9 Takeaways from Wednesday's NBA Action
Happy Hump Day, hoopsters!
With a whopping 11 games on the Wednesday docket, there was no shortage of intriguing storylines—the sad as well as the sweet—on which to feast.
In Miami, familiar foes traded scowls and buckets in equal measure, with the visiting Brooklynites landing the final blow.
San Antonio bore witness to a double-whammy for a Western Conference up-and-comer, while in the Big Easy, one crafty lefty put the crowd on ice.
Plus, Salt Lake City saw Hondo fall by the wayside, Philadelphia suffered a shortage of paper bags with eye and mouth holes, the New York Knicks continued their desperate dash for the postseason and a franchise record officially came to an end in the City of Angels.
Let’s go—you know the drill.
Next up: 'Nique.
As NBA TV's Rick Kamla pointed out, if Nowitzki averages 20 points per game for the rest of the season, he'll leapfrog both Dominique Wilkins and Oscar Robertson and straight into the top 10.
Oh, and his Mavs are still in the playoff hunt. It was a pretty good day for Nowitzki.
It’s been a nightmarish week for the Portland Trail Blazers, who dropped their third straight Texas tilt—and fourth game overall—in succumbing to the San Antonio Spurs, 103-90.
As if Portland’s early-spring swoon wasn’t sad enough, All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge had to be helped into the locker room after suffering what the team is calling a “back contusion,” according to The Oregonian’s Jason Quick:
Aldridge was helped off the court by teammates Joel Freeland and Thomas Robinson, during which he was wincing and weeping in pain. Aldridge had 14 points and four rebounds at the time of the injury, and his basket cut the Spurs’ 16-point halftime lead to 56-44.
This is definitely not a good sign for the Blazers. Let’s all send good vibes the way of LA.
Got Their Number
If the Brooklyn Nets can get Time Machine Paul Pierce for the next two months, they stand a real shot of making some playoff noise.
Pierce rattled home 17 third-quarter points to help Brooklyn dispatch the Miami Heat, 96-95, giving the Nets a 3-0 series lead for the season.
The loss drops Miami—which has now lost four of its last five—two full games behind the conference-leading Indiana Pacers.
We’re pretty sure this isn’t what we mean when we assume the Heat will just turn it on in time for the playoffs. Hey, at least they wouldn’t be playing the Nets until the conference finals.
Deft Right Hand
The win was the Grizzlies’ fourth in a row. More importantly, it keeps them in a tie with the Dallas Mavericks—who bested the Utah Jazz 108-101—for the West’s final playoff spot.
It was a grit and grind kind of night for the Grizzlies, who eked by the Pelicans despite not one player scoring more than 16. Appropriately enough, the player in question was Conley, who we hope is being treated to a lovely steak dinner by his teammates.
Apparently, Danny Granger can still play basketball.
Granger, who was dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline, put up 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting (including 2-of-4 from three-point range) to help spur the Los Angeles Clippers to a 111-98 win over the Golden State Warriors.
This is the part with the joke about how the Sixers got rid of Granger because he's good.
There was a more somber side note to the game, however: After 214 consecutive games played (a Warriors record), Klay Thompson will miss Friday's date with the Cleveland Cavaliers to attend the funeral of his grandfather, per the San Francisco Chronicle's Rusty Simmons.
Without Rajon Rondo there to shred their lackluster perimeter defense, the Knicks made easy work of the Boston Celtics, 116-92.
The win—New York’s fifth in a row—moved the Orange and Blue to within three games of the Atlanta Hawks for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
Per a tweet from The Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring, Carmelo Anthony sounded pretty pleased, saying, "Guys' mindsets and guys' confidence is in a different place right now."
Knicks fans might be tempted to breath a sigh of relief, until reading the following fact: Even after their five-game win streak, and despite Boston being in full-on tank mode, New York is still just 3.5 games ahead of its hated rivals in the standings.
So long as the Knicks make the playoffs, that won’t matter a nickel.
How Low Can You Go?
You know that feeling when you’re in a dentist’s chair getting a cavity filled and the shooting pain just keeps coming and you’re not sure if it’s ever going to stop? That’s basically what watching the Philadelphia 76ers has been like.
The Sixers dropped their 18th straight Wednesday night, losing at home to the lowly Sacramento Kings, 115-98.
Philly is now eight losses away from breaking the NBA record for consecutive losses in a season, set by the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Normally, achieving that kind of superlative would be an abomination. But with this draft class around the corner...wait, it's still an abomination.
Say It Ain't Bledsoe
That’s not how this is supposed to work, Cleveland Cavaliers!
Led by Kyrie Irving’s 23 points (12 of which came in the final frame), Cleveland played spoiler to the return of Eric Bledsoe, upending the reeling Phoenix Suns 110-101.
Phoenix’s loss, coupled with wins by both the Mavs and Grizzlies, drops the Suns to two games off the No. 8-seed pace in the West.
Three weeks ago, the Suns were still the feel-good story of the league—the plucky upstarts who dared crash the party no one invited them to.
Now, they’re on the outside looking in.
At the same time, with three first-round draft picks (three!) in this year’s draft, missing the playoffs probably isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Detroit Rock Pity
As if the city of Detroit didn’t have enough to worry about, their Pistons continued apace with their very disappointing season, falling to the Toronto Raptors, 101-87.
The loss—its eighth in 10 games—drops Detroit to 10th place in the East, a half-game behind the Knicks.
The Raptors, meanwhile, continue to surprise, holding steadfast to the No. 3 seed behind DeMar DeRozan’s 25 points.
With dates against the Pacers, Suns and Clippers over the next two weeks, the Pistons look cooked.