<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

Charlotte Hornets v Sacramento Kings

Kings’ Derrick Williams dunks and Bismack Biyombo is helpless to stop it (VIDEO)

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That is pretty much the definition of a poster dunk.

Late in the third quarter Derrick Williams made his cut, and Andre Miller hit him with the perfect bounce pass. It happened faster than Bismack Biyombo could rotate, and the rest is one of the better dunks of the season.

The Kings went on to win 101-91 behind 33 points from Rudy Gay. That loss was a  blow to a Hornets team fighting to make the playoffs in the East.

Russell Westbrook records another triple-double, Thunder pick up key win (VIDEO)

Atlanta Hawks v Oklahoma City Thunder
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The Thunder got bad news about Kevin Durant on the same day that the Atlanta Hawks were coming to down. That has recipe for an emotional letdown and an ugly loss.

Russell Westbrook refused to let that happen.

It was another MVP-level performance for Westbrook, who had his ninth triple-double of the season — 36 points (15 in the fourth quarter), 14 assists, and 10 rebounds. The Thunder went on a 19-2 run in the fourth quarter to pick up the 123-115 win. Dion Waiters was also key with 26 points.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. The Pelicans — without Anthony Davis — lost to the Warriors. That gives OKC a two-game lead over New Orleans for the final playoff spot in the West. Without Durant or Serge Ibaka down the stretch, it’s going to take more games like this from Westbrook to get OKC in the postseason.

 

Orlando’s Elfrid Payton records second-straight triple-double (VIDEO)

Elfrid Payton, Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo
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Who does Elfrid Payton think he is, Russell Westbrook?

The Orlando Magic rookie is growing more comfortable with the NBA game and looked very good against Portland Friday night: 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. Payton was in attack mode and getting to the rim — he hit 8-of-9 in the restricted area on the night.

Payton was central to the Magic upsetting the Trail Blazers Friday night, 111-104.

Payton has some work to do on his jump shot and other aspects of his game. But he’s starting to look like another key piece of the future in Orlando.

Celtics’ Marcus Smart ejected for punching Matt Bonner in the… family jewels

Minnesota Timberwolves v San Antonio Spurs
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Boston had been playing well recently, but they got a little frustrated Friday night when the Spurs just destroyed them, looking like the vintage Spurs.

Marcus Smart was particularly frustrated battling early foul trouble and took that frustration out with a punch to Matt Bonner’s… groin. Family jewels. Whatever other term you wish to use.

Bonner, to his credit, didn’t flinch. But he was understandably pissed.

The referees reviewed this and ejected Smart. He can expect to write a check to the league for this as well (if not miss a game).

Smart said after the game this wasn’t intentional.

Smart came into last year’s draft with some concerns about his attitude and composure, but he had largely moved past that this season. Let’s hope this is just a one-off and not the start of a trend.

 

Cavaliers clinch playoff spot with win over Pacers

LeBron James Solomon Hill
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Cleveland is in the NBA’s dance.

And with LeBron James plus an improving defense, they may be the team to beat.

The Cavaliers became the second team to clinch a playoff spot when they knocked off the Indiana Pacers 95-92 Friday night. The Cavaliers are the two seed (the top seed Hawks are the other team to clinch), the loss made the Pacers the nine seed and put 12.5 games between them with a dozen games left.

LeBron had 29 points and seven boards to lead the way.

Since LeBron came back from a couple weeks off to get his mind and body right — plus a couple trades to bring in Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert to improve Cleveland’s defense — the Cavaliers have been as good as anyone in the East. They are 11-4 in their last 15 games, with the best offense in the NBA in that stretch at 110.4 points per 100 possessions. They have outscored opponents by more than 8 points per 100 possessions in that stretch.

And the Cavs just seem to be getting better.

The Hawks are legit — you could see the last couple games how much they miss Kyle Korver and his work on the weak side — and even with that improved defense the Cavaliers are still 18th in the NBA in defensive efficiency in the last 15 games. Yes, their defense was that bad early in the season. They still are not great on that end.

But they may be good enough to come out of the East. At least we know they are going to get a chance to prove it.