7 Takeaways from Wednesday's NBA Action
The NBA action on the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 5, was a wild ride from start to finish.
In Washington D.C., the San Antonio Spurs needed two overtimes to finally put down a pesky Washington Wizards squad looking to break a long losing streak to their Spurs opponents.
In Cleveland, the Los Angeles Lakers triage unit didn't have five eligible players to finish their game against the Cleveland Cavaliers...and still won.
Out West, the high-flying Miami Heat met the equally high-flying Los Angeles Clippers, putting on an aerial show for the ages.
The Knicks Are Losing Patience with Raymond Felton
In many ways, the New York Knicks looked like the same old team in their 94-90 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, their third defeat in a row. They were led in scoring by "Old Reliable," Carmelo Anthony. They foolishly gave up way too many wide-open looks from beyond the arc.
But one aspect of the loss was noticeably different: Woodson kept starting point guard Raymond Felton glued to the bench throughout the fourth quarter. Starting shooting guard (and reserve point guard) Pablo Prigioni manned the point for all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, and the Knicks responded well, outscoring Portland 22-17 in the quarter.
After the game, Felton wisely couched his reaction to his fourth quarter in diplomatic "team-speak," praising Prigioni for his performance, per the Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring?
Felton, on not going back in the game in the 4th: "Pablo was playing well. What's the point of me going back in the game?"— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) February 6, 2014
While it wasn't enough to capture the win, it was a positive development for those who would like to see Felton's minutes cut. He has been killing the Knicks this season, and they should be desperate enough at this point to bench any underperforming starter.
The Lakers Now Have the Wildest Win of the Season
The Los Angeles Lakers have won quite a few games in their history, but perhaps none quite as crazy as their 119-108 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.
The injury-plagued Lakers started the game with eight active players but didn't let that slow them down as they sprinted out to a 70-49 lead on the woeful Cavs.
But the Lakers couldn't stay healthy. They lost Nick Young and Jordan Farmar to injuries in the middle of the game, leaving them with just six healthy players. Then Chris Kaman fouled out, leaving Los Angeles at the five-player limit. Then Robert Sacre fouled out...and the Lakers were down to four.
Per the rules, Los Angeles was forced to continue playing Sacre and were assessed a technical foul. The Cavaliers mounted a comeback, but the Lakers' skeleton crew held them off for the win.
Kobe Bryant himself took to Twitter to celebrate.
"White Mamba" is his nickname for Steve Blake, who notched his second career triple-double: 11 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds.
This may be a lost season for the Lakers, but each player can hold his head high after a win like this.
The Heat and Clippers Played Some Next-Level Basketball
The Wednesday night game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat wasn't as crazy as the game played in Cleveland; it was just a prime example of two talented teams playing exemplary basketball.
The Heat jumped out to a 19-point lead in a first half filled with highlight-reel dunks, passes, blocks and alley-oops, but the Clippers stormed back to within two late in the fourth. Miami responded with a dagger three from Ray Allen and walked away with a well-earned 116-112 win.
Blake Griffin led all scorers with 43 points, as the Clippers continue to play tough without star point guard Chris Paul. With Griffin joining the likes of DeAndre Jordan, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Wednesday's game turned into a display of superhuman athleticism.
This was basketball at its finest.
These Aren't the Same Old Washington Wizards
The San Antonio Spurs beat the Washington Wizards for the 16th consecutive time on Wednesday—the longest active team vs. team winning streak in the NBA, per NBA.com's Richard Dubroff. But they needed two overtimes to accomplish the task, as the Wizards pushed them to the limit before falling 125-118.
The Wizards led by double digits early in the game, before the veteran Spurs mounted a comeback. The Spurs nearly sealed the game in the first overtime, but John Wall stole the ball and raced for the game-tying layup.
After the game, Wizards' center Marcin Gortat said, "It's a frustrating loss because we had that game. We really thought we gonna break history today and finally beat them after nine years. I guess we have to wait another six months."
The Wizards may have lost the battle, but they showed the Spurs that they are an up-and-coming team, and that their days as a doormat are over.
Dirk Nowitzki Isn't Finished Carrying the Dallas Mavericks
Perhaps no game on Wednesday was quite as important as the clash between the eighth-place Dallas Mavericks and ninth-place Memphis Grizzlies. Dallas came into the night just one game behind the red-hot Grizzlies for that precious final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They needed Dirk Nowitzki.
And they got him. Nowitzki scored a game-high 26 points (on 10-of-14 shooting) as the Mavericks held off the Grizzlies for the 110-96 win.
Nowitzki has been particularly efficient over his last five games. Check out this shooting chart, courtesy of ESPN:
We're seeing some vintage Dirk Nowitzki over the last 5 games, take a look at his zone chart: pic.twitter.com/PkmDCDEQNW— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 6, 2014
"Vintage Dirk," indeed. Even at age 35, Nowitzki is still the best player on the Mavericks and their best hope to get back to the playoffs.
The Phoenix Suns Cannot Stop Dwight Howard
The Phoenix Suns' frontcourt—like the rest of the team—has been a pleasant surprise in 2013-14. Center Miles Plumlee has been a revelation, and the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff) have come into their own.
Still, they are no match for a freak of nature like Dwight Howard.
Howard was feeling it on Wednesday, and the Suns paid the price. The Houston Rockets center scored 34 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead Houston to an easy 122-108 win. Houston has now won four straight games and six of seven at home.
The Suns gave up a season high in points, but it's hard to fault their overachieving front line. Few teams can stop Howard once he gets going.
The Toronto Raptors Need to Start Their Comebacks a Bit Earlier
The Toronto Raptors have recently developed a nasty habit of falling behind big-time early and rallying late, coming up just short. They nearly came back from 57-40 halftime deficit to beat the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, and they nearly closed a 20-point fourth-quarter gap to beat the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.
With 25.5 remaining and Toronto trailing 105-99, Lowry hit a three-pointer that would have cut the Kings lead to three points. But Lowry was called for an offensive foul, and the shot didn't count. Sacramento hung on for the 109-101 victory.
The Raptors are an East Coast team playing out west, but for some reason they haven't been waking up until the second half. Perhaps the Raptors should try to start strong, so they can finish with the win.