Everything L.A. Clippers felt like a soap opera on Tuesday. But there was more going on in the NBA than just Clippers drama, and while we need to start with the Clips from there with the other things you need to know from an NBA Wednesday.
1) Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of the Clippers’ lives. But at least they got a win. GBlake Griffin says he’s sorry. The team’s owner condemned the action. The NBA is investigating. There will be more revelations to come about how and why Blake Griffin got so angry at a friend and member of the Clippers’ equipment staff that he punched the guy in a Toronto restaurant, and then when the staffer tried to leave Griffin tracked him down outside to punch him a couple more times. It’s a black eye for the marketable Griffin, who is constantly on my TV making a PB&J in the zone (or in some other commercial). Griffin is fortunate the police in Toronto were not called. As it is, he’s going to be out at least 4-6 weeks with a boxer’s fracture of his fourth metacarpal, and maybe longer than that.
The Clippers players took the court amid all that swirling soap opera and picked up another victory — 91-89 over the Indiana Pacers on the road. Chris Paul continues to be a beast — he has been huge the last 10 games for Los Angeles and on Tuesday night had 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, plus dished out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds. The Clippers also got strong play from Wesley Johnson and others off the bench, a much-improved performance from the loss in Toronto a couple of nights before.
The Clippers are fairly locked in as the four seed in the West. It’s hard to imagine them making up the four games on Oklahoma City now to get the three seed. Meanwhile, Memphis is three-and-a-half games back as the five seed — that’s a good cushion for a Clippers team that will have to hold that spot with Griffin out until March, and with the schedule getting tougher. The win over Indiana improved the Clips to 12-3 without Griffin, but that record is about to see more losses. It’s wins like this one the Clippers need to maintain home court in the first round of the playoffs.
2) Kevin Durant drops 44 on Knicks in OT win. This is what makes Oklahoma City so tough: Even if much of the roster seems to have an off night, even if they run into a team that can exploit the flaws of the role players on the roster, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will prove to be too much. KD had half of his 44 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and that proved to be too much for the Knicks. KD had a good day (and spent the morning deftly dodging free agency questions). Also, that Westbrook guy added 30 and 10. Not a bad night for him, either.
3) Portland beats Sacramento, now eight seed in the West. Before the season started, it was thought by most pundits (yours truly included) that the Trail Blazers would be battling the Lakers for one of the bottom of the conference spots, not the playoffs. I was wrong; we were wrong. Damian Lillard has been everything one would expect, C.J. McCollum has blossomed, and a top 10 offense has carried a weak defense into more than just playoff contention — with a win over Sacramento Tuesday, the Trail Blazers moved into the eighth seed in the West. They did it with a balanced attack — McCollum had 18 leading seven Blazers in double digits.
In what should be a fun race, Portland, Sacramento, and Utah are going to battle for that eighth seed in the West the rest of the way this season.
4) Jason Kidd back on Bucks’ sideline. For the first time since Dec. 20, Jason Kidd was back on the sidelines coaching Milwaukee. It was good to see. He’d been out following hip surgery, and he picked a heck of a game to come back for — his Bucks survived a barrage of Orlando threes, got a couple of key threes of their own from Jerryd Bayless, and hung on to win 107-100. The real highlight for Kidd’s return? Giannis Antetokounmpo dunked eight times (on his way to 25 points).
5) Dirk Nowitzki hits game winner to beat Lakers, Kobe Byant respects that. Kobe was in a suit on the sidelines and saw a Lakers’ team that played hard and with energy a couple of days after Bryant called the team out for a lack of it. Still, that wasn’t enough because Dirk Nowitzki can knock down game winners for all eternity. And you can see Kobe respects that.