Post Up: Heat on Top

by Brett Weisband | @weisband

Wizards (41-38) 96, Magic (23-56) 86

It wasn’t pretty by any means, but the Wizards picked up a win over the Magic on Friday. They did so despite shooting under 43 percent, as the Magic were even worse at 41 percent. Nene led Washington with 17 points, Bradley Beal kicked in 16 and John Wall (10 points, 12 assists) notched a double-double, overcoming a 3-10 night from the floor. Coupled with a Bobcats loss, the Wizards moved back into sixth in the East.

Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 19 points, while Jameer Nelson went for 12 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds. The Magic went cold in the fourth, hitting just 4-15 from the field as the Wizards pulled away.

Knicks (34-45) 108, Raptors (46-33) 100

With their Playoff chances on life support, the Knicks got a win in Toronto to keep a glimmer of hope alive. Carmelo Anthony shook off his shoulder injury – which he’s refused an MRI on – to score 30 points on 8-17 shooting. Amar’e Stoudemire looked like his old self, continuing his hot spring with 24 points and 11 boards. Despite the W, the Knicks are just one loss (or an Atlanta win) away from being officially eliminated.

The Raptors went through several long scoring droughts and dropped their chance to clinch the Atlantic Division for the just the second time in franchise history. The good news for Toronto was that they had their starting five intact with Amir Johnson’s return to the lineup. DeMar DeRozan put up 26 points, Kyle Lowry had 25 and Jonas Valanciunas continued his tear, going for 14 points and 21 rebounds.

Celtics (24-55) 106, Bobcats (40-39) 103

Boston squeaked past the Bobcats, using a team effort to overcome a monster game from Al Jefferson. All five Celtics starters hit double figures in scoring and the team shot 52 percent from the field, hanging on to win after the ‘Cats clawed back in the final minutes. Avery Bradley scored 22 points, Jared Sullinger had 20 and hit the clinching free throws, and Jeff Green and Brandon Bass dropped 18 apiece.

Charlotte nearly erased a seven-point hole in the final two minutes, carried by two big buckets from Big Al, who finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds. Gary Neal had 13 off the bench for the Bobcats, who were without Kemba Walker and saw their five-game winning streak come to an end. Charlotte drops back behind Washington in the standings with the loss. 

Hawks (36-43) 93, Nets (43-36) 88

Atlanta managed to hold off the Nets to drop their magic number for clinching a Playoff spot to one. The Hawks let an 11-point lead in the third quarter slip away, but Paul Millsap (27 points, 10 rebounds) and Jeff Teague (22 points) handled business down the stretch to preserve the win; the two combined to score 13 of Atlanta’s 19 fourth quarter points. Teague also took the opportunity to destroy his brother Marquis with a crossover, National Sibling Day be damned: 

Nets fans can’t be too upset with the loss, as it puts their crosstown rivals a game away from being eliminated from the Playoff chase. In the loss, Paul Pierce (13 points) eclipsed the 25,000 point mark for his career, joining Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant as the only active players to reach that total. The Nets played without both Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston, both out with minor injuries. Mason Plumlee led Brooklyn with 17 points on a perfect 6-6 night off the bench.

Heat (54-25) 98, Pacers (54-26) 86

Miami made a statement to their rivals on Friday, blitzing the Pacers in a win that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates. LeBron James started the game on fire and finished with 36 points for the Heat, who scored the first 16 points of the second half and didn’t look back from there. With the win, the Heat take back possession of the top seed in the East, and they’re in position to lock up home court through the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami stretched its lead as large as 23 points in the second half, with Indiana making a few small runs that didn’t amount to much of a challenge. Mario Chalmers had 13 points, Chris Bosh had 10 and Udonis Haslem contributed 11 points, 9 rebounds and invaluable defense.

The Pacers’ offense showed signs of life at times, but they couldn’t string together enough coherent possessions in the second half to get the lead down. Paul George had 22 points and David West put up 18 points and 8 boards for Indy.

Of real concern is Roy Hibbert’s performance. The All-Star big man was smothered by Haslam and finished with 5 points and an astonishing 1 rebound, which seems impossible when you remember that he’s 7-foot-2. Hibbert’s numbers have gone taken a sharp dip as the season has worn on; he’s averaging 9.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and shooting 41 percent from the field since the All-Star Game.

Bulls (47-32) 106, Pistons (29-51) 98

The Bulls climbed out of a big hole and ran past the Pistons in the second half. After trailing for nearly the entire first half and being down by 18 midway through the third quarter, Chicago stormed to the lead with a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to grab the win. D.J. Augustin provided the spark off the bench with 24 points and 6 assists, picking up 8 points and 2 assists in the Bulls’ big run. Joakim Noah had 12 rebounds and 10 assists, but missed out on his second straight triple-double, scoring only 6 points. Taj Gibson chipped in 17 off the bench for the Bulls. It was a good night for Chicago in the standings, as they moved ahead of Toronto for third in the East and clinched home court in the first round with Brooklyn’s loss.

Andre Drummond was a monster in the losing effort, going for 26 points and 26 rebounds (somehow this only ties his career high in just his second season), including 12 offensive boards. Rodney Stuckey pitched in 22 for Detroit.

Grizzlies (47-32) 117, 76ers (17-62) 95

Memphis dominated the 76ers, keeping their window to make the Playoffs open. Marc Gasol put up 21 points and 10 rebounds, Mike MIller dropped in 19 off the bench and Zach Randolph had 10 points and 11 boards as the Grizzlies coasted. The win allowed them to pull even with Phoenix record-wise and into the final Playoff spot thanks to tiebreakers over the Suns. Memphis plays the Lakers on Sunday, followed by games against the teams they’re competiting with for a postseason berth – Phoenix and Dallas – to end the season.

Thad Young and Tony Wroten both went for 18, with Wroten taking it to the team that drafted him in 2012. The Sixers mercifully have just three games remaining on their schedule.

Timberwolves (40-39) 112, Rockets (52-27) 110

The only question about this game is where Corey Brewer ranks on the list of obscure players to ever drop 50. There is definitely no question that this was one of the most insane matchups of the season. Brewer went off for 51 points, just barely topping his previous career high of 29, and joining luminaries like Tracy Murray, Walt Wesley and Tony Delk in the 50-point club. He knocked down 19-30 shots for the Wolves while also swiping 6 steals, more than making up for Kevin Love’s absence.

Despite Brewer’s ridiculous night, Minnesota needed a last-second shot from Dieng (12 points, 20 rebounds) to escape with the win. The rookie bobbled the ball on the Wolves’ final possession, but gathered himself and knocked down a fall-away jumper to deliver the win. Minny was missing more than just Love, as Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Chase Budinger also sat out. Dante Cunningham pitched in 20 points and 13 rebounds and Ricky Rubio had 16 points and 10 assists.

James Harden put up a wacky of a stat line as well, going for 33 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists and 6 steals while making just 7 field goals. Harden drilled a triple with 17 seconds to go to tie it up before Dieng’s game winner. Chandler Parsons but up a 27-7-7 line for the Rockets, who are still without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley and are in danger of losing home court in the first round of the Playoffs.

Thunder (58-21) 116, Pelicans (32-47) 94

Oklahoma City pounded the short-handed Pelicans, using their star power to overwhelm a team that has none of its stars healthy. Kevin Durant had 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists and Russell Westbrook went for 24 points and 7 assists as the Thunder coasted to the W. OKC had a double-digit lead three minutes into the third and didn’t let up from there. Serge Ibaka nearly put up a triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 8 blocks. 

Already missing four of their top five players, the Pelicans suffered another blow when Tyreke Evans (13 points, 6 assists) went down with what was called a bone bruise in his knee. Darius Miller and Austin Rivers tied for the team lead with 18 points.

Bucks (15-64) 119, Cavaliers (32-48) 116

With the worst record in the League all but wrapped up, the Bucks figured it was safe to win a game, pulling one out against the Cavaliers. Brandon Knight went for 24 points and backcourt mate Ramon Sessions dropped in 20 as the Bucks shot 52 percent on the night. The two guards combined to score nine straight points and 11 of 13 for the Bucks as they pulled into the lead in the fourth quarter.

Dion Waiters scored 23 to lead the Cavs, Jarrett Jack had 21 off the bench and Tristan Thompson registered a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Spurs (62-18) 112, Suns (47-32) 104

The ever-incredible Spurs clinched the Association’s best record for the year, coming back from a major early deficit to get past the feisty Suns. San Antonio fell behind by 20 points in the first quarter, gradually working their way back into it. Kawhi Leonard (18 points) scored seven straight for the Spurs to break a tie in the fourth quarter, and Danny Green (career-high 33 points, 12-17 shooting, 7-10 from deep) hit one of his many 3-pointers to pad the lead with two minutes to go. Tony Parker returned to the lineup and scored 18 points in 24 minutes, while Tim Duncan sat on the second night of a back-to-back after tweaking his knee in Dallas on Thursday.

Eric Bledsoe did everything he could to carry the Suns with his point guard partner Goran Dragic on the bench with a sprained ankle. Bled went for 30 points (11-16 shooting), 11 rebounds and 9 assists, attacking the Spurs relentlessly and hitting all six of his shots in the lane. Gerald Green had one of his many scoring explosions this season, netting 27 in the start, while Markieff Morris had 20 off the bench. In the shuffle at the bottom of the West, the Suns slid down to ninth place with the loss.

Trail Blazers (52-28) 111, Jazz (24-55) 99

Portland took care of business in the fourth quarter, riding Damian Lillard to the win late. When it came to crunch time, the All Star took over, scoring scoring 14 of his 16 points, including four triples, as the Blazers turned a two-point deficit into an 11-point lead over a five-minute span. LaMarcus Aldridge posted a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds and Wesley Matthews dropped 21 as all five members of the Portland starting unit scored in double figures. The Blazers are now a half-game behind Houston for fourth in the West with two games to go, both at home against the Warriors and Clippers.

Derrick Favors had 21 points on 10-18 shooting for the Jazz, while Enes Kanter (15 points, 13 rebounds) and Trey Burke (14 points, 11 assists) both notched double-doubles. Alec Burks showed what he can do with as a starter, going for 16 points on 7-11 shooting.

Warriors (49-30) 112, Lakers (25-54) 95

Steph Curry led the Warriors into the Playoffs in triple-double fashion, posting 30 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists as Golden State clinched a second straight Playoff berth. With the trip-dub, Curry matched Joakim Noah and Lance Stephenson for most in the Association with four each. The Dubs coasted against the Lakers and, even better, welcomed David Lee (10 points) back to the lineup after a seven-game absence. Marreese Speights put up 16 points off the bench, Klay Thompson matched him with 16 of his own and Steve Blake put up 13-5-5 against the team that dealt him earlier this year.

The Lakers hung around in the first half, but a run by the Warriors toward the end of the second quarter stretched the margin to double digits and L.A. never recovered. Nick Young went for 25 off the bench to lead the Lakers and Jordan Hill (18 points and 12 rebounds) and Ryan Kelly (14 and 11) both had double-doubles. The Lakers matched the most losses in a single season in franchise history in this lost year.