by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
The Playoffs are right around the corner and last night’s slate of games proved to be important, especially out West. This time of the year is also “Tanking Season” and last night, some of the worst teams in the league put on a suck-a-thon. Catch up on all the action below…
Earlier this week, I wrote that the Celtics were one of the most dangerous teams heading into the playoffs. That was obviously the kiss of death for them. DeMar DeRozan scored 13 of his 22 in the third quarter and hit a few clutch free throws down the stretch to fend off the Celtics for a five-point victory up North. The Raptors trailed 36-30 at the half, but opened up the third quarter with a 17-4 run that helped them end the period with a ten-point lead. In the fourth, T.Dot stretched their lead to 15 and were able to hold off a late Celtics run to notch the victory. Paul Pierce scored 18 to lead the Celtics and Rajon Rondo dropped 12 dimes which marked his 20th straight game with 10+ assists.
The Sixers have been stumbling down the stretch and last night’s loss to the Nets may have been the low point of the season thus far. Gerald Green scored 23 points, MarShon Brooks dropped 22 and Kris Humphries had a double-double with 18 points and 13 boards as the Nets won their 13th road game of the season. With the game tied at 85 in the fourth, the Nets went on a 5-0 run that was capped off by a Gerald Green three-pointer that proved to be the dagger. The Sixers shot a putrid 1-10 from behind the arc and committed 16 turnovers as they continue to slip down the standings in the East. Jrue Holiday finished with 19 points and 6 dimes and Evan Turner scored 18 points to go along with 7 boards.
With Dwight Howard out indefinitely due to a back injury, the Hawks took full advantage and blew out the depleted Magic down in Orlando. Jannero Pargo hit five 3-pointers to finish with 17 points, and Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Marvin Williams each finished 16 in the double-digit win. With the Magic down 74-60 late in the third, the Hawks went on a 15-2 run that pushed the lead to 27 making for an anti-climatic finish. Big Baby filled in for D12 and scored 16 points while grabbing 9 boards and Von Wafer scored 16 off the bench, but no other Magic player scored in double-digits.
With last night’s victory, the Pacers have officially clinched a playoff berth so a big congratulations to them on their successful regular season. Indiana got off to a slow start, falling behind 32-18 in the second quarter but eventually cut the lead to two at the half. They then used that momentum to outscore Cleveland 34-13 in the third quarter while holding the Cavs to 3-18 shooting and forcing 5 turnovers. With the win, Indy improved their April record to 7-1, good enough for tops in the league. Six Indiana players scored in double-figures including Danny Granger who scored 18 and Tyler Hansbrough who came off the bench to score 16. The Cavs shot a dismal 35 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers in the loss.
On his 33rd birthday, Baron Davis treated Knicks fans to a season-high 18-point performance as the Knicks cruised to a 38 point victory over the hapless Wizards. New York jumped out to a 26-13 lead after the first quarter and continued to pour it on, stretching the lead to as many as 43 at one point. J.R. Smith led all scorers with 23 points (9-15, 4-8 from three) and dropped 6 dimes. Melo scored 18 points and Steve Novak also scored 18 off the bench. The Knicks held the Wizards to 27.8 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers as DC put together a pitiful performance in the Big Apple. Jordan Crawford scored 17 on 6-20 shooting and John Wall scored 8 points on 2-12 shooting.
Another blowout last night down in South Beach. With Dwyane Wade sidelined due to a sore ankle, the Heat jumped out to a 22-9 lead in the first and never trailed. LeBron led the way with 19 points, 9 boards and 5 assits, Chris Bosh scored 18 and Dexter Pittman came out of nowhere to score a season-high 16 points. For the Bobcats, Derrick Brown scored 21 as Charlotte dropped its 51st game of the season.
Another game, another double-digit discrepancy. The Bucks opened up the second half with a 28-13 run and turned a five point halftime lead into a 20-point difference. Drew Gooden finished with 26 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds as he wraps up his very strong second half of the season. Brandon Jennings scored 20 points and dropped 10 dimes while backcourt mate Monta Ellis scored 18 points and dished out 7 assists. As a team, the Bucks tallied 36 assists while only committing 11 turnovers which led to all five starters scoring in double-figures. For the Pistons, Brandon Knight put together a 25-point, 8-assist performance and Ben Gordon scored 24 off the bench.
Perhaps New Orleans was feeling rejuvenated after getting the news that they were being bought by Saints owner Tom Benson. The Hornets used a 13-0 run fourth quarter run to put the game out of reach and hurt Utah’s chances at making the playoffs. During the run, Marco Belinelli came up big on both ends of the ball. On the defensive end, Belinelli picked Alec Burks’ pocket then drained a three on the other end to push the Hornets’ lead to four; a lead they never relinquished. Eric Gordon scored a team-high 25 points and the Hornets are now 4-2 with him in the lineup. The Jazz picked the wrong team to lose to one of the bottom feeders of the Western Conference. With the loss, Utah now finds themselves one and a half games behind the Nuggets with only six games to go.
The Suns gutted out a huge road win in Houston last night and kept their playoff hopes alive. After Courtney Lee cut the lead to two in the third, the Suns buckled down defensively and only allowed the Rockets to score one more field goal in the quarter while pushing their lead to 14. Marcin Gortat posted a double-double with 20 points and 15 boards, Steve Nash had 18 points (10 in the third) to go along with his 10 assists and Jared Dudley dropped 19 in the win. With the win, the Suns pulled themselves within one game of Houston for the eighth seed in the West.
The Thunder got out to a slow start and only led by two heading into the second quarter last night in Oklahoma City. But in the second, the Thunder exploded, outscoring the Kings 35-18 and shooting 75 percent from the field to turn their two-point lead into a 19-point cushion. Kevin Durant finished with 29 points and 9 boards, Serge Ibaka blocked 7 shots and Russ Westbrook had a stat line of 22-points, 6-boards and 5-assists. The Thunder starting five was able to sit the whole fourth quarter as they rested up for tonight’s second game of a back-to-back against the Timberwolves. For Sacramento, rookie Isaiah Thomas scored 21 points in the loss. Though Kyrie Irving will most likely earn Rookie of the Year honors, Thomas should not be overlooked. The last pick of the draft has put together a great season and the future is bright for that young man.
Behind Andrew Bynum’s 30 points and 8 boards and Matt Barnes’ season-high 24 points, the Kobe-less Lakers held off the Nuggets in Los Angeles to clinch a playoff berth. The Lakers led most of the way and after Denver cut the lead to one in the fourth, Matt Barnes responded with six straight points to put the game out of reach in the final minute. Along with Kobe, coach Mike Brown was missing in action last night. The first-year coach left the arena pre game for undisclosed reasons; hopefully it’s nothing too serious. For the Nuggets, Andre Miller had 20 points, 6 assists and 6 boards while Aaron Afflalo finished with 18.
The Mavs led by 16 with less than four minutes to go in the game before the Blazers came storming back and nearly stole one from the visiting team. After Portland went on a 19-5 run to pull within four with less than a minute remaining, Dirk hit two huge free throws and Brandan Wright finished a fast break with a dunk that ultimately put the game away. With LaMarcus Aldridge shut down for the rest of the season with a hip season, it seems like Portland’s hopes of making the playoffs have vanished. Dirk finished with 24 and 9, Shawn Marion scored a double-double with 17 and 14 and Delonte West scored 21 and dished out 7 dimes in the win.
Play of the Night: LeBron with the block and full court jam.
Dunks of the Night: KD and Russ Westbrook each throw down monster dunks
John Wall catches the oop on top of Baron Davis’ head.
Tonight: Seven more games on the slate, I’ll catch y’all tomorrow!