Knicks 80 (16-64), Magic 79 (25-55)
There have been a lot of bad games featuring a lot of bad quarters during the 2014-15 NBA season. However, the Knicks and Magic teamed up for one of the worst 12 minutes of professional basketball ever to be played. These two teams combined to score 15 points in the second quarter—the lowest scoring quarter in NBA history. The Knicks scored eight points on 3-20 (15.0 percent) shooting from the field while the Magic only had seven points on 3-19 (15.8 percent) shooting. As ugly as this game was during the second quarter and during the entire game for the most part, Tim Hardaway Jr. (13 points, 3-9 on 3-pointers) came through for Knicks down the stretch. The young guard scored New York’s final seven points, including the go-ahead triple with 12.6 seconds left in the game. Cole Aldrich (19 points, 14 rebounds) led the Knicks with a big double-double, showing off plenty of awkward-looking hook shots. Victor Oladipo (21 points) led the way for Orlando as Nikola Vucevic (12 points, 13 rebounds) notched another double-double.
Raptors 107 (48-32), Heat 104 (35-45)
WIth every game having a significant impact for the handful of teams fighting for the last two Playoff spots in the East, the Raptors handed the Heat a major loss that could keep them from the Postseason. Toronto pulled off the seven-point victory in large part due to Lou Williams (29 points, 4-7 0n 3-pointers, +20) draining another clutch shot. When Casey sends his team out on the floor with the game on the line, many times he doesn’t try to get very creative. His plan is often very simply: give the ball to Williams and everybody else get out of the way. Williams came through again for Casey with a triple that gave Toronto a 102-97 lead with 31.2 seconds remaining. While Williams posted a +20 on the night, teammate Greivis Vasquez (12 points) was the next closest with a +8. DeMar DeRozan (24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) and Kyle Lowry (12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals) would make 5-6 free throws to seal the victory. Dwyane Wade (30 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) and Goran Dragic (22 points, 5 assists) carried Miami’s offense all night, but they couldn’t get enough support down the stretch. The Heat only managed 46 points in the second half after putting up 58 in the first two quarters. Even though Miami shot seven more free throws than Toronto, they made four less freebies. The Heat shot 54.5 percent from the stripe while the Raptors shot 75.7 percent. With the loss, the Heat fall to 35-45 and are now two and a half games behind the Nets for the No. 8 seed in the East.
Bulls 114 (48-32), 76ers 107 (18-62)
Yes, it was only the Philadelphia 76ers, a team with the third worse record in the League. However, Derrick Rose (22 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 0 turnovers, 28 minutes) still put on a show and honestly showed great flashes of his former, healthy self. Chicago’s injury-ridden point guard was blowing past his defender, softly knocking down awkward floaters and getting all of his teammates involved. If—and yes, I know this a monumental if—Rose can find a way to remain healthy and Pau Gasol (24 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks) continues to do what he’s done all year long and rack up double-doubles while Jimmy Butler (15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) lives at the free throw line, this team could easily make a deep playoff run. Saturday night, they poured on the offense by shooting their way to a seven-point victory. The Bulls racked up 33 points in the final quarter, with Tony Snell (11 points, 3-4 on 3-pointers) scoring all of his 11 points in the final 12 minutes. If Snell can simply reach double digits with this roster at full force, that creates a difficult balance for opponents to deal with. For the Sixers, Robert Covington (22 points, 5 assists) reached the 20-point plateau and Jason Richardson (19 points, 4-8 on 3-pointers) found his touch from deep. They were simply outmatched against a better team.
Clippers 94 (54-26), Grizzlies 86 (54-26)
Before this game even tipped off, both these teams there would be huge implications depending on who won this game. With the Grizzlies, Clippers, Spurs and Rockets all jockeying for positioning around the No. 4 seeded Blazers, all of these final games change the makeup of Playoff matchups—especially when two of these teams face off. The Clippers came through with their biggest win of the season thanks to their starters sticking to what has worked since the All-Star Break. Chris Paul (15 points, 14 assists, 5 rebounds) ran the offense, J.J. Redick (18 points) made countless jumpers by incessantly moving without the ball, DeAndre Jordan (16 points, 16 rebounds, 2 blocks) dominated the boards and Blake Griffin (18 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals) worked for himself along with his teammates out of the post. Los Angeles might not have the depth compared to most playoff teams (and have many bench possessions end in Jamal Crawford (11 points, 3-11 from the field) heaves), but this team undoubtedly has one of the most potent starting lineups in the NBA. They can attack you in so many different ways while still sticking to the same system night in and night out. How many times does Redick have to start a game with the first shot before teams realize Doc Rivers goes to his shooting guard at the beginning of practically every game? It happened again Saturday night as Redick drilled a triple on L.A.’s first possession. The Clippers actually blew a late 11-point lead but received five straight points by CP3 late in the game to make the score 87-81. The Grizzlies would never recover. Even though L.A. shot 39.8 percent from the field compared to 44.2 percent for Memphis, the Clippers only turned the ball over 13 times. The Grizzlies had 18 turnovers. In the loss, Zach Randolph (21 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) notched a double-double while Beno Udrih (14 points) and Courtney Lee (11 points, 4 assists) continued to fill in for the injured Mike Conley and Tony Allen. The Grizzlies lack any depth without these two guards. To add to the list of injured Memphis Grizzlies, Marc Gasol sprained his left ankle late in the first quarter and would not return. If Gasol, Conley and Allen are all out for the Playoffs, whatever lower-seeded team drew that matchup will likely have a chance to pull off the upset. If the season ended today, that would be the No. 7 seeded Mavericks. With the Clippers earning the victory, they now tie hold the same record as the Grizzlies but remain in the No. 3 spot due to the tiebreaker. The Spurs are No. 5 with the same record while the Rockets are have a game (53-26) behind all three of these teams. Get ready, the Western Conference is about to have a wild finish to the regular season before the bloodbath known as the Postseason begins.
Jazz 111 (37-43), Blazers 105 (51-29)
With no Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors or Trey Burke, it seemed that the Jazz would struggle to score Saturday night, as these three players are Utah’s top three scorers. Somehow, someway, the Jazz not only beat the Blazers without their top scorers, they poured it on in the process. Known for their stifling defense with the Stifle Tower as the anchor, the Jazz showcased a never-before-seen ability to score at a high rate. The Jazz reached 110 points for just the fourth time all year. They were able to do so with a balanced attack as six Utah players scored in double figures. This team was led by Trevor Booker (career-high 36 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals), who absolutely went off Saturday night. The four-year forward out of Clemson had the green light all night and simply couldn’t miss from anywhere on the floor. He only needed 15 shots to reach a career-high 36 points and rattled off 32 of his points in the first three quarters. In the final 12 minutes when Utah outscored Portland 34-25, Bryce Cotton (11 points) stepped up and scored all of his 11 points. The Jazz almost blew a 15-point lead, but the Jazz made their free throws in the final few minutes. This game might have held little significance for the Blazers, but they showed a lack of desire to play any type of defense at multiple points on the night. There is no reason a Playoff team should allow one of the weakest offense teams—missing their top three scorers— to go off for a full 48 minutes and score 111 points for a game. Damian Lillard (28 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds) and C.J. McCollum (26 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) posted solid lines for the Blazers, but the problems obviously came on the other end of the floor. If the Jazz hypothetically in the East with this exact record, they would be right in the thick of the Playoff race.
Warriors 110 (65-15), Timberwolves 101 (16-64)
The Warriors allowed the Wolves to come back in this one but showed poise in sustaining their lead down the stretch. Stephen Curry (34 points, 7 assists, 4 steals) carried the Warriors in the first half, pouring in 20 of his 34 points in these first 24 minutes. The Warriors star guard also drilled a 3-pointer to end the third quarter, giving Golden State a 86-69 lead. Then the Zach LaVine (career-high 37 points, 9 rebounds, 6-10 on 3-pointers) show commenced. The rookie guard torched the Warriors for 17 points in eight minutes, scoring by means of jumper shots, 3-pointers and dunks. By scoring at such a high rate in many different ways, LaVine truly showed flashes of elite play during this short stint and cut his team’s 17-point deficit to one point by the 4:15 mark. However, behind two Klay Thompson (23 points, 3 steals) triples, the Warriors got serious and quickly responded with a 13-3 run to seal the victory. Behind 26 combined rebounds from Draymond Green (13 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals) and Harrison Barnes (13 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks), the Warriors outrebounded the Wolves 50-40 and snagged 13 offensive rebounds in the process.
Thank you to all who read my Post Ups this season. I hope everyone enjoys one of the best times of the year—the NBA Postseason.