Charlotte remains one game back but tied in the loss column with Indiana for the final playoff spot in the East, and with that the honor of getting crushed in the first round by the Chicago Bulls.
Stephen Jackson, Charlotte’s leading scorer, will miss Friday’s game against Orlando due to a hamstring that continues to linger, according to a tweet from Mike Cranston of the Associated Press. Jackson played only a half against Cleveland Wednesday before aggravating the injury (he was 1-for-4 shooting in that first half).
Tyrus Thomas — and his 10.2 points and 5.2 rebounds a game off the bench — also will be out Friday. He missed the Cleveland game entirely.
Jackson may be the bigger issue. When he is off the court, the Bobcats offense drops 4 points per 100 possessions because he is one of the few guys on the team able to create his own shot. And the Bobcats are 26th in the league in offensive efficiency with him, so they don’t have points to spare.
But Jackson has not been very efficient at it this season, shooting just 41.1 percent overall (and 36.8 percent in the last 10 games), with a true shooting percentage of 52 percent (that number is right about the league average and includes his free throws and threes in the mix).
Charlotte needs a healthy Jackson and Thomas because of their final eight games, two are against Orlando, one is against Miami and they close with Atlanta. Even if they won the other four games, a 4-4 record down the stretch may not be enough to pass Indiana (which has just six games left, three against playoff teams).
The Hawks almost came back and won this — Atlanta went on an 8-0 run in the final minutes to tie the game at 94-94 with Orlando. The Magic had one last chance with 2.2 seconds left.
Nikola Vucevic nailed it.
Can’t blame Al Horford‘s defense on this one, he pushed Vucevic out and contested the shot. But in a make-or-miss league Vucevic nailed the game winner, Orlando wins 96-94.
If that looks familiar, Vucevic knocked down pretty much the same shot against the Lakers earlier this season.
We know Stephen Curry — who spent many of his formative years in Charlotte and still thinks of the city as his hometown — is all in on the Carolina Panthers today against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 30.
On this, he and LeBron James agree.
LeBron sounded like the politically cautious, image-conscious version of himself at the start of this quote from Uninterrupted on Facebook, but as he gets going, you can quickly see who he wants in this game (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
“I don’t know if I quite got a prediction but I definitely want to see a great Super Bowl,” James said in the video. “But if it was a life and death situation and I had to choose one team and one player, I got to go with Killah Cam. Got to go with the Carolina Panthers, they’ve been playing the most consistent football all year round. Both offensively, defensively and special teams. Got to go with Cam and one of my boys plays for them too as well, Ted Ginn Jr., that’s been showing out all year as well.
“No disrespect to the Broncos. I love their team. They got the legend at quarterback, they got that defense that’s out of control. They got some receivers that be balling out as well. They’re really well coached as well and that’s the reason they are in the Super Bowl. But I’m rolling with the Carolina Panthers today.”
A lot of NBA players like the way Cam Newton plays — with exuberance, wearing his heart on his sleeve, dancing and celebrating. That’s how Curry and LeBron and other NBA players want to play their game, and they feel reined in by the league. They relate to Cam Newton and the ridiculous role model/celebration debate.
We’ll see how much celebrating the Denver defense lets Newton do.
We’d seen this movie before. Against the San Antonio Spurs. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Golden State Warriors offensive machine got cranked up, dropped 73 on Oklahoma City in the first half, led by 14 at the break, and it was about to turn into another rout, and another statement win for the Warriors.
Except the Thunder came back. OKC held Golden State to just 18 third quarter points and got the lead down to two points — the Thunder pushed the Warriors away from the things they like to do (Stephen Curry/Draymond Green pick-and-roll) and made life difficult for them. It was a fantastic performance for OKC, even if Golden State still prevailed with a 116-108 win.
After the game Durant would have none of any moral victory talk — even though it was — and he said the Thunder were not intimidated by the Warriors or anyone else, via Royce Young of Oklahoma City.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do,” Durant said of the comeback. “When we get down, we’re supposed to tie the game up. No moral victories in here…
“Man, we’re not scared of neither one of those teams,” Durant said, including the Spurs. “We’re going to play our game. Nobody in this locker room is scared. We gotta play ’em. If we want to get to where we want to get to, we gotta play ’em. We’re not ducking nobody.”
The NBA isn’t professional boxing; nobody gets to duck anybody.
But a Thunder team searching for respect gained a measure Saturday night. The Thunder picture themselves contenders and for much of the season listened to talking heads (myself included) say the Warriors and Spurs are in a different class. Saturday night was a step in showing that they belonged. There are still questions about how Golden State or San Antonio could exploit players such as Dion Waiters or Enes Kanter is a seven-game series, but the Thunder have two of the league’s top five players — they can beat and hang with anyone.
They have a shot at a title.
If Durant believes that, it would impact his decision this summer, but that is another discussion.
Kevin Durant won the one-on-one battle — he dropped 40 points on the Golden State Warriors, while Stephen Curry had “just” 26 and needed 26 shots to get there (but did add 10 assists).
But the Warriors built up a lead thanks to their depth and were able to withstand a late Thunder run to get the win.
Enjoy watching Curry and Durant putting on a show Saturday night in the Bay Area.