by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
That LeBron fella can hoop, huh? Miami has now won 9 straight and 12 of the last 13. Oh, and OKC’s racked up 7 in a row, too. The rest of the NBA is on notice, so prep accordingly. Happy Friday to all, let’s get it.
Kevin Durant scored 38 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter, helping the Thunder overcome a 15-point deficit to beat the El Magic and improve to an NBA-best 29-7 on Noche Latina night in Orlando. Durant drilled a ridiculous fading jumper at the top of the key with just under a minute left to give Oklahoma City a five-point lead—too much for Orlando to overcome in the waning moments. The Magic did have one last chance to tie things up after Ryan Anderson nailed a three and Daequan Cook bricked a pair of free throws with 3 seconds left, but a Jason Richardson (16 points) 3-pointer bricked off the backboard at the buzzer, dropping Orlando to 23-14, despite 33 points and 9 boards from Dwight Howard. Russell Westbrook scored 29 points (17 in the first half) and had 10 assists, and OKC shot 51 percent from the field as a team. The Thunder are now 2-0 against the Magic this year and a Western Conference-best 14-7 away from home.
Minnesota came in on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back, while the Suns were playing their first game since the All-Star break, and the difference showed. An especially rested Steve Nash handed out 17 assists, plus had 13 points, and Phoenix shot 53 percent on field goals en route to their 15th win of the season. The Timberwolves, meanwhile, shot sub-40 percent, made only 1 of 13 three-pointers, and scored only 7 fast break points—rare for such an uptempo squad. Kevin Love returned after feeling sick last night, and delivered 23 points and 10 rebounds, but he shot 8-25 from the floor, Derrick Williams shot 2-10 (6 points) and Ricky Rubio only had 2 assists. Each team led by double-digits at different points in the game, but the Suns were hot in the second half, led by Grant Hill, who scored 15 of his 20 after halftime. The Wolves came within two points with 9 minutes to play, but Phoenix immediately went on a 9-0 run, and Minny never got closer than 7 thereafter. Marcin Gortat, who sealed it with a three-point play with about 1:30 to play, finished with 17 points.
Mo Williams hit all 4 of his 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and Chris Paul racked up 22 points and 9 assists as the Clippers cruised past the Kings, leading by 19 at one points. Williams finished with 18, Blake Griffin had 14 points and 9 rebounds and Lob Angeles shot a ridiculous 52 percent (12-23) from beyond the arc. Sacramento took yet another L (12-23) despite a monster game from DeMarcus Cousins—23 points, 10 boards, 3 blocks—and 18 points apiece from Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans. This one got testy between Reggie Evans and Francisco Garcia, with a cameo by Kenyon Martin, but on the scoreboard, it was all Clippers. L.A. had 30 assists to just 14 for SacTown, despite being outscored 18-12 in transition. The Clippers are now 21-12, having one the first game of a six-game road trip. The remaining five are visits to Phoenix, Houston, Minnesota, New Jersey and San Antonio—all in 7 days.
LeBron James wanted us all to shut up about the All-Star game business. 38 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals. Man, the Blazers must absolutely hate this dude—outside of Michael Jordan, Bron Bron has the highest career scoring average in Portland at 31.2 (MJ’s was 32.4) ppg. Suffice to say this one was over by halftime, when the Heat already had an 18-point lead, despite being without Chris Bosh for personal family reasons. In his absence, LBJ did his thing and Dwyane Wade did, too, chipping in a casual 33 points and 10 dimes. How crazy is that? 33 and 10 and it won’t even get talked about, since it wasn’t even the best line on his own team! Miami remains atop the East at 28-7, and won this game with only 6 fast break points (what!) while Portland actually kept pace in most statistical categories. LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 20 points, Jamal Crawford added 18 and new re-addition Joel Pryzbilla played 19 minutes (4 points, 6 boards) but PDX was no match for the men from the MIA. How does anyone score on this team? Lastly, on LeBron: say what you will about TNT’s post-game show, but I enjoyed this exchange (don’t worry, no Shaq) between Charles and the Jet. Chuck: “Hey man let me tell you something, LeBron James, whew, this guy is scary man.” To which Kenny replied: “He made Gerald Wallace not look like an athletic person.” Amen.
Line of the Night: KD goes for 38 and Nash drops 17 dimes, but LBJ’s 38/11/6/5 takes the cake.
Moment of the Night: Fast forward to the 0:47 mark for a shot only Durant can make, to beat Orlando.
Dunk of the Night: This is starting to look familiar…
Funny of the Night: When keeping it real alley-ooping goes wrong.
Tonight: Pete’s back for the weekend, which kicks off Friday with 11 games. ESPN has Warriors-Sixers and Clippers-Suns, but if you’re enjoying that free League Pass trial, be sure to keep an eye on Heat-Jazz and Rockets-Nuggets. I’ll be back on Monday to recap what should be an epic Heat-Lakers matchup on Sunday afternoon. Until then, be easy.