by Alex Shultz
Brooklyn Nets 88 (43-34), Miami Heat 87 (53-24)
It’s hard enough to block LeBron James, let alone in the closing seconds of a one-possession game. But that’s exactly what Mason “Plums” Plumlee did when James went up for the potential game-winning dunk. The Heat felt LeBron was fouled on the play, but their complaints fell on empty ears as the Nets beat Miami for the fourth time this season.
Joe Johnson led Brooklyn with 19 points and Marcus Thornton chipped in with 16 off the bench. Though the Nets only put up 88 points, they did so on an efficient 52.9 percent shooting. James had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists in the loss, which narrowed Miami’s lead over Indiana to half a game.
Detroit Pistons 102 (29-49), Atlanta Hawks 95 (34-43)
The Hawks had a chance to bring the Knicks even closer to the brink of playoff elimination with what looked like an easy home game against the Pistons. Detroit had other ideas though, handing Atlanta a costly defeat that changes the complexity of the “race” for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe combined for 40 points and 30 rebounds, owning the paint against Atlanta’s big men. Rodney Stuckey led all scorers with 29 points, and the Pistons were able to hang around sans an injured Josh Smith, who sat out with patella tendinitis in his left knee. Paul Millsap had 24 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.
The Hawks are now 1.5 games ahead of the Knicks with five games remaining on their schedule.
Minnesota Timberwolves 110 (39-38), San Antonio Spurs 91 (60-18)
The Spurs have lost two of their last three games after winning 19 in a row, though that’s hardly reason for concern. They’re 3.5 games ahead of the Thunder with four games remaining, meaning they’re basically a lock to have homecourt throughout the playoffs.
Still, on this particular night, the Timberwolves looked like the Western Conference contenders, despite missing Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin. Ricky Rubio had 23 points and 7 assists, while Kevin Love had 19 and 12 boards. San Antonio’s Tony Parker sat out with a minor back injury, and Cory Joseph tied for the team lead in points (13) in his absence.
Dallas Mavericks 95 (48-31), Utah Jazz 83 (24-54)
Dirk Nowitzki had a pretty satisfying night – the Mavericks took care of business against the Jazz to maintain their playoff position and the legendary power forward passed Oscar Robertson for 10th all-time on the NBA’s career scoring list.
Nowitzki had 21 points (9-11 shooting) in a game that was largely decided going into the fourth quarter. All five Mavs starters had at least 10 points en route to a fifth straight victory. Derrick Favors was Utah’s leading scorer with 19, but the Jazz were doomed by their ice cold three-point shooting (4-24).
Oklahoma City Thunder 107 (56-21), Sacramento Kings 92 (27-51)
Kevin Durant’s streak of games with at least 25 points came to an end at 41, the third longest run in NBA history. It’s likely Durant (23 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) would’ve eclipsed the benchmark again, but Thunder coach Scott Brooks opted to give his superstar some rest in the fourth quarter with the game already decided.
Caron Butler added 23 points and was a perfect 6 for 6 on three-point attempts. Thabo Sefolosha returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous 17 games with a calf injury, while Russell Westbrook was given the night off. DeMarcus Cousins put up 24 points and 14 rebounds for the Kings and was matched in the scoring department by Travis Outlaw (24 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists). Sacramento has lost three in a row.
Houston Rockets 145 (52-25), Los Angeles Lakers 130 (25-53)
No, this game did not go into multiple overtimes. The score above occurred in 48 minutes of basketball. Houston’s 145 points were the most by any team in the NBA this season – the Rockets had 66 points at halftime and outscored the Lakers 49-29 in the third quarter alone.
Terrence Jones was on fire through three quarters, putting up 33 points on 13-18 shooting before leaving with cramps. James Harden matched Jones with 33 points of his own and also chipped in 12 assists. Six Rockets finished in double figures. Nick Young and Jodie Meeks did most of the scoring for the Lakers, going off for 32 and 30 points, respectively. Despite an injury-plagued season, Steve Nash was able to pass Mark Jackson for third all-time in assists during the game. The Lakers have lost five in a row.