6 Takeaways from Saturday's NBA Action
While the eyes and ears of the basketball-loving world turned to thoughts of burst bubbles and bracket seeding, the NBA’s playoff race continued apace Saturday night, where the good, the bad and the Philadelphia 76ers were all on display.
The race for the Eastern Conference’s final spot continued gaining steam, while in Chicago another sterling stat line helped propel the hometown team.
A pair of comeback tuneups involving some playoff hopefuls; a sweet-shooting rookie makes New Yorkers forget about an impending Melo-drama, and one rookie coach implores fans and players not to cut themselves—all that and more on today's Takeaways.
One of these slides is a scratch-and-sniff. Can you guess which one?*
*None of these slides are scratch-and-sniffs. Do not scratch your computer screen.
Joakim Noah is turning into a cheat code, you guys.
Just another day at the office for the Chicago Bulls center, who tallied—prepare yourselves, now—23 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and five blocks in Chi-Town’s 94-87 win over the surprisingly feisty Sacramento Kings.
Noah’s line for the month of March has been downright cartoonish: 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 7.9 assists on 55 percent shooting from the floor.
Slowly but surely, Noah has vaulted himself into the conversation for some of the league’s most prestigious accolades, according to Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy: "Joakim Noah is a monster. He had 23 points, 11 boards, 8 assists, 5 blocks, 3 steals in win. He's in the mix for DPOY and All-NBA First Team."
Good thing Chicago took care of business when it did, why with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers (twice) both on the docket in the coming days.
Oh, and two games against the 76ers. “Games.”
Respect the Rook
The New York Knicks aren’t exactly a team loaded with financial flexibility. Which makes the recent play of rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. all the more important.
Hardaway’s 20 points in a 115-94 blowout of the Milwaukee Bucks gave him 20 or more in three straight games—a stretch in which New York’s precocious neophyte is averaging 23.3 points on 66 percent shooting, including 56 percent from three-point range.
The win was the Knicks’ sixth in a row. Now all New York needs is for the Atlanta Hawks to start swooning and their once doomed playoff hopes might suddenly have some real life.
Sadly, the Hawks weren’t interested in cooperating.
Survive and Atlance
Sorry, Knicks. Looks like the Hawks want that playoff bonus as badly as you do.
After building a cushy double-digit lead in the first half, the Hawks held on to survive a late surge by the visiting Denver Nuggets, winning 97-92, thanks in large part to the clutch play of Jeff Teague.
Despite struggling from the floor, Paul Millsap was a box-score beast, tallying 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Meanwhile, Kyle Korver went a perfect 4-of-4 from deep, extending his streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer to…Five. Just five.
The win helped the Hawks maintain their 2.5 game lead over the Knicks for the East’s final playoff spot.
Got Their Number
When was the last time any NBA team worried about the prospect of facing the Washington Wizards in the playoffs?
Does right now count?
After holding them scoreless for the final 4:26 of regulation, the Wizards dispatched the Brooklyn Nets 101-94 Saturday might, making it a clean 3-0 regular-season series sweep for the seemingly playoff-bound Washingtonians.
John Wall’s blistering 33-point performance helped pace the Wizards, who stand just two games behind the Chicago Bulls for the No. 4 seed in the East and first-round home-court advantage.
After a brief, two-game swoon—the latter loss of which wound up costing Wall $25,000 for some choice remarks aimed at the officiating crew—the Wizards look like they’re back on track.
Detroit Choke City
The Indiana Pacers are not the kind of team that’s going to blow the doors off offensively. In fact, they can be downright anemic at times.
What they do, however, is grind you down—slowly and surely, as the day is long.
Just ask the Detroit Pistons, who watched a 25-point lead evaporate thanks to a beastly third quarter by the Pacers, who would eventually prevail in overtime, 112-104.
Paul George did his best LeBron James impression, netting 30 points (including 10-of-10 from the free-throw line), eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals over 46 minutes.
As if the loss weren’t bad enough for the Pistons, they also have to worry about the status of sophomore phenom Andre Drummond, who left midway through the first quarter with what the AP is reporting is a neck injury.
Next up for the Pacers: These guys on the next slide, who are rewriting what it means to be an awful professional basketball team.
Lessons in Phutility
Watch out, 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers—you’ve got company!
With their 103-77 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Sixers have now dropped 20 straight games, just six off the record set by the post-LeBron James Cavs.
On Friday, Sixers coach Brett Brown was quoted as saying that, at this point, any win by his charges would have to be considered an upset.
That’s not all he said, however. From the Associated Press (via ESPN).
This is not slit-your-wrist time. This is not even close to that. This is about building a program and understanding the short-term pain for a lot of long-term gain. That's my vision. That's how I approach it.
That’s good to know, I guess.
Credit Memphis for taking care of business: At just 1.5 games ahead of the ninth place Phoenix Suns in the West, the Grizzlies need every easy win they can get.
Pretty sure this one qualifies.