by Brett Weisband

Spurs (61-18) 109, Mavericks (48-32) 100

Nothing seems to slow the Spurs down. Despite missing Tony Parker and getting a scare when Tim Duncan hyperextended his knee in the first quarter, the Spurs still did their usual thing and grinded down the Mavericks over four quarters, dropping their magic number to clinch home-court advantage throughout the Playoffs to one. The Tim Duncan Robot was undeterred his knee tweak and went on to score 20 points and grab 15 rebounds, logging 39 minutes. Patty Mills was a bundle of joy playing in place of Parker, dropping 26 points on 9-25 shooting, hitting 6-11 from deep and showing no fear attacking the Mavs defense.

It was Kawhi Leonard, though, who dominated the game for San Antonio. The third-year swingman, a lynchpin of the Spurs’ defense, had 16 points and corralled 16 rebounds, including 6 offensive boards. Spending possessions guarding everyone from Monta Ellis to Dirk Nowitzki, Leonard’s importance to San Antonio can’t be underrated. In fact, the Spurs are 21-2 since he came back from his hand injury a little over two months ago, and they’re 53-11 with him in the lineup for the year. 

Ellis led the Mavs with 24 points, while Dirk dropped in 19. After leading at halftime, Dallas watched the Spurs methodically build up a double-digit lead. That lead came thanks to countless (actually, 15) offensive rebounds by San Antonio, undoing the good of the Mavs hitting on 47 percent of their field goal attempts to the Spurs’ 43 percent. Dallas has been in Playoff mode for the last few weeks, but it’s really crunch time now: they’re tied with Phoenix in the standings and a game ahead of Memphis, with their final two games coming against those very teams.

Nuggets (35-44) 100, Warriors (48-30) 99

With the Warriors on the verge of clinching a Playoff berth for the second straight season, the team that they eliminated from last year’s first round had something to say about it. Kenneth Faried (18 points, 17 rebounds) bullied his way into the paint and hit a twisting push shot with half a second left on the clock as the Nuggets downed the Dubs. Faried’s game-winner nearly overshadowed a monster game from Timofey Mozgov, who had a career night. The Russian big man went bonkers, scoring 23 points and grabbing a career-high 29 rebounds, just missing a franchise record. Randy Foye played a big role for the Nugs with Ty Lawson sitting out, going for 20 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. The Villanova product hit a 3-pointer late to give the Nuggets a 95-93 lead, followed by Faried scoring Denver’s final 5 points.

The Nuggets only managed to hit 37.5 percent from the field, but worked their way to a massive advantage on the glass, tallying 25 offensive rebounds to just 6 for the Warriors, earning them 16 more field goal attempts than their opponents. The Manimal (8 offensive boards) and Mozgov (9) both had more than the entire Warriors team.

Warriors fans thought they had the Playoff clincher in hand after leading by 20 in the first half and by double-digits midway through the third. Just seconds before Faried’s shot dropped in, Steph Curry (24 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) snared a rebound and took off up the floor. After getting a screen and dancing around several Nuggets defenders, Steph sliced into the lane and dropped in a smooth finger roll with less than 5 seconds on the clock to seemingly give Golden State the win. Klay Thompson chipped in 21 points in the loss.

The Warriors have another chance to clinch a Playoff spot Friday against the Lakers, but have to go on the road to see Portland and Denver in two of their final three games. Golden State is just a game up on Phoenix and Dallas, tied at the bottom of the postseason picture. Despite the loss, the Warriors gave their fans one of the highlights of the year, as Defensive Player of the Year candidate Andre Iguodala (6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) put Quincy Miller to bed with a vicious crossover: 

Related:
NBA Kicks of the Night – April 10