6 Takeaways from Saturday's NBA Action
You know who would never bust your bracket? The NBA.
Those college kids might be dealing all the heartbreak and thrills, but the NBA remains brim-loaded with narratives both promising and perilous, as evidenced by Saturday’s slate of action.
The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers continued their swooning springs with a pair of losses, while the steadfast San Antonio Spurs pulled out an improbable victory minus a pair of championship staples.
In the Windy City, the Chicago Bulls made life miserable for the Philadelphia 76ers, who have pretty much been trafficking in that adjective exclusively for a while now.
No Dwight Howard, no problem for the Houston Rockets, who successfully kept pace with the victorious Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference playoff hunt.
Click on through to learn how much fun there's to be had with a 24-second shot clock.
Finding a Way
The Spurs won their 13th game in a row by beating the Golden State Warriors on the road 99-90 without Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili.
Did any part of that sentence phase you? Me neither.
Buttressed by an off-shooting night from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, San Antonio—led by Tony Parker’s 20 points and Tiago Splitter’s 17 points and 14 rebounds—found a way. Like they always do. And probably always will.
The win keeps the Spurs two games ahead of No. 2 seed Oklahoma City Thunder. More importantly, they’ve proven themselves—as a team peaking at just the right time—the antithesis of our forthcoming subjects.
Insert Obvious Unibrow Joke Here
LeBron James witnessed mortality, and its name was Anthony Davis.
Davis was magnificent once again Saturday night, finishing with 30 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and a block en route to a 105-95 win by the New Orleans Pelicans over the defending champs.
Playing without Dwyane Wade, the Heat put up yet another stinker en route to their sixth loss in 10 games. Miami is 10-7 since the All-Star Break.
Perspective: The Charlotte Bobcats are 11-6 in that same span.
How bad are things in the Heat locker room. Here are just two examples:
From Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick: “Watching the interview on SunSports. That's the angriest LeBron has been all season.”
And from ESPN’s Michael Wallace: “Bosh unloads again in postgame assessment of team's play. ‘I'll be the first to say it; we suck’ right now.”
You know that old sports adage about “peaking at the right time"? The Heat are doing the exact opposite of that. Fortunately for them, so is this next team.
Gritted and Ground
If the Indiana Pacers had a Western Conference doppelganger, it would probably be the Memphis Grizzlies. With one, rather notable exception: The Griz are actually playing some decent ball of late.
In besting the Pacers 82-71, Memphis held Indiana to its lowest point total of the season. Paul George struggled once again, scoring eight points on just 2-10 shooting.
Roy Hibbert? He had zero rebounds. As in, 86 fewer rebounds than inches he is tall.
The Pacers have the look of a team that’s dragging at just the wrong time. Had they pulled this one out and upped their standings lead to four games over the Heat, they might’ve considered resting some of their more road-weary starters.
Instead, it’s off to Chicago and a date with their old foes, who took the night off. Meaning they played they Sixers.
Yes, It's a Coincidence
After cruising past the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-111—despite a furious fourth-quarter comeback from the home team—the Rockets are now 3-0 without Dwight Howard, who recently had a cyst removed from his ankle (per the Houston Chronicle’s Jenny Creech).
Which can happen, when you have James Harden doing things like scoring 37 points on 9-of-15 shooting (including 5-of-8 from deep and a perfect 14-of-14 from the free-throw line).
Considering it will be the strategy of many a playoff team to put Howard in foul trouble, this is good practice for the Rockets—particularly oft-disgruntled backup Omer Asik.
Coupled with Portland’s latest stumble, Houston’s win further solidifies its hold on the No. 4 seed on the West, just 1.5 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers.
We've Got the Punk
In losing to the New York Knicks 93-92 Friday night, the Sixers left many wondering whether they might have squandered their one chance of avoiding NBA infamy.
Philly fell to the Bulls, 91-81, making it 24 consecutive losses for Brett Brown’s beleaguered and bewildered troops.
Two more Ls and the Sixers will tie the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers for the most consecutive losses in a single season (26).
With dates against the San Antonio Spurs (loss) and Houston Rockets (loss), Philly’s last, best hope for a much-needed win will be next Saturday against the disappointing Detroit Pistons.
Even then, the Sixers will have tied Cleveland. Which, at this point, is probably as magnanimous a moral victory as they’re liable to get.
We took a bit of a dig at the Bobcats a few slides ago, so let’s temper it with this, simple observation: Charlotte’s playing some pretty good roundball of late.
Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson combined for 77 points en route 124-94 thrashing of the reeling Portland Trail Blazers, who were playing their fourth straight game without injured star LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Blazers are in a bad way, having lost four of their last seven en route to a small slide down the conference standings.
Charlotte, meanwhile, looks poised to hold fast to the No. 7 seed in the East, where—even if theirs is a playoff fate doomed in the first round—they’ve at least proven capable of giving a scare to even the league’s upper-echelon teams.
Might this be the best Bobcats team in franchise history? Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes certainly thinks it’s worth considering:
Two years removed from setting an NBA futility record with a 7-59 mark, the Bobcats are relevant again. What's more, their accomplishments this season might distinguish the current version of the Kitties as the best in franchise history. Granted, Charlotte's past is a short one, but as it nears the end of the final year before assuming the colors and insignia of the Hornets, it's worth examining how this campaign stacks up against the others in team history.