Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: OKC reminds us the West playoffs will be bloodbath

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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 discussing what is wrong with action films today….

Oklahoma City routs Memphis, reminds us the Western Conference playoffs are wide open. Fox Sports’ Bill Reiter recently compared the coming WesternConfernce playoffs go Game of Thrones — a lot of worthy successors are going to be slaughtered. Consider what Oklahoma City did to Memphis Wednesday your reminder of that. This game was close until midway through the first quarter when the Grizzlies missed a few shots, which Oklahoma City turned into fast break points. Suddenly the tempo of the game changed, OKC went on a 20-2 run and when that was over so was the game. Memphis never threatened again. With that win the Thunder enter the All-Star break just half a game back of Phoenix and the eight seed in the West. The final playoff slot in the West (they are six games back of the seven-seed Spurs, the Thunder are not catching them.) Oklahoma City vs. Golden State in the first round of the playoffs seems likely. Again, a lot of worthy successors are going to be slaughtered out West.

Don’t look now, but Boston is in the playoff chase in the East. Sentences I never expected to type this season: Evan Turner beat the Hawks at the buzzer. But there you have it. Atlanta was about as focused as a high school senior the day before Spring break and credit Boston for taking advantage. With the win, Boston moves just two games back of Charlotte for that final playoff slot in the East (and the chance to lose to Atlanta in the first round). Boston would need to pass not only Charlotte (or seven-seed Miami), but also Brooklyn and Detroit to get into the postseason dance. Maybe it’s not likely, but stranger things have happened. For example, Evan Turner beat the Hawks at the buzzer.

Toronto is winning again, and DeMar DeRozan provided the dagger against Washington. Toronto started off the season hot, lost their way for a while due to injuries and the fact their defense just isn’t that great, but they have found their way again — Toronto has won 9-of-11. That includes three straight wins over playoff teams: The Spurs, Clippers and on Wednesday night the Wizards. This is the second Raptors’ win over the Wizards in the last two weeks, and although this second game was  not pretty, rather a grind-it-out affair, the Raptors will take it. Toronto remains the two seed in the East and while Chicago lurks and Cleveland is charging up the standings, the Raptors are going to have home court in the first round. Which means a good chance to advance, because DeMar DeRozan can do this:

Shabazz Muhammad dunked so hard he hit his own face. Minnesota is a lot more entertaining to watch with Ricky Rubio back at the helm — they get out and run now. Which plays right into the game of now healthy Shabazz Muhammad, he likes to finish dunks. Sometimes so hard he dunks on himself (thanks to Zach Harper).

DeAndre Jordan is putting up video game numbers. The Clippers center has put up a 20-20 stat line in two straight games and three times in the last eight days. With Blake Griffin out following elbow surgery, the Clippers needed Jordan to step up a little, but nobody expected him to go NBA Jams on us. He was key to punishing the Dwight Howard-less Rockets inside and getting the Clippers a quality win at home Wednesday.

Patty Mills hits game-winner in Spurs’ NBA-record fourth straight OT game (video)

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pioneered resting players.

But San Antonio has played an NBA-record four straight overtime games, meaning the Spurs have had to play an extra 25 minutes.

Popovich, via ESPN:

“It’s awful,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

At least Patty Mills spared San Antonio a sixth overtime period in these four games. After DeMar DeRozan missed a free throw, Mills hit the game-winner in a 121-119 victory over the Suns yesterday.

And at least the Spurs are mostly winning these longer games. In this span, San Antonio beat the Rockets in double overtime, beat the Kings, lost to the Cavaliers and now beat the Suns. I’d also argue the Cleveland result was worth it.

 

Report: Luka Doncic might return to Mavericks within a couple weeks

Luka Doncic
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Luka Doncic sprained his ankle during the Mavericks’ loss to the Heat yesterday.

Whether this timeline constitutes good news or bad news depends on your perspective.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Doncic’s injury is a blow not just to Dallas, but the NBA. He’s one of the league’s brightest stars. In the next eight days, the Mavericks make their only appearances of the season in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Toronto.

Though Doncic has played like an MVP candidate, the Mavericks also boast considerable depth. They’ve outscored opponents by 8.0 points per 100 possessions without Doncic.

Those non-Doncic lineups will be thrust into more difficult situations now. That net rating will likely drop, especially against a tough upcoming schedule. Dallas might have been in line for some losses, even with Doncic. So, don’t overreact to that.

But the Mavericks can remain at least competitive without their best player.

Bucks’ Eric Bledsoe out two weeks due to right fibula avulsion fracture

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The Milwaukee Bucks keep right on rolling, they won their 18th straight on Saturday night, cruising past the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now they’re going to have to keep this winning streak going without point guard Eric Bledsoe.

Bledsoe will miss at least two weeks with a right fibula avulsion fracture, the team announced Saturday. The injury happened Friday night in a win against Memphis.

An avulsion fracture is where a strain to ligament pulls a little bit of bone off where the two connect. It sounds worse than it is medically, and while it hurts rest is usually the only treatment needed.

Bledsoe is averaging 15 points and 5.7 assists per game for the Bucks, shooting 34.4 percent from three, playing solid defense, and providing another ball handler and shot creator next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee has been +4.1 points per 100 possessions this season with Bledsoe on the court.

George Hill, who has had a strong season for Milwaukee off the bench, will step into the starting role for now.

The injury comes at a rough time as the Buck hit a tougher part of the schedule this week, facing Dallas (which may be without Luka Doncic) and the Lakers on Thursday.

Hornets’ rookie P.J. Washington out weeks with fractured little finger

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In what has been a disappointing rookie class so far, Charlotte appears to have a steal drafting P.J. Washington at No. 12. The power forward out of Kentucky has started every game for the Hornets this season and is loving the spacing in the NBA game, scoring efficiently in the paint while shooting 40.6 percent from beyond the arc on 3.4 attempts per game, plus is averaging 5.3 rebounds a game.

Now the Hornets are going to be without him, likely for a couple of weeks, due to a fractured fifth finger on his right hand (pinkie). He suffered it in the fourth quarter against Chicago Friday night.

While the Hornets officially only list him as out for Sunday against the Pacers, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports he’s going to be out through Christmas, which would mean at least five games.

Usually this would mean more minutes for Marvin Williams, but he is out with a sore right knee. Most likely, coach James Borego slides an undersized Miles Bridges over to the four — which had been the preseason plan until Washington surprised everyone — but he has a variety of small-ball players who likely will get a little run there.

The 12-16 Hornets are hanging around the playoff picture, just 1.5 games out of the eight seed (Orlando).