You weren’t watching NBA games Thursday, admit it. You were watching Providence beat USC, Yale beat Baylor, and your bracket go up in flames. Here’s what you need to know from a Thursday around the Association:
1) Spurs now 34-0 at home after beating Trail Blazers. Warriors up next. Portland is a good team and a quality test for the Spurs at home — and nobody wanted to talk about that. Everyone was looking ahead to Saturday when the Spurs host the Warriors in a showdown of the two best teams in the NBA. Not that getting Golden State on the second night of a road back-to-back is exactly a fair test, but it’s only the second test we’ve gotten between those teams. (They play a late-season home-and-home, but by then both coaches will be resting players and not tipping their hands.)
Thursday was a potential trap game for the Spurs — they could have been looking ahead, while you know Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum would not be. Portland is no pushover. But Tony Parker wasn’t looking ahead either — he had 18 points, 16 assists and controlled the flow of the game. Parker has been up and down a bit, both this season and of late, and come the playoffs the Spurs are going to need a lot more of this Parker. The first half of this game was fairly close, but the Spurs opened the second half with a 10-0 run and never looked back.
Now Saturday can’t get here fast enough.
2) John Henson ejected after block on Matt Barnes, then Barnes chases him down the tunnel to the locker room. Fines and suspensions are coming for this one. It started with Matt Barnes (who had 18 first quarter points) deciding not to dribble it out and going for a bucket in the final 10 seconds of a decided game. The Bucks’ John Henson — who had almost gotten into it with Lance Stephenson earlier — decided not to let that happen and rejected Barnes’ shot. Then Henson stared down/mean mugged Barnes, which earned Henson an ejection for taunting. One that was deserved. Not that Henson cared, he played it up to the crowd and threw his jersey into the stands as he was sent back to the locker room.
All this was too much for Barnes, who soon enough chased Henson down the tunnel, and according to reports went into the Bucks’ locker room looking for Henson. Security followed Barnes down the tunnel, and it’s unclear if there was another altercation. What is clear is Barnes is going to get a healthy suspension for this.
3) Raptors get big nights from Lowry, DeRozan, Biyombo and beat Pacers in OT. If the playoffs started today, this would be a first round matchup — Toronto vs. Indiana. It speaks to the depth and parity of the East (behind Cleveland, anyway) that this would be a close, fascinating series. It was for a game (although in a playoff series Toronto would have Jonas Valanciunas who was out, and likely DeMarre Carroll). Toronto went into Indiana and needed overtime, but they got the win 101-94. They did it for a few reasons. One is Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were a handful and combined for 56 points.
But also, with Valanciunas out Bismack Biyombo stepped up with 25 boards.
4) Kyle Lowry drops Myles Turner with just pure speed. Also, from the Raptors win, the dagger bucket in overtime ended up being a lesson for a Pacers’ rookie. Turner is having a good season and showing a lot of potential as part of the Pacers’ future, but he is still adjusting to life in the NBA after a season at Texas. Kyle Lowry shows him that the speed of NBA players is unlike what he saw in college, and if you’re not balanced that speed will just knock you to the floor.
5) Hornets beat Heat, remain the hottest team in The East. Atlanta, Boston, Miami, and Charlotte are all within half-a-game of each other for the three through six seeds in the East — and teams want that three seed to stay on the side of the bracket away from Cleveland for as long as they can. When any of those four teams square off, the game matters. Charlotte is 9-1 in its last 10 and quietly has been the hottest team in the East — and it showed on Thursday when they beat Miami 109-106 on the road. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson each had 21 points, while Nicolas Batum had nine of his 19 in the fourth quarter to help secure the win.