8 Takeaways from Saturday Night's NBA Action
Did you skip Saturday night's NBA action to watch college football? Well, don't worry; we've got you covered.
A potential finals matchup (San Antonio Spurs-Indiana Pacers) turned into yet another shockingly easy victory for the dynamic young Pacers.
On the other side of the playoff tracks, the four worst teams in each conference (Brooklyn Nets-Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings-Utah Jazz) battled like raging beasts to avoid the basement.
But the game of the night happened in Portland...again. The Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks battled back and forth, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot, until Monta Ellis finally sent the Portland fans home crying with a dagger at the buzzer.
Let's get to the NBA action!
The Pacers Are on Another Level
Saturday night's Pacers-Spurs tilt promised to be the game of the night: a hotly contested matchup between two NBA titans.
And then the second quarter happened.
The Spurs looked like an offensive dynamo in the first quarter and built a double-digit lead early in the second. But the Pacers bench turned the game around against the Spurs reserves, and then star Paul George came back into the game and obliterated San Antonio. The 111-100 final score does not even come close to explaining what kind of blowout this game was.
After the game, Pacers coach Frank Vogel was effusive with praise for his players, according to Andrew McNeill of NBA.com: "They're playing with great confidence and great belief in their basketball team that we can win anywhere, against anyone. It's a fun thing to be a part of."
The Pacers are a scary team, and they're getting scarier.
Win or Lose, the Trail Blazers Are a Must-Watch
Yet again, the most exciting finish of the night in the NBA happened after midnight ET. The Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks traded last-second shots, with Damian Lillard tying the game with less than two seconds on a double-clutch three and Monta Ellis sinking the game-winner at the buzzer.
Sure, the Blazers lost, but that's not the point. They may be a competitor for the division, or they may fall back to the pack. But one thing is certain: The Blazers are a team that needs to be seen to be believed.
The Blazers came into the night ranked first in offensive efficiency and 19th in defensive efficiency, meaning any given Portland broadcast is almost guaranteed to produce offensive fireworks.
Detroit Has a Legitimate Shot at Home Court
The Chicago Bulls have been bad. The New York Knicks have been bad. The Nets have been bad. But some team has to host a first-round playoff series, right?
That team might just be the Detroit Pistons, who roughed up the Bulls in Chicago, 92-75. The Bulls have disappointed this season, but they've still been pretty good at home, where they had beaten Detroit 14 straight times coming into Saturday.
The Pistons got a star-level performance from Brandon Jennings, who led both teams with 33 points. But Jennings won't be the player to put Detroit over the top in the long run.
The dynamic young Detroit frontcourt of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond hasn't truly meshed yet, particularly while trying to work in free-agent acquisition Josh Smith. But if the they can figure out how to get their frontcourt rotations to work consistently, the Pistons will be a legitimate threat.
As it stands now, the fifth-seeded Pistons would host the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics based on their superior record. Can they keep it up? Given the state of the Eastern Conference, anything is possible.
We Now Know the Worst Team in Each Conference
Two games, four teams at the bottom of the league: Nets-Bucks, Kings-Jazz.
The Nets emerged victorious in Milwaukee, 90-82, and the Kings defeated the Jazz in Utah, 112-102.
In the East, the Nets clearly have more talent than Milwaukee, so they have legitimized their status as "not the worst team east of the Mississippi." Unfortunately for the Nets, they were also annihilated this week by the second-worst team in the East, New York.
In the West, the Kings have come achingly close to knocking off elite teams like the Oklahoma City Pelicans and Golden State Warriors in the past weeks. The Jazz have played better since rookie point guard Trey Burke returned from injury. This game was a fair test of the worst team in the Western Conference. So give the Kings the crown with their overtime win; they are legitimately better than the Jazz.
Ricky Rubio Needs Kevin Love More Than Ever
Few basketball fans thought the Minnesota Timberwolves had much of a chance in Miami against the Heat without the services of their best player, Kevin Love, who was out for the game for personal reasons.
Of course, LeBron James had his way with the Wolves, posting a near triple-double with 21 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in a 103-82 Heat win.
But Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio could have used a good scoring game on Saturday; instead, he scored one lonely point on 0-of-4 shooting. It's no secret that Rubio can't shoot. Love's scoring covers up a lot of that on most nights. But games like this are the reason that Timberwolves fans are praying for him to develop a shooting touch.
The Los Angeles Clippers Should Be Expelled from the Western Conference
The first rule of Western Conference is you do not talk about Western Conference. The second rule of Western Conference is you do not lose to the East.
The Los Angeles Clippers have been breaking the second rule of Western Conference this week. They traveled to Atlanta and lost to the Hawks, then beat the Grizzlies in Memphis and capped it off by losing to the pathetic Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, 88-82.
Not only did the Clippers lose, but the Pacific Division leaders also failed to intimidate the Cavaliers. C.J. Fogler (@cjzero) captured this wonderful GIF of the Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao laughing off the rage of Blake Griffin.
Listen, Clippers: If the Cavaliers are laughing at you, then you're out of the Western Conference!
The Nuggets Can Beat (Atlantic) Teams Even Without Ty Lawson
The Denver Nuggets narrowly avoided an even worse fate than the Clippers—losing two in a row to the East is bad enough, but losing two in a row to the Atlantic is downright unforgivable.
The Nuggets were in rough shape on Saturday night in Philadelphia. They were blown out by the Celtics a night earlier, they were trailing the 76ers in the second half, and they were without the services of their best player, Ty Lawson.
But Denver rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Philadelphia, 103-92. The Sixers aren't a good team by any means, but they've tripped up better teams than Denver this season.
This was a big win for the Nuggets, who needed to rebound from an embarrassing loss and keep pace in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
Somebody Needs to Step Up and Lead the Memphis Grizzlies on Offense
If you missed the Memphis Grizzlies' 108-82 loss to the Golden State Warriors, you missed a bit of history.
Per Marlon W. Morgan of NBA.com:
The Grizzlies have now become the first NBA to have eight unique leading scorers in eight consecutive games with no ties/scoring lead shares since the 2002-03 Memphis team had nine different leading scoring in nine consecutive games from No. 20-Dec. 6, 2002.
In case you were wondering, those eight players are Mike Miller, Kosta Koufos, Ed Davis, Quincy Pondexter, Jerryd Bayless, Tayshaun Prince, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph. And the Grizzlies were 3-5 in those games.
Scoring depth is admirable, but the Grizzlies, who often struggle to score, need a player or two to rise above the pack on a more consistent basis.