by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
Hope everyone had a relaxing weekend, because the last week of the NBA season is about to stress us all out. Thursday night marks the end of the ’11-12 season for non-Playoff teams, and there’s still plenty more post-season positioning set to shake out in the meantime. But, will Metta World Peace be around to enjoy it with us? Read on.
What a way to start of Sunday’s slate, huh? With Tyson Chandler sitting, the Hawks came out firing, taking a 5-point lead into halftime. But Carmelo Anthony scored 39 points, Amar’e Stoudemire had a more typical Amar’e showing (22 points and 12 rebounds) and Baron Davis was spry enough to dish out 10 dimes as the Knicks outlasted the Hawks in the clutch. Both teams shot 54 percent from the field, and Atlanta was led by a surprisingly big game from Marvin Williams, who finished with 29 points and 11 boards. Atlanta put the ball in Williams’ hands on its final possession—down by one with under 5 ticks to go—but his hard attack to the rim was not only rejected, but was too late:
Basketball, bitches! Los Angeles rallied back from an 18-point deficit to force overtime, and Kobe Bryant put on a vintage display to carry the Lakers to a victory that could have post-season reverberations. Kobe scored 6 of his 26 in the second overtime, many coming on buckets with a ridiculously high degree of difficulty, plus had 8 assists and 6 boards on the day in leading L.A. back. Not to be forgotten, Pau Gasol poured in 20 points, 14 rebounds and 9 assists. Kevin Durant scored 35 points, but needed 34 (!) field goal attempts to get there, and sidekick Russell Westbrook had a woeful 3-22 shooting night (14 points, 10 assists). The Lakers were down 11 with under 4 to play, but rallied like crazy, taking a 2-point lead on a Kobe trey before Westbrook tied things from the free throw line. Despite a motley crew around him (Jordan Hill back?), Kobe took charge in the OTs and the Lakers completed the biggest comeback of their season to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Thunder. And yet, as awesome as this game was in the end, it got off to a disgusting start, as Metta World Peace delivered a forceful elbow directly into James Harden’s face with 1:37 to go in the first half. MWP was apologetic, but Harden suffered a concussion, meaning both players’ futures are in doubt as we head toward the first round of the Playoffs.
And with that, the Bobcats’ franchise-record losing streak has hit 20 straight games. DeMarcus Cousins dropped 29 points and 10 rebounds, as the Kings dominated Bismack Biyombo and friends inside—78 points in the paint—and Tyreke Evans was extremely efficient, shooting 10-11 from the field for 22 points. Charlotte had 21 turnovers, while Sacramento had just 8, shot 55 percent from the floor for the night and led from start to finish (and by as many as 35). If the Bobcats lose their final 3 games (Washington, Orlando and New York), they’ll finish with the worst winning percentage in NBA history.
LeBron James scored 11 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter as the Heat officially eliminated the Rockets from Playoff contention, capping Houston’s late-season collapse. Even with no Wade, Bosh, Chalmers or Turiaf, Miami blew past the Rockets with a 31-19 fourth quarter. Houston was sloppy, as the Heat got 28 points off Houston’s 19 turnovers, and Miami finished 28-5 this season at home, good for second-best in team history. Chandler Parsons led 5 Rockets in double figures with 23 points, but Houston was without Kyle Lowry yet again, whose season was crippled by a post-All-Star break bacterial infection.
Ping-pong balls, y’all! It’s hard to imagine players literally tanking a basketball game, but watching this game might have convinced you otherwise, as both teams shot around 37 percent from the field, neither team scored more than 19 points in either of the first two quarters and Detroit eeked out an ugly win on its home court. Ben Gordon scored 19 points, and 7 of the Pistons’ last 8 in the game, while Alan Anderson missed two potential go-ahead shots in the final 22 seconds (including one that looked like a blatant goaltend by Greg Monroe). DeMar Derozan had 16 points but “curiously” didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter.
Nothing to see here—just San Antonio’s 7th straight W, this time with no Tim Duncan, to put the Spurs 1.5 games up on Oklahoma City for first place out West. How good did they look? Consider this: Tony Parker played 21 minutes, only took 5 shots and scored 6 points, but the Spurs shot 55 percent and held a comfortable lead for most of the game. Manu Ginobili had 20 points, Stephen Jackson had 17 and Danny Green 14 as San Antonio rolled. Antawn Jamison led all scorers with 21, while Kyrie Irving scored 19 but shot just 8-18 from the field and had just 3 assists to go with 4 turnovers.
Charles Jenkins hates tanking. Or he doesn’t know how it works. Either way, Jenkins played all 48 minutes against the Timberwolves, scored a game-high 24 points and handed out 9 assists to help the Warriors to a win. Even after Minnesota scored 55 first-half point, the Wolves shot just 37 percent for the game, and could manage only 13 points in the fourth quarter. Brandon Rush hit a corner three with just over a minute remaining to give the Dubs a 90-88 lead, and Golden State hung on, completing a 21-point comeback.
At halftime, this game was tied at 44. In the second half, the Nuggets won by 27. Denver’s now won 6 of its last 8 games—this time behind 17 apiece from Javale McGee and Danilo Gallinari. The only guy who could get anything going for Orlando was Ryan Anderson, who scored a game-high 24 and hauled in 9 rebounds, but the Magic shot 37 percent and were outscored 28-12 in the fourth quarter. The second half basically became a layup line alley-oop session for the Nuggs, as Andre Miller threw it up for McGee and Kenneth Faried over and over again.
With the Lakers winning earlier in the day, the Clippers needed to win just to keep their hopes alive for the Pacific Division title. They got a scare from the Hornets—who led by double digits late in the game—but thanks to an insane 33-point, 13-assist, 8-steal line from Chris Paul, 6 Randy Foye threes and a fourth quarter in which they outscored NOLA 33-14, Lob City did just that. The Lakers have the 3-seed by a half-game; if the Clippers win their last two and the Lakers lose their last one, it would be the first Pacific Division title in Clipper franchise history. Respect!
Line of the Night: It’s either Melo’s 39 and 10, Pau Gasol, who racked up 20 points, 14 boards and 9 dimes, or Chris Paul, who is just insane—who flirts with a triple double with steals?
Stat of the Night: Since beating the Bulls on April 1, the Thunder are 0-6 against Playoff teams.
Moment of the Night, Bad Version: The artest formerly known as Ron Artest, throwin’ bows.
Moment of the Night, Good Version: CP3′ eyes in the back of his head ignited the Clips’ monster run.
Dunk of the Night: OKC may have taken the L, but I liked this dunk from Durant.
Tonight: A half-dozen games on Monday, including the Nets’ final home game in New Jersey…ever.