Post Up: OKC and Miami Survive

by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz

The NBA’s two best players—LeBron James and Kevin Durant—led their teams to tight victories last night. Meanwhile, the Lakers kicked things in gear and the Wizards inched closer to 0-82. Let’s go.

Thunder (10-4) 116 at 76ers (7-6) 109
The Thunder bounced back nicely after a tough loss in Boston on Friday night. OKC led by nine points in Philly after the first quarter, but by just a point at halftime. They took a six-point lead into the fourth period, but a Thaddeus Young bucket tied the game at 98 with 1:36 remaining.

The Thunder had a couple of chances to score late, but failed to do so. Neither team scored again in regulation, and the game went into overtime. Oklahoma City dominated OT. Each of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefelosha and Kevin Martin hit threes, and OKC dropped 18 in the extra five minutes (more than their fourth quarter output).

KD was all over the box score. He dropped 37 on 10-22 shooting while tallying 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks. Westbrook was nearly as good, scoring 30 points on 11-23 shooting while handing out 9 assists. He also grabbed 5 rebounds, picked up 2 steals and blocked a shot. Serge Ibaka played well again, with 18 points and 9 rebounds. In un-Ibaka-like fashion, though, he didn’t block a shot. Kevin Martin played his second straight miserable game, going 2-of-9 from the floor. He’s 3-for-16 over his last two games.

For the Sixers, Young was huge with 29 points and 15 rebounds. Evan Turner was great as well, dropping 26 points of his own. Jrue Holiday shot just 3-of-11, but handed out 13 assists. Philly shot better from the floor, but the Thunder both attempted and hit 20 more free throws than the home team.

Bobcats (7-5) 108 at Wizards (0-11) 106
It seems like every weekend I need to find a new way to describe the Wizards ineptitude. It’s simply amazing. Last night, playing a semi-hot but still not very good team, they won the rebounding battle 53-40. Washington grabbed 18 offensive rebounds compared to Charlotte’s 5. They made a quality 32 free throws. Five of their bench players had plus/minuses of +10 or better. Bradley Beal and Chris Singleton, a pair of wing players, both double-doubled with at least ten boards. Martell Webster hit 10-of-12 free throws for them. They beat Charlotte in fast break points, points in the paint and points off turnovers. What else does a team need in order to win?

Apparently, something Washington doesn’t have. Maybe a starter who hits five shots would help—they didn’t have that. Or maybe a capable point guard—they don’t have that, either (Shaun Livingston drew the start last night). Maybe it’s simply that their late-game execution isn’t good enough. Whatever it is, the 0-11 Wizards need to find it… quick.

Last night, these two teams played a neck-and-neck game. Neither team outscored the other by more than two points in any quarter. Washington led by one at halftime but the game was tied entering the fourth quarter. Charlotte led, 92-86, with 2:47 left, but the Wizards went on a 6-0 run to end regulation and send the game into overtime. They had a chance to win it late, but a Jordan Crawford jumper was off the mark and Chris Singleton couldn’t finish a put-back.

In overtime, the Bobcats led again late. This time, Byron Mullens split a trip to the free throw line with about a second to go, giving the Bobcats a two-point lead. Singleton was fouled on a three point try, sending him to the line with a chance to win the game. But he hit the first free throw, missed the second and hit the third, tying the game up and sending it into a sixth period.

In double overtime, Charlotte held a 107-103 lead with 12 seconds left. Beal hit a three with just over a second remaining to cut the lead to one, and the Wizards immediately fouled Kemba Walker on the inbound. Walker split his free throws, putting the Bobcats up, 108-106, with 0.8 on the clock. Crawford missed a half-court heave, ending the game.

The Wizards are looking just like the Nets of a few years ago, who started the season 0-18. Nobody comes through when it counts, and they desperately need a talent injection. John Wall’s eventual return will help, but trading for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza’s big contracts over the summer is looking like an absolutely horrible decision right now.

Mullens dropped a game-high 27, including 5 threes. Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon combined for 40 points off the Charlotte bench.

Clippers (8-5) 93 at Hawks (8-4) 104
The Clippers are having a brutal road trip. They dropped a very close game against the Thunder in OKC on Wednesday, fell apart in Brooklyn on Friday, and looked very stale in Atlanta last night. They were outscored by 13 in the second quarter, and the game was never really in doubt in the second half.

Five Hawks scored at least ten points. Zaza Pachulia was great, leading the team in points (19) and rebounds (12). Josh Smith bounced back from a bad game on Friday, scoring 17 points and recording 3 steals in just 24 minutes. Jeff Teague had his second straight big game, dropping 19 points and 11 dimes. He has 23 assists in the past two games—both wins for Atlanta.

For the Clippers, Chris Paul struggled for the second consecutive night, shooting just 5-of-12. He recorded 7 assists and posted a mammoth 7 steals, but the shooting obviously needs to be better going forward. DeAndre Jordan grabbed just 5 rebounds and didn’t block a shot, while Blake Griffin dropped 22 but was a -16 on the floor. The Clippers are in a rut after a hot start to the season.

Cavaliers (3-10) 108 at Heat (10-3) 110
Miami just about lost against the Kyrie Irving-less Cavs. Cleveland led by 11 points at halftime, but that was cut to two to start the fourth period. However, they were able to build a seven point lead with under two minutes remaining following a Daniel Gibson triple. From that point on, though, Miami outscored Cleveland 9-0, with Ray Allen scoring the game’s final seven points, including a huge go-ahead three with 18 seconds left.

Cleveland showed up in a way nobody thought they were capable of, but just couldn’t hang on. Anderson Varejao continued his incredible season, scoring 10 points while grabbing 15 boards and recording 4 steals. Jeremy Pargo (7 dimes) and Dion Waiters led the team with 16 points each. Omri Caspi shot 4-of-4 from downtown on his way to 15 points in 15 minutes off the bench, and was an incredible spark plug for the team.

LeBron James, facing his former team, led Miami with 30 points, though he turned the rock over 7 times compared to 5 assists. Chris Bosh stayed hot with 23 points and 7 rebounds. Allen, clutch as ever, scored 17 points off the bench. Dwyane Wade hit 6-of-15 shots and scored 18.

Lakers (7-7) 115 at Mavericks (7-7) 89
The Mavericks didn’t come to play last night. The Lakers led by 13 points after one quarter in Dallas, and had a 27-point halftime lead. Dallas never even sniffed a victory.

Yellow LA totally dominated the glass, grabbing 61 rebounds against Dallas’ 39. They also got to the line more, but rebounding was the difference-maker. Antawn Jamison is coming on in a big way. He scored 16 points with 7 rebounds on Friday night, and upped those to 19 and 15 in Dallas, his old stomping grounds. It could just be a mini-hot streak, or, LA hopes, a product of a guy fitting in with new coach Mike D’Antoni perfectly.

Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace—who, by the way, is having an excellent season—also scored 19. Dwight Howard struggled to get going, hitting 5-of-11 shots and grabbing 7 rebounds. Pau Gasol had 9 boards, but attempted only 7 shots. Those two have yet to find their way under the new coach.

Vince Carter scored a team-high 16 points for the Mavericks. Rookie Jae Crowder, a great surprise this season, had 15 points, 4 boards and 4 steals. Rookie Bernard James went 3-for-4 with 7 points, 5 boards and 4 blocks in 15 minutes off the bench. Darren Collison and OJ Mayo combined to shoot 6-for-25.

Bulls (6-6) 93 at Bucks (6-5) 86
The Bulls had dropped three straight games entering last night, and needed a win to get back on track. Facing a pretty tough Milwaukee team, they turned an 81-81 tie with four minutes left into a W. They closed the game out on a 12-5 run, thanks to timely buckets and good late free throw shooting to ice the game.

Carlos Boozer has been steadily improving, and had a great game. He shot 10-of-15 from the field and notched 19 boards. Rip Hamilton also posted 22 points, including a 10-of-10 effort from the stripe. Joakim Noah totaled 9 points, 9 boards 5 assists, a steal and a block.

Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis combined for 40 points, but needed 37 shots to get there. That’s not bad, but it’s not particularly sharp, either. Milwaukee got out-rebounded by 14 and hit 18 fewer free throws than Chicago. Those are typical numbers that show up in a loss.

Jazz (7-7) 97 at Kings (4-9) 108
After choking in a big way on Friday (a 12-point fourth quarter lead disappeared before you could say “man, Tyreke Evans’ shot selection is awful”), the Kings bounced back on Saturday. Evans actually played a great game, returning to his rookie form and dropping a 27-5-5 line. He shot 9-of-17 from the floor, 9-of-9 from the stripe and tacked on 2 steals. Aaron Brooks played another efficient game, shooting 5-of-6 with 3 threes and 4 steals. He’s fully supplanted Isaiah Thomas at point guard. DeMarcus Cousins had 14 and 9.

On an unrelated note, Shaquille O’Neal once said something fascinating about Cousins. He believes DeMarcus should average 24 points per contest, since it’s just two hook shots and two free throws per quarter. With that mentality, it’s no surprise Shaq was as dominant as he was. Cousins is an interesting guy to monitor throughout the season, and it’s fair to wonder if he’d be one of the League’s most dominant bigs if he played for a functional team that could utilize him properly. He has all the talent in the world, but is just a 44 percent career shooter.

Utah’s offense left much to be desired. Their starting front court (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Marvin Williams) shot a combined 13-for-32 and totaled just 16 rebounds. The one bright spot was Jamaal Tinsley. He’s been an amazing story this season, and knocked down 4 threes on his way to 14 points and 7 dimes last night.

Timberwolves (5-7) 85 at Warriors (8-6) 96
A week or two ago, the T-Wolves were the gritty team giving everybody a competitive game despite playing without their two best players and featuring a revolving door off the bench as role players dropped like flies. They’re beginning to get healthy, yet they’re starting to struggle. With last night’s loss, Minnesota has lost five straight.

Kevin Love had 15 rebounds, but scored 15 points on 20 shots. That’s very un-Love-like, and cost Minnesota in a big way. Andrei Kirilenko and Luke Ridnour combined to shoot 5/20. That didn’t help, either. JJ Barea did record ten assists—one of few positives on the night.

Minnesota actually led by four points entering the fourth quarter, but the Warriors outscored them 26-11 in the game’s final 12 minutes. It was 79-74 T-Wolves with ten minutes left before Golden State closed the game out on an extended 22-6 run.

The Warriors got 10 points and 11 rebounds from Harrison Barnes, who is having a streaky but productive rookie season. Guards Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry totaled 44 points. Carl Landry chipped in 18 points off the bench, and knocked down all 10 of his free throw attempts. He’s averaging 15 points and 7 boards while shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor. He may not be the best sixth man in the NBA, but there aren’t too many more efficient and consistent reserves than the former Rocket.