Kurt Helin

LeBron James

Five Things We Learned in NBA Sunday: Don’t laugh at idea of Cleveland, San Antonio Finals


If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while…

1) LeBron James drops triple-double, the Cavaliers feel like the class of the East. The Atlanta Hawks appear have taken their foot off the gas and are coasting into the playoffs (they are 5-5 in their last 10, although they did destroy Brooklyn in their last game). Then every time you watch the Cleveland Cavaliers they seem to be just a little bit better, a little more cohesive and comfortable. All this doesn’t mean too much — the last time the Hawks played the Cavaliers Atlanta took them to the woodshed. Still, it feels like the Cavaliers are the team to beat in the East right now. You can pick apart the win over the Bulls Sunday — no Derrick Rose or Kirk Hinrich and it was still a single-digit game — but the Cavaliers just seem superior. Especially when LeBron is dropping triple-doubles, Timofey Mozgov is playing like a beast, and J.R. Smith and Kyrie Irving and hitting half courters.

2) Consider this your 536th reminder the San Antonio Spurs are legitimate title contenders. You can’t read too much into one regular season game ever. This one included — this is not necessarily an indication of how a seven-game series turns out. That said, the Warriors had won 12 in a row, and the Spurs beat them handily, 107-92. It’s a reminder the Spurs are back if nothing else. The Spurs offense took apart the Warriors defense. The Spurs defense challenged the Warriors shooters — Klay Thompson was 3-of-11, Draymond Green 2-of-11. Yes, MVP frontrunner Stephen Curry was in the game but KAwhi Leonard was the best player on the court hands down. And Leonard did this to Curry to set the tone.

3) Paul George returns and suddenly the Pacers look far more interesting. Paul George returned from his horrific leg injury to the delight of Pacers fans, and every basketball fan everywhere. He scored 13 points, but with him in the lineup the Pacers throttled the Heat and with that tied Miami for the nine seed in the East, just one game back of eight seed Boston and one-and-a-half back of Brooklyn. The Pacers are still in this with 10 days left, and they just got a huge boost.

4) Could Memphis lose out on home court in the first round? After Sunday’s play, Memphis is the three seed in the West, and if you want to look on the bright side just one game back of Houston for the two seed. However, they also are just half-a-game game up on the five seed Clippers and one ahead of the six seed Spurs. (Portland is the four seed, with a worse record than all of them, but can fall no lower than the four seed because they won the Northwest Division. Why do we have divisions in the NBA again?) As David Aldridge of TNT pointed out, the Clippers have a soft schedule the rest of the way that includes a game against Memphis. Right there also the Spurs are surging. If Memphis continues its recent stumbles, they could end up the six seed in the West and starting the Western Conference playoffs on the road.

5) James Harden and Russell Westbrook dueled. Houston won because they are the better team. It seems we write this daily, but Russell Westbrook recorded another triple-double with 40 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists. But as it has been of late, it wasn’t efficient, and it wasn’t enough. James Harden had 41 points, Dwight Howard was strong inside, the Rockets had 54 points in the paint (the Enes Kanter dillema), plus the Rockets had 26 points in transition. OKC did better in the second half and made the game intesting, but in the end it couldn’t stop Houston from doing what it wanted to do. The Rockets are just the better team and picked up the win to show for it. But this was fun to watch.

Chris Paul dribbles through Carlos Boozer’s legs (VIDEO)

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers

That pretty much sums up the Lakers’ season in a six second loop.

During the Clippers absolute thrashing of their cross-town rival Lakers on Sunday night, this play happened — Chris Paul got the rebound on a break, pushed the ball up court, then dribbled right through the legs of Carlos Boozer. As bad a nutmeg as you will see anywhere. Ever.

The Lakers are pretty locked into the fourth-worst record in the NBA this season, then it is up to the lottery gods if they get to keep their pick. If it is top five they keep it, six or higher it reverts to the Sixers, something that all ties back to the Steve Nash trade.

The Clippers are now just half a game back of Memphis for the three seed and the Clips have soft schedule the rest of the way. They are peaking entering the playoffs.

Jeff Green dunk absolutely destroys Wizards’ Kevin Seraphin (VIDEO)

Jeff Green, Marc Gasol

That is just nasty.

Memphis’ wing Jeff Green got his man to bite (badly) on the pump fake, attacked the rim and while Washington’s Kevin Seraphin had slid his big body over but it didn’t matter. Green just flew over him and threw down the dunk. All while making a serious dunkface.

Green later left the game with back spasms and despite this play Washington went on to pick up a key win in their fight to get home court in the first round of the playoffs. The Grizzlies loss also opens the door for the Rockets in the battle for the two seed in the West.

Shaun Livingston hit Dirk Nowitzki right in the… place guys don’t like to be hit (VIDEO)

Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks


Golden State’s Shaun Livingston was caught in a mismatch trying to guard Dirk Nowitzki in the post, but that is not a cool way to play post defense. At all. Livingston got a flagrant foul for that and could see a fine from the league. Mark Cuban was none too thrilled this happened to his star.

Only Nowitzki gets to decide how bad it really was — and he didn’t look happy. That said, Livingston isn’t a dirty player and this was just a one-off. We hope.

Golden State went on to a comfortable win, their 13th in a row, and with that locked up home court throughout the playoffs (including the Finals).

Marcus Smart hits game-winning putback in OT, puts Celtics back in playoffs for now (VIDEO)

Marcus Smart

That is the ultimate case of right place, right time.

Boston and Toronto had gone into overtime north of the border and both teams needed a win as the fight for playoff positioning. Down one with 2.6 seconds left, Celtics coach Brad Stevens drew up a play that was all Isaiah Thomas — he started his run back at the opposing free throw line and so when he got the inbounds pass he already had a full head of steam and he attacked the rim hard. Lou Williams was running with him and James Johnson slid over to help. Thomas threw up a prayer looking for the foul.

That prayer was answered by Marcus Smart, who had crashed the board on the opposite side and put back what was officially a missed shot. Although it looked almost like a pass. Either way he nailed it as the clock expired.

The win moved Boston into the playoffs, pushing them ahead of Miami into the eight seed. It was an entertaining game with Williams, DeMar DeRozan and even Evan Turner hitting big shot after big shot. Smart just hit the biggest one of them all.