Only six NBA teams played on Thursday night as NCAA March Madness moved into the national spotlight, but plenty of interesting things unfolded in the professional ranks. The Bucks' mascot scared Dwight Howard. Milwaukee knocked off the Lakers at home as the Pacers dispatched the Mavericks. Kobe Bryant suffered an injury and did not speak with the media after game, and elsewhere the Sacramento Kings picked up their second-straight road win.
Bucks 113, Lakers 103
The Bucks came into the game on Thursday night losers of four-straight games and seven of nine overall, but they finally managed to put together a complete offensive effort to hide their defensive struggles. Bucks blog Brew Hoop noted that Larry Sanders scored a career-high 21 points as all five Bucks' starters scored in double figures, and Brandon Jennings -- who was benched in the second half of the previous game -- responded with 20 points on 7-14 shooting and seven assists.
The Lakers were plagued by turnovers all night long, and Milwaukee took advantage of some sloppy play from L.A. in the second half to pull away with a 60-47 run to close out the game. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 30 points, built up mostly from free throws (18-20 FTs), but his left foot clearly started to bother him during the second half. Bryant hobbled around a bit in the final quarter and then did not speak to reporters after the game. It was announced they he has a bone spur in his left foot and will see a foot doctor on Friday in Sacramento.
The Bucks managed to have some fun with the game as well. Before the contest, mascot Bango scared Dwight Howard by posing as an inflatable mascot in the hallways of the BMO Harris Bradley Center:
The Bucks' Twitter account then made a point to inform the Rockets and Mavericks that Milwaukee had done those teams a favor by knocking off the Lakers, which prompted a terrific response from the Rockets' Twitter account.
Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 29, 2013
Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) March 29, 2013
Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) March 29, 2013
At Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll, they pointed out that L.A. managed to beat itself for the umpteenth time this year:
The Lakers were once again done in by too many turnovers (18), too many offensive rebounds (15) and too many points given up to a [Insert team here] team that normally struggles to score points.
I hate to do that to the Milwaukee Bucks, to take anything away from them in a game they deserved to win. But let's be honest, the team that laced up their sneakers opposite the Lakers really didn't matter tonight. We've seen this game, this exact game, probably 20 times this season. This Lakers squad is simply incapable of providing the effort necessary to win two straight NBA contests in back-to-back nights. Maybe its because they are too old. Maybe it's because they are too injured. Maybe it's because they are constantly short-handed. Probably some combination of the three, in addition to being a team that doesn't always bring the right effort even when there are no excuses for it.
Pacers 103, Mavericks 78
The Lakers fell to the Bucks, but the Mavericks failed to take advantage of the situation to move up in the playoff race. Indiana's No. 1 defense held the Mavericks to just 38.6 percent shooting, and only Dirk Nowitzki (21 points on 10-20 shooting), Vince Carter (14 points) and Darren Collison (10 points) scored in double figures for Dallas.
The Pacers hit the offensive glass (15 offensive rebounds) and stroked the three ball (7-15 on threes) in a well-rounded effort. Five Pacers players scored in double figures, and Paul George led the way with 24 points on 10-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds and six assists. Roy Hibbert chipped in a nice 16-point, 11-rebound double-double as well -- the only double-double recorded by anyone in the game.
The staff at Mavs Moneyball noted that a 20-5 third-quarter surge from the Pacers that turned into a 34-17 stretch is what downed Dallas:
"They went on a run and we just were never able to respond the way we needed to," Rick Carlisle said. "We had some opportunities, some missed shots we normally make, they had some good fortune. They got us in the bonus the first three minutes of the quarter, which killed us. It's a tough loss."
It's still strange for me to think of the Pacers as an elite team, but they continue to make a great impression on the league while staying out of the national media for the most part. Paul George isn't a sexy household name, but his All-Star selection earlier this season appears to be the beginning of a superstar in the making. "Right now, he's approaching being a top 12-15 player in this league," Carlisle said of George, who compiled 24 points on 17 shots, eight rebounds and six assists.
Kings 117, Suns 103
The Suns are in full-on tank mode -- they made Goran Dragic a healthy scratch for the contest -- but that should not take away from the fact that the Kings have now won consecutive road games. Coming into the action on Wednesday, Sacramento was just 6-30 on the road this year. They knocked off the Warriors that night thanks to 31 points from Isaiah Thomas, and then followed it up with yet another road win against the Suns.
This time the Kings shot 53.0 percent from the field as a team and got 34 points from DeMarcus Cousins in a spectacular performance. Cousins hit 12-16 shots and added 14 rebounds to lead the way in both categories for the game, and Isaiah Thomas chipped in with 23 points and eight assists. In the Sactown Royalty recap, they focused on the 62-42 advantage the Kings built up in the painted area:
To say the Kings dominated the paint would be presuming that the other side had any control at all. The Kings set up a monopoly in the paint, one that even Theodore Roosevelt would have been hard-pressed to bust. Among the tycoons of industry who made their living on the inside for Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins rose above them all, the Carnegie of dunking. On paper, Cousins merely scored 34 points in 30 minutes, but were it not for Keith Smart, that most benevolent of leaders, Cousins would have continued his unstoppable rampage.
Luis Scola led the way for Phoenix with 25 points on 10-13 shooting with seven rebounds, and rookie point guard Kendall Marshall fell one point short of a double-double (nine points, ten assists).