6 Takeaways from Tuesday Night's NBA Action
Sadly, LeBron James’ 61-point performance would go without an encore Tuesday night, as the Miami Heat fell to the Houston Rockets in an entertaining intraconference shootout.
Out in the Crossroads of America (it’s a thing), the Golden State Warriors used their fifth game-winner of the season—this one from the blazing hand of Klay Thompson—to deal the Indiana Pacers their fourth home loss of the year.
In Phoenix, Matt Barnes continued his unlikely hot streak to help the Los Angeles Clippers eke out a narrow victory over the upstart Suns.
Despite a valiant comeback, the Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t quite nip the visiting New Orleans Pelicans, even with Kent Bazemore continuing to do Kent Bazemore things.
Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs used deft dishing to dole out a 122-101 thrashing of the Cleveland Cavaliers, while the Oklahoma City Thunder—behind 42 points from Kevin Durant—thumped the helpless Philadelphia 76ers.
Let us learn things!
All forthcoming stats courtesy of NBA.com and current as of March 5, unless otherwise noted.
The Pacers erased a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit thanks to their prototypically punishing defense, but in the end, it was Klay Thompson—who rattled home 16 points in the final frame—having the last guffaw.
After stinking up the joint against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, the Warriors couldn’t afford to blow another fourth-quarter lead. With Stephen Curry struggling against Indiana’s ball hawking—Paul George in particular forced a pair of turnovers—the Dubs turned to their other sweet-shooting swingman to help deliver them from defeat.
Here’s what Thompson had to say after the game, per NBA.com:
I just tried to use my body to back him down and make some space for the shot. Yes it’s a great feeling to come in here and get a win, it’s huge, especially against the team with best record in the NBA. The fourth quarter I was a little more active. We did a better job of ball movement and I was able to get a lot of open looks. But there at the end it felt good to silence the crowd.
The 98-96 win marked the fifth time this season Golden State capped off a W with a game-winning shot. In fact, we wrote about it!
We’ll Always Have Monday
This was the worst sequel since The Matrix Reloaded, you guys!
All kidding aside, the last 24 hours were pretty taxing for LeBron James, who had to follow up his record-setting 61-point performance—compiled over 41 grueling minutes—by hopping on a plane for a date with one of the fastest-paced teams in the NBA.
After dodging a last-ditch heave from the King himself (who finished with 22 points), the Rockets prevailed, 106-103, thanks to a beautifully balanced attack (all five starters finished in double figures).
With so many expecting an epic encore, it’s easy to forget just how stark a reminder of his own peerless prowess LeBron put forward Monday.
Furthermore, it’ll be interesting to see whether Kevin Durant’s night (more on that in a bit) moves the needle back in his favor.
Has there ever been a more compelling race for the NBA’s MVP? If there has, it might be taking a backseat before we know it.
I’m Still Here
Speaking of that Durant dude, he put in some serious work, albeit against not-so-serious competition.
KD finished with 42 points on a crisp 14-of-20 from the floor to go along with nine rebounds and a trio of dimes in OKC’s 125-92 win over the Sixers.
It’s hard to say who bore the biggest brunt of Durantula’s onslaught, though it doesn’t take much more than a cursory glance at Philly’s roster to appreciate the severity of its predetermined doom.
With his next four games coming against some of the league’s weaker defensive units, Durant has a chance to recapture the MVP narrative.
After all, LeBron says he’s not paying attention to that stuff anyway, according to Bleacher Report’s Ethan J. Skolnick.
You think Kevin Durant believes that? Me neither.
Enter Matt Barnes, who has quietly strung together one of the best stretches of his 12-year career.
With his 28-point performance—a season-high for L.A.’s firebrand forward—in Wednesday night’s 104-96 win, Barnes is now averaging 17.3 points and 5.1 rebounds on 59 percent shooting (including 51 percent from three-point range) over his last six games.
While it’s a bit premature to posit Barnes as anything resembling a reliable third scoring option for the playoff-bound Clips, his combination of steady outside shooting and two-way energy is sure to be indispensable come springtime.
Just try not to do anything unbecoming, Matthew.
Per Basketball-Reference.com, San Antonio became just the second team this season—and only the second Spurs squad since 2010—to tally 39 assists in their 122-101 dispatching of the Cavs in Cleveland.
More impressive still: No one player registered more than six dimes on the night, though everyone finished with at least one. Yes, that includes Aron Baynes and Jeff Ayres.
Sorry, Aron and Jeff.
That’s a pretty tremendous feat even for the Spurs—a team that ranks second in the league in assist ratio (19.1), or the number of assists a team averages per 100 possessions.
San Antonio has built a reputation in recent years for being a team that prides itself on peerless execution and willing ball movement.
Translation: Watch out, everyone else in the NBA.
Oh, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t include this gem regarding coach Gregg Popovich, who continues to be the best. From a tweet sent out by Sam Amico of Fox Sports:
Meanwhile, Gregg Popovich said he’ll sometimes walk away from #Spurs’ huddle when things not going well. “You guys figure it out.” Love it.
Baze the Roof
What happens when you pit two of the NBA’s 10 worst defensive teams against one another and also throw in Kent Bazemore?
The Lakers and Pelicans combined to boast six players with 20 points or more in New Orleans’ 132-125 barnburning win.
Somewhere, Doug Moe and Don Nelson are smiling.
Since being dealt by the Warriors to the Lakers at the trade deadline, Bazemore—who barely saw the floor in one-and-a-half-seasons in Golden State—is averaging 16.9 points 3.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 47 percent shooting (including 46 percent from three-point range).
When are we going to start giving Mike D’Antoni medals for this stuff?