8 Takeaways from Saturday's NBA Action
The night of Saturday, Jan. 18 had a few surprises in store for NBA fans.
The two conference leaders (Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers) faced what looked to be stiff challenges from the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers. But those marquee matchups turned into comfortable wins for Portland and Indiana.
Indiana's Paul George greeted Lob City by landing the dunk of the season.
Instead, the game of the night happened in Charlotte, where the Bobcats gave the defending world champion Miami Heat all they could handle before eventually succumbing in overtime.
Paul George Is One of the NBA's Best Dunkers
Indiana Pacers forward Paul George is one of the league's premiere two-way players. He can defend nearly any position, he can dish the rock and he can shoot well beyond the three-point line.
Oh, and he can dunk, too.
Before he became a star, George participated in the 2012 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. And in case you were wondering whether or not George still had the skills to pull off a highlight dunk, George let loose perhaps the dunk of the year with the reverse-360 jam above.
Unfortunately, George announced after the game that he will skip the 2014 dunk contest. He's a shoe-in the play in the All-Star game, and he told Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star, "I don't want to add to it by doing extra stuff."
That is a severe disappointment for fans of that "extra stuff."
The Detroit Pistons Used Their Muscle Wisely
Saturday's matchup between the Detroit Pistons and the Washington Wizards was a classic case of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.
Score one for the irresistible force.
The Pistons clinched a 104-98 victory thanks to their dominance in the paint, with a 52-38 advantage.
This was the way Detroit was supposed to win games, but it hasn't always worked thus far in 2013-14. For the Pistons' sake, they need to win more games like they did on Saturday.
The Charlotte Bobcats Are Fighting but Still Losing
In some ways, the Miami Heat's 104-96 overtime win against the Charlotte Bobcats was more of the same. Per ESPN Stats:
But these are not quite the same old Bobcats the Heat have been running over for years. Charlotte put up a good fight, taking the Heat to overtime despite losing their best backcourt player, Kemba Walker, to a third-quarter ankle injury.
Even LeBron James was complimentary of the Bobcats after the win, per NBA.com's Derek S. Smith: "It started out well for us and then we hit a rough patch. This is a good team we played and we were able to shut them down."
The Bobcats aren't beating the champs, but they are earning the champs' respect. That is a step in the right direction.
Joakim Noah Is Stepping Up for the Bulls
Coming into the 2013-14 season, center Joakim Noah wasn't exactly the top scoring option for the Chicago Bulls. He was the defensive anchor, the guy who left the scoring to...well, just about anyone else.
Noah led Chicago to a 103-78 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
According to NBA Stats, Noah is averaging 14.7 points per game in January, his highest monthly output of the season. Scoring isn't really Noah's game, but he's doing what needs to be done to keep Chicago in the playoff race.
The Milwaukee Bucks Can't Wait for 2015
Like most other years, 2014 has 365 days, only 18 of which have passed. But as far as the Milwaukee Bucks are concerned, 2015 can't get here fast enough.
According to NBA.com's Matt Miller, Saturday's 114-104 loss to the Houston Rockets dropped the Bucks to 0-8 in 2014, and 0-14 against winning teams on the season.
Like most of their games, the 7-32 Bucks fell behind early and didn't mount much of a challenge to the deep, talented Rockets.
Until next season rolls around, Bucks fans can only dream of ping-pong balls and 2014 draft picks.
When the Minnesota Timberwolves Win, They Win Big
The Minnesota Timberwolves made short work of the Utah Jazz on Saturday, using a 28-9 second quarter to bury the Jazz.
The Timberwolves led at one point by more than 30 points before settling on the 98-72 win. According to NBA.com's Phil Miller, Minnesota has held a lead of at least 30 points in 10 of their 19 victories, nearly twice as many times as any other team.
So the Wolves excel at blowing out their opponents. That's all well and good, but that has only led to a 19-21 record and 11th place in the Western Conference.
Blowouts are nice, but the Wolves need to learn how to win the close ones as well.
Win or Lose, Anthony Davis Is a One-Man Gang
The Golden State Warriors beat the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, 97-87, as expected. Warriors star point guard Steph Curry scored 28 points, as expected.
But Curry was not the best player on the court. That honor belonged to Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, who led all players with 31 points and 17 rebounds.
The Warriors won because they have superior talent across the board, but Davis is showing with each passing game just how special he truly is.
When Davis gets some better teammates, the league better watch out.
The Trail Blazers Juggernaut Slows Down for No One
The Portland Trail Blazers continue to test their mettle against the best of the Western Conference, and they continue to roll over the competition.
The Blazer train didn't slow down in Dallas on Saturday. Portland smoked the Dallas Mavericks, 127-111. In typical Blazer fashion, LaMarcus Aldridge led the team with 30 points, though all five starters finished in double figures.
According to NBA.com's Micah Powell, the 16-point win was Portland's largest over Dallas since March 10, 1993.
The win came a day after the Blazers beat the Spurs in San Antonio, so they merely continued their rampage through Texas. Will anyone step up and cut the Blazers down to size?