PBT’s Wednesday Night NBA Winners/Losers: You will not question if Memphis is legit again

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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…

source:  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.

source:  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.

source:  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.

source:  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.

source:  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.

Timberwolves win first road game in 52 days, top Heat (video)

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MIAMI — Jordan McLaughlin’s layup with just under nine seconds left put Minnesota ahead for good, D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 27 points and the Timberwolves added to Miami’s late-season stagger by beating the Heat 129-126 on Wednesday night.

Malik Beasley scored 21 points, Juancho Hernangomez tied a season-high with 17 and McLaughlin added 13 for Minnesota. The Timberwolves were down by 12 with 3:59 left, then closed on a 20-5 run to get just their second victory in 20 games.

Jimmy Butler’s two free throws with 13.8 seconds left put Miami up 126-125, but McLaughlin’s layup on the next Minnesota possession put the Timberwolves on top to stay. Butler’s layup with 3.2 seconds left got blocked by Russell, and the Wolves held on.

Minnesota snapped a nine-game road losing streak, getting its first road victory since beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 5.

Kendrick Nunn led Miami with 24 points. Bam Adebayo had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Butler — back after a two-game absence for personal reasons — had 18 for Miami. The Heat fell to 23-4 at home and have dropped seven of their last nine overall.

The Heat stayed a half-game ahead of Philadelphia in the race for the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Philadelphia lost in Cleveland earlier Wednesday, a game where 76ers star Joel Embiid departed early because of a shoulder injury.

The Heat have had major trouble closing games of late — a 22-point lead late in the third quarter against Cleveland on Monday was frittered away in what probably was the worst loss of the season, until now anyway — and a long film session and meeting on Tuesday clearly didn’t solve the issue.

They were up 121-109 with 3:59 left, and 123-112 after a layup by Butler 24 seconds later.

And Minnesota — a team that came into the night with one win in a span of 48 days — still wasn’t finished off. The Timberwolves scored the next 11 points to tie the game, getting five of those points from Beasley and a tying free throw from McLaughlin with 46 seconds left.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Minnesota’s 27 attempts from 3-point range in the first two quarters was a first-half franchise record. … The Wolves are 4-0 in road games against Southeast Division teams this season, and 6-19 in all other road contests.

Heat: Adebayo played through a sprained right ankle, pushing his consecutive-game streak to 144 — extending the fourth-longest such streak in team history. … Goran Dragic’s first basket was a 3-pointer, and that pushed him one point past Grant Long (5,473) for 10th on the Heat career scoring list. … Nunn got his third consecutive rookie of the month trophy in a brief halftime ceremony.

JOHNSON RETURNS

Wednesday marked James Johnson’s first game back in Miami since the trade that sent him to Minnesota earlier this month, a move that sent Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill to Miami from Memphis. “I think Minnesota is seeing what kind of versatility he can bring to the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

LOOKING AHEAD

A large contingent of fans from Slovenia were in attendance Wednesday — and more are coming Friday, when the Heat play host to the Dallas Mavericks. At last season’s Dallas-at-Miami game, more than 2,000 Slovenians were in attendance to watch their nation’s two best NBA players, Dragic and Dallas star Luka Doncic, go head-to-head.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: At Orlando on Friday night.

Heat: Host Dallas on Friday night.

Trae Young blocks 7-foot Mo Bamba at rim (video)

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Trae Young might be the NBA’s worst defender.

He’s small (6-foot-1 with a 6-foot-3 wingspan). His athleticism is far from imposing. He also carries a massive load for the Hawks offensively, leaving little energy for defense.

But he still blocked 7-foot Magic center Mo Bamba at the rim.

Not a great moment for Bamba.

Joel Embiid leaves 76ers game with shoulder injury (video)

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Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons?

The debate has gained attention this season after the 76ers spent years retooling around their stars. The answer clearly isn’t neither. But that’s what Philadelphia now faces.

With Simmons already injured, Embiid got hurt in the 76ers’ game against the Cavaliers tonight.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Losing Embiid for an extended period would be a huge blow to Philadelphia, especially with Simmons already out. The 76ers (fifth place, half a game out of fourth) are right on the edge of getting home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Embiid had been playing so well lately. This is an especially tough time for a setback.

At least Philadelphia has depth to cope. Al Horford can easily slide from power forward to center. Tobias Harris might be better off at power forward than small forward, anyway. This is where Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks, acquired just before the trade deadline, come in handy as additional wing options. Kyle O'Quinn can also play behind Horford.

But the loss of talent is the biggest development, and there’s no overcoming that until Embiid and Simmons get healthy.

Zach LaVine: Trash talk directed at Dennis Schroder, not Bulls coach Jim Boylen

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During the Bulls’ loss to the Thunder yesterday, Zach LaVine appeared to say, “I have f—ing 40 points!”

Many assumed LaVine was snapping at Chicago coach Jim Boylen. But LaVine clarified his target was Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schroder.

Eric Woodyard of ESPN:

I take LaVine at his word.

Want to make a case LaVine dislikes Boylen? You’ll just have to point to all the other evidence.