6 Takeaways from Saturday Night's Rousing NBA Action
Only six games graced the Saturday night NBA schedule, but don't make the mistake of assuming a lack of quantity meant the quality was wanting too.
The Boston Celtics finally cut down a giant that had been stepping on them all year, Spencer Hawes did his best Hakeem Olajuwon impression, and Tim Duncan continued his ongoing refusal to age, much to the dismay of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Besides all that, the Washington Wizards put together such a dynamic offensive performance that they set their own (unofficial) franchise record by appearing in two takeaway slides. That's pretty good for a lottery team, right?
Among playoff hopefuls, the Utah Jazz refused to go quietly, taking advantage of a dog-tired Memphis Grizzlies team to hang onto their fraying playoff dreams.
There were storylines galore as the league got to work on its weekend, and each of them has been handily compiled into digestible bites in the following slideshow. There are pictures and words and everything! In advance, you're welcome.
It's Not a Good Idea to Leave Martell Webster Open
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In the five games leading up to the Washington Wizards' Saturday tilt with the Phoenix Suns, Martell Webster had been hitting about 44 percent of his three-point attempts, which was right in line with his season average.
What had changed, though, was the sheer number of Webster's attempts. He'd been trying more than eight triples per game. All of those attempts probably kept his shooting hand nice and warm.
Against the Suns, that hand nearly caught fire.
Webster poured in a career-high 34 points on 10-of-18 shooting. He also hit a ridiculous 7-of-10 from long range as the Wizards pounded the Suns by a final score of 127-105. Clearly, Phoenix didn't devote enough attention to Webster in its scouting report.
Had the Suns taken the time to look, they'd have noticed that the 26-year-old sniper had increased his scoring average in every month this season.
Combined with the promising backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, Webster gives the Wizards a solid third scoring option on the wing. He was phenomenal against the Suns and has been a big reason why the Wizards have posted a 12-7 record since Feb. 4.
There's More to Like About the Wizards
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I know what you're thinking: "More Wizards?"
Yes, more Wizards.
Webster's hot shooting wasn't the only takeaway from Saturday's game against the Suns. But because three Wizards slides might cause some kind of Internet malfunction, John Wall's continued excellence and Bradley Beal's return from an ankle injury will have to be combined into one slide.
Wall scored 17 points and added 11 assists against Phoenix, continuing a scorching run that has seen him average 19.6 points and eight assists on 53 percent shooting in nine March games.
He has looked like a legitimate All-Star for much of the season. If he can continue to develop his below-average jumper like he has lately, the sky's the limit.
Beal, on the other hand, was just glad to be back on the court. For that matter, so were the Washington fans.
Bradley Beal gets a nice ovation as he enters the game. A few fans stand to applaud. #wizards
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) March 16, 2013
Looking ahead, Washington's backcourt appears to be a major strength. Based on the way Wall and Beal's skills complement each other, don't be surprised if they lift the Wizards into the playoffs as early as next season.
Boston Found a Way to Slay a Giant
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The Charlotte Bobcats haven't won many games this year—14, to be exact—but coming into Saturday's meeting with the Boston Celtics, the Kitties had to be pretty confident in their chances for a victory.
That's because the Bobcats had beaten the Celtics in each of the teams' two meetings this season.
Well, the Celtics finally found a way to slay the mighty 'Cats, and they did it without Kevin Garnett, who missed the game with a strained thigh muscle.
Thanks to a total team effort that saw 11 different players score at least five points, the Celtics ran out to a 17-point lead in the first three quarters. Paul Pierce totaled 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and he had the luxury of watching the final period from the bench.
RT @coachbilly1: Bobcats vs Celtics is turning into a 1 on 1 matchup between Josh McRoberts & Shavlik Randolph. Yes, it's a 24 point game.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) March 17, 2013
Yeah, it was that kind of game.
If Boston wants to preserve the health of its aging stars, more games like this are in order.
The Celtics can't genuinely view a win over the lowly Bobcats as a "big win," but this one had to feel at least a little bit gratifying.
Spencer Hawes Did What?
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Not only did the lottery-bound Philadelphia 76ers defend their home turf against the Indiana Pacers, but Spencer Hawes darn near made a little history in the process.
The Sixers' bandana-sporting, flag-waving center posted 18 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and seven blocks in 34 minutes against the Pacers' bruising front line. That's right, folks, he needed just two more dimes and three more swats to post a quadruple-double.
The fact that he left the game before getting a chance to achieve the feat left a few people miffed.
Spencer Hawes has been benched with 28 seconds to go. This is a travesty. Doug Collins should be jailed.— SBNation NBA (@SBNationNBA) March 17, 2013
Remember, though, Doug Collins isn't a huge fan of numbers. So maybe he wasn't aware of Hawes' stat line.
Of course, if Collins wasn't impressed enough to leave Hawes in the game long enough to get the job done, maybe the true master of the elusive quadruple-double will be.
After the game, Hakeem is going to ask Spencer Hawes if he can work out with him this summer.— Leigh Ellis (@LeighEllis) March 17, 2013
Who knows? Maybe if the Sixers keep getting performances like this from their current starting center, they won't be tempted to break the bank on the one that has spent the entire season nursing bad knees on the sidelines.
Some Laws of the Universe Do Not Apply to Tim Duncan
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Gravity has had its way with Tim Duncan, sapping his vertical leap with each passing year. Similarly, friction has ground down a few of his joints, causing pain that has resulted in reduced minutes over the last few seasons.
Time, though, seems to be terrified of touching Duncan. Perhaps that's why, at age 36 (37 in April), he's playing with nearly the same level of effectiveness that he did 15 years ago.
The San Antonio Spurs' ageless big man followed up a 28-point, 19-rebound effort against the Dallas Mavericks on March 14 by totally dominating the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Duncan's combination of 30 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and five blocks on 13-of-19 shooting gave him another record on the season.
Tim Duncan: 2nd game this season with 30+ pts, 12+ rebounds, 5+ blocks. Only other player with 1 such game this season- Al Horford— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 17, 2013
Kawhi Leonard's 24 points and 13 boards sure helped, but it was Duncan who controlled the Spurs' 119-113 win over the Cavs. In fact, there's a pretty simple takeaway from this game. Ready?
Spurs finish off 119-113 win, because they have Tim Duncan and Cavs don't.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 17, 2013
Sure, there were other players who factored into the outcome, but none so significantly as Duncan. It's tempting to call what Duncan did a "performance for the ages." But really, it was a performance "by the ageless."
Utah Takes Advantage, Stays Alive
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The Memphis Grizzlies were 24 hours removed from a track meet in Denver when they tipped things off in Salt Lake City, but the Utah Jazz weren't in a particularly sympathetic mood.
With their season having all but slipped away over the past couple of weeks, the Jazz took advantage of the exhausted Grizzlies. They won an ugly 90-84 contest to move within a half-game of the L.A. Lakers for the No. 8 seed in the West.
Gordon Hayward scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but no play was bigger than his three-pointer from the right wing with 17 seconds remaining. That bucket gave the Jazz a six-point advantage and would prove to be the final margin of victory.
Utah has an uphill battle ahead in the fight to regain its lost playoff spot, but the Jazz took care of business against a tough Grizzlies club. The Jazz will need more gutsy efforts like this one if they're going to make a push down the stretch.
Oh, and Marc Gasol threw his shoe at Derrick Favors. So...that happened.
Marc Gasol loses his shoe and slings it at Favors on defense. Just a personal foul. Of course this day would include a shoe foul.— Bill Oram (@tribjazz) March 17, 2013