by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Pacers (44-13) 101, Bucks (11-46) 96
The best team in the East probably wasn’t expecting much of a fight from the conference’s worst, but the Pacers got just that on Thursday. Indiana blew a big early lead, but held on and eventually distanced themselves from the Bucks in the final minutes. Roy Hibbert took advantage of Milwaukee’s front court and went for 24 points (10-16 shooting) and 12 rebounds to lead the Pacers, blocking two shots as well. Indiana went up by 17 in the first half before letting Milwaukee back in it, falling behind in the third quarter before rallying. Paul George and Lance Stephenson both put up 18 for Indy.
Brandon Knight helped keep Milwaukee in it until the final minutes, scoring 23 points and hitting 3-7 from long range. Khris Middleton pitched in 22 for the Bucks, who still have not won two in a row this season. For the record, the the 1972-73 76ers, owners of the worst record in NBA history at 9-73, had two two-game winning streaks.
Wizards (30-28) 134, Raptors (32-26) 129 (3OT)
Two up-and-coming Eastern Conference Playoff teams played one of the games of the year in the T-Dot, with the Wizards winning a battle of attrition in three overtimes. With too many heroic moments to count, both teams got standout performances from multiple players and serious grit from the guys left standing by the end of the game.
(GIF via @SBNation)
John Wall (31 points, 9 assists, 3 steals) threw the Wiz on his back as the game wore on, blocking a Kyle Lowry layup attempt at the end of the first OT and getting two crucial steals in the third OT, assisting on fastbreak baskets after both, and sealed the game when he blew by the exhausted Raptors defense for a layup. The Wizards got a career game from Marcin Gortat, who tallied 31 points (career high), 12 rebounds and 4 blocks before fouling out with a minute left in the game.
DeMar DeRozan (34 points, 11-23 from the field, 12-14 from the line) and Grievis Vasquez (26 points, 4-9 from deep, 8 assists) both did their parts for the Raptors, helping to keep the team afloat for stretches of the game. Vasquez was killing Washington in the fourth with an array of weird floaters and jumpers, scoring 14 points in the quarter to help the Raps get to OT.
DeRozan did everything for Toronto in the OTs, getting to the line and hitting 8-10 in the extra frames, scoring 14 points after regulation. He forced the third overtime with a pivoting layup with 2 seconds left on the clock. The Raps also got a game effort from Lowry, who just missed a triple double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists despite playing through a rolled ankle suffered at the end of regulation. In all, four players fouled out and seven played more than 40 minutes as the Wizards won in their second triple-OT game of the season.
Heat (41-14) 108, Knicks (21-37) 82
There’s no nice way to say this: the Heat embarrassed the Knicks on national television Thursday night. That’s hard to do in a season full of lows for New York, but Miami absolutely blistered the Knicks, as few players seemed interested at all in stopping the Heat freight train. LeBron James, rocking a terrifyingly awesome black, carbon fiber-looking mask to protect his busted nose, ran wild, scoring 31 points on 13-19 shooting. Dwyane Wade finished off his hot February with another efficient game, scoring 23 points on 10-13 shooting in just 27 minutes.
To be fair, New York did lock in defensively for a short stretch, coming back from a big early deficit to get with five points at halftime and getting within three points with 8:36 to go in the third. Miami steamrolled everything in their path from that point, taking off on a 23-3 run to end the quarter. The Heat were blistering all night, shooting 60 percent from the floor. Carmelo Anthony, as always, did everything he could for the Knicks, putting up 29 points, while Tyson Chandler had 19 points and 16 boards, but didn’t appear as if anyone else was interested in getting in Miami’s way. And really, would you want to get in LeBron’s way when he looks like this?
(GIF via r/NBA)
Nets (27-29) 112, Nuggets (25-32) 89
If the Knicks got embarrassed, what do we say about the Nuggets? The Brooklyn Nets, coming off their worst loss in a decade, came into the Mile High City and blew the Nuggets off their home floor. Yes, those Nets, the second oldest team in the league, playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Brooklyn led from the opening basket, getting out to a 29-8 lead after one quarter and never letting the margin slip below 20, pushing it as high as 38. Paul Pierce led the way with 18 points in just 22 minutes as every player on the Nets roster got in the scoring column. Marcus Thornton popped in 10 off the bench, Shaun Livingston had 8 points and 8 assists and Andray Blatche had 9 points and 9 rebounds.
Brian Shaw’s Nuggets are in world of hurt. They’ve lost nine of their last 10 games, with all but two of those losses coming by double digits. Shaw has openly lamented the lack of effort and pride his squad has shown in their craft. The Nuggets definitely showed a lack of focus, at the very least, on Thursday, shooting 37.5 percent and turning the ball over 24 times. Injuries have played a part, as Ty Lawson missed another game with broken ribs, Wilson Chandler and Darrell Arthur both sat and Nate Robinson is gone for the season. But no NBA game should be described as being “like a pickup game,” as Joe Johnson told the Denver Post after the game.