Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
76ers 113 (18-63), Celtics 108 (25-56)
The Sixers have gone through plenty of growing pains this season, but they should be ecstatic with the type of season rookie Michael Carter-Williams (21 points, 6 assists, 14 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks) gave them. Monday night, he led his team to victory in a big way, controlling the pace and boards while leading his team in scoring. Tony Wroten (20 points, 7-12 from the field) was a scoring punch off the bench as the Sixers shot 54.4 percent from the field in their last home game of the regular season. The Celtics rookie had himself a fantastic game as well; Kelly Olynyk (career-high 28 points, 9 rebounds) has looked really good the past two games during which he’s averaged 26.5 ppg and 10.5 rpg. He’s had an up-and-down season but has shown flashes of what could be. Jeff Green (27 points, 3 steals) and Avery Bradley (23 points) chipped in offensively while Rajon Rondo (8 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds) flirted with a triple-double. Other than these four players, the Celtics didn’t get much production on the night while the Sixers had five players score in double-figures. Thaddeus Young (15 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals) remained a ball of energy on the court, doing a little bit of everything. After Philly built up a 65-46 lead late in the 2nd quarter, they seemed to be in control. But after Boston outscored Philadelphia 34-19 in the 3rd quarter, they were right back in the game. With the Celtics’ lead being reduced to 111-108, Boston had the ball with 0.9 of a second left and had a chance to tie this one up. And then Chris Johnson (8 points, 3 rebounds) knocked down what looked to be the game-tying 3-pointer…only to be ruled that Johnson stepped on the sideline before the shot, causing a turnover. MCW did a fantastic job pushing the ball all night, leading to the Sixers having a 23-8 advantage in terms of fast break points.
Raptors 110 (48-33), Bucks 100 (15-66)
By taking care of the Bucks Monday night, the Raptors earned their 48th win of the season, marking their most regular season wins in franchise history. And they did so in commanding fashion, never trailing at any point in the game. After Greivis Vasquez (25 points, 7 assists) made a 3-pointer eight minutes into the game, Toronto already held a double-digit lead. This would eventually swell to a 22-point lead as Kyle Lowry (24 points) and Jonas Valanciunas (14 points, 13 rebounds) led the way. These two have been the reason this squad has had such unexpected success on the year. With Ramon Sessions (21 points, 5 assists) having a great game, though, Milwaukee kept fighting. He also had help from Jeff Adrien (19 points, 9 rebounds) down low. They used a quick 8-0 run over the span of 52 seconds early in the 4th quarter to cut the deficit to 91-82 and force Dwane Casey to call a timeout. Toronto then tightened the screws, went on a 7-0 run of their own and grabbed the easy victory. The Bucks just didn’t have enough rebounders as Tyler Hansbrough (12 points, 11 rebounds) and the Raptors outrebounded the Bucks 46-32. With the loss, the Bucks have clinched the worst record in the NBA.
Wizards 114 (43-38), Heat 93 (54-27)
Seeming to concede the top pick to the Pacers, the Heat decided to rest LeBron James and Chris Bosh…which also allowed this game to get out of hand fast. After back-and-forth play through the first 12 minutes, then the onslaught began. Behind 5 assists from Andre Miller (2 points, 9 assists) and 4 assists from John Wall (4 points, 13 assists) in the 2nd quarter, Washington used a 18-5 run early and a 10-3 run late to take a 70-48 lead into halftime. With Dwyane Wade (9 points, 3 assists) feeling like he was back in the post-Shaq era but pre-Big 3 era, his Heat looked out of sync and simply bad. There was no ball movement and no one really willing to step up in the absence of the two All-Stars. They will need to do so just as the Heat role players have done during the last two championship runs if they want to have a chance at three-peating. Trevor Ariza (25 points, 10-13 from the field) and Nene (18 points, 8-12 from the field) shot efficiently, helping the Wizards eventually build up a 36-point lead in the 3rd quarter and cruise to a victory. As a team, the Wizards shot a blistering 59.0 percent from the field and 48.3 percent (14-29) on 3-pointers. There was so defensive presence from any of the Heat players, even from Michael Beasley (18 points, 7-12 from the field), who led the team offensively. In the end, though, the Heat will most likely regroup for the playoffs and forget all about this loss.
Bobcats 95 (42-39), Hawks 93 (37-44)
Chris Douglas-Roberts (5 points, 2 rebounds) continued to show why is one of the steals of the season in terms of late-season signings, this time in the form of hero ball. CDR put in a buzzer-beater to take down the Hawks and keep the hopes alive of snatching the six seed from the Wizards. The Bobcats would absolutely like to do this since the seven seed will face the Heat in the playoffs while the six seed will play the Raptors or Bulls. No offense to the latter two teams mentioned but I think there’s a slight difference in team quality. Al Jefferson (27 points, 15 rebounds) did his normal thing on the night, being an utter force down low with Al Horford (pectoral) and Paul Millsap (rest) both not available. Atlanta, though, did get balanced scoring with six of its players scoring in double-figures. Mike Scott (20 points, 6 rebounds) led the way as he has had himself a productive season. After Shelvin Mack (13 points, 5 assists) made a layup to close out the 3rd quarter, the Hawks held their largest lead of the game, 80-65. But over the course of the final quarter, the Bobcats locked down defensively, something that has become the norm in final quarter for coach Steve Clifford’s team. They outscored the Hawks 30-13 in the final frame, topped off with CDR making a tough right-handed game-winning runner falling to his left. During this final quarter, veteran guards Luke Ridnour (10 points, 4 assists) and Gary Neal (17 points) took care of the ball and came up big when their team needed them most. Owning the tiebreaker over the Wizards (43-38), who finish the season facing the Celtics (25-56), the Bobcats will play the Bulls (48-33) Wednesday night.
Bulls 108 (48-33), Magic 95 (23-58)
Behind a big 2nd quarter from Tony Snell (13 points) and Joakim Noah (18 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 0 turnovers), the Bulls were able to build a comfortable double-digit lead and cruise to a double-digit victory. Chicago led wire-to-wire by holding Orlando to only 44 points in the 1st half. Kyle O’Quinn (20 points, 7 rebounds) and Andrew Nicholson (19 points) had solid games, but this team just doesn’t have enough grit and workers down low when Nikola Vucevic (achilles) isn’t in the lineup. Carlos Boozer (13 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists) and the Bulls outscored the Magic 34-24 in the paint as Orlando could only grab 4 total offensive rebounds. Sharpshooters Mike Dunleavy (22 points, 3-4 on 3-pointers) and Jimmer Fredette (17 points) had themselves a field day in terms of long-range shots while Jimmy Butler (12 points, 6-7 on free throws) worked to get into the paint. Currently tied with Toronto (48-33) for the three seed in the East, the Bulls will need to beat the Bobcats (42-39) Wednesday and the Raptors to lose the the Knicks (35-45) in order to avoid the surging fifth-seeded Nets (again) in the 1st round of the playoffs.
Rockets 104 (54-27), Spurs 98 (62-19)
By taking down the Spurs and sweeping the season series, the Rockets have now clinched the four seed in the West and know they will have home-court advantage against the Blazers in the 1st round. Dwight Howard (20 points, 17 rebounds) and Terrence Jones (20 points, 11 rebounds) each had a big double-double, being too active on both ends of the floor for Tim Duncan (12 points, 9 rebounds), Aron Baynes (6 points, 3 rebounds) and the rest of the Spurs to handle. With Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and Patty Mills all resting Monday night, Marco Belinelli (team-high 17 points) led the way for the Spurs, who just seemed to be a step behind Houston on the night. Chandler Parsons (21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) also had a big game as James Harden (16 points, 7 assists, 4-16 from the field) had a uncharacteristically off night. But the Rockets made up for it by holding the Spurs to 43.8 percent shooting and only 68 points through the first three quarter. The Rockets as a team won this game in large part due to their care with the ball as they committed a season-low six turnovers. After the Spurs did in fact fight back from a late 14-points deficit to take a 90-87 lead, Howard and the Rockets amped up their defense and went on a late 11-2 run to close this one out. Feeding their big men down low all night, the Rockets outscored the Spurs 60-42 in the paint. Omer Asik (8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) contributed to this dominance down low, playing effectively during his 17 minutes of playing time. Houston has now gone 15-1 in its last 16 home games, a statistic that bodes well for the 1st round.
Pelicans 101 (33-48), Thunder 89 (58-23)
Tyreke Evans (career-high 41 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, 1 turnover) almost didn’t even get the chance to play in the game of his career. Due to a bruised right knee, Evans was a game-time decision and wasn’t expected to play up until a few hours before the game. Luckily for the Pelicans, Evans did suit up and put on a show for his home crowd. Sometimes it is forgotten than Evans was once a 20-5-5 kind of player as a rookie, and he certainly showed that and more Monday night. Without Russell Westbrook (rest) in the lineup, the Thunder simply lose so much athleticism as Reggie Jackson (4 points, 3 assists, 1-7 from the field), Derek Fisher (6 points, 2-8 from the field) and Caron Butler (19 points, 3-5 on 3-pointers) all struggle to hold their own against the quicker guards they go up against. Kevin Durant (25 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 7 turnovers) and Serge Ibaka (22 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists) did a little bit of everything in an attempt to put the entire team on their shoulders. But they were going up against one player putting his team—that was without Anthony Davis (back)—entirely on his back and taking the game over. The next highest scorer was Luke Babbitt (12 points, 3-6 on 3-pointers)…yeah. And fellow guard Austin Rivers (8 points) was ejected early in the 2nd quarter after getting in a (weak) shoving match with Nick Collison, who was also ejected. After Rivers ejection, Evans became the sole source of the offense, scoring 37 of his 41 points from that point forward. Pelicans rookie Jeff Withey (8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks) didn’t have an eye-popping performance but he held his own against the two Thunder star forwards. New Orleans didn’t necessarily have a specific 4th-quarter run that gave them this victory, but the team did outscore the Thunder 31-20 in the final quarter to play the role of spoilers.
Lakers 119 (26-55), Jazz 104 (24-57)
When Nick Young (season-high 41 points) goes into Swaggy P made and seems to be making all the shots that shouldn’t even be taken, it’s hard to come up with a way to defend against him. Young was certainly in that mode Monday night, having the green light all over the floor. Jodie Meeks (23 points) gave him support and Jordan Hill (21 points, 6 rebounds) played big down low in a game for pride and a higher lottery pick. Kendall Marshall (2 points, 15 assists) dished out a lot of assists during only 23 minutes on the floor. For the Jazz, they simply had no support from their bench as they only managed to put up 13 points, compared to the Lakers’ 57 points. Enes Kanter (19 points, 12 rebounds) had a double-double but only had one point during a 4th quarter his team was outscored 33-18. Spanning over the end of the 3rd quarter and start of the 4th, the Lakers used a 14-0 run to take control of a game that had remained close for the most part. The Jazz just couldn’t make enough stops against Young down the stretch.
Grizzlies 97 (49-32), Suns 91 (47-34)
Well, it’s finally over. The sun has set. After what can only be considered as an unexpectedly successful season filled with many highs, the Suns have officially been eliminated from the playoffs as the Grizzlies punched their ticket into the postseason. With no answer for Zach Randolph (season-high 32 points, 9 rebounds) on the blocks, the Suns use looked beat down in the final quarter that they were outscored 30-24. Defensively, Gerald Green (7 points, 2 rebounds) just couldn’t keep up with the shooters moving without the ball while Miles Plumlee (12 points, 4 rebounds) could only do so much against the Memphis big men. Randolph, Marc Gasol (18 points, 8 rebounds) and Mike Conley (14 points, 7 assists) combined to score 25 of their 30 points in the final quarter. These three have a lot of chemistry in their system and make the game look easy when running on all cylinders. And right now, going into the playoffs, they’re running on all cylinders. Mike Miller (21 points, 5-6 on 3-pointers) had the touch all night, knowing down jumper after jumper. As John Hollinger pointed out on Twitter, somebody at ESPN gave Memphis a 0.2 percent of making the playoffs in mid-December. They overcame those minuscule odds with a fantastic finish to the season. Eric Bledsoe (13 points, 5 assists, 6-16 from the field) and Goran Dragic (14 points, 4 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 6-14 from the field) put it all out there Monday night but neither had a very efficient game. Markieff Morris (21 points, 10-16 from the field, 3 blocks) had one of his better games, continuing to make a case for Sixth Man of the Year. Phoenix just hurt themselves by really struggling from deep (5-26 on 3-pointers) and not going away from it. As frustrating as it is for the Suns to work so hard to try and grab a playoff spot with so many other teams tanking under them, the future is just around the corner for this franchise. They have a quality coach, two electric guards, a plethora of draft picks and plenty of raw, young talent. Everyone a part of the organization can hold their heads high on a job well done for the 2013-14 season. Farewell for now, Phoenix Suns.
Warriors 130 (50-31), Timberwolves 120 (40-41)
With the win, the Warriors picked up their 50th win on the year and locked up the six seed in the West, meaning they’ll either play the Thunder or Clippers in the 1st round…and the other possibly in the next round. Stephen Curry (32 points, 15 assists, 7-13 on 3-pointers) had another 30-15 game, continuing to look like a man that do serious damage (again) come playoff time. Curry now has four 30-15 games on the season, the most in franchise history. They certainly had to fight, though, to get the win as Minnesota looked really good early on. After only 12 minutes of play, Kevin Love (40 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists) already had 22 points and the Wolves had scored 42 points—the most given up in a quarter by the Warriors all season. The Timberwolves continued to pour it on early in the 2nd quarter, extending their lead to 51-32 with 9:08 to go in the 2nd quarter. The Dubs then went on a 30-13 run to close out the half and get within two points. Even without defensive anchor Andrew Bogut (fractured rib), who might have a more serious injury than expected and is out indefinitely, the Warriors used strong team defense to get back in the game. The 2nd half was all about offense as the Warriors put up 68 points, running away with the victory. David Lee (25 points, 9 rebounds), Klay Thompson (20 points) and Draymond Green (career-high 20 points, 12 rebounds) all reached the 20-point plateau while Gorgui Dieng (14 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks) earned another double-double. The Warriors were active defensively, grabbing 13 steals and forcing 21 turnovers. They turned those 21 turnovers into 32 points, which was a huge advantage down the stretch.