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 buying a case of beer where the box helps repel mosquitos…
Have the Thunder reached rock bottom? Things are not right in Oklahoma City. The Knicks beat the Thunder Wednesday because the Knicks played harder and with more urgency. The Knicks beat the Thunder because they executed better — OKC had just 10 assists as a team in this game. If you’re OKC trying to fight back into the playoffs that just can’t happen. If your reaction is to say, “Kevin Durant was out and the Knicks have been playing better lately” you don’t grasp the urgency the Thunder need if they want to make the eight seed (which may be as high as they climb now). Russell Westbrook had the urgency and put up 40 points, but the rest of the Thunder players seemed to take a night off.
Understand where the Thunder are. Oklahoma City is a .500 team (23-23) that, after Phoenix’s win Wednesday, is now 3.5 games out of the playoffs (and on their way to Memphis on Saturday, so OKC could well be below .500 again). The Thunder will need to go 25-11 the rest of the way to get to 48 wins, which is going to be the bare minimum to get a West playoff seed. That number is doable — when Durant and Westbrook both play they are 14-7 this season, continue at that pace the rest of the way and the Thunder have 47 wins — but it means OKC needs to start winning now. If not, they will miss the playoffs. That is a real possibility now. And if that happens this game will not be rock bottom
Kyrie Irving has a video game mode. How else do you explain the double nickel — 55 points — he dropped on Portland Wednesday. He knocked down 11 three pointers including the game winner right in the face of Nicolas Batum. But it wasn’t just one end of the court, he was often guarding Damian Lillard and Irving held Blazers star guard to 4-of-19 shooting. The Cavaliers have an eight game winning streak and got this last one without LeBron James over a quality team. That is huge.
The Sixers, Knicks and Timberwolves win on the same day? Isn’t that one of the signs of the apocalypse? This is the ultimate sign it was just one of those nights — the NBA’s three worst teams all won on the same day. And deserved to. The Knicks simply executed better and played harder than OKC — the Knicks looked pretty good . Carmelo Anthony put up 31 points, while Tim Hardaway Jr. had 11 in the fourth. The Sixers raced out to a 24-4 lead over the reeling Pistons and never looked back. Even the lowly Timberwolves looked better once they got Kevin Martin back, he dropped 21 in his return and they topped a Celtics team that had played fairly well of late. It was just that kind of night.
Josh Smith can lead the Rockets. Adding to the above note about this just being a Twilight Zone night in the NBA — Josh Smith it 4-of-5 threes and had a couple big blocks late as Houston came from behind to beat Dallas. That’s a quality win without Dwight Howard in the lineup, and Smith was high scorer for Houston with 18. This is also one Dallas is going to kick themselves for — they were down three points with 16 seconds left when a foul drawn by Tyson Chandler was ruled a Flagrant 1 — Dallas got two free throws and the ball out of bounds. But Chandler missed both free throws then Dallas turned the ball over on the inbounds pass. Ballgame.
Maybe the Hawks cannot lose. Okay, they will lose someday (likely next week when the schedule gets tougher) but that day is not today. The Hawks won their 17th in a row taking down struggling Brooklyn 113-102. We’d say Paul Millsap was making his case to be included on the All-Star Team but those votes are already in from the coaches — still his 28 points on nine shot attempts is ridiculous. Next up is Portland, which is a good test, but the Hawks have passed every test so far.