7 Takeaways from Wednesday's NBA Action

Jim Cavan@@JPCavanContributor IMarch 27, 2014

7 Takeaways from Wednesday's NBA Action

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Televisions in hotel lobbies and saloons this fine country over will be back to broadcasting basketball’s youngsters Thursday night, which made it nice to see the NBA making the exciting most of its Wednesday slate.

    A titan’s clash was everything we could've hope for, with the Indiana Pacers prevailing over the Miami Heat to the bucolic sounds of Lance Stephenson getting kicked out of the arena.

    Elsewhere, a pair of Los Angeles Clippers enjoyed wildly different nights—well, one of them enjoyed it, anyway—while the surging San Antonio Spurs made it 15 in a row against another hapless foe.

    In our nation’s capital, two predicted also-rans offered a giddy glimpse of two teams on the rise, while Minneapolis bore witness to one team’s ever-lengthening free fall.

    Plus: A floundering franchise finds one last gasp, a pair of East playoff hopefuls take their business to overtime and a West staple in a battle for its playoff life nearly gets upended by a team from someplace called “Salt Lake City,” named thus because its NBA fans probably cry a lot.

    Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’re not watching the New York Knicks!

Heavyweight Heaven

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    If this is what we are to expect in the Eastern Conference Finals, we recommend both arenas offer ponchos to everyone sitting in the first 20 rows. It's like that comedian, Gallagher II, but with blood instead of fruit.

    In a savage slugfest that harkened to epic East battles of 1990s lore, the Pacers used a late comeback to beat the Heat, 84-83.

    In so doing, the Pacers employed a balanced attack—and stifling D down the stretch—to trump LeBron James, whose 38 points, eight rebounds and five assists went unaided by his brothers in arms.

    After jawing all night long, particularly with Dwyane Wade, Stephenson was given the boot at the 5:01 mark of the fourth quarter—not, like, an actual boot. What’s he going to do with a single boot? Alright, fine, he could plant some flowers in it.

    He was kicked out is what I’m trying to say. He threw a towel in the tunnel. Lots of fun.

    The win gives the Pacers a three-game cushion atop the conference and the slight psychological end heading into what promises to be anything but a silent spring.

Spurs of the Moment

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    At what point do we seriously consider testing the Spurs for having too much brain synergy?

    Despite very nearly blowing a 23-point second-half lead, the Spurs outlasted the visiting Denver Nuggets, 108-103, behind Tim Duncan’s cartoon stat line: 29 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.

    Coupled with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s loss Tuesday night, San Antonio’s win—the team’s 15th straight—bolstered its Western Conference lead to three games.

    The Spurs will play two more tilts before a much-anticipated date with the Pacers on March 31. If I lose my electricity and all radio communication between now and then, will y’all promise to send me smoke-signal updates?

    Thanks in advance.

    Love,

    Jim

Freaky Wednesday

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

    What if I told you Chris Paul broke the Clippers' record for worst single-game shooting performance (0-12) on the same night Jamal Crawford bested his own team record for most three-pointers in a season (167)?

    Wait, why are you calling the police?

    Anyway, both of those things happened, and the Clippers lost to the New Orleans Pelicans, 98-96.

    No time for the Clips to lick their wounds*, however, why with the feisty Dallas Mavericks—all amped up after besting the Thunder Tuesday night—on the docket Thursday.

    ESPN’s Arash Markazi has a prediction: "You never want your name attached to the worst anything in Clippers history. I'd expect Chris Paul to have a big night tomorrow in Dallas."

    What’s more dangerous than a mad Chris Paul?

    Guys, I doubt Cliff Paul owns an Abrams tank.

     

    *Don't lick your wounds. That's gross.

Rising Suns

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    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Have I used that slide title before? Probably? Whatever.

    In case you hadn’t gotten the message, the Phoenix Suns want you to know they’re still ripping mad over all of you saying they’d win 10 games this season.

    Goran Dragic was downright Gor-ific (I’ll show myself out right after this slideshow), tallying 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists on 11-of-17 shooting (including 3-of-5 from deep) in spearheading the Phoenicians to a 99-93 win over the Washington Wizards.

    It was Phoenix’s fifth win a row—the third time this year they’ve rattled off said streak. More importantly, the win kept them apace for the final playoff spot in the West and the right to be smugly laughed at by Spurs fans in the first round.

    And they almost had some help—a lot of help, actually...almost.

Must Be the Altitude

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Remember that thing about the Suns storming their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture? It was one slide ago, you guys!

    Anyway, the telegraph didn’t arrive at the Memphis Grizzlies bench until the fourth quarter.

    A win’s a win, and Memphis’ narrow 91-87 escape job over the Utah Jazz weighs as heavy as the rest of them. Still, not a good look.

    Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley accounted for 59 of Memphis’ total points, helping keep the balanced Utah attack (all five starters scored in double figures) at bay.

    But it ain’t getting any easier: With their next five games all on the road—three of them against Western playoff teams—the Grizzlies better shape up fast, lest the Suns catch their scent.

    Wouldn’t it be weird if stars could smell?

Movin' on Up

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Like the TV show The Jeffersons, you see, except we’re talking about Al Jefferson and…nevermind.

    Think the Charlotte Bobcats are content with being just another Eastern Conference playoff also-ran? Think again, says Big Al, who put up another monster performance (35 points, 15 rebounds) to help propel the Cats to a 116-111 overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets.

    "I think if we continue to win games everything will take care of itself, everything will work out. At this point we should be happy and blessed to be in any (playoff) spot," said Jefferson after the game. 

    He sounds serious!

    There’s a practical reason for the Cats to wind up with the No. 6 seed, however: They’re 3-0 against the current No. 3-seeded Toronto Raptors.

    Yes, the Raptors are making the playoffs, too! This is real life!

Whatever

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    We’re combining two slides into one because neither of these teams deserves its own slide. In fact, they don't deserve anything more than a free soda pop at the golf course in a couple of weeks. And by “soda pop” I mean “a Dixie cup of Tab that's flat and has sand in it."

    One night after surrendering 51 third-quarter points to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Knicks barely hung on to best the Sacramento Kings, 107-99, behind J.R. Smith's Knicks record-tying nine three pointers (previously held by Carmelo Anthony and about nine other people).

    Why is this important? With the Atlanta Hawks getting crushed by the Minnesota Timberwolves (107-83), New York is now only three games back in the loss column.

    Well, actually it’s four losses if you count the fact that Atlanta—which has dropped 18 of its last 24 games and yet will still probably make the playoffs—owns the tiebreaker with the Knicks, who are terrible.

    I'm really sorry to end the slideshow like that, everyone. I hope you had fun anyway.