The Memphis Grizzlies were 15-19 on Jan. 7, and had a 0.2 percent chance of making the playoffs in the Western Conference according to an ESPN formula created by team executive John Hollinger. So much for that. The Grizzlies defeated the Phoenix Suns 97-91 on Monday in a late night thriller to clinch the final available postseason spot in the Western Conference.
Zach Randolph picked a good time to score a season-high 32 points, as he gashed the Suns repeatedly inside to lift the Grizzlies to victory. He scored on a fast break ("fast" break) to help ice the game for Memphis late in the fourth quarter.
Randolph got plenty of help off the bench from Mike Miller, who made 5-of-6 three-pointers to finish with 21 points. Marc Gasol (18 points and eight rebounds) and Mike Conley (14 points and seven assists) also helped pace Memphis.
On the other side, it's a sad end to a wonderful season for the Suns, who could have kept their playoff hopes alive by defeating the Grizzlies. Phoenix far out-played their lottery expectations under first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek this season, but they'll get only the worst chances in the draft lottery for their efforts. Eric Bledsoe (13 points) and Goran Dragic (14 points) carried Phoenix all season, but neither could find a groove against the Grizzlies' tremendous defense.
The biggest news of the season for the Warriors came just before the game started, when center Andrew Bogut was diagnosed with fractured ribs and ruled out indefinitely. It's a terrible blow for Golden State's postseason chances, but the Warriors were able to survive without their defensive anchor against Minnesota thanks to an incredible offensive performance.
Steph Curry's 32 points and 15 assists led the way for Warriors on a night when four players would score 20 or more points. David Lee had 25 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes, while Klay Thompson and Draymond Green each scored 20 in the win for Golden State.
Kevin Love's team couldn't find a way to win, but the Timberwolves forward had a huge night offensively. He finished with 40 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists in the loss, though its worth noting his defense left a lot to be desired.
Charlotte Bobcats 94, Atlanta Hawks 93
Atlanta thought it had found a way to keep itself alive in the final minute on Monday. Too bad the Charlotte Bobcats and Chris Douglas-Roberts had other ideas. Lou Williams hit a jumper with less than three seconds remaining in the fourth to tie up the game at 93, but a Douglas-Roberts floater on the next play as time expired saw Charlotte grab a win on the road.
Al Jefferson finished with 27 points and 15 rebounds for the Bobcats. No other Charlotte starter scored in double figures, and it took a 17-point effort by Gary Neal off the bench to help find some offense. Mike Scott led all scorers for Atlanta, dropping 20 points on 6-of-23 shooting to go along with six rebounds. Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap did not play.
Toronto Raptors 110, Milwaukee Bucks 100
Toronto set a franchise record with their 48th win on Monday night, dominating the lowly Bucks and strengthening Masai Ujiri's case for Executive of the Year. With DeMar DeRozan resting, it was Greivis Vasquez and Kyle Lowry who did the heavy lifting on offense for Toronto, scoring 25 and 24 points, respectively.
Milwaukee relied on Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien to score on offense, as both John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo played heavy minutes off the bench but were unproductive. Sessions finished with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, adding five assists and a steal. Adrien had 19 points to go with a team-high nine rebounds.
Philadelphia 76ers 113, Boston Celtics 108
Philadelphia decided to crank out a win at home against the Celtics on Monday night. They survived a third quarter push by Boston that saw them grab their 18th win of the season. Michael Carter-Williams was incredibly efficient, and Tony Wroten dropped 20 points in 28 minutes off the bench for Philly.
For Boston, they saw Kelly Olynyk explode for 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting, adding nine rebounds and three assists. Jeff Green chipped in 27 points. Carter-Williams finished with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, adding 14 rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks. Thaddeus Young scored 15 points with seven assists.
Washington Wizards 114, Miami Heat 93
Washington came out blazing on Monday night, scoring 43 points in the second quarter as they cruised to a win over the LeBron-less Heat, 114-93. Miami played without James and Chris Bosh as they rest up for the playoffs where Miami will be the No. 2 seed in the East. The loss by the Heat solidified Indiana's spot as the No. 1 seed. Washington was doing stuff like this all night:
The Wizards used their entire bench, with Trevor Ariza leading the way with 25 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Marcin Gortat had 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. John Wall had four points but added 13 assists. Miami was in full-on rest mode as they played Justin Hamilton 24 minutes. Michael Beasley was the leading scorer with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting off the bench.
Chicago Bulls 108, Orlando Magic 95
Joakim Noah continued the Bulls' quest to grab the No. 3 seed from Toronto on Monday. Chicago beat Orlando handily, 108-95, as the big man grabbed yet another double-double. Michael Dunleavy dropped 22 points, and Jimmer Fredette added 17 off the bench as the Bulls pulled away from the Magic late.
Kyle O'Quinn was incredibly efficient for Orlando, scoring 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, adding seven rebounds, an assist and a block. Andrew Nicholson had 19 points off the bench in 21 minutes for the Magic. For Chicago, Carlos Boozer added a double-double of his own, scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to go with five assists and a steal. Chicago forced the Magic into 16 turnovers to their own eight, a deciding factor in the Bulls' victory.
Tyreke Evans waited until the second-to-last game of the season to give his best effort. The former Sacramento Kings forward dropped a career-high 41 points in a win, 101-89, over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday. With Russell Westbrook resting, Kevin Durant handled the scoring for the Thunder. The MVP candidate scored 25 points on just 9-of-23 shooting.
Serge Ibaka added 22 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, a block and a steal for Oklahoma City. Caron Butler had 19 off the bench. For New Orleans, Evans had nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals to go along with his 41 points. Luke Babbitt had 12 points off the bench, including three three-pointers.
Houston Rockets 104, San Antonio Spurs 94
The Rockets grabbed home-court advantage for their playoff series against the Blazers on Monday with a win over teh Spurs. Houston took it to the No. 1 seeded Spurs, dominating with 60 points in the paint compared to San Antonio's 42. Every Rocket starter scored in double figures, and a poor shooting night by Tim Duncan ultimately sunk the Spurs as they played their starters light minutes on Monday night.
Marco Belinelli dropped 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, adding four assists, two rebounds and a steal. Tony Parker played just 26 minutes and had 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, with a lone assist. Tim Duncan scored 12 points with nine rebounds. Terrence Jones scored 20 points for the Rockets, adding 11 rebounds, two steals and an assist. Dwight Howard dropped 20 points to go along with his game-high 17 rebounds. Chandler Parsons had 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Los Angeles Lakers 119, Utah Jazz 104
Nick Young scored 41 points on 14-of-23 shooting to help the Lakers earn a victory their fans probably didn't appreciate. The win over Utah moves the Lakers two games ahead of the Jazz at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, and gives Los Angeles the sixth worst record overall. In a season that's been lost since the opening tip, Lakers fans will have to hope for a little lottery luck without the best odds.
All five Utah starters scored in double-figures in the loss. Alec Burks (22 points) and Gordon Hayward (21 points) led the way for the Jazz.