by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
We eased into the weekend with four games on Thursday, and two had far greater intrigue and ramifications than the others—I’m talking of course about the Wizards and Hornets fighting for ping-poing balls! (Not.)
Pacers fans can breathe a sigh of relief—losses to the Nets and Wizards on back-to-back nights would have been downright shameful for a team hoping to make some noise came Playoff time. After playing one of his worst games of the year on Wednesday in Jersey, Danny Granger bounced back to lead Indiana with 25 points. And George Hill, who had scored a grand total of zero points over his previous two games, had 14 points off the bench. Still, the Pacers shot just 39 percent form the field and were outrebounded 45 to 40 by the Wiz. Luckily for Indiana, Washington only shot 42 percent, struggling from the 3-point line and the charity stripe (64 percent, 9 misses). Jordan Crawford led the team in scoring with 20, but needed 20 shots to get there, and with the Wizards down just 2 with 32 seconds left, John Wall (13 points, 2 assists, 5 turnovers) turned the ball over, spelling a fifth straight defeat for D.C.
Miami seems to remember the NBA Finals well. After last night’s drubbing—led by 19 points and 9 rebounds apiece for Chris Bosh and LeBron James—the Heat completed the 2-game sweep of Dallas this season, exacting what minimal revenge they could against the team that made saddled them with the title of “runner-up” in 2010-11. Miami snapped a two-game slide and extended its home win streak to a ridiculous 15 games, finally reversing their rebounding struggles by outdoing Dallas 44 to 29 in that department en route to the W. Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points, but shot just 1-9 in the second half, and the Mavs were outscored 26-13 in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks could muster only 2 fast break points the entire game, as opposed to 13 for the Heat. Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem scored 16 points each, while Jason Terry—who was a Miami killer in the Finals—shot just 1-10 from the floor and finished with 3 points in his 31 minutes of action.
LaMarcus Aldridge racked up 25 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists, Wes Mathews scored 18 points and Ray Felton had 12 points and 10 assists as Portland eeked out a win over the Hornets, who are now 3-7 over their last 10 games. Even Luke Babbitt (I know what you’re thinking—who??) scored a career-high 16 points, including 4 threes as the Trail Blazers fought off the pesky Hornets. New Orleans actually led for most of the first half, and even stuck around as the Blazers jumped out to an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter. But alas, even with Marco Bellinelli stroking 7 three-pointers and dropping a game-high 27 points, the Hornets just didn’t have the fourth-quarter firepower to upend PDX. As BlazersEdge puts it, “the Blazers did what fringe playoff contenders do: hold off lottery teams at home.” Still, the best part of this game came in the final seconds, on a meaningless Chalupa-erasing pair of missed Felton free throws.
Russell Westbrook received an inbounds pass with 2.9 seconds left in the third quarter and promptly sprinted upcourt, stopped, popped and drained a three-pointer to beat the buzzer. It was the exclamation mark on a big evening for both he and his Thunder, as it put OKC up by 10 heading into the fourth, and came complete with finger gun celebration. Westbrook dropped 27 of his 36 points in the second half, and sparked an 11-0 Thunder run to start the second half. His buddy Kevin Durant chipped in 21 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists and OKC scored 25 fast break points. Los Angeles’ inability to keep up with fresh legs for at least one night was ironic considering it was the return of 37-year-old Derek Fisher—who scored 7 points in 16 minutes for the Thunder after coming out to a standing ovation. Kobe Bryant scored 23 points and got help in the form of 25 points and 13 rebounds from Andrew Bynum (and hey, zero 3-point attempts!), but even when the Lakers cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 7 with 40 seconds remaining, it was simply too little too late for L.A. The Thunder have now won 5 straight and 6 of their last 7 games, while the Lakers are now just a game and a half up on the Clippers for the 3-spot in the West. After starting out the year 18-2 at home, the Lakers have lost 3 of their last 4 at Staples Center.
Line of the Night: 36 points, 6 assists, 1 turnover for Russell Westbrook. RW had 27 in the second half.
Moment of the Night: Check out the DFish tribute video the Lakers played at Staples Center prior to last night’s game. Classy move, L.A.
Dunk of the Night: LeBron throws down nice, twice. And KD puts one on Pau Gasol’s head.
Tonight: Before this weekend becomes engulfed in college hoops tomorrow night, enjoy the dozen NBA games on deck for Friday. ESPN’s got Mavs-Magic and Blazers-Clippers for a national audience, while League Pass addicts can enjoy Grizzlies-Rockets and Celtics-Wolves. Pete’s got all your recaps until Monday, so be easy.