Six NBA teams played in the background of the NCAA March Madness action on Thursday night, and it turned out to be a fairly exciting evening, even if it turned out that way for all the wrong reasons. The Nuggets prevailed, the Bulls crumbled and the Kings did just enough to scrape out a win. Here's a rundown of the action from Thursday night.
Nuggets 101, Sixers 100
The Nuggets have been red-hot lately, but they needed help from the Sixers to pull out their 14th-straight win. Denver has not lost at home since Jan. 18, and now they have Philadelphia to t(h)ank for the survival of those two streaks. Denver played without Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler, and they looked flat for most of the evening.
The 76ers played well for the majority of the game. The team shot 55.1 percent from the field and got 18 points and 15 assists from Jrue Holiday to go with a team-high 24 points on 10-14 shooting from Damien Wilkins. Philadelphia had the game in the bag, until they didn't. It was a tanktastic finish at the Pepsi Center.
Corey Brewer had a game-high 29 points, including six points in the final nine seconds to cap an 11-2 run for Denver that sank the Sixers in the final seconds. Philadelphia was up two with two seconds remaining in the game, and then Brewer was fouled on a pull-up three from the top of the key to send him to the line. Brewer nailed all three free throws, and the Nuggets escaped with the win.
I don't think that fouling Corey Brewer on a pull-up 3 when you're up 2 with 2 seconds left is a good idea.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) March 22, 2013
This is the greatest tank performance I have ever seen.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 22, 2013
Trail Blazers 99, Bulls 89
Don't let the final score fool you. The Bulls got pounded by the Blazers on Thursday. LaMarcus Aldridge carved up Chicago's defense for a game-high 28 points on 14-23 shooting, and J.J. Hickson added 16 points on seven shots to go with a whopping 21 rebounds, as the Blazers pushed out to a 52-37 halftime lead and never looked back.
At one point in the fourth quarter, Portland extended the margin to 27 points, but the Bulls stormed back to shoot 65.2 percent in the final period and saved face on the final score with a 36-19 run against the backups for the Blazers.
The Bulls are struggling to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and Tom Thibodeau was definitely dejected after the loss.
That's about as resigned as I've ever seen Thibodeau after a loss. #Bulls— K.C Johnson (@KCJHoop) March 22, 2013
Asked if he's happy about intensity level, Thibodeau with line of year candidate: "I'd be concerned about any happy coach." #Bulls— K.C Johnson (@KCJHoop) March 21, 2013
Noah: "We got smacked." #Bulls— K.C Johnson (@KCJHoop) March 22, 2013
If the Bulls are waiting around for Derrick Rose to save them, they certainly aren't doing a good job of convincing him it's worth accelerating the timetable for a return. Yesterday Rose said "nobody knows but God" when asked when he will get back on the floor, and at least one Bulls beat reporter had fun with that one during the blowout loss to the Blazers last night.
Maybe this is God's way of telling Derrick not to come back this season.— Mike McGraw (@McGrawDHBulls) March 22, 2013
Kings 101, Timberwolves 98
The Kings offered up a very Kings-y performance on Thursday night. They played some spotty defense for three quarters, worked in some terrific offensive bursts and Tyreke Evans (21 points on 8-11 shooting) and Isaiah Thomas (24 points, six assists) put on a show. Then an uneven performance in the fourth quarter made the game a bit too close for comfort for the Kings. Sactown Royalty covered that angle in their recap:
Evans unleashed his full arsenal of Euro-steps, horizontal hangtime and body contortions to get into the paint and make buckets. From the 8:48 mark to the 5:41 mark, Sacramento went on an 11-2 run to go up by 10 points. Evans scored 9 of those points and assisted on the other 2 in a beautiful pick and roll with Cole Aldrich. It looked as if the Kings finally had a little bit of breathing room and would be able to cruise to the victory.
But this is the Sacramento Kings we're talking about. There's no such thing as cruising to victory.
The Kings offense proceeded to disappear over the next five minutes as the ball movement devolved into a lot of isolation plays and careless mistakes.
The Kings almost squandered the game down the stretch, but a three from Dante Cunningham missed the mark on the final possession of the game and Sacramento survived to earn their 19th win at home and 25th win overall.
Ricky Rubio nearly posted a triple-double (12 points, nine assists, seven rebounds) in the losing effort for the Timberwolves.