If you can come up with a crazier night of regular season basketball than March 4, 2015, I'm all ears. OK, this is probably a case of recency bias, but what went down on Wednesday was truly wild. It epitomized the NBA's slogan of "Where Amazing Happens."
Wednesday featured outstanding games by MVP candidates, some improbable performances and several game-winners. If I haven't hammered this point home enough, it was an amazing night.
The biggest story of the evening was in Oklahoma City, where masked Russell Westbrook returned from surgery on his dented face to notch his fourth consecutive triple-double, the first player to pull off that feat since Michael Jordan had seven-straight triple-doubles in 1989.
Westbrook put up 49 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in a thrilling 123-118 overtime victory over the pesky 76ers, who got 31 points from Isaiah Canaan and 29 points from Jason Richardson. That's the same Jason Richardson who just recently came back to action after missing an entire season-plus due to injury. That's crazy enough in itself.
But, back to Westbrook. The 49 points and 16 rebounds were both career-highs, and again, this came just a few days after undergoing surgery on his face. You can't convince me this guy isn't a cyborg:
The Thunder needed every bit of Westbrook's performance, because the Pelicans are nipping at Oklahoma City's heels, and Anthony Davis is back destroying people. Davis returned to the court after missing five games with a shoulder injury, and he promptly put up 39 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks (including one huge pack of Greg Monroe) in an 88-85 victory over the Pistons.
With Davis back, New Orleans is an even bigger threat to Oklahoma City, and just a single game separates the two teams in the standings. Don't forget the Pelicans hold the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series, 3-1.
Elsewhere around the Association, LeBron James put together an MVP-esque performance in a win over the Raptors, out-dueling Lou Williams in a fun fourth quarter that featured 74 points between the two teams. Williams actually outscored James, 21-15, in the frame, but James came up with the big plays in crunch time, knocking down two dagger threes and completing an acrobatic layup to help the Cavaliers put the game away.
I would be remiss to not mention the two game-winners. Tyler Zeller's buzzer-beater against the Jazz started the evening's craziness, and that came after Utah thought it had beat Boston on a tough shot by Gordon Hayward. Not long after, Marc Gasol extinguished the Rockets with a bucket with 0.1 seconds left after a controversial no-call on a James Harden drive the possession before.
The nightcaps featured plenty of amazing as well. We had Stephen Curry going into God mode:
And then we had the "Point God" appearing to seemingly will the Clippers to another victory without Blake Griffin. Chris Paul had Los Angeles up 10 on Portland with under three minutes left, but the Trail Blazers came roaring back and earned a 98-93 overtime victory despite Damian Lillard shooting 1-of-13 from the field. (Lillard did grab a career-high 18 rebounds. Wait, what?)
Of course, the way the game got to overtime was crazy:
Paul wasn't too thrilled with DeAndre Jordan for not trying to tip-in the miss, and the failure to do so cost the Clippers the game and another impressive win. It certainly was fitting, though, that this night of basketball finished in that fashion.
3 other things we learned
Yeah, the Nuggets probably quit on their former coach: Prior to Brian Shaw getting the ax in Denver, the Nuggets had won two of their last 21 games, with many of those losses of the embarrassing variety. In the two games since Shaw was fired, Denver has beat Milwaukee and Minnesota by double-digits. Perhaps this is just a coincidence, but considering all the problems Shaw had with his team, I think not. And after the Timberwolves were destroyed by the Nuggets on Wednesday, Kevin Garnett agreed, calling Denver "quitters."
The state of Florida saw some monster efforts: In one of the "lesser" games of the night, Victor Oladipo and Brandon Knight engaged in a good old-fashioned shootout. Oladipo poured in a career-high 38 points, but Knight had 28 points and a key steal to help lead the Suns back from a 15-point deficit to pull out a 105-100 victory in Orlando. Not too far away in Miami, the Hassan Whiteside domination continued, with the big man putting up 18 points and 25 rebounds in a 100-94 win over the Lakers. The 25 boards were a career high and the second-most ever in Heat history.
James Jones can still play: LeBron may have been the hero against the Raptors, but Jones played a key role in the victory, and the veteran shooter has been low-key solid of late. Buried on the bench for much of the year, the 34-year-old has played at least 14 minutes in seven of the last nine games. In Toronto, he played 21 minutes and notched 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Furthermore, he played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter and hit two big threes in the final frame.
Play of the Night
There were so many great options, but this honor must go to Gasol, who corralled an errant inbounds pass before burying the Rockets.
10 fun things
Isiah Thomas in a mask will haunt your dreams.
Rubio-to-Wiggins alley-oops forever.
LeBron just wanted to chill on D on this fast break.
Pacers kid has all of the swag.
Nerlens Noel can touch the sky.
Jonas Valanciunas with a better form tackle than most Chicago Bears.
Kawhi Leonard got DeMarcus Cousins.
Here's DeAndre Jordan rubbing a bald man's head.
Impressive passing here, Bucks.
Pacers 105, Knicks 82 (Indy Cornrows recap | Posting and Toasting recap)
Suns 105, Magic 100 (Bright Side Of The Sun recap | Orlando Pinstriped Post recap)
Celtics 85, Jazz 84 (CelticsBlog recap | SLC Dunk recap)
Hornets 115, Nets 91 (At The Hive recap | NetsDaily recap)
Cavaliers 120, Raptors 112 (Fear The Sword recap | Raptors HQ recap)
Grizzlies 102, Rockets 100 (Grizzly Bear Blues recap | The Dream Shake recap)
Nuggets 100, Timberwolves 85 (Denver Stiffs recap | Canis Hoopus recap)
Pelicans 88, Pistons 85 (The Bird Writes recap | Detroit Bad Boys recap)
Thunder 123, 76ers 118 (OT) (Welcome to Loud City recap | Liberty Ballers recap)
Heat 100, Lakers 94 (Hot Hot Hoops recap | Silver Screen and Roll recap)
Spurs 112, Kings 85 (Pounding The Rock recap | Sactown Royalty)
Warriors 102, Bucks 93 (Golden State Of Mind recap | Brew Hoop recap)
Trail Blazers 98, Clippers 93 (Blazer's Edge recap | Clips Nation recap)