as a teenager, Anthony Davis followed up his 20-point, 18-rebound game at Memphis with 18 and 10. Also 6 offensive boards— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) March 11, 2013
At nearly 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks per game, Davis is far and away the best defensive rookie, and the faint hopes of a comeback attempt for the Rookie of the Year Award are just a bit brighter.
Detroit Can't Handle Chris Paul
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On a night when the only thing that the worldwide web could talk about for a solid two hours was Brandon Knight getting obliterated by DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul packed in a solid 20-point, 14-assist evening while making nine of his 12 shots in a smooth 31-minute outing.
Paul completely put Knight on an island defensively (when Jordan wasn't busy putting him on the floor) and scored at will. He could have easily scored 40 points if there was need to, but the Clippers took down the Pistons, 129-97.
Oh, and Paul's assist did lead to Jordan's monster dunk, so a big thanks to him for his part in the enormous dunk.
BREAKING NEWS: Deandre Jordan is criminally charged for manslaughter after tonight's game. Chris Paul also taken into custody for his part.— Connor Hoge (@cHogex25) March 11, 2013
Historically speaking, Paul has averaged 18 points, 11.6 assists and over 46 percent shooting against the Pistons. The 11.6 assists are the second-most against a single team (he averages 12 against the Lakers).
He was nasty against Detroit, and it's only going to keep happening if he's got this brigade of dudes to toss alley-oops to.
Eight Is Great, but Seven Is Better
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The big news of the day after the Los Angeles Lakers took down the Chicago Bulls was the Lakers officially being a playoff-level team for the first time all season.
At 33-31, it is the most games they've seen above .500 all year and puts them a half-game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the No. 8 seed in the West.
What a success. What a time to celebrate. What an unexpected thing for Lakers fans to be jubilant about this late in the season.
However, this isn't something for the Lakers to rest on their laurels about. Who wants to settle for the No. 7 or 8 seed and go on to play the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs in the opening round of the playoffs?
Lakers are 1/2 game up on Utah, who has the tiebreaker. Hopefully the Lakers are not as confident that the playoffs are clinched as Twitter.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 10, 2013
Los Angeles has won 16 of their last 22 games to get to this point. Meanwhile, Utah has lost seven of their past eight, Houston has lost four of their past seven, and Golden State has lost six of their past eight.
Los Angeles sits just a game behind the Rockets and two games behind the Golden State Warriors—two very attainable spots before season's end.
It's not time to celebrate and constantly look over their shoulder; it's time to plow ahead for the best possible finish to the regular season.
Go Ahead and Write "Miami" in Pen for Your Eastern Conference Champs
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Looking ahead at the Miami Heat schedule a little over a week ago, I was trying to pinpoint a team that could possibly slip them up and end their streak.
The only one that looked semi-threatening before playing the San Antonio Spurs to close out March was the Indiana Pacers.
Sure, they have a few games against Boston, Chicago and New York between now and the end of March, but no top-tier teams match up as well against Miami as those two.
A 14-point win over Indiana later and we're now wondering whether they'll make it to the end of the season without another loss.
Miami Heat 18-game winning streak is the 5th longest in NBA history— Doctor NBA (@DoctorNBA) March 11, 2013
This Heat team has now beaten every team in the NBA at least once, and they probably just finished picking the pieces of Pacers out of their teeth after decimating the team that many were calling their toughest competition in the Eastern Conference.
Can any East team slow Miami down enough to even force a Game 7, let alone beat them?
It seems like a formality to have the Eastern Conference even go through the motions of a playoff; Miami is as close to unbeatable as you can get in the league today.