Post Up: Thunder Knockout Heat
OKC takes down Miami; Celts get back on track.
by Adam Figman | @afigman
Another strong win for the Nugs. This makes them 9-2 since the Melo trade, which, given that they were losing the dude anyway, means it was officially a damn good trade for Denver. Nene dropped a game-high 20, while Zaza Pachulia led the Hawks with 19. Also: The Hawks’ ability to switch back and forth from really great to freakin’ terrible on a night-to-night basis is confusing as hell. They oughta let fans know which mode they’ll be in during pre-game warmups or something.
Someone must’ve told formerly (seemingly) disgruntled pals Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince to un-disgruntle, because they were pretty enthusiastic last night, combing for 46 points and leading the Pistons to a win over the lowly Raptors. Greg Monroe added 21 and 10, while Andrea Bargnani (20 points) and the Raps shot 50 percent from the field in the loss.
Following a few rough losses, the Celts desperately needed a victory, and they picked one up at home against the cold-shooting Pacers. Jeff Green continues to acclimate to his new environment, as he put in 19 (13 in the second quarter), while Paul Pierce dropped the game high of 20. The top of the East is a Chicago-Boston tie once again.
Beyond Dwight Howard’s beastly 31 and 22 effort, the Magic did little right, but they pulled enough good fortune to grab the win in overtime (yeah, a 93-89 game that included an OT session) and earned Orlando an official spot in the Playoffs. Brandon Jennings scored 23 for Milwaukee, a team that’s simply not playing with the edge it needs to make a postseason push. Unfortunate. The Magic are back in Orlando tomorrow night to take on the Nuggets.
Steve Nash (8 points, 10 dimes) finally returned, but the Suns fell anyway, losing to a Hornets squad led by Chris Paul and his 26 points. It’ll be interesting to see if CP3 takes that shoot-first mentality into the Playoffs, and if he does, if they can avoid the first-round L they seem to be slowly heading towards. All-around good dude Jared Dudley led Phoenix with 25.
The Heat had the night’s (and maybe the year’s?) best highlight, but the Thunder got the W, holding Miami down late in the fourth with some solid defense. Kevin Durant scored 29, but keeping the Heat to 85 points off just 38.5 percent shooting was ultimately the X factor. (It turns out, no, you can’t use the term “X factor” without sounding insanely corny.) OKC’s new interior blend of strength (Kendrick Perkins) and length (Serge Ibaka) seems like it may evolve the team into a true contender, one that the Lakers will want no part of this May. And for Miami, well, now everybody knows how to beat them: Don’t let ‘em hit shots or get easy baskets, specifically late in the game. Easy enough?
The Rockets, now two and half games out of eighth out West, might have one last Playoff push left in them, and they’ll need to hurry up and make it if they want to challenge the Grizzlies’ spot. They breezed by the Bobcats, getting 21 from Kevin Martin and 19 from Chase Budinger. The W gives the Rockets two in a row, though tomorrow’s matchup with Boston might be a little more difficult.
CJ Miles went absolutely wild last night, dropping a 40 spot and leading the Jazz right through the TWolves at home. Al Jefferson also went for 26 and 11, as Utah shot 54.8 percent as a team during the victory. Kevin Love, perhaps gearing up for another monster double-double streak, scored 22 and grabbed 11.
Marcus Thornton’s scoring run continued, as he put in the game-high 23, but Sacto still fell to the Cavs in what was a battle between crews that’ll most likely be vying for that No. 1 lottery spot this June. So I guess this road W might do more harm than good, but some winning experience for some young guys never hurts much. Ramon Sessions dropped 20 for Cleveland.
The Warriors hopped out to a red-hot start, but the Mavs fought their way back down from 18, eventually jumping ahead and snatching the win in the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki provided a 34 and 18 effort, while Rodrique Beaubois‘ importance continues to swell, as he scored 18 and provided vital energy. Dallas will host the Spurs tomorrow night in what should be a good one.
The Sixers keep showing and proving their worth as a Playoff-ready squad, this time taking down the Clips in L.A. and moving alongside the Knicks for the sixth spot in the East. Elton Brand went for 19 and 12 (plus 5 blocks), while Jrue Holiday led Philly with 20.
Last Call: Dwyane Wade does something terrible to Kendrick Perkins: