If Wednesday night in the NBA earned an A-plus grade, the trio of games on Thursday didn't do much better than a C-minus. Heck, the Miami Heat's "Harlem Shake" video may have been the most compelling entertainment presented all night. The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers outscored their opponents in all four quarters during comfortable wins, and the Chicago Bulls never let the Philadelphia 76ers play from the front during the second half.
Joakim Noah stole the show in the early TNT game by posting a 23-point, 21-rebound and 11-block triple-double against the Sixers. Kobe Bryant took center stage in the late game by scoring 33 points (the high mark for the evening in the NBA) on a cool 13-of-22 shooting. In all, the games were fairly easy wins for all three teams. Neither the Lakers, Clippers nor the Bulls trailed at any point during the fourth quarter.
In any case, here's a breakdown of what happened in each contest:
Clippers 99, Pacers 91
The Pacers were forced to play without big man Roy Hibbert, who served his one-game suspension for his role in an altercation with the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, and the Clippers took advantage. Hibbert is the undisputed anchor of Indiana's top-ranked defense, and without him L.A. scored 50 points in the paint on 25-35 shooting in that zone.
Chris Paul paced the Clippers with a game-high 29 points on 11-18 shooting to go with eight assists and six rebounds. Blake Griffin with the only other starter to score in double figures (18 points) and the only player in the game to pull down double-digit rebounds (14). Jamal Crawford came off the bench to add 23 points in just 27 minutes.
Clippers outscored the Indiana Pacers in all four quarters and led by 17 at one point in the fourth period during their 99-91 win. Paul George and David West combined to score 42 points, but a poor showing from Indiana's bench (7-20 FGs) doomed the Pacers.
Bulls 93, 76ers 82
Joakim Noah nearly turned the game into an entertaining event on his own. The Bulls' center dominated the paint on both ends of the floor as he set a career-high in blocks and tied the Bulls all-time record for blocks in a regulation game (11) on his way to an impressive triple-double.
Noah's third career triple-double features 23 points on 8-12 from the field, 21 rebounds (eight offensive) and 11 blocks. Spencer Hawes did put up 20 points and 15 rebounds in his own right, but Noah clearly dominated the 76ers' frontcourt players.
How special was Noah's night? Jeff Mangurten of the Bulls radio team explains:
Noah finishes with 23 points, 21 rebounds, 11 blocks. The last time a player hit all those numbers was Shaq in 1993 (24p, 28r, 15b).— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) March 1, 2013
Joakim Noah has become the first Bull to record a triple-double involving blocks since Artis Gilmore on Dec 20, 1977.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) March 1, 2013
Joakim Noah is the first player to record a 20 point, 20 rebound, 10 block game since Shawn Bradley on April 7, 1998.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) March 1, 2013
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Lakers 116, Timberwolves 94
Ricky Rubio made his own bid for a triple-double with 13 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds on the night for the Timberwolves, but Kobe Bryant controlled the show and ensured that the Lakers played from the front for most of the evening.
Kobe scored 33 points on 13-22 shooting in 32 minutes, and added five rebounds and five assists to help the Lakers overcome strong nights from Minnesota's plucky guards. In addition to Rubio's night, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea combined for 39 points on a slick 15-24 from field.
The offense for Minnesota was largely perimeter-based (36 points in the paint), while the Lakers scored well in the paint (46 points) and exploded from beyond the arc (16-32 on threes). Kobe (four), Jodie Meeks (four), Steve Blake (three), Metta World Peace (two), Steve Nash (two) and Antawn Jamison (one) all contributed to the three-point barrage that buried the Timberwolves.
L.A. is now within two games of the Houston Rockets for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
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