The two Thursday games in the NBA featured a quartet of playoff-bound teams, and the action on TNT did not disappoint. After cutting down Miami's 27-game win streak back on March 27, the Chicago Bulls and Nate Robinson played spoiler once again as they ended the New York Knicks' 13-game streak with a dramatic overtime win. In the late game, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder slowly dismantled the Golden State Warriors to pick up a victory and gain sole possession of the top spot in the Western Conference playoff bracket. Here's a breakdown of everything that happened.
Bulls 118, Knicks 111 (OT)
Carmelo Anthony poured in 36 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, but the Bulls made New York's star scorer work overtime and that left enough room for Nate Robinson to take over the game. It sounds strange, as Carmelo set a Knicks franchise record by scoring 35-plus points for the sixth-straight game, but this game belonged to Nate Robinson.
The charismatic Bulls guard didn't quite match Melo's scoring output (35 vs. 36). He didn't get a dramatic open look at a shot to steal the game in regulation like Anthony did, either. Yet it was Nate-Rob who posted a hyper-efficient line -- 35 points on 10-18 shooting, 5-11 threes and 10-10 free throws -- to propel his team to a victory. If that doesn't seem right, Nate would be happy to double-check it for you:
The Bulls earned the win in overtime, but they made their big run during the third quarter. New York looked to be sailing along with a 15-point lead when suddenly Jimmy Butler (22 points, 9-15 shooting, 14 rebounds, three steals, three blocks) swiped steals on consecutive Knicks possessions and deposited dunks on the other end. That fired up the United Center crowd and inspired Nate at the outset of the fourth quarter. Suddenly that 15-point Knicks lead dwindled to two. Then it evaporated entirely. Then Robinson started strutting around the floor.
Actually, Nate-Rob started celebrating long before the Bulls captured the lead. He did his mock discount double-check celebration the first time Steve Novak came within range.
It's not the first time Nate has mocked Steve Novak. There's a weird history between those two. In any case, Robinson was brilliant, if insufferable, on Thursday night. It was the full Nate Robinson experience.
The defense on New York's top scorers was probably the key to the game in the second half. Jason Patt of Blog-a-Bull focused on that angle in his recap:
Anthony finished with a monster line of 36 points and 19 rebounds, but he shot just 13-of-34 from the field and didn't hit a single three-pointer. Much credit goes to Deng and Butler for making Melo work, as both Bulls wings were really physical with the Knicks' star. Anthony had some success on the low block, and he did get to the line 10 times, but he was noticeably frustrated with the Bulls' physicality (picked up another T). It's also worth noting that Butler ended up being the primary guy to guard Melo while Deng was moved onto Smith in the late stages. Smith was hot early, but he struggled as the game went on and struggled with Lu's length in the overtime period. Smith finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds, but he shot just 11-of-27.
The win marked a Bulls sweep in the head-to-head regular season series. In related news, I think Tom Thibodeau is a wizard.
Thunder 116, Warriors 97
Kevin Durant absolutely dominated the Warriors defense in this game, and a playoff-minded minutes cap imposed by Scott Brooks was the only thing that kept KD from an eye-popping final stat line. That said, the clear-cut No. 2 in the MVP race still scored a game-high 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out eight assists in 30 minutes of action before he hit the pine for the final period. The win moved OKC a half-game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs for the top spot in the Western Conference, so the Thunder still control their own destiny with three games remaining on the schedule.
Meanwhile, the Warriors never really had control on Thursday night. They played a tough first half against the Thunder, much to the delight of the home crowd and the odd TNT booth without a true play-by-play man, but Andrew Bogut left the action with an ankle sprain in the first half and did not return. Things went downhill from there.
Klay Thompson missed eight of his ten field goal attempts and scored just six points, while Steph Curry led the way with 22 points on 9-18 shooting and Jarrett Jack (19 points, six assists) was the only other player to muster up a strong effort.
Golden State's playoff seed is still up in the air, and at SBNation's Thunder blog, Welcome to Loud City, they didn't seem too intimidated by the idea of a Thunder-Warriors match-up after this contest:
The Thunder might face the Warriors in a potential first round match-up. This would probably be the most preference match up for the Thunder out of the possibilities that still remain. David Lee could not defend Serge Ibaka, Klay Thompson was slowed down defensively, and Kevin Durant would've gotten a triple double had the game been any closer.
The Warriors run a similar defense to Memphis against the Thunder, with the high traps and double teams. Despite the Thunder's performance tonight, they weren't able to deal with trap particularly well, often settling for a contested shot, rather than finding the open man. If OKC faces the Warriors in the playoffs this will be something OKC has to improve upon.
The Warriors are currently a half-game ahead of the Houston Rockets for the No. 6 seed in the West.