As the NBA bubble games wind down, teams clinched seeding spots Wednesday. We can already lock in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.
Although teams rolled out some reserves, the players showed competitive spirit in hopes to maintain or gain momentum going into the postseason. The Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets had key contributors sit out because of injury, but their game turned into a seesaw battle and went down to the final seconds.
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse attended his team's contest against the Philadelphia 76ers, though he stepped aside to yield responsibilities to Adrian Griffin. The reigning champions showed the same tenacity with their assistant coach in charge and the No. 2 seed locked up.
Between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat, one team went into the fourth quarter down 18 and completed an impressive comeback. And how did the Los Angeles Clippers fare against a young Denver Nuggets squad right behind them in the standings?
Check out the highlights, stats and playoff picture following Wednesday's action.
August 12 Scores, Top Stats, Highlights
Indiana Pacers 108, Houston Rockets 104
James Harden (HOU): 45 PTS (7-14 3PT), 17 REB, 9 AST, 3 STL
Myles Turner (IND): 18 PTS, 12 REB
Victor Oladipo (IND): 16 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST
As a team, Houston shot 28.1 percent from three-point land, though James Harden established a comfortable shooting rhythm and fell one assist short of a triple-double:
Rockets guard Eric Gordon made his official bubble-game debut, returning from a sprained ankle. In 20 minutes, he shot 5-of-15 for 13 points. With Westbrook under evaluation for his injury, Houston needs Gordon to work his way back into game shape for the playoffs.
Pacers forward T.J. Warren missed Wednesday's contest because of a sore foot. Indiana shared the offensive load—five of its players scored at least 16 points.
Off the bench, Doug McDermott extended his team's fourth-quarter lead. He knocked down a pair of crucial three-pointers in the final frame:
Neither the Pacers nor the Rockets shot the ball well, converting on 40 and 37.2 percent of their attempts, respectively. But Indiana's balanced output beat Houston's one-man show, featuring Harden's 45-point performance.
Toronto Raptors 125, Philadelphia 76ers 121
Chris Boucher (TOR): 19 PTS, 9 REB, 4 BLK
Tobias Harris (PHI): 22 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 2 BLK
Furkan Korkmaz (PHI): 21 PTS (5-9 3PT), 5 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL
Griffin can celebrate his first win as a head coach after the Raptors erased a 10-point four-quarter deficit for the victory.
Down the stretch, two unassuming contributors, forwards Paul Watson and Stanley Johnson closed the game with shots in the paint and clutch free throws.
Coming off his 25-point outing against the Milwaukee Bucks Monday, Chris Boucher continued to shine, tying Kyle Lowry for a team-leading 19 points and denying the Sixers at the basket.
Without Ben Simmons (knee surgery) and Joel Embiid on the bench in the second half, Philadelphia relied on ball movement to generate scoring opportunities. Four Sixers logged at least 10 points off the bench. Furkan Korkmaz led the second unit with 21 points, knocking down five triples and going 6-of-6 from the charity stripe.
Neither club could have improved its playoff standing, but both benches intensely cheered teammates in the final minutes of a tight game. Although Watson and Johnson sealed the deal in the end, Boucher has consecutive standout performances. He could play valuable minutes in the playoffs.
Already known for their gritty, lockdown defense, the Raptors have another big man in Boucher to chase down easy baskets and deter penetrators who dare drive the lane.
Oklahoma City Thunder 116, Miami Heat 115
Tyler Herro (MIA): 30 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST
Duncan Robinson (MIA): 19 PTS (5-7 3PT), 2 REB, 3 AST
Darius Bayley (OKC): 21 PTS (5-8 3PT), 9 REB, 4 AST
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC): 18 PTS
Miami Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson scorched the net throughout the first half, sinking five three-pointers. He had significant help from the bench. Tyler Herro led all scorers with 30 points.
Through the first three quarters, the Thunder had a rough night. They shot 43.8 percent from the floor and committed 16 turnovers for the contest. Still, rookie forward Darius Bazley kept Oklahoma City competitive late in the contest. He sparked a rally, scoring four of his five of three-pointers during the fourth quarter.
Mike Muscala made back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game at 113 and then put the Thunder in front 116-115 within the final 34 seconds.
The game came down to Herro on a three-point attempt that didn't fall for the Heat. Oklahoma City went into the final quarter down by 18 and completed an exhilarating comeback victory.
Los Angeles Clippers 124, Denver Nuggets 111
Kawhi Leonard (LAC): 26 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL
Paul George (LAC): 27 PTS 4 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL
Jerami Grant (DEN): 25 PTS (4-7 3PT), 6 REB
Nikola Jokic (DEN): 17 PTS, 7 REB, 13 AST
The Nuggets hung around for about 42 minutes, but Kawhi Leonard and Paul George propelled the Clippers to a win. They combined for 53 points. Lou Williams also contributed 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field.
Coming off the bench, Nuggets forward Jerami Grant scored in bunches. He shot with confidence and attacked the basket:
Nikola Jokic finished with a double-double. He was the ultimate dealer Wednesday. For one assist, he showed his accurate arm, launching the ball full court to Michael Porter Jr.:
In the final quarter, Leonard and George took over. The Nuggets didn't have an answer for two of the league's best players during a critical stretch:
The Clippers showed a clear separation between them and the No. 3-seeded Nuggets who played without forward Will Barton (knee) and guard Gary Harris (hip). They'll go into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed set for a first-round matchup with the No. 7-seeded Dallas Mavericks.
Updated Playoff Picture
1. Milwaukee Bucks (56-16)
2. Toronto Raptors (52-19)
3. Boston Celtics (48-23)
4. Miami Heat (44-28)
5. Indiana Pacers (44-28)
6. Philadelphia 76ers (42-30)
7. Brooklyn Nets (35-36)
8. Orlando Magic (32-40)
9. Washington Wizards (24-47)
1. Los Angeles Lakers (52-18)
2. Los Angeles Clippers (48-23)
3. Denver Nuggets (46-26)
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (44-27)
5. Houston Rockets (44-27)
6. Utah Jazz (43-28)
7. Dallas Mavericks (43-31)
8. Portland Trail Blazers (34-39)
9. Memphis Grizzlies (33-39)
10. Phoenix Suns (33-39)
11. San Antonio Spurs (32-38)
12. New Orleans Pelicans (30-41)
13. Sacramento Kings (30-41)