9 Takeaways from Wednesday Night's 'Bizarre' NBA Action
LeBron James and the Miami Heat endured a 40-minute delay, as fire retardant from the Cleveland Cavaliers' scoreboard pyrotechnics dripped onto center court. Of course, the gunk that accumulated on the hardwood wasn't enough to douse the scorching Heat, who roared back from a 27-point deficit to win their 24th straight game.
And we haven't even gotten to the fan that ran out onto the court in the fourth quarter.
Aside from that barn-burner, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies put on a controversial show in a big Western Conference matchup that couldn't be settled in the usual 48 minutes.
On an otherwise strange evening, a few things did manage to retain a sense of normalcy. For example, the San Antonio Spurs beat the Golden State Warriors at home for the 29th consecutive time, restoring a little order to an otherwise chaotic night in the NBA.
For the most part, though, Wednesday's games were marked by the extraordinary—both in terms of incredible, game-changing performances and pure strangeness.
Here's a rundown.
Eventually, the Heat Always Catch Fire
For a good portion of Miami's 98-95 win over the Cavaliers, pundits who knocked LeBron James and Co. for coasting against weaker competition before relying on their switch-flipping abilities were preparing to crow.
But James and the Heat erased a 27-point deficit against the shorthanded Cavs with a blistering second-half run, ripping their 24th straight win from the rapidly closing jaws of defeat.
James posted a triple-double with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, but it was near single-handed domination of the Cavs during a fourth-quarter surge that defined the game. James hit three triples in the period and basically switched into "Beast Mode" for the final 12 minutes, dominating the offensive glass and darting around the floor at unfathomable speeds.
In addition to the massive comeback against a surprisingly tough foe, Miami had to head back to the locker room as coolant leaked from the overhead scoreboard onto center court. After a 40-minute delay, the game tipped off, but the weirdness didn't stop there.
A fan ran onto the floor in the fourth quarter wearing a shirt that read "We Miss You, LeBron and Come Back 2014" on it. Amazingly, an unfazed James patted the guy on the head before security roughly escorted him off of the court.
It's official: James fears no man.
Marc Gasol Is a Good Tipper
The Memphis Grizzlies upended the Oklahoma City Thunder 90-89 in an overtime thriller that featured 11 lead changes and three ties in the final 17 minutes.
Who says defensive basketball has to be boring?
Memphis held the Thunder to just a shade under 36 percent shooting, but shot 36 percent itself in a rugged battle between two of the West's best teams. In one controversial sequence in overtime, Kevin Durant appeared to travel before getting the ball to Russell Westbrook for the go-ahead bucket with 13 seconds left.
But with less than one tick on the clock, Gasol tipped in a Zach Randolph miss, giving the Grizzlies a huge victory over a visibly frustrated Thunder team.
Oh, and none of that would have even been possible if Jerryd Bayless hadn't hit a difficult three-pointer with less than three seconds left to send the contest to OT in the first place.
In the end, Memphis proved that size matters, as Gasol extended over the smaller Kevin Durant at the basket to tip in the decisive two points.
With the way they're both playing lately, it seems likely that these two teams could meet again in a postseason series. That's good news for everyone but former stat guru and Grizzlies front-office man John Hollinger, whose sleep patterns are probably in for a pretty rough disruption:
So ... that was fun. Big shots at the end but a huge defensive effort all night. By the way, I'll be up til 5 now. #gng— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) March 21, 2013
Deron Williams Might Be Homesick
Deron Williams poured in 31 points and dished out six assists in the Brooklyn Nets' 113-96 defeat of his hometown Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. But while his performance on the court was nice, it was Williams' postgame comments that really grabbed everyone's attention. Marc Stein of ESPN tweeted this about Williams' statements:
On top of that, D-Will went on and on postgame about how much he loves shooting in Mavs' building ... after (ouch) growing up a Mavs fan— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) March 21, 2013
It wasn't so long ago that the Mavs were apparently hellbent on acquiring Williams, and now it seems like the Nets point guard is dropping some not-so-subtle hints that he's still got some desire to eventually suit up for the Dallas club he followed as a kid.
Williams is under contract with Brooklyn through the 2016-17 season for about $20 million per year, and with the Mavs suddenly among the league's most cost-conscious outfits, it seems unlikely that he'll be back home in the near future.
For now, Dallas fans will just have to satisfy themselves by appreciating the 26-point second-half effort Williams treated them to on Wednesday.
And before anyone starts whining about Brook Lopez being snubbed, he scored 38 points. It's not my fault he didn't fit into the takeaway narrative here.
Nice job, though, Brook.
That, Mr. Curry, Is the Sound of Inevitability
Stephen Curry is in his fourth season with the Golden State Warriors, which means he's been around long enough to learn two things: Tim Duncan is really, really good, and the Warriors never beat the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center.
Spurs have won 29 straight at home vs Warriors, tying the 2nd-longest home win streak vs single opponent in NBA history.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2013
The ageless power forward and his Spurs defeated Curry and the Dubs for the 29th consecutive time in San Antonio by a final score of 104-93 on Wednesday.
Duncan finished with 25 points, 13 boards, six assists and four blocks on 11-of-17 shooting, and the Spurs employed a defense specifically designed to limit Golden State's three-point looks. Though the league's best long-distance team still made 50 percent of its attempts, San Antonio's scheme limited the perimeter-dependent Warriors to just 12 tries from beyond the arc.
As long as Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich are together in San Antonio, it doesn't seem like the Warriors will ever break their record streak of Texas futility.
There's No Substitute for Youth
Despite missing morning shootaround because of a stomach illness, New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis still had enough spring in his legs to tip in the game-winning basket with less than a second remaining against the Boston Celtics.
Davis' tap-in completed a remarkable second-half effort by the Hornets, who held Boston to just 31 points after the break.
Though the rookie was clearly not playing at full health, his athleticism and youthful resilience stood out in an interesting contrast to the aging Celtics' more deliberate pace. On that final play, Garnett left Davis to help on a driving Eric Gordon but didn't have the quickness to recover in time to put a body on the lanky first-year player.
Davis elevated over Garnett, who realized his mistake too late to do anything about the decisive bucket. The Celtics fell 87-86.
Damian Lillard probably has the Rookie of the Year Award sewn up, but it's pretty difficult to imagine him having a bigger impact down the road than a healthy Davis. The Celtics certainly learned what Davis could do at less-than-full strength.
Just imagine how scary he'll be when he shakes off the rotten injury luck that has limited him this season.
Melo Returns, Feels Good, Knicks Win
Carmelo Anthony returned to the New York Knicks on Wednesday, scoring 21 points in a 106-94 win over the visiting Orlando Magic. More importantly, Melo said his troublesome knee didn't bother him at all. Anthony tweeted:
Considering that Anthony's knee had caused him to miss three games and had been bothering him for weeks, his mobility and solid production have to be encouraging signs for a Knicks team that has basically been playing .500 ball since mid-December.
With Tyson Chandler still out because of his own knee issues and Amar'e Stoudemire slated to miss the rest of the regular season following surgery, New York got some good knee news for once.
A Knicks game that wasn't marred by a disappointing injury? Now that's bizarre.
Monta Ellis: Regression to the Mean or Injury Concern?
The Atlanta Hawks put a little more distance between themselves and the Milwaukee Bucks in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, handing the Deer a 98-90 defeat on Wednesday.
Monta Ellis scored just five points on 2-of-14 shooting in 40 minutes, an awful performance attributable to either a sudden regression to his typically inconsistent ways or his aching left wrist.
Ellis had been playing some of the best basketball of his career over the past couple of weeks, averaging 25 points on 51 percent shooting in the five games leading up to the Bucks' clash with the Hawks. Always a low-percentage shooter, perhaps the law of averages dictated that he'd eventually toss up a real stinker like this one.
After all, he did virtually the same thing in a March 15 game against the Heat, following up a two-game total of 58 points with just seven on 3-of-11 shooting.
Of course, it's also possible that his left wrist, injured against the Portland Trail Blazers on March 19 was still bothering him.
At any rate, the Hawks got another great performance from Al Horford, who finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds, as they expanded their lead on Milwaukee to three-and-a-half games in the East.
If the Bucks are to have any hope of getting out of the No. 8 spot and avoiding a disastrous first-round meeting with the mighty Heat, Ellis is going to have to find a way to put together a more consistent series of performances.
The Clippers Are Closing in on History
After suffering an embarrassing 116-101 defeat to the Sacramento Kings on March 19, Chris Paul and the Clippers quickly rebounded, handing out a 101-72 beating to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.
CP3 put together a remarkably efficient performance, totaling 19 points, nine assists, six rebounds and five steals on 8-of-10 shooting in just 31 minutes. Thanks to his capable leadership, the Clips comfortably cruised to the 29-point win, inching closer to the franchise's first Pacific Division title.
Going into this game, Clippers' magic number for the division is 6.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 21, 2013
It may not seem like much, but for a Clippers franchise focused on shedding its image as the L.A. Lakers' embarrassing younger brother, a division crown actually has some significance.
Until they secure that first division championship, the Clippers will have to settle for the history they made against the Sixers. Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler tweeted:
After a lack-luster opening Q Clippers breeze to a 101-72 Win over the Philadelphia 76ers. 47th win of year matches best in LAC history.— Ralph Lawler (@Ohmeomy) March 21, 2013
It's Almost Time to Turn out the Lights on the Jazz
The Utah Jazz dropped another crucial game, causing the light of their dimming Western Conference playoff hopes to all but disappear. The Houston Rockets held off a late rally by the Jazz, claiming a 100-93 victory that dropped Tyrone Corbin's puzzlingly casual club a game-and-a-half behind the idle Lakers for the No. 8 spot.
Houston expanded its advantage over Utah to a full three games, but at this point, its No. 7 seed is so far beyond the fading dreams of the Jazz that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore.
It's not just that the Jazz have lost seven of their last 10 games; it's that they're playing like a team that doesn't realize there's no longer any room for error.
A 25-17 advantage in the first quarter set the tone for the game, allowing the Rockets to do what they do best: play fast and loose with a lead. For a Jazz team that can't afford lapses in effort, the first-half performance that saw them fall behind by 23 at the break was inexcusable.
The Jazz may only trail the Lakers—who are vulnerable themselves—by a game-and-a-half, but based on the total lack of a sense of urgency they've displayed recently, the deficit might as well be a dozen games.
Goodnight, Utah Jazz.