by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
Today is the final day of the NBA regular season. Crazy, ain’t it? It’s been a roller coaster ride this year, with 66 games crammed into a tight window—forcing us fans to consume and digest like we have the metabolism of a world-class athlete, while simultaneously stuffing our faces with appropriate gameday snacks. I, for one, am a bit bloated (metaphorically, of course). But it won’t be the same after tonight, so soak up one last slate of regular season hoops action, and let’s get ready for the Playoffs—or the Lottery, depending on your team’s disposition. First things first, there were 7 games last night. Chow down:
In today’s edition of “the Bobcats are so bad…” the end to the sentence is this: JJ Redick hit 6 threes and scored a career-high 31 points. It’s Charlotte’s 22nd loss in a row—four shy of the NBA’s all-time record, set last year by the Cavaliers—and assuming the Knicks take care of business tonight, the Bobcats will be forever known as the League’s worst team, winning percentage-wise at least. Orlando clinched the No. 6 seed in the East despite being without Glen Davis after he sprained his right ankle in the first quarter, setting up a first-round matchup with Indiana. Ryan Anderson played Redick’s sidekick role, notching a 24×13 double-double. DJ Augustin kept the ‘Cats competitive, at very least, with 23 points.
Don’t look now, but the Wizards have won 5 games in a row, extending the longest franchise winning streak since 2007. John Wall damn near went quad-double last night, torching the Cavs for 21 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds and 7 steals, while Kyrie Irving was held to just 10 minutes of playing time (all in the first quarter) during which he had 5 points and 1 assist. In the third quarter alone, Wall had 12 points, 6 dimes and 4 steals—creating 24 of the team’s 28 points in the frame. Rookie Jan Vesely had a career-high 12 rebounds for Washington, which won the rebounding battle 50-42 overall. Ex-St. John’s standout and recent D-Leaguer DJ Kennedy led Cleveland with 12 points in his first-ever NBA appearance. Great for him, not so great a showing from the rest of the Cavs.
Even with Derrick Rose still a bit rusty (10 points, 3-11 shooting), the Bulls got past the Pacers, who rested Danny Granger and Leandro Barbosa with no Playoff positioning at stake. Carlos Boozer (16 points, 7 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (14 and 14) dominated down low, and Kyle Korver scored 20 points as the Bulls won the season series with Indiana, 2-1. For a while, it was Korver vs. Lance Stephenson—who scored a career-high 22 points on 10-15 shooting in his first NBA start. Born Ready! Unfortunately, Lance alone wasn’t enough to stop the Bulls, who were up 49-36 at halftime and led from wire to wire in this one. But I do have to give a special shout-out to Post Up super-sub Eldon, who’s made it his life’s work/personal mission to see Lance succeed (or at least contribute) in the L—and won’t hesitate to tell you about it (evidence via his Twitter feed). Enjoy this one, fam!
When Landry Fields threw down an alley-oop from JR Smith to push the Knicks’ lead to 90-72 with less than 8 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, it looked like this one was all over. But after a 14-1 run cut the lead to 5, Lob City later pulled to within one point with 52 seconds left on a ridiculous one-handed Blake Griffin fadeaway. That’s as close as the Clippers would get, though—they sit at No. 5 in the West right now, which means a 4-5 matchup with the Grizzlies would start in Memphis as of this moment. Griffin had a game-high 29 points and 10 rebounds and Randy Foye scored 28 as Chris Paul took the night off, but New York’s bench outscored L.A.’s 43 to 20, six Knicks scored in double figures and Smith (21 points) sparked the win down the stretch. Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points but watched from the sidelines in the fourth quarter.
As recently as a week ago, this looked like it would be a game with massive Playoff implications. But thanks to Milwaukee’s collapse and the Sixers’ righting of the ship, it was simply a formality. Evan Turner scored a career-high 29 points (plus 13 rebounds, 6 assists) while Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Thaddues Young sat this one out, and despite the Bucks making it as close as 3 with 40 seconds to go, Philadelphia came away with the win. Then again, they may not have wanted it—since the Knicks won, a Philly loss would have locked them into the 1-8 matchup with Chicago. Brandon Jennings scored a team-high 19 for an equally shorthanded Bucks team that was without Monta Ellis, Ersan Ilyasova, Drew Gooden and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
Ty Lawson scored 25 points and Derek Fisher missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with roughly ten seconds to go (oddly enough, it came off a dribble handoff from Kevin Durant), as Denver escaped OKC with a win. The Nuggets are now all but locked in to the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, which would set up a first-round series with the Lakers. Rookie Kenneth Faried continues to be a beast in the middle—he picked up his 12th double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds—and he was one of 7 Denver players to score in double figures. Russell Westbrook scored 30 points, plus had 9 assists and 6 rebounds, while Durant scored 32 points—which means Kobe Bryant will need 38 points tonight against Sacramento to beat out KD for the ’12 scoring title.
With the West in hand, the Spurs sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and, yes, head coach Gregg Popovich back to San Antonio to rest up as the team takes care of the final two games of the regular season. The first was last night in Phoenix, where Steve Nash may have played his final game in a Suns uniform. If the “We Want Nash!” chants that began in the fourth quarter weren’t enough to keep Nashty around, he’ll end his tenure as the team’s PG with an 8-point, 7-assist performance. There was, technically, a real game going on here (I only know because ESPN televised it), during which Patty Mills scored a game-high 27 points and the Spurs outscored the Suns 22 to 6 on fast break points.
Line of the Night: Candidates include BG’s 29-10-6, Redick’s career-best 31, a near-quad for Wall, Westbrook’s 30-6-9 and ET The Kid’s 29-13-6. Cast your ballot accordingly.
Dunk of the Night: Kevin Durant posterizes Javale McGee. WOW, KD. WOW.
Tonight: A lucky 13 games are all that stands between us and the 2012 NBA Playoffs.