The Los Angeles Lakers didn't play on Wednesday night, but if Kobe Bryant and company decided to watch any of the action they would have come away encouraged by the results. The Lakers currently trail the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference playoff race, but both teams faltered at home against Eastern Conference foes last night. Even the No. 6-seeded Golden State Warriors managed to squander a 54-point outburst by Stephen Curry at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.
The Rockets suffered a heartbreak loss at the hands of Monta Ellis and the Bucks. Ellis scored a game-high 27 points, dished out a game-high 13 assists and swiped a game-high six steals to lift Milwaukee to a surprise win on the road. Larry Sanders helped Milwaukee take the lead with a late block on James Harden and a tip-in at the other end of the floor, but it was Ellis who inserted the dagger. Brandon Jennings tossed the ball to Ellis 27 feet from the hoop with less than one second on the game clock, and Monta delivered an off-balance, one-footed game-winner to stun the Rockets.
Utah got blitzed by the Hawks. Al Horford scored 34 points and Josh Smith added 24 of his own as Atlanta never relinquished the lead during the second half of the game. Utah dropped its third straight contest despite a career-high 15 rebounds from Derrick Favors in a rare start for the former No. 3 overall pick.
The Lakers now sit just 2.5 games back of the Rockets for the No. 8 seed and 3.0 games back of the Jazz for the No. 7 spot. L.A. has upcoming home games against the Timberwolves and Hawks, away games against the Thunder and Hornets and another home game against the Raptors. Kobe's squad is running out of time to make a move, but a few wins would put immense pressure on the less-seasoned teams higher in the standings.
|San Antonio Spurs||59||45-14||.763|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||57||42-15||.737|
|Los Angeles Clippers||59||41-18||.695|
|Golden State Warriors||58||33-25||.569|
|Los Angeles Lakers||58||28-30||.483|
|Portland Trail Blazers||57||26-31||.456|
|New Orleans Hornets||59||20-39||.339|
In the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors did themselves no favors by turning in a terrible performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. Cleveland was playing without superstar point guard Kyrie Irving and was finishing a stretch of four games in five nights, but Toronto found a way to lose a game it absolutely needed to win. Meanwhile, the No. 8 Bucks picked up a big victory over the Rockets and moved to six games up on Toronto in the standings. The eight playoff teams in the East have likely emerged.
|New York Knicks||54||34-20||.630|