Post Up: Suns Make Statement

by March 07, 2014

by Brett Weisband | @weisband

Spurs (45-16) 111, Heat (43-16) 87

The AT&T Center has not been friendly building to LeBron James. As in the early games of the 2013 Finals (not to mention 2007), the Spurs threw James off-kilter, disrupting his flow and the Heat’s ball movement all night. San Antonio picked up its first win against the Heat since Game 5 of the 2013 Finals, slicing up Miami’s D with precision passing and cutting; the Spurs assisted on 73.5 percent of their made field goals and shot over 50 percent on the night. Tim Duncan had 23 points and 11 boards, Tony Parker put up 17 and Boris Diaw had 16 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists for San Antonio.

The real story was how stingy the Spurs were on defense. They limited the Heat to just 13 attempts from long range, nearly 10 below their average, and made them think about every drive to the rim. Kawhi Leonard (11 points, 5 steals) played stellar individual defense on LeBron, helping to limit James to 19 points on 6-18 shooting (James also added 8 rebounds and 7 assists).

As he was back in the Finals, James, who’s been cold since his 61-point outburst, was tentative taking mid-range jumpers. Not getting into a rhythm hurt him, as he shot 1-11 on jumpers after going 0-8 outside of the paint against Houston earlier in the week. The Heat shot just 43 percent on the night and turned the ball over 20 times. Chris Bosh had 24 points and 7 boards and Dwyane Wade has 16 points and 7 assists.

Suns (36-25) 128, Thunder (46-16) 122

It’s been 60-plus games, and everyone is still waiting for the Suns to fade out West. They showed they’re ready to hang with the big boys, outscoring the Thunder in a wild shootout on Thursday. These two teams likely gave the scoreboard operator carpal tunnel, as points came in bunches. They went back and forth at each other in the second half, and the game wasn’t decided until a fading 3-pointer by Russell Westbrook went 90 percent of the way down before popping out with 12 seconds to go. Gerald Green scored a career-high 41 points (12-22 from the field, 8-13 from 3) to lead the Suns, topping Westbrook’s 36 points (13-22 shooting) and Kevin Durant’s 34 (12-24 from the floor).

Green took a flamethrower to the Thunder in the third quarter, letting loose for 25 points and knocking down 6 triples in the frame to help slice away a 16-point OKC lead, with the Suns going into the final quarter up by 3. In the fourth, Goran Dragic (22 points) and the Morris twins (24 for Markieff, 15 for Marcus) took control. After the teams traded buckets for most of the fourth, the Dragon got two straight layups, followed by Marcus hitting Markieff on a lob to give the Suns a lead they wouldn’t give up.

The win for the Suns, in a possible first round preview, is one of their biggest of the year. It moves them a half-game ahead of Dallas into the 7-spot in the West. It also comes on the heels of tough loss to the Clippers, another top team in the conference. For the Thunder, criticism is likely to come for Westbrook despite his excellent game, as the explosive PG missed three long jumpers in the final two minutes, including the aforementioned 3-point try, in the final minute. However, it should be noted that KD missed two triples in the final stretch as well, although the second came with OKC’s fate already sealed.

Clippers (43-20) 142, Lakers (21-41) 94

In a bizarro Los Angeles, where the Clippers are overloaded with talent and the Lakers start a collection of journeymen, the Clips embarrassed the Lakers under all of the team in gold’s championship banners and retired jerseys. It’s not some parallel universe though; these Clippers currently own L.A. For the second time this season, they decimated the Lakers, this time winning by 48 points. The final margin set two records – biggest win in Clippers history and the biggest loss for the storied Lakers.

Darren Collison put up 24 points in a start to lead the Clippers, while four other players put up double doubles for Doc Rivers’ crew. Blake Griffin went for 20 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists and Chris Paul netted 13 points and passed out 11 helpers, both in just 26 minutes. DeAndre Jordan (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Matt Barnes (17 and 12) had the other two, while Big Baby Davis and Danny Granger both scored 10 in their new reserve roles. The Clipper’s starters came out for good after the third, but they probably didn’t need to play at all in the second half after taking a 33-point lead into halftime. In all, 10 Clippers scored 9 or more points. 

The Lakers have lost their two games against their co-tenants this season by a total of 84 points, and have dropped six of the past seven matchups. Pau Gasol had another strong line with 21 points and 7 rebounds in just 25 minutes, while Kent Bazemore (14 points, 6 rebounds) once again scored in double figures, as he’s done in all eight games since moving down the coast from Oakland. There’s not much else positive to say about the Lakers, who shot under 40 percent and turned the ball over 22 times. This game is just one in a very tough stretch that sees them travel to Denver, then play home-and-homes with Oklahoma City and San Antonio.