Wednesday night in the NBA had an unfortunate theme: blowouts. The Thunder destroyed the Jazz, the Kings embarrassed the Bulls, the Celtics, Pacers and Rockets won handily, the Nuggets ripped the Knicks as Tyson Chandler appeared to blow out his knee in the first half (thankfully, he seems to be OK), and even in a close game the Lakers blew their chance and now Kobe Bryant is out indefinitely with an ankle injury.
It was not a banner night in the association. In any case, here's a rundown of the action.
Hawks 96, Lakers 92
The Lakers lost a tight game to the Hawks, and the big story of the night was Dahntay Jones' defensive play in the final seconds to preserve the win for Atlanta. Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 31 points on a sketchy 11-33 shooting, but even through 2-9 shooting in the fourth quarter he summoned up enough Kobe magic to pull the team within two for a look at a potential game-tying shot. Jones closed out hard on Bryant along the right baseline and the shot clanged off the rim to the benefit of the Hawks, but what happened when Kobe landed was the real story.
Bryant came down on Jones' foot and suffered a severe left ankle sprain and is now out indefinitely. X-Rays after the game were negative, but Kobe was still upset with how Jones defended him on the biggest play of the game. He wasn't shy about voicing his opinion, either: "You just can't go underneath shooters man, that's a dangerous play."
#dangerousplay that should have been called. Period.— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 14, 2013
The only good news for the Lakers is that the Jazz also lost on Wednesday.
Nuggets 117, Knicks 94
The Knicks got down by 25 points to the Nuggets in the first half and played an all-around terrible game in Denver, but Knicks faithful were also forced to hold their breath in the high altitude when center Tyson Chandler crumpled to the hardwood holding his left knee.
The injury was called a "knee contusion" and Chandler missed the rest of the game, but he is listed as probable for New York's next contest. It seems the Knicks dogged a bullet, even as they got destroyed by a Nuggets squad that scored 62 points in the paint, grabbed 18 offensive rebounds and shot 37 free throws on the night.
Seth Rosenthal of Posting and Toasting is rightly more concerned with how the Knicks chose to handle the injuries to Carmelo Anthony and Chandler than the actual outcome of the game
Listen, I know next to nothing about how NBA organizations function, but this seems way the hell off. Melo just played 56 minutes on a stiff, fluid-filled knee. Why? Because he's afraid of needles? Because he really wanted to play in his return to Denver? And now Tyson has the power to waive an MRI and declare himself ready for the second of a back-to-back just because he's a badass? How is this even remotely acceptable?
Heat 98, 76ers 94
The Heat didn't earn any style points on Wednesday, but they did secure their 20th-straight victory. Miami lost three of four quarters to the Sixers, but did just enough to win. Philadelphia was led by Jrue Holiday (21 points, seven assists, seven rebounds) and Thaddeus Young (24 points, 15 rebounds), but Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James combined to score 17 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Heat to a win.
Matt Pineda of Hot Hot Hoops summed up the win nicely in his game recap:
The Heat became only the fourth team in NBA history to have a 20 game win streak in a single regular season with their 98-94 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.
It wasn't easy though. The Heat have handled the Sixers over the past three seasons, only losing one game to them including a 5 game playoff series. But, after a back-to-back on the road, Miami didn't walk through this game like they have some wins during this steak.
When it was all said and done, they won the game 98-94. Wade finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds, while LeBron led the way with 27 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds.
James said after the game, "It was a tough game for us, but we played through it. We did just enough at the end and got just enough stops to get it done."
Next up for Miami is a meeting with the pesky Milwaukee Bucks, a team the Heat could see in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Will they be looking to send a message?
Marc Gasol caught fire (21 points, 10-14 shooting) and Tayshaun Prince joined in (18 points, 9-15 from the field) as the Grizzlies shot 54.4 percent from the floor and emerged with a big win. Memphis is now a half-game up (and two games up in the loss column) on L.A. for the No. 3 seed in the West, and a decisive 15-7 run down the stretch helped to seal the win.
Steve Perrin of Clips nation is concerned about the team's performance against top opponents:
And it has to be a concern at this point that the Clippers have done so poorly against the league's best teams in the past month or so. Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City have been the best teams on the season. Denver and Memphis join Miami as the hottest teams in the league right now. The Clippers have had the scheduling misfortune to have played all five of those teams over the last five weeks, losing all five games, four of them by double digits. L.A. has won all of their other games fairly handily -- but it's beginning to look like the Clippers may in fact be what their critics say they are. A flashy team that can build highlight reels against the mediocre teams of the league, but can't compete against the top level teams.
Wizards 106, Bucks 93
The Bucks came out flat, played one solid quarter of basketball and left as losers on Wednesday. Monta Ellis scored the ball well, but Mike Dunleavy and Brandon Jennings couldn't get things going on offense as the Wizards churned out 58 points and hit 8-16 threes. John Wall led the Wizards with 23 points and 10 assists, while Larry Sanders led the Bucks in ejections and sarcastic thumbs-up gestures.
Celtics 112, Raptors 88
The Celtics just keep on winning, and the Raptors just keep on losing. A strong final 36 minutes from Boston was more than enough to shut down Toronto, and seven scorers in double figures for the Celtics spread out the offensive production nicely. Jeff Green led the team with 20 points, while Paul Pierce (15 points), Jason Terry (12), Jordan Crawford (12), Kevin Garnett (12), Brandon Bass (11) and Courtney Lee (11) all got into the act as Boston shot 51.3 percent from the floor.
Thunder 110, Jazz 87
The Jazz started the game 10-44 from the field (22.7 percent) and scored just 28 points in the entire first half as they fell behind by 20-plus points and never recovered. Gordon Hayward (20 points) and Enes Canter (12 points) were the only players to score in double figures for Utah. Kevin Durant (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (19 points, nine assists, seven rebounds) paced the Thunder in a breezy win.
With the loss by the Lakers the Jazz still sit 0.5 games back of L.A. for the No. 8 seed in the West.
Kings 121, Bulls 79
All Chicago Bulls players not named Carlos Boozer started the game 8-32 from the field, and Chicago fell behind by a huge margin to a hot Kings team on Wednesday. The 42-point win was Sacramento's largest win since 1993, and they had a good time with the game at Sactown Royalty. Tyreke Evans scored 26 points and dished out seven assists, while Isaiah Thomas added 22 points on 8-14 shooting with three assists.
The Warriors won their second straight game and remained 1.5 games up for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. David Lee scored 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the win, while Steph Curry led all scorers with 31 points on 11-17 shooting.
Pacers 107, Timberwolves 91
The Pacers locked down Minnesota in the second half and came away with a nice win. At Indy Cornrows, the defensive effort took center stage, along with the performance from Ricky Rubio:
The defense for the Pacers in the second half was a welcome sight after a really poor defensive first half. Of course, the Wolves deserve credit for their shooting exhibition, but defense appeared optional before Indiana locked in to hold Minnesota in the second half to 37 points, dropping their shooting percentage 11%. Ricky Rubio was very impressive for the Timberwolves, leading them in the night after his first triple-double with 21 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds.
Indiana took care of business in their 107-91 victory, and set themselves up for another late season "test" against a playoff team with the Los Angeles Lakers (who have, in fact, gotten themselves into the top eight in the West) visiting on Friday.
Rockets 111, Suns 81
The Suns are pretty bad at basketball. That should be clear by now. Every Rockets starter scored more than 10 points, and Houston strolled to a 30-point win to help keep them locked in the No. 7 seed in the West.