Indiana made the Clippers really work for a win at home Wednesday night.
And with that C.J. Miles turned the tables on Clippers and threw down a monster dunk on them. Miles curled off a Luis Scola screen at the elbow, got the pass going to the basket with Chris Douglas-Roberts pinned behind him and Blake Griffin recognizing and rotating too late. So Miles showed he’s got some hops.
Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while wondering if modern athletes really are bigger, stronger and faster than in days gone by…
Memphis Grizzlies. In case their win over Golden State Tuesday didn’t convince you they earned the title as “best team in the NBA right now” then you should have watched the second game of the back-to-back against the Spurs. Memphis was in control early — they raced out to an 8-1 lead off the opening tip and led by 23 in the second quarter. But these are the Spurs, they of the relentless execution, so you knew there would be a comeback. What you couldn’t have seen coming was the huge shot by Danny Green that seemed like a game winner, only to have Marc Gasol bank in a leaning three to force overtime. This was a festival of big shots — Courtney Lee it one, Tim Duncan answered, and so it went. This was the best game so far this young season and in the end Memphis got the win after Manu Ginobili missed one late in the game. Gasol had 23 and played like an MVP candidate, while Zach Randolph had 21 points and 21 rebounds. Consider this a reminder the Grizzlies are going to be a playoff force.
James Harden. Another night, another MVP-level performance (well, except for one defensive slip when again he lost focus on that end). Harden had 41 points on 11-of-21 shooting and was in attack mode all night, getting to the line 21 times (he was only 1-of-7 from three, it was all about getting to the rim for him). Denver tried a number of different defenders but even when they did things right it didn’t matter as he was 9-of-11 on contested shots.
Shelvin Mack, Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks went out and put a beatdown on the Cavaliers when Atlanta went on a 22-7 run in the third quarter to take control and beat Cleveland 127-98. When we say there are times we really worry about Cleveland’s defense, this is what we mean — Atlanta scored 147 points per 100 possessions on the Cavs this game. Shelvin Mack (he of some DNP-CDs lately) owned them for stretches, putting up 17 of his 24 points in the second quarter. Mack was 7-of-8 shooting on the night. That’s a quality win for the Hawks who are playing some beautiful ball-sharing offense.
Blake Griffin. The Clippers really had to work for a win over the Pacers at home (Indiana had their chances late but missed the shots). Griffin put up numbers again — 31 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists — and had strong first and third quarters. But you can pick apart a few things, like the 11-of-27 shooting or the missed key free throws late. But it’s a sign of how far he has come as a player that we might pick apart a 31 and 16 night where he keyed his team’s win. His game has reached some serious heights.
Dwyane Wade. Miami got crushed by Utah Tuesday night, 124-87, but when Dwyane Wade has a throwback night we have to point it out. He had 23 first quarter points and at one point in the second half scored 10 consecutive points to try and lead a comeback. It didn’t work, he got no help. But Wade finished with 42 and for a night Flash was back.
It was a night of dramatic shots and big plays, and Arron Afflalo was part of it.
Denver was down three without a timeout and just 4.2 seconds left, needing to go the length of the court. They inbounded to Ty Lawson, who was going to have a hard time creating much with Patrick Beverley draped all over him. Lawson dribbled across the court as he moved up, from the left to right side of the court.
That’s where James Harden — who had made a nice defensive play for a steal the last trip down the court — made his mistake. Look at him watch the ball, drift at least five feet below the three-point line (when the only thing they had to do was defend the three) and give Arron Afflalo space to get open.
Afflao drained it, and it was off to overtime.
Afflalo had 22 points on the night but he could not match another MVP-like offensive performance from James Harden, who had 41 points and led the Rockets to the win in overtime.
I cannot wait for the Western Conference playoffs.
We got a taste of what that is going to be like on Wednesday night when in a rockin’ AT&T Center the Memphis Grizzlies would make plays, then the San Antonio Spurs would answer. And so it went for three overtimes of drama and big shots. I mean, look at what it took to just get to overtime — Danny Green looked like he won it for the Spurs, only to have Marc Gasol hit a leaning, banked in three to answer and force the first overtime.
And so it went. In the second overtime it looked like Courtney Lee had won it for Memphis, only to have Tim Duncan answer — and I’m sure he called glass before he shot.
In the third overtime there was finally a miss — the game ended on a particularly ugly Manu Ginobili leaner that was well right of the target — and Memphis beat San Antonio 117-116.
That means the Grizzlies have beaten West leading Golden State and defending champion San Antonio on back-to-back nights. Any more questions about their ability to compete come the playoffs?
Memphis was in charge early — they started on an 8-1 run and dominated a San Antonio team that clearly missed Tony Parker. The Grizzlies led by as many as 23 in the second quarter.
But these are the Spurs, they don’t just roll over. Led by Manu Ginobli the Spurs went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter. In the end the Spurs got 25 points from Danny Green — he was 7-of-13 from three — plus Duncan had 23 points and 16 boards.
Memphis got another big game inside and were led by Gasol who had 26 points, while Zach Randolph had 21 points and 21 rebounds. Those were the guys the Grizzlies went to with everything on the line — Gasol had 13 of his points and Randolph 11 of his in the final five minutes of regulation plus the overtimes.
Bottom line is the Spurs were the Spurs — they executed, they moved the ball, they hit big shots. And Memphis matched them every step of the way. Stride for stride.
And then the Grizzlies pulled away just enough.
I can’t wait until the Western Conference playoffs.
Haven’t the injury gods brought enough of their wrath down on the Bucks recently?
On the same day it was announced rookie sensation Jabari Parker was lost for the season with a torn ACL, this happened.
Everyone’s favorite Greek hooper Giannis Antetokounmpo (with all due respect to Kostas Papanikolaou) left the game with a sprained ankle, he did not come out to start the second half and the team announced he would not return.
It looks nasty, the non-contact injuries are often the worst. That said he left the court under his own power.
The Bucks likely will X-ray after the game and do an MRI on Thursday, that’s when we’ll find out just how serious — or hopefully not serious — this is.
Antetokounmpo is averaging 12.2 points a game on an above average .549 true shooting percentage. The Greek Freak has made a leap forward this season in almost every area of his game. He is one of the few must-watch players in the league, hopefully he will not miss much time.
UPDATE: After the game coach Jason Kidd said that Antetokounmpo had re-taped his ankle and might have been able to try and play on it but they decided to be cautious with the young star. Antetokounmpo himself sounded like he might miss a little time but not a ton.