Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while feeding the local alligator…
Washington Wizards. Congratulations Wizards. At the start of the season John Wall was writing “playoffs” on his shoes and when the Wizards opened the season 2-7 we smirked. Now they get the last smirk — for the first time in Wall’s career and the first time since 2008 for Washington the playoffs are a reality. They made it a reality with an easy 118-92 win over the Celtics Wednesday — Marcin Gortat led the way with 22 points on 13 shots, plus he got into the Celtics huddle, literally — which improved the Wizards 39-36 on the season. Enjoy it. Celebrate it, savor it Wizards fans.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers. The Pacers’ best player scored 27 points on 9-of-19 shooting and the Pacers as a team scored more than 100 points for the first time since the middle of March. Yes, it was against the Pistons (the team that ended the Sixers 26-game losing streak). Doesn’t matter. Everybody needs a slump buster every once in a while. The Pacers shared the ball (Lance Stephenson in particular) and they moved off the ball. It was a sign of what is possible, if they can build on it. For George, it was the kind of night where even this would fall.
New York Knicks. They made it all the way back — if the playoffs started today the Knicks would be in it. They care and it showed in their 110-81 thumping of the Nets Wednesday behind 24 points from J.R. Smith. (The Knicks passion contrasts with the stunning disinterest from Hawks management.) Of course Phil Jackson really had nothing to do with this, but he’ll get credit for it anyway because he is Phil Jackson. Still, there is work to do, the Knicks are just percentage points ahead of the Hawks and still one back in the loss column, but it looks like the improbable run to the postseason is going to be a reality.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. He was matched up on James Harden — Olympian, one of the best two guards in the game — and played the beard to a standstill. DeRozan had 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting. Forget the fact Houston was without that Dwight Howard guy, this was a quality win for the Raptors.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets. He was a beast — 34 points on 14-of-19 shooting, plus 13 rebounds and three blocks. Even for a guy known for playing with high energy he seemed to be everywhere. There are a couple of reasons the Nuggets have played better ball of late, and Ty Lawson’s return is the obvious one, but Manimal has played well of late also.
The Kings trade with the Pelicans has made DeMarcus Cousins the NBA’s most–discussed player lately.
But Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers isn’t sure he can address Cousins by his nickname.
J.A. Adande of ESPN:
Cool story, Glenn.
CLEVELAND (AP) — Free agent guard Deron Williams has cleared waivers and told the Cleveland Cavaliers he intends to sign with them.
Williams, a five-time All-Star, was waived earlier this week by Dallas. He will give the defending NBA champions a playmaker they’ve needed all season and one LeBron James demanded.
Williams cannot sign with the Cavs until Monday. Cleveland hosts the Milwaukee Bucks that night. The Cavs will be the fourth team for Williams, who is averaging 13.1 points this season.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue can bring him off the bench and also play him with Cleveland’s starters to give James and Kyrie Irving rest before the playoffs.
Kyle Lowry participated in the 3-point contest. He played nearly 18 minutes in the All-Star game.
But when the Raptors played the Celtics in their first game after the break, Lowry never saw the court.
He was sidelined with a right wrist injury suffered in Toronto’s final game before the break.
Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet:
He can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened and didn’t even feel it during the game, but when Lowry woke up the next morning he knew something was up.
“Honestly, I thought I’d slept on it wrong — I thought it would go away,” Lowry said. “It was a little sore, but I paid no attention to it.”
Unconcerned at the time, Lowry didn’t tell anyone but his wife about the wrist pain, and took off for New Orleans where he participated in both the NBA’s three-point contest and all-star game this past weekend. He received some treatment in between his all-star appearances and iced his wrist on and off, but he still saw little cause for alarm.
“I thought over the break it would rest up and heal up,” Lowry said. “But it constantly stayed bothering me.”
“That’s a blow — that’s a huge blow for us,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said Friday evening after announcing the injury. “I don’t know how long he’s going to be out. But, no, it’s not a one-day thing.”
This is bad — bad for the Raptors and bad for Lowry’s reputation.
Lowry might have wanted to show his toughness by not running to the doctor for every bump or bruise. But this will also raise questions about whether he prioritized the shine of All-Star Weekend over the grind of Toronto’s season. Lowry is not a trained medical professional, so it’s understandable he misdiagnosed his injury. But he makes his living using his body, and his employer provides trained medical professionals to handle these types of things. Lowry’s bet that his wrist would heal over the break clearly backfired.
And now the Raptors pay the price. They traded for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker to make a push, but that’ll be much tougher without the the team’s best player. Toronto beat Boston without Lowry, but the Raptors are still fourth in the Eastern Conference. Passing the Wizards for third is paramount to avoiding a second-round matchup with the Cavaliers and getting a clearer path back to the conference finals.
Every game matters now for Toronto, and wherever blame falls, Casey nailed the outcome: Lowry’s injury is a huge blow.
The Lakers wouldn’t trade Brandon Ingram for DeMarcus Cousins, because they believe in Ingram (or because they couldn’t get on the same page about a deal, but let’s go with a belief in Ingram).
The Thunder traded for Taj Gibson because he provided, among other things, stellar rim protection.
One of those worked better than the other on this play.