What you missed while watching your bracket go up in smoke…
Magic 108, Heat 102 (OT): If you were like roughly two-thirds of the people watching this game — flipping back and forth between it and the entertaining Washington/Marquette NCAA game — you felt lost. Each time you flipped back it felt like a new game.
The first half was fairly even, in large part because Jermaine O’Neal continues to by Kryptonite for Dwight Howard. O’Neal always wins that battle. We have no idea why either. Throw in some very flat Orlando defense and the usual dose of Dwyane Wade and you have a halftime tie.
The third quarter and the first seven minutes of the fourth were more what we all expected. Jameer Nelson woke up and penetrated, Orlando won the battle in the paint and even Rashard Lewis was draining shots. Orlando was in control.
Then with five minutes left and up 12, Orlando stopped playing. Their defense was non-existent and Miami scored on 8 of their last 11 trips down the court. Meanwhile Miami played its best perimeter defense in part because O’Neal was doing such a good job on Howard they didn’t need to double, and guys stayed with perimeter shooters. And even when Orlando got a good look, they missed. That opened the door, and like it was an NCAA game it was off to overtime.
Lewis scored seven points in overtime, including a dagger three from the left corner. It was a sign of how tired the Hornets were that he was wide open — top of the Magic scouting report is don’t give Rashard Lewis open looks from the corner. He’s 43.8 percent from where he hit that shot. (Lewis is shooting a higher percentage from the right corner than he does at the rim.) Add in a healthy dose of Vince Carter and the Magic pull it out. You don’t knock road wins, but that was harder than it needed to be.
Nuggets 93, Hornets 80: It is the worst back-to-back in the NBA — West Coast one night, then fly to the altitude of Denver the next night. Even the Nuggets lost the three times they did this last season. It’s a schedule-makers loss. This one live up to the billing. The game felt like it was over by the time TNT switched over — Denver just dominated early. They had 62 first half points by, 34 of those came in the paint, and they grabbed offensive boards on 48 percent of missed shots. Denver led by 25 at the half.
Denver just went through the motions in the second half, and the Hornets tried, but they didn’t have the talent and fresh legs to pull it off.
CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.
Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.
James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.
Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.
Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.
After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”
Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.
Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.
This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.
One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.
LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.
Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.
That lasted about a minute.
LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.
For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.
The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.
With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.
I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.
That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.