9 Takeaways from Saturday's NBA Action
Saturday's NBA action started at noon in New York and ended after midnight in California.
It was a bad day to be a New York basketball fan. The Nets likely lost starting center Brook Lopez for the rest of the season with a broken foot, while the Knicks played like...well, the Knicks.
In San Antonio, the last two Western Conference champions fought it out, with the Thunder serving notice to the league that the road to the finals just might go through Oklahoma City.
Let's get to it.
If Brook Lopez Is Done for the Year, Then so Are the Nets
The Nets did not play on Saturday, but they still suffered the biggest loss of the day.
Per ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk on Twitter: "Confirming report that Brook Lopez is out for the season with a broken foot according to a league source."
The 9-17 Nets have been ravaged by injuries to Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Deron Williams and Lopez earlier in the season. They can forget about contending for an NBA title now; in fact, it might be time to cut bait and deal their aging stars.
This is certainly not what owner Mikhail Prokhorov paid all that money to see.
The Knicks' Big Lineup Is a Farce
The Knicks lost yet again, 95-87, to the Grizzlies. Memphis killed New York on the boards, a fact not lost on coach Mike Woodson.
Per the Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring, Woodson said, "You look at the rebounding, and it's 56-29. And that's with our big lineup. That's embarrassing."
Listen, Mike, about those "big" lineups...
The Knicks had their best season and won their first playoff series in more than a decade by playing small lineups. They lost to a very good Pacers team in a tight Game 6. And then the entire organization apparently caught mass amnesia.
Woodson is confusing height with rebounding and defense. But when you count Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire among your tall players, you won't be getting much of either.
The Knicks have gone away from the formula that worked for them, and they're losing. It's that simple.
The Wizards Are Right at Home in the Atlantic
On Dec. 14, the Wizards were reeling. Their loss to the Clippers was their fourth in a row. They needed a break.
Wizards, meet the Atlantic Division.
Washington turned that slide into a three-game winning streak after its 106-99 win against the Celtics. All three of those games came against Atlantic Division teams.
The Wizards are heavily invested in making the playoffs this season, having traded their 2014 first-rounder for Marcin Gortat during the preseason. They're not a great team, so they need to rack up wins against the dregs of the league.
So far, mission accomplished.
Thaddeus Young Is Building His Trade Value
Thaddeus Young scored 30 points and grabbed 10 boards, yet the 76ers lost 116-106 to the Bucks. That might have been the best-case scenario for the Philadelphia front office.
Trade speculation has been rampant on Young following LibertyBallers correspondent Jake Fischer's report that he had asked the Sixers to trade him. The team would be wise to lose as many games as possible with the 2014 draft looming, and the 25-year-old Young is a big-time trade chip.
Young is averaging 16.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 blocks and 1.4 steals per game. He is a stat-sheet-stuffer, and he's shooting 49.9 percent from the floor and 44 percent from downtown, which is by far the best mark of his career.
The Bucks are terrible, but Young has built an impressive resume over the last few years. He could be out of Philly sooner rather than later.
The Bulls Aren't Dead Yet
Well, the Fightin' Thibodeaus rallied for a 100-84 win against the Cavaliers. Six Bulls finished in double figures, and the recently acquired D.J. Augustin recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists.
The Bulls needed a game like this, if only for a brief respite.
As for the Cavaliers, they missed a chance to make another statement against their longtime division nemesis. They beat Chicago on Nov. 30, and the Bulls have only gotten weaker since then.
With the Pistons losing as well, second place in the Central Division is still up for grabs.
Dwight Howard Is Coming on Strong
The Pistons aren't a great team, but they have a stacked frontcourt.
Howard has really come on of late. Check out his numbers in December compared to November below.
November: 17 games, 16.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 56.5 percent from the field, 55 percent from the line.
December: 10 games, 21.2 points, 14.5 rebounds, 61.9 percent from the field, 60.4 percent from the line.
His increased confidence is even showing up at the free-throw line. A confident, happy Howard could mean big things for the Rockets in 2014.
The Mavericks Can't Afford These Losses
The Suns continued their impressive 2013-14 season by defeating the Mavs 123-108. Dallas was blown out by a team just above it in the standings, and it now trails Phoenix by two games in the loss column.
But the loss that really hurt came on Friday, when Dallas lost at home to the Raptors.
For a team like Dallas, which finished out of the playoffs last season, there is little margin for error. The Suns and Blazers have surprised, and the talented Warriors sit just outside the playoff picture.
It would be a shame for the Mavericks to waste such an impressive season from the legendary Dirk Nowitzki. The team can't afford such poor stretches of play (losers of four of the last six).
The Road to the Finals Might Not Go Through San Antonio
The Spurs showed their tremendous depth on Thursday when they beat the Warriors on the road without Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan.
Maybe they should have rested a bit longer.
The Spurs' Big Three was back in action on Saturday, but it didn't mean much against the Thunder. Oklahoma City point guards Russell Westbrook (31 points) and Reggie Jackson (21 points) keyed a comfortable 113-100 win in San Antonio.
While the Spurs may be the reigning conference champs, the Thunder are now 2-0 against them so far in 2013-14. What's more, they know they can beat the Spurs in a playoff series, having done so in the 2012 Conference Finals.
The Spurs are still a great team, but right now the Thunder look just a little bit better.
The Race for the Eighth Seed in the West Is a Crapshoot
Who wants to go to the playoffs?
The race to claim that last precious postseason spot in the Western Conference is a dead heat after what happened Saturday in California.
In Oakland, the Warriors rebounded from Thursday's disheartening loss to the shorthanded Spurs by beating the Lakers comfortably, 102-83. In Los Angeles, the Clippers handed Denver its third straight loss, 112-91.
The 14-12 Nuggets are now all but tied with the 15-13 Warriors for the eighth seed. So who has the advantage?
At first blush, the Warriors seemingly have a clear edge in talent. But the Nuggets will get a significant reinforcement once forward Danilo Gallinari returns from injury. The spot is probably Golden State's to lose, but the Warriors have yet to play like a team ready to exert its dominance in the West.