7 Takeaways from Saturday Night's NBA Action
Saturday, Feb. 22, was a night for the golden oldies in the NBA.
In Oakland, the Golden State Warriors got all they could handle from the grizzled old Brooklyn Nets. Golden State needed a codger of its own to step up, and it got a season-best performance from 35-year-old Jermaine O'Neal.
In Washington D.C., the young Wizards turned to a veteran, Nene, with less than one second left on the clock. And the old Brazilian came through in a much-needed win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
In Milwaukee...well, Coolio performed at halftime. Need we say more?
The Atlanta Hawks Needed the New York Knicks
When a club has lost eight games in a row and its two best frontcourt players to injury, and its starting point guard is hobbled with a bum ankle, is there any hope for victory?
There is...if you are playing the New York Knicks.
The Atlanta Hawks overcame a boatload of injuries (Paul Millsap joined Al Horford and Pero Antic on the shelf), their own shoddy recent play and an 18-point deficit to overcome the New York Knicks, 107-98.
Both Mike Scott (30) and DeMarre Carroll (24) scored a career high for Atlanta. Per ESPN, they were the fifth and sixth players to notch career highs against New York's porous defense, joining Marco Belinelli, Jimmer Fredette, Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner. Bonus fun fact: Brandon Knight also set a career high against New York, but later went on to break that mark. The New York Knicks, ladies and gentlemen!
If Atlanta wants to be taken seriously, they'll have to beat some actual, functional teams.
The Charlotte Bobcats Can Grind with the Best of Them
Over the past few seasons, the Memphis Grizzlies have developed their own brutal brand of basketball. But the Charlotte Bobcats have been playing their own grit-n-grind style this season, and on Saturday night they showed that they can out-fight those Memphis boys in a 92-89 victory.
Bobcats guard Kemba Walker picked up struggling teammate Al Jefferson (six points on 2-of-13 shooting) with a game-high 31 points. After the win, Walker explained the need to support his star big man on a rare off night, per NBA.com's Will Dannelly:
You know Big Al struggled tonight. You know he is usually the guy we go to all the time, but you know he struggled. I don't know. Somebody had to pick him up and I was able to do that.
Like the Grizzlies of last season, Charlotte is proving to be greater than the sum of its parts. The Bobcats seem destined to make the playoffs, and might even win a game or two.
The Young Washington Wizards Need Crafty Old Nene
Moving forward, the core of the Washington Wizards is clearly the dynamic young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall made his first All-Star Game this season, and Beal has enough talent to join his teammate there in the future.
But neither of those two players has ever played meaningful late-season basketball. And with Washington in the thick of the playoff hunt, it will need to rely on seasoned old pros like big man Nene.
The 31-year-old Brazilian delivered in Washington's 94-93 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Not only did Nene match a career high with 30 points, but he put the Wizards ahead for good on a dunk with 0.3 seconds left in the game. That is as clutch as it gets.
Veterans like Nene and Trevor Ariza will be critical as the Wizards charge toward the postseason.
The Dallas Mavericks Are Crashing the Glass
The Dallas Mavericks are not known as a team that pulls down that many rebounds. Statistically speaking, they rank 23rd in the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates, per Basketball-Reference.
But Dallas has been a rebounding machine of late. The Mavericks have out-rebounded their last three opponents by an average of 15.7. And even when matched up against the big, bad Detroit Pistons—the league's top rebounding team—the Mavericks still grabbed more boards, 50-39, en route to a 113-102 win.
Shawn Marion and Samuel Dalembert both grabbed 11 boards for Dallas, while Dirk Nowitzki led the team in scoring with 24 points.
The Mavericks have a fine offense, but it's always nice to have something to fall back on when the shots aren't falling.
Kevin Love Can Do It All
Kevin Love notched his first career triple-double on Saturday with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 121-104 win over the Utah Jazz.
Those numbers aren't surprising; the only thing truly shocking is that this is only the first triple-double of his career.
Love is a gifted passer, but his assists numbers are held down a bit by the fact that his specialty—the outlet pass—rarely leads to an assist. As far as points and rebounds go, there are few players on the planet who can match him.
Still, Love is only 25 years old. There will be plenty more triple-doubles in his future.
The Milwaukee Bucks Need Gimmicks to Sell Their Team
The Milwaukee Bucks played to their largest home crowd of the season on Saturday, announced at 17,165, per NBA.com's Rick Braun. But the size of the crowd had very little to do with the actual team.
The Bucks held "1990s Night," with former Buck Glenn Robinson in attendance and Coolio as the halftime entertainment. Ron Dayne, the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner and all-time leading rusher in NCAA history, also was in attendance. Dayne played at the University of Wisconsin.
The game—a 110-100 loss to the Indiana Pacers—was a mere afterthought.
Fans need such distractions when their team is as wretched as the 10-45 Bucks. The draft can't come soon enough in Milwaukee.
Jermaine O'Neal Is Turning Back the Clock
The Golden State Warriors needed a big man to fill in for starting center Andrew Bogut, who has been on the shelf with shoulder inflammation. Facing off against an aged Brooklyn Nets roster, the Warriors turned to an old man of their own in Jermaine O'Neal.
The 35-year-old center delivered, and then some, with a season-high 23 points and 13 rebounds in a 93-86 win for Golden State.
O'Neal's game left an impression on Brooklyn's Kevin Garnett, per ESPN's Ethan Strauss: "I haven't seen JO play like that since g-------d Indiana." O'Neal was a six-time All-Star as a member of the Indiana Pacers.
Bogut has a long injury history, so this may not be the last time the Warriors have to rely heavily on O'Neal. He certainly has experience on his side.