Post Up: The Rockets And Blazers Are Unstoppable

by March 28, 2018
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Damian Lillard

Wizards 116 (41-33), Spurs 106 (43-32)

LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t play in the second half with a left knee contusion as the Spurs’ uncharacteristic road struggles continued. Washington got whatever it wanted offensively after a slow opening frame. Seven Wizards scored in double figures as Washington won the rebounding battle 50-36 and had 33 assists on 46 field goals.

Aldridge limped off the floor in the second quarter and never returned, playing just 17 minutes. Still, he led the Spurs with 13 points. Bryn Forbes added 12 points off the bench. This looks like a team that desperately needs Kawhi Leonard to make a surprise return before, or even during, the playoffs.

Raptors 114 (55-20), Nuggets 110 (40-35)

With each loss, Denver slips further and further away from the No. 8 seed in the West. The Nuggets are just 2-4 on their current seven-game road trip, which ends Friday night in Oklahoma City, and — as has been the case in recent years — can’t figure it out away from Pepsi Center.

Nikola Jokic (29 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists) had a monster game but it wasn’t enough for the Nuggets, who led by eight at the start of the fourth quarter. However, they went cold right as the Raptors’ really good bench got hot, leading to a gamechanging 15-2 run that swung the momentum in favor of the home team.

Neither Kyle Lowry nor DeMar DeRozan (26 points and 16 assists combined) were particularly effective offensively, so solid games from Jonas Valanciunas (15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Fred VanVleet (15 points in 25 minutes off the bench) helped a lot. The Raptors also blocked 16 shots as a team, as four players had three or more swats.

Rockets 118 (61-14), Bulls 86 (24-50)

Even with James Harden resting, the Rockets cruised, knocking down 18 threes and forcing 18 Chicago turnovers. Eric Gordon (31 points) and Chris Paul (13 points, 10 assists) paced the offense in a game Houston led by 21 at the half. The win was the Rockets’ 10th straight, another double-digit winning streak that has managed to go under the radar for a team that has lost just once since January 26th.

With the loss, the Bulls clinched their first 50-loss season since the 2003-04 campaign. They’ve lost six games in a row. Lauri Markkanen (22 points) was the only Chicago starter to make more than two shots on the night.

Trail Blazers 107 (46-28), Pelicans 103 (43-32)

New Orleans survived another Anthony Davis injury scare but wasted a monster game (36 points, 14 rebounds, 6 blocks) from its superstar as Damian Lillard (41 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals) and Jusuf Nurkic (21 points, 10 rebounds) were just too much down the stretch.

Lillard is definitely on the outside looking in with regards to the MVP race — behind the likes of Harden and LeBron, maybe AD too — but he continues to put up ridiculous numbers every night for a Blazers team that just keeps winning. He picked up the backcourt slack for his partner-in-crime, C.J. McCollum, who was just 3-for-19 from the field.

Jrue Holiday (21 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) notched his first triple-double of the season. Down 105-103 with the shot clock off, the Pelicans had a pair of great chances to take the lead but E’Twaun Moore missed two good looks from three and Portland sealed the deal at the free throw line.

Heat 98 (40-35), Cavaliers 79 (44-30)

LeBron’s latest return to South Beach — against his now twice-former teammate Dwyane Wade — didn’t go so well, either for him or the Cavaliers. LBJ (18 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists) just seemed a little out of it on both ends of the floor, as he committed six turnovers and posted a -19. The Heat came out with energy and kept Cleveland at hand the rest of the way, making good use of a strong first quarter.

The Cavs were just 4-for-26 from three-point range. James Johnson and Josh Richardson (15 points apiece) played good defense for Miami and were solid on the boards. Kelly Olynyk added 19 points off the bench.

Mavericks 103 (23-51), Kings 97 (24-51)

For the second time in a week, what happened outside the Golden 1 Center overshadowed what went on inside. With the city of Sacramento mired in protests after the death of Stephon Clark, the Mavs’ win over the Kings in a battle of lottery teams took a backseat to real life.

Harrison Barnes (20 points) and Dennis Smith Jr. (19 points in 25 minutes) led the way for Dallas, which won just its ninth road game of the season. Skal Labissiere (19 points, 8 rebounds) helped spur a furious comeback for Sacramento at the end of regulation but it fell just short.

Pacers 92 (44-31), Warriors 81 (54-20)

Golden State — without Steph, KD, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green — somehow led this one by 15 at one point before Indiana locked down defensively in the second half, holding the Warriors to 33 points over the final 24 minutes. Fresh off clinching a playoff spot, the Pacers kept up with the 76ers and moved within a half-game of No. 3 Cleveland.

Victor Oladipo (24 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) made big after big play while Thad Young (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Bojan Bogdanovic (17 points) hit some huge shots to help the Pacers come back against a somewhat handicapped version of the defending champs.

Clippers 105 (40-34), Bucks 98 (39-35)

With the Pistons five games out, the Bucks aren’t really in danger of missing the playoffs but their iffy play as of late is a little bit concerning entering the postseason. On the other hand, the Clippers picked up a big game on the No. 8 Timberwolves (who lost last night to Memphis) and moved in front of the Nuggets.

It was a pretty balanced effort for LA, which made 15 threes (on just 28 attempts) and had five players in double figures. Tobias Harris (19 points) was solid against his former team and Austin Rivers knocked down the dagger with 94 seconds left to play. Giannis (26 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 blocks) and the rest of the starters played well, despite not getting much help from Jabari Parker (1-for-12 from the field) and the rest of the bench.