It was a full night around the NBA, here’s what you need to know from around the Association:
1) LOS ANGELES —Clippers close out game on 26-5 run, come from behind to upset Thunder. OKC had been in control since the opening tip; they were up 16 with just more than seven minutes left in the game, and it looked like the Thunder were going to remind the Clippers that they do need Blake Griffin to complete with the elite teams. Then everything changed.
“I went out (of the game) to start the fourth quarter and Jamal Crawford looked at me and said ‘we are going to get us back in this thing by the time you get back in,’” Chris Paul said. “I don’t know if he’s a fortune teller, but he did it.”
“We just let up and got comfortable with the lead,” Russell Westbrook said.
The Thunder’s shot selection didn’t impress, either. (I’m not including Westbrook’s late three in that mix, although it wasn’t a great shot the Thunder, down three, expected the Clippers to foul and he was trying to draw the three shots.) OKC settled for too many contested jumpers, which became transition/early offense opportunities for the Clippers going the other way (the Thunder didn’t get back on defense). The Clipper bench took advantage of it by attacking, and then their stars sealed the deal — DeAndre Jordan hit a couple of key and-ones on his way to 20 points and 18 rebounds, and Paul added 21 points and 13 assists.
2) Another year, another Spurs trip to the playoffs (that’s 19 straight). The last time the San Antonio Spurs didn’t make the playoffs, Princess Diana was still alive. So were Biggie and Tupac.
Wednesday night the Spurs took care of business against the Pistons 97-81 and that, combined with Utah’s loss to Toronto, clinched a playoff spot for the Spurs. Again. For the 19th season in a row. Let’s acknowledge just how amazing that is as an organization. You can expect the rest of Spurs stars to begin in earnest in a couple of weeks.
3) Chicago suffers an ugly loss to Orlando. There are a lot of questions to ask about what is going on in Chicago, but we need to remind ourselves that this is a very banged-up team. Wednesday night they were without Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Nikola Mirotic — four key rotation players. Still, losses like the one to Orlando Tuesday hurts them dearly in the playoff chase. The Bulls once again played matador defense against a lesser opponent and lost because of it (the Magic didn’t hurt them like the Heat the night before, but it wasn’t because of improved defense). Derrick Rose played well in the first half (16 points on 7-of-9 shooting), but when he was off in the third the Bulls put up just 17 points and got throttled.
The Bulls are just half a game back of eight-seed Detroit. But at 30-30 the Bulls are now tied with the Wizards, who have a much easier schedule the rest of the way. Chicago has a lot of work to do if they are going to make the postseason.
4) Vince Carter turns back the clock with reverse dunk. He’s not winning-the-dunk-contest Vince Carter anymore, but he can still throw one down occasionally.
5) James Harden‘s 39 points bails out ugly shooting night from Rockets. Houston could not throw a pea in the ocean (to borrow an old Chick Hearn line) — Houston was 3-of-34 from three. That’s 8.9 percent. The lowest percentage ever in an NBA game for a team that took 30 or more threes. But James Harden had 12 of his 39 in the fourth quarter, and the Rockets went on a late 13-2 run to beat the Pelicans 100-95, holding on to the eight seed in the West for now.