Post Up: West Gets Hotter

by Brett Weisband

Thunder (50-18) 102, Cavaliers (26-43) 95

After looking like they were going to coast to a win against a depleted Cleveland squad, things got hairy for the Thunder before they were able to squeeze out a victory. Oklahoma City went up by 24 points midway through the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers raced back into the game with a 16-0 blitz that stretched into a 22-2 run. OKC, guided by Kevin Durant’s steady hand, eventually quelled Cleveland’s rally. Durant stretched his streak of games with 25 or more points to 33, netting 35 points on 12-21 shooting, adding 11 rebounds and 6 assists. Serge Ibaka put up 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Reggie Jackson started for a resting Russell Westbrook and scored 13.

The short-handed Cavs, playing without Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng, rode Spencer Hawes (20 points, 8-17 shooting) back into the game. The trade deadline acquisition scored 9 of his points in the Cavs’ big comeback, including two triples. Dion Waiters carried Cleveland for much of the night, finishing with 30 points. Matthew Dellavedova handled most of the point guard duties, notching 11 points and a career-high 10 assists.

Rockets (46-22) 129, Timberwolves (34-33) 106

Even playing without Dwight Howard, the Houston blasted the Timberwolves at home. James Harden scored 28 points, including 6-10 shooting from long range, to lead seven players in double figures as the Rockets shot a blistering 58 percent from the field against a helpless Minnesota defense. Donatas Motiejunas scored a career-high 20 points for the Rockets, Chandler Parsons had 19 points and 9 rebounds and Jeremy Lin (11 points, 10 assists) came off the bench to record a double-double. Omer Asik had 12 points in Dwight’s stead, as well as a huge rejection: 

After trailing by just 10 at halftime, the Timberwolves watched the Rockets more than double that lead, taking it up to 21, within the first six minutes of the third quarter, effectively ending the game. Kevin Love scored 29 points, but was held to single-digit rebounds for the second game in a row, the first time all season he’s failed to grab 10 or more rebounds in two straight contests. Gorgui Dieng had a career game for the Wolves, going for 22 points and 21 rebounds, possibly explaining why Love couldn’t get his own double-double. Dieng has played well in Nikola Pekovic’s latest three-game absence, as the rookie has notched a double-double in all three games.

Trail Blazers (45-24) 116, Wizards (35-33) 103

Portland found the shooting touch that’s come and gone over the past few weeks, getting hot in the second half to dismiss the Wizards. Five different Trail Blazers nailed triples in the third quarter, hitting seven in total to stretch a 53-51 halftime lead to a 13-point margin by the start of the fourth. Wesley Matthews paced the crew, knocking down 4-9 from deep en route to 28 points. Damian Lillard went for 23 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds, and Nicolas Batum had 12 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists. As a team, Portland hit 14-35 from 3, finding their rhythm without LaMarcus Aldridge, still sidelined with a back injury.

John Wall, playing against his friend and adidas teammate Lillard, caught fire from deep as well. The All Star went 5-10 from beyond the arc and finished with a 24 point, 14 assist line. The Wizards nearly kept up with Portland’s 3-point shooting, hitting 12-27, but they weren’t quite as effective inside the arc as they made only 42 percent of their shots from the floor. Bradley Beal pitched in 18, and Drew Gooden had 18 points and 9 rebounds off the bench.

Warriors (44-26) 115, Bucks (13-56) 110

Golden State kept pace with Portland, notching a tougher-than-expected home win over the lowly Bucks. The Warriors let Milwaukee hang around all night, failing to close them out until the final seconds, but the Splash Brothers did plenty to keep them at arm’s length. Stephen Curry had 31 points (9-14 from the field, 3-5 on 3-pointers) and 11 assists and Klay Thompson had 29 points of his own, leading a 54 percent shooting night for the Dubs. David Lee chipped in yet another double-double (22 points, 12 rebounds) as the Warriors reached heights they haven’t seen in 20 years. 

The Bucks were led by Brandon Knight (27 points, 6 assists), who topped 20 points for the seventh time in eight games. Ramon Sessions had 18 off the bench and Giannis Antetokounmpo flashed his potential with 11 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Seven Bucks in total hit double figures in a well-rounded effort. The moral victory was outweighed by yet another injury, as starting PG Nate Wolters broke his hand in the first half.