Even with a packed NBA slate of 14 games on Wednesday night, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant managed to steal the show and carry their teams to big victories against feisty opponents. LeBron scored the last two of his 26 points as he knifed to the basket to hit the game-winning shot against the Magic, as Miami extended its franchise-record winning streak to 16 games. Kobe dropped 42 points and led a furious fourth quarter comeback against the Hornets to help the Lakers move up in the NBA playoff race.
The other action around the association provided the perfect compliment to the heroics from LeBron and Kobe. Here's a rundown of everything that happened in the NBA on Wednesday night:
Heat 97, Magic 96
The Miami Heat truly had to earn their 27th home victory in the last 30 games. They built up a commanding 20-point lead early in the third quarter, but Jameer Nelson (16 points, 14 assists) and Nikola Vucevic (25 points, 21 rebounds) sparked a 46-21 run in the second half to give the Magic a five-point lead with less than nine minutes remaining in the game.
The Magic pushed the drama into the final seconds of the game, and they actually held a one-point lead with 12.6 seconds left. The Heat had already used their final timeout, so when the ball was inbounded to LeBron it was do-or-die time for Miami. LBJ turned his matchup against DeQuan Jones into a decisive lefty layup that sealed the contest for the Heat. Here's the clutch basket from LeBron:
The Pacers simply couldn't close the deal against the Celtics. Indiana held the lead for more than 22 of the 24 minutes in the second half, but Boston finished the game on an 11-0 run to earn the win. All five Pacers starters scored in double figures, but the bench combined to shoot just 5-of-17 from the field as double-doubles from David West (16 rebounds, 11 points) and Roy Hibbert (12 points, 12 rebounds) went to waste.
Kevin Garnett had a big night for the Celtics with 18 points on 7-10 shooting and 10 rebounds, but Paul Pierce and Jeff Green combined for the biggest play of the night on a beautifully-designed inbounds play that resulted in a clinching layup from Green with 0.5 seconds left. Pierce played the decoy that tripped up Indiana defenders, while Green slashed to the rim and converted on the pass from Garnett.
If the Celtics and the Indiana Pacers wind up meeting in the postseason, make sure to buckle up.
In a hyper-competitive game played with playoff intensity, the Celtics, playing the second night of a back-to-back against a team that came in 25-6 at home, bounced back from a 14-point, second half deficit and got a layup from Jeff Green with 0.5 seconds left to beat the Pacers 83-81. Green used a perfect screen from Paul Pierce to lose his man and took a high pass from Kevin Garnett to lay it in for one of the biggest, most important wins of the season.
The Houston Rockets can't afford to lose games to lesser opponents in a tight playoff race, so the loss to the Mavericks on Wednesday night qualifies as a setback. James Harden paced the Rockets with 28 points and 16-16 shooting from the free throw line, but when Houston needed a basket he came up empty twice against Shawn Marion down the stretch. Harden finished the game just 5-of-17 from the field.
Patrick Beverly played over Jeremy Lin in the final period, but Patrick Beverly didn't do much to distinguish himself during his time on the floor in the fourth quarter.
Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion each scored 22 points to pace the Mavs, who outscored the Rockets 52-38 in the paint. Nowitzki, Marion, Brandan Wright and Elton Brand combined to score 75 points on an impressive 29-of-44 shooting.
Lakers 108, Hornets 102
Kobe Bryant led all scorers in the NBA with 42 points on 14-of-21 shooting, and he tied Greives Vasquez for the game-high with 12 assists, but the Lakers needed his passion and effort more than anything else on Wednesday. L.A. came out flat and fell behind by 20+ points to the Hornets on the road. They had every opportunity to pack it in and play for another day, but Kobe would not let it happen.
The Lakers used a 33-9 surge in the fourth quarter to seize the lead from the Hornets and earn an important win for the Western Conference playoff chase, and Kobe took center stage in the effort. He scored 18 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, and he did it on 7-of-8 shooting with also dishing out four assists. Jodie Meeks added 12 more fourth-quarter points thanks to 4--of-4 shooting from deep, and the Hornets chipped in a bit down the stretch with sloppy play.
New Orleans converted just 4-of-23 shots and turned the ball over five times in the final 12 minutes, and when they needed to lock down the Lakers in the final minutes, they came up with plays like this one:
Some games are just plain ugly. Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field and under 35 percent from beyond the arc on the night, but the Warriors escaped with a much-needed home win thanks to some improved play in the second half. Patrick Patterson (15 points, eight rebounds, four assists), Jason Thompson (17 points, eight rebounds) and David Lee (17 points, 10 rebounds) were the only players to shoot over 50 percent from the field and score in double figures on the night.
Stephen Curry dribbles over halfcourt, is immediately double-teamed because that's how good defenses have been stopping the Warriors' offense. Problem is, these are theSacramento Kings' defense. Curry makes a quick bounce pass to David Lee, two defenders suck in to Andrew Bogut running to the rim, John Salmons take a step from the corner to Lee, Lee snaps the ball to Thompson for the most productive shot in basketball, game over.
The defense was horrendous and the play was essentially won by the Warriors when Curry made the bounce pass to Lee, but it was his decision-making that made everything fall into place. Lee held the ball a split second, feigning a drive, baiting for Salmons and when he bit like a fish in the sea, snapped a pass to the corner.
The Bulls managed to hang with the Spurs for two quarters, and Nate Robinson got a bit cocky in the process, but San Antonio dismantled the Bulls in the second half to come away with the victory. Chicago shot just 30.2 percent and scored just 31 points in the final two periods, while the Spurs hit 55.3 percent of their shots and posted 54 points to pull away for any easy win.
The Cavaliers stunned the Jazz with an 8-0 run at the end of the game fueled by Kyrie Irving, who finished with 20 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in an effort that didn't feel as even as the stat line makes it seem. Gordon Hayward scored 25 points and Derrick Favors grabbed 12 rebounds, but in the end the Jazz suffered their second-straight soul-crushing loss.
Brandon Jennings matched Rajon Rondo with the highest three-game total of assists for the season (47) by adding 12 helpers to his 18 points on Wednesday, and Monta Ellis scored efficiently (22 points on 9-of-15 shooting), but it wasn't enough for the Bucks to overcome the Clippers.
Blake Griffin nearly posted a triple-double through 22 minutes of action, but he took a while to get his tenth rebound and it eventually came together in the fourth period. Griffin finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and this sick dunk:
Unfortunately, Larry Sanders wasn't able to swat a shot on the night, so his streak of 39 consecutive games with at least one block came to an end in L.A.
The Grizzlies overcame 20 points from Damian Lillard thanks to a strong performance from Marc Gasol (23 points, 12 rebounds) and 20 points from Mike Conley to offset the output from Portland's rookie. Memphis outscored the Trail Blazers 53-35 in the second half.
The Sixers are a mess. Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers is quoting Hansen lyrics and threatening to post defective box score reports on his refrigerator though, so that's fun.
The Knicks remained 3.5 games ahead of the Nets in the Atlantic division with the win, and they jumped the Pacers for the No. 2 seed in the East playoff bracket. Anyone interested in a Knicks vs. Celtics series in the first round?
The Wizards found a way to lose. Again. Bullets Forever captures the frustration:
There was a whole serving of WELP at the end of the game. The Wizards cut the Timberwolves' lead to one, but could never get over the hump because of some grade-school-level offense. With Nene and Okafor out there at once, there was no room for John Wall to create anything offensively. That explains why Wall ended up jacking a three with the Wizards down one with just over a minute remaining. No driving lanes were there and he abandoned ship too soon.
But that doesn't explain those two horrible turnovers that Wall committed on the next two possessions. Well, only one was technically a turnover, but they both essentially were all the same. I don't know what's worse: dribbling the ball right into the arms of J.J. Barea 40 feet from the hoop, or trying to shake Ricky Rubio with a crossover that's hip-level and right in front of him.
All five Wizards starters scored in double figures, but it wasn't enough to knock off the scrappy Timberwolves.
The Raptors earned a much-needed with in a sleepy victory over the reeling Suns. Marcus Morris was the only Suns player to score in double figures (12 points), and Phoenix shot just 37.8 percent from the field to go with 28 turnovers.
Joe Johnson (22 points on 8-of-14 shooting) and Deron Williams (20 points on 7-of-12 shooting) handled the heavy lifting for Brooklyn, as the Bobcats hit 38.1 percent of their shots and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (17 points on 8-of-13 shooting) and Bismack Biyombo (seven points on 3-of-4 shooting) were the only to players to shoot over 50 percent for Charlotte.
More in the NBA: