Monday night featured eight NBA games, with the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture getting a new leader. Here's a full look at what happened around the association to kick off one of the last weeks of the season:
It wasn't the SPURS Spurs -- no Tim Duncan, no Kawhi Leonard, and no Manu Ginobili, who might miss the beginning of the playoffs -- but Mike Conley's layup with under a second to go still sealed a win over the Western Conference's best.
The Grizzlies got out to an early lead as San Antonio (55-19) began cold from the field -- it missed its first eight field goals -- but the Spurs would take it back by the end of the first quarter and hold on until the game's waning seconds. Memphis outscored the Spurs, 30-22, in the final period, with Conley's layup unbreaking a tie before Tony Parker's attempted buzzer-beater at the other end missed. Parker led all scorers with 25 points, although Conley wasn't far behind with 23.
With one more win, the Grizzlies (50-24) will set a franchise record for wins in a season. They're tied with the Denver Nuggets for third place, but because the Clippers lead they're division, they're in the fifth spot in the standings.
Pacers 109, Clippers 106
The Pacers had this one well in hand, but the struggling Clips fought back to make it competitive. Indiana managed the game's first 10 points, Roy Hibbert had 15 points in the first quarter alone, and the Pacers (48-27) would lead by as much as 24 over a Los Angeles team that looked uninspired.
But a pair of changes in the frontcourt led to some shakeups. Vinny Del Negro benched DeAndre Jordan, who didn't score in his 16 minutes of playing time, and Hibbert got into foul trouble and eventually picked up his sixth with under two minutes to go. The 24-point lead dwindled all the way down to two points, with Jamal Crawford scoring 25 points off the bench and Chris Paul looking like Chris Paul for the first time all game, but a David West mid-range and some free throws sealed the deal.
Hibbert finished with 26 after a scorching first quarter, while the Pacers' outstanding wing defenders -- and poor finishing by his bigs -- gave Paul just 10 points and eight assists. The Clippers (49-26) are also looking to break a franchise record for wins in a season, but they've lost three in a row.
Jazz 112, Trail Blazers 102
The Jazz are rolling, as they've won six straight to seize the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot after Mo Williams' 6-for-7 night from beyond the arc propelled them over Portland. The Jazz (39-36) jumped out to a 29-19 lead after one and would lead by as much as 19 over the course of the game, although the Blazers would try to make it close at points. Portland (33-41) actually didn't play so badly on offense -- it shot 58.2 percent and went 13-for-23 from beyond the arc -- but only forced six turnovers compared to its 16 and was outrebounded on the offensive glass, 10-3. Al Jefferson had his way inside, finishing with 24 points, and Williams' six triples comprised most of his 20 points.
Rudy Gay had his best effort with his new team. Jose Calderon had a pretty evening against his old team, scoring 19 points and dropping nine assists on a night when Greg Monroe led the way with 24 points. That and some nice bench performances -- Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, and Khris Middleton combined to shoot 18-24 with 44 points -- outdid Gay's night. The somewhat maligned Raptors' acquisition had 34 points and drilled all four threes he took, but after hitting a three to give his team a one-point lead, Stuckey, Middleton and Jerebko each scored as part of an 8-0 run to give Detroit a seven-point lead with under three minutes left.
Hawks 102, Cavs 94
Cleveland can't get much of anything with Kyrie Irving still out of the lineup, and an early spurt by Atlanta gave the Hawks the lead for good and dropped the Cavaliers to a ninth straight loss. Devin Harris had the Hawks' first seven points and finished with 25, his best on the year, while Josh Smith had 18 points, 14 boards, and eight assists. Marreese Speights was oddly untouchable late, drilling shots to get to 23 points, but it wouldn't be enough, as the Hawks held onto a double-digit lead to start the fourth.
Timberwolves 110, Celtics 100
Boston without Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo isn't much of the playoff contender everybody thought it was at the beginning of the year, and it showed, as Minnesota's frontline, led by Nikola Pekovic, feasted on an undersized Celtics squad. Pekovic had 29 points on just 15 shots -- luckily, there were no casualties -- while Dante Cunningham added 19. Boston actually outshot the Timberwolves -- it hit 51.9 percent from the floor and went 7-for-16 from beyond the arc -- but Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph fouled early and often, giving Minnesota 27 free throw attempts. It hit 25 of them and coasted to the win.
The Rockets' approach wasn't pretty without James Harden and Chandler Parsons. There were a lot of shots, and a lot of them missed, but Omer Asik was there to clean up. He finished with 22 points and 18 boards despite only attempting 13 shots on a night both teams did work on the offensive glass. The Rockets grabbed 20 of their own misses -- they took 98 shots on the game -- and led 32-14 after the first quarter, so it wasn't really close. Moe Harkless was the leader for Orlando with 28 points alongside double-doubles from Beno Udrih (assists) as well as Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris (rebounds). Jeremy Lin finished with 19 points and 11 assists, while Francisco Garcia should get credit for being the only person to hit a shot from outside the lane all day for his 4-for-5 outing from beyond the arc.
Points! The Bucks had 29 points in the first quarter, and that would be their lowest output of the night. Larry Sanders set a career high for the second time in a week -- it had been 21 after a game against the Lakers, now it's 24. Monta Ellis had a career-high 14 assists and Ersan Ilyasova made all four threes he took. The team went 14-for-27 from beyond the arc. The Bucks also forced 20 turnovers and outrebounded Charlotte, 45-32, so it's not like this was just a scoring frenzy -- it was pretty thorough domination. The Bucks are just 1.5 games back of the Celtics for the seventh seed -- AKA the "we don't have to play Miami'th seed" -- in the East playoffs.