7 Takeaways from Saturday Night's NBA Action
After last night, the best thing we can say about Saturday's NBA action is that nobody got hurt.
Two teams are riding a 10-game winning streak after Saturday's action: One you'd expect (San Antonio) and one you might consider a surprise (Portland).
Three big-name Western Conference contenders notched victories today (San Antonio, Houston and the L.A. Clippers), though the Clippers didn't exactly impress at home against the last-place Sacramento Kings. And Portland looked like it might be ready to join their ranks with a win at Golden State.
In the East, the top two contenders (Miami and Indiana) notched close wins against lesser teams. Can that conference get any more boring?
Let's get to it!
The San Antonio Spurs Are a Basketball Juggernaut
Yes, the San Antonio Spurs always win. The sun sets everyday, too. That doesn't mean we shouldn't appreciate a sunset every now and then.
The Spurs put on a clinic against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night, jumping out to a 33-point halftime lead and never looking back, en route to a 126-96 win.
San Antonio hit a season-high 16 three-pointers. Who led the team? Does it even matter? Not according to Spurs forward Matt Bonner, who spoke to the media after the win.
Per the Associated Press:
"We did a great job moving the ball," Bonner said. "We shot the 3 great tonight. We don't really play any individual basketball. We don't care who scores; no one's trying to get their stats. It's about getting the best shot we can."
With any other team, that might sound like a cliche. But the Spurs have been doing this so well, for so long, that it seems like the undisputed truth.
The Portland Trail Blazers Are Legit
The only team to beat San Antonio? That would be Portland.
The Blazers pushed their winning streak to 10 games with Saturday night's come-from-behind road win over the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors might have come into the game with more hype, but the Blazers brutalized Golden State, particularly over the last 15 minutes, when they turned a double-digit deficit into a double-digit lead.
Portland hasn't faced many elite teams during its win streak, so they earned major credit for winning at Golden State, a team that swept them last year. They even managed to win despite a poor shooting night from star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who shot 7-for-21.
The Blazers have a chance to push the winning streak to 13 games with an easy slate of games next week before a marquee matchup against Indiana.
The Houston Rockets Are Getting the Hang of This 'Depth' Thing
Last season, the Houston Rockets would have had little chance of beating a good team without James Harden.
This year, however, Houston has the firepower to take down a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves and barely break a sweat doing it, cruising to a 112-101 victory.
Jeremy Lin took Harden's place in the starting lineup and scored 19 points. Lin was just one of five Rockets starters to score in double figures. And yet none of them were Houston's top scorer on the night; that honor went to reserve guard Aaron Brooks, who paced Houston with 26 points off the bench.
Yes, the Rockets have several things to work on—particularly on defense—but that is an impressive amount of scoring depth.
The Orlando Magic Could Use a Break on the Road
Only two NBA teams have yet to claim a win on the road. One is obviously the 1-13 Utah Jazz. The other is the hard-luck Orlando Magic.
The Magic have played surprisingly well this season, and are a respectable 4-3 at home. And they've played well enough to win a road game on more than one occasion, but can't seem to catch that crucial break to put them over the top.
In the first week, they lost in overtime to the Minnesota Timberwolves after Kevin Love hit a miraculous three to even the game in the closing seconds. On Saturday, it was a blown 16-point halftime lead and a last-second, go-ahead jumper from LeBron James that did them in.
Orlando wasn't really a playoff contender coming into this season, and they'd be better off losing these games to get a higher draft pick. Still, they're playing hard, and they deserve to catch a break.
The Clippers Don't Mind Losing...but Chris Paul Does
Before Saturday's too-close-for-comfort win over the last-place Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers spoke to the press about the perils of playing a home game in the afternoon, according to Jovan Buha of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
“I always actually thought that visiting teams had the advantage in afternoon games because it takes the home team out of their norm,” Rivers said prior to the game. “The visiting team is already out of their norm -- they’re on the road. So I’ve always felt that way.”
But if that is true, then how does Rivers explain the fact that the Clippers ran out to a quick 20-point advantage in the first half, only to blow the lead in the second?
Eleven of the 12 Clippers were more than happy to choke the game away; luckily for Clippers fans, the other player was star point guard Chris Paul, who hit a number of clutch shots to help Los Angeles pull out the victory.
While Paul's late-game heroics are certainly appreciated, someone else is going to have to step up for the Clippers in these close games at some point.
The Denver Nuggets Are Resilient
Their coach was fired. Their general manager moved on to Toronto. Their defensive stopper moved on to Golden State. They struggled with injuries. They started the season 1-4.
...but who cares?
The Denver Nuggets are now 6-6 after Saturday's 102-100 win over the Dallas Mavericks, and no team in the league has faced so much adversity just to climb to .500.
Denver is now 5-2 in its last seven games, and bounced back nicely from back-to-back losses at Houston and Oklahoma City with impressive home wins over Chicago and Dallas.
Those home wins are always important for any Denver team; they must take advantage of that legendary high-altitude home-field advantage. They started off the season 0-2 in Denver, but have won their last five.
They will have a chance to climb above .500 Monday night when they travel to Dallas.
Andrew Bynum Still Exists
Amid all the chaos of the Spurs' 30-point demolishing of the Cleveland Cavaliers, let's take a moment to appreciate the performance of Cavs center Andrew Bynum, who led Cleveland with 16 points (on 8-of-15 shooting) in 21 minutes.
Bynum landed in Cleveland following a 12-month odyssey that covered two coasts and a multitude of knee operations. He's been on a minutes (and game) restriction for the Cavs this season, playing in only 10 of Cleveland's 14 games.
Cleveland has been dreadful this season, particularly on the road, but in the wretched Eastern Conference, playoff spots are there for the taking. They could certainly use more games like this from Bynum.