Twenty teams were in action, but Kobe Bryant stole the show on Wednesday night as he scored a season-high 47 points on a crisp 14-27 shooting to help the Lakers overcome 38 points and nine assists from Damian Lillard, escape the Rose Garden with a win and build a one-game lead over the Jazz for the No. 8 spot in the West. Here's a rundown of all the NBA action from Wednesday.
Lakers 113, Blazers 106
Call the 2012-13 Lakers anything you'd like, but don't call them boring. Even with Steve Nash out, L.A. struggled to slow down rookie point guard Damian Lillard. The young scorer caught fire and posted 38 points on 25 shots to go with nine assists in a sparkling individual performance, but he got out-shined by Kobe Bryant. Only one player in the NBA scored more than Lillard's 38 on Wednesday, and Kobe made sure it was him. Big blocks, timely steals, clutch jumpers; Kobe had it all working against Portland in a must-have game for L.A.
At Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll, they couldn't help but break out the superlatives in the recap:
Number 24 did a lot of things that a man in his 17th professional season has no business doing. He scored 47 points. He played 48 minutes. He was two steals and one block short of a 5x5. His full line is simply obscene: 47 points on 14-27 shooting, 18-18 from FT, eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks, three steals, and one turnover. He did with glitz. He did it with glamour. He did it with grit, and he did it with grind. He did it every which way at every which time, and he did it all long past the time when most of his peers can no longer lace 'em up.
With the win, L.A. moved one game ahead of the idle Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Lakers usually aren't good at the Rose Garden, so Kobe was able to loosen up after the important win and shower some praise on Lillard for a great game (via Ben Golliver of Blazer's Edge):
"Lillard came out and just started torching us," he said. "I figured I would try to keep up the pace. It was like a marathon runner, when a guy just takes off, and the guy behind him doesn't really want to chase after him but he has to just to keep pace."
"I just told him he was a bad boy," Bryant said, explaining his post-game message to Lillard. "He was out there cooking with gasoline tonight. He was fantastic."
Next up for the Lakers is a matchup with Golden State on Friday.
Denver 96, Spurs 86
The Spurs unexpectedly came out flat against a hobbled Nuggets squad, and by the end of the night they moved into the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference playoff bracket, behind the idle Oklahoma City Thunder. Denver picked up its 21st straight home victory even without Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, thanks to 29 points on 11-20 shooting from Wilson Chandler and 28 points on 25 shots from Corey Brewer. For at least one night against a quality opponent, the scorers expected to fill in for Gallinari did their job to perfection.
Meanwhile, Tim Duncan scored 17 points in 27 minutes for the Spurs and Gary Neal added 17 more off the bench, but San Antonio shot just 40.2 percent from the field and allowed the Nuggets to score 56 points in the paint on the evening.
As noted by Nuggets blog Denver Stiffs, the team tied a franchise record by notching its 54th win of the season. It will have four more chances this year to break that mark.
Deron Williams and the Nets did themselves a favor on Wednesday night by picking up a win, creating even more separation from the Bulls and Hawks for the No. 4 spot in the East playoff bracket. Brooklyn moved 3.5 games ahead of the idle Bulls, thanks to 29 points and 12 assists from Deron Williams, 21 points on 8-14 shooting from Brook Lopez and 20 points from Joe Johnson.
Gerald Wallace scored for the first time in three games as he slammed home a put-back dunk, but he eventually left the game with an injury. The loss for the Celtics didn't do much harm, because the No. 8 seed Bucks lost to the Orlando Magic.
No LeBron James. No Dwyane Wade. No Chris Bosh. Plenty of balanced scoring. The Heat role players stepped up as Rashard Lewis scored 17 and Ray Allen paced the team with 23 points despite 1-7 shooting from deep. Miami set a new season-high with 41 three-point attempts, so it spread the floor well and challenged the Wizards' defense.
Washington still forced 22 Heat turnovers to stay in the game and A.J. Price led the team with 23 points on 8-12 shooting, but John Wall shot just 7-18 on his way to 17 points and 11 assists. He did have this nifty finish, however.
Hawks 124, Sixers 101
Atlanta's running game came to life in the third quarter as it outscored the Sixers, 34-22, to extend its lead to 93-73. Josh Smith scored 11 of his game-high 28 points in the third to help the Hawks to a big cushion.
The biggest scare for Atlanta fans in the second half came when the Hawks entered the fourth quarter with Kyle Korver's consecutive games streak with at least one three-point basket still in jeopardy. Larry Drew was able to rest most of his starters in the fourth but did send Kyle back into the game to allow him to extend the streak to 71 straight games.
The Clippers picked up another win and set a franchise record by recording their 31st home win of the season. All five Clippers starters scored in double figures in a well-rounded effort from L.A.
Magic 113, Bucks 103 (OT)
This game was filled with monster stat lines and the tears of so many sad Bucks fans. Former Buck Tobias Harris matched his career-high in points. Former Buck Doron Lamb set a new career-high in points. Harris hit the three-point shot at the end of regulation to push the contest to overtime, where the Magic outlasted the Bucks and picked up the win. Harris dropped in a late dunk at the buzzer in overtime that didn't sit well with Bucks players, so that caused a bit of friction. In reality, this game was all about wonky stat lines, as explained at Orlando Pin Striped Post:
With 30 points, 19 rebounds, and five assists, Tobias Harris becomes the only player age 21 or younger in the NBA since at least 1985 to achieve such a statistical line, and the only Magic player of any age other than Shaquille O'Neal to do so.
Harris' 30 points ties his career-high, while Vucevic's 30 points sets a new career-high, and Doron Lamb's 16 points sets a new career-high. Lamb scored twice as many points as he ever has in an NBA game.
Vucevic and Harris became the only pair of teammates since at least 1985 to score 30-plus points along with 19-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game.
Eric Gordon scored a game-high 23 points, but the Kings shot 55.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc as a team, as Sacramento picked up its 20th home win to move to 20-20 at Sleep Train Arena this year.
The Mavericks were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with this loss to the Suns.