Things got a bit ugly in the NBA on Thursday night. Nazr Mohammad helped the short-handed Bulls shut down Brook Lopez and the Nets in the closing minutes of the early TNT game, the Nuggets pulled off a terrific comeback against the Mavericks but were left to deal with a knee injury for Danilo Gallinari and the Thunder knocked off the Spurs in a game that never quite turned into the thriller that everyone expected. Here's a recap of everything that happened in the NBA last night.
Thunder 100, Spurs 88
This game did not razzle. This game did not dazzle. It didn't even look like a meeting between the top-two teams in the Western Conference for most of the evening, but it sure did mean a lot to the Thunder in terms of potential playoff seeding. The Spurs never led at any point during the final 36 minutes of the game -- they did hold a one-point lead in the first quarter -- and OKC pushed its margin as high as 20 points as the home crowd in Oklahoma City got to enjoy a relatively easy win.
Kevin Durant scored 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting, Russell Westbrook added a game-high 27 points, seven assists and seven rebounds and the Thunder shot a sparkling 12-24 from three-point range on the night. A loss would have ended OKC's hopes of claiming the top spot in the conference, and San Antonio would have claimed the head-to-head tiebreaker and moved up an extra game in the standings, but the win created a new opportunity for Durant and Co.
Now OKC is just a half-game behind San Antonio for the top spot, and they currently hold an advantage on the secondary tiebreaker (conference record). The Thunder can make a push and overtake the Spurs for home court throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
Welcome to Loud City has more on the big win:
This was a huge win for the Thunder not only because of playoff positioning, but also because they needed a wakeup game. And who better to sound the alarm against than the Spurs? Oklahoma City stepped up and won a big game, which is always a good sign going into the postseason.
Oklahoma City's defense was swarming at points in the game and it was lackluster at times as well. To start the first and second half, the Thunder looked like the best defensive team in the league.
Nuggets 95, Mavericks 94
If you've ever wondered how a clutch win could deflate a team, this is it. The Nuggets surged back in the fourth quarter with a 25-17 run to defeat the Mavericks, notch their 34th win in 37 tries at the Pepsi Center and solidified their place in the No. 3 spot of the Western Conference playoff bracket.
Andre Miller filled in for an ailing Ty Lawson and posted 22 points on 9-15 shooting to go with seven assists as the Nuggets outscored the Mavericks 46-38 in the painted area despite poor shooting (39.3 percent overall, 23-59 FGs in the paint). Denver never led by more than one point, but they led when the final buzzer sounded thanks to a game-winning drive and layup by Andre Iguodala.
So what went so wrong? Danilo Gallinari, the team's second-leading scorer on the season, had to leave the game in the second period (around the 4:30 mark) after his left knee twisted and buckled on a non-contact play.
More on the Nuggets: Denver Stiffs
Gallinari was helped off the floor by teammates, and the news after the game was not good. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports heard from one source after the game that team doctors "expect that it's a torn ACL," which is awful news for a team that likes to keep things balanced on offense. Can Wilson Chandler step up? Can Evan Fournier emerge? Is Jordan Hamilton ready to play a role down the stretch? Head coach George Karl will have his hands full with this one.
The injury to Gallinari will put a lot of stress on the rest of the players in the normal rotation, and Nate Timmons of Nuggets blog Denver Stiffs created a terrifying list of things the team will miss if Gallo is out for the playoffs:
It was a horrifying injury that left Gallo in severe pain on the baseline, clutching his left knee. What will the Nuggets miss with Gallo out of the lineup?
1.) Scoring - he's the second leading scorer on the team.
2.) Crunch-time scoring - he has proven over-and-over that he can/will hit big shots.
3.) Rebounding - he's been great late in games securing boards.
4.) Passing - he's one hell of a play-maker and a creative passer.
5.) Defense - he covers the perimeter and has been great in the post.
6.) Leadership - no question.
7.) Intangibles - he just makes the game easier for his teammates.
8.) Free throw shooting - the team's best foul shooter and frequent trip taker.
There's just so much Gallo does that can't be measured and I hate to use the word replace. The Nuggets can and will go on without Gallo if they must. The Nuggets have tremendous depth at the wing and can re-tool the team. It'll be up to George Karl on how best to go about life without Gallo, if it comes to that.
Denver (52-24) currently holds a two-game lead over the Clippers fro the No. 3 seed in the West playoff bracket.
Bulls 92, Nets 90
The Bulls stepped onto the floor in Brooklyn without Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton and Derrick Rose, but they walked away with the win. Backup big Nazr Mohammed got worked over by Brook Lopez for most of his 36 minutes of action -- Lopez scored 28 points on 10-19 shooting -- but the veteran center forced Lopez into a bad turnover late in the game and then blocked the Nets' big man at the rim on Brooklyn's last shot at a victory.
Deron Williams added 30 points, 10 assists and a blank stare for the referees when Lopez didn't get the call on a the late layup attempt. He also dished the ball to Lopez on the final play of the game, a 22-foot jumper that touched every part of the rim and jumped up to kiss the backboard before dropping to the hardwood along with Brooklyn's hopes of sending the contest to overtime.
Chicago started slowly, but they finished strong. The Bulls outscored the Nets by 13 points in the second half and used 29 points and 18 rebounds from Carlos Boozer to help push them over the top. Blog-a-Bull has more on the win:
Boozer really was great in this one, finishing with a stupendous line of 29 points and 18 rebounds on 12-of-22 shooting. P.J. Carlesimo was content with sticking Reggie Evanson Boozer, and Carlos himself was content to just shoot jumpers over the shorter Evans. We all know Boozer has trouble with length and athleticism, but Evans really doesn't have either of those things, so this was a nice matchup for Carlos.
Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng also had strong games after slow starts, with Deng finishing with 18 points and Butler pouring in 16 points and 10 rebounds. Both guys hit big shots in the fourth quarter, and they also both took turns trying to guard Williams. They weren't always successful, but Jimmy did an especially nice job in the final minute, denying Williams easy access to the rim on multiple occasions.
Chicago is now back in the No. 5 slot in the East.