10 Takeaways from Saturday's NBA Action
While the rest of the sporting world prepared for the Super Bowl, the NBA stayed busy on the night of Saturday, Feb. 1.
In New York, the Miami Heat reminded the New York Knicks what championship basketball is all about.
In D.C., the Washington Wizards put an end to the Oklahoma City Thunder's 10-game winning streak and did the impossible: contained Kevin Durant.
In Indianapolis, the Pacers struggled to hold off the hard-charging Brooklyn Nets.
LeBron James Likes Playing in Madison Square Garden
The New York Knicks have been playing better basketball of late, but they simply ran into a superior team on Saturday night in Lebron James and the Miami Heat.
James torched New York's lackluster defense to the tune of 30 points on 13-of-22 shooting, eight rebounds and seven assists.
According to ESPN Stats, scoring 30 points in MSG is nothing new for James:
LeBron James: 8th career 30-point game in 18 regular-season games at Madison Square Garden— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 2, 2014
Given some of the poor defensive teams the Knicks have fielded during James' career, this shouldn't come as a surprise.
Jeremy Lin Made a Bit of Rockets History
The Houston Rockets have have had many fine players during the last 25 years. They've won two NBA titles during that span.
But they hadn't had a performance quite like the one put in by point guard Jeremy Lin in Saturday night's 106-92 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Per ESPN Stats:
Jeremy Lin: 1st @HoustonRockets player to record triple-double off bench since Cedric Maxwell against Pacers on March 31, 1988.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 2, 2014
Lin scored 15 points to go with 11 rebounds and 10 assists off the bench for Houston. It was Lin's first career triple-double.
Nights like these are why Houston signed Lin to that big contract.
David West Is Clutch
The Indiana Pacers have two All-Stars in Paul George and Roy Hibbert, and they have another player who should have made the team in Lance Stephenson.
But with the Pacers struggling against the Brooklyn Nets, they turned to the old man of the group, power forward David West.
West scored seven of Indiana's final eight points as the Pacers held off the Nets for the 97-96 win.
West scored 17 points on the night. But he also led the Pacers in assists, with seven. He was calm, cool and collected when the Pacers needed him. Indiana is a young team, and they can always use West's veteran presence.
Kevin Love Can't Do Much More to Help the Wolves Win
Kevin Love continues to put up monster numbers, and the Minnesota Timberwolves continue to lose.
Love scored 43 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in the Wolves' 120-113 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Minnesota went into halftime with a six-point lead, but the Hawks blitzed the Wolves with a 38-21 third quarter.
This isn't the first time Love has put up those kind of numbers in a game, and he's one of very few to pull off the feat, per ESPN Stats:
Kevin Love: 43 points/19 rebounds. In last 25 seasons, he's 1 of 4 players to hit those marks in multiple games (D Howard, S. O'Neal, Ewing)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 2, 2014
Love is doing everything he can, but his Timberwolves just can't stop falling all over themselves in the clutch.
The Wizards Did a Marvelous Job on Kevin Durant
Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant is by far the hottest scorer on the planet. You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him.
The Washington Wizards did just that, limiting Durant to 26 points on 8-of-21 shooting en route to a 96-81 victory.
After the game, Durant complimented the Wizards defense on their effort, according to NBA.com's Benjamin Standig: "They made me see a crowd. There were a few shots that I should have it hit, I had some good looks, but they did a good job. You to got give them credit."
The big win pushed Washington back to .500, at 23-23. If they can bring this kind of defensive effort every night, the Wizards should jump over .500 to stay.
The Veteran Spurs Showed the Kings How to Play the Fourth
The San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings both came into Saturday carrying losing streaks. As the fourth quarter dawned, it seemed as if the Kings (losers of six straight) would get the better of the Spurs (losers of three straight).
But the veteran Spurs showed their championship mettle in the fourth, turning a seven-point deficit into a two-point win.
Old man Tim Duncan had himself quite a game, scoring 23 points and grabbing 17 rebounds.
The Kings are a young, talented team. They'll learn from nights like these, nights when they tested themselves against the best and came up just short.
Anthony Davis Should Be an All-Star
The Chicago Bulls had their best month of the season in January, going 11-4. They looked to continue their winning ways into February on Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Unfortunately, they ran into Anthony Davis.
The 20-year-old phenom dominated Chicago on both ends of the court, with 24 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and six blocks.
According to NBA.com's Scott Kushner, Davis is the first player to record at least 22 points and six blocked shots in three consecutive games since Patrick Ewing in 1990.
Ewing was an All-Star that year, and with these numbers, Davis should be an All-Star this year.
Don't Discount the Phoenix Suns Defense
The Phoenix Suns are known as a run-and-gun team, but they showed their defensive mettle in Saturday night's 105-95 win over the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Bobcats are not a good offensive team, but they do have a red-hot offensive center in Al Jefferson, who averaged 23.9 points in January. Phoenix held him well below that mark on Saturday: Jefferson scored 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting.
The Suns are not a great defensive team, but they are in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency, at 14th, according to Basketball Reference.
Not bad for a run-and-gun team.
The Portland Trail Blazers Took the Second Half off
The Portland Trail Blazers stormed out of the gate against an East Coast team playing on the second night of a back to back, the Toronto Raptors, jumping out to a 31-19 lead.
LaMarcus Aldridge, in particular, was on fire from the get-go, per ESPN Stats:
LaMarcus Aldridge had a double-double at the end of the 1st quarter for the 1st time in his career— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 2, 2014
But Portland let its foot off the gas pedal in the second half, and the Raptors very nearly rallied to overcome a 19-point deficit. Toronto actually took the lead on a pair of DeMar DeRozan free throws with 25 seconds left. But Damian Lillard hit a running bank shot to clinch the win for Portland.
Sure, the Blazers were clutch when it counted, but they shouldn't have let it get to that point.
The Los Angeles Clippers Are Finally Through Their Tough Stretch
The Los Angeles Clippers played their tenth game in the last 15 days on Saturday against the Utah Jazz. They were at home, for once...eight of those ten games were on the road.
But the Clippers have endured. Saturday's 102-87 win put them at 7-3 during the streak. Not bad, especially considering they have been playing without star point guard Chris Paul.
Blake Griffin scored 25 points for Los Angeles, while Jamal Crawford led all scorers with 27 points off the bench.
From here, the Clippers have one more road game—Monday, at Denver—before a nice, tidy five-game home stand. They've earned it.