What you missed around the league Wednesday while shedding a tear over the lost beer (and chips)….
1) Utah comes from behind to beat Houston, take over final playoff spot in West. You can make an argument that Houston is a dangerous first-round playoff opponent — they still have James Harden, Dwight Howard, a decent supporting cast, and they have put together stretches of excellent basketball this season. The problem is, first you have to make the playoffs, and right now Houston is on the outside looking in.
Utah came from 18 down to beat the Rockets in Houston Wednesday night, 89-87. Gordon Hayward had 22 points, Derrick Favors 17 including the game winning dunk — yes, he was standing on the baseline and should have been called out of bounds right before that dunk, but that’s not why the Rockets lost. James Harden wasn’t the reason the Rockets lost either, he had 26 points, 10 assists, eight steals and seven rebounds. But the Rockets played a terrible third quarter shooting 32 percent, and that has been the problem all season — they can’t string together four good quarters, or four good games, in a row. Inconsistency. The Rockets are just half a game back of both Utah and Dallas, they can get in the postseason, but their playoffs start now — and they need four quarters of solid play a game to make it. Because Utah is healthy (well, except at the guard spots), defending, and making enough plays to win nightly.
2) Pistons move into eight seed in The East on night Bulls, Wizards fall. Detroit is putting it together at the right time with Tobias Harris — despite a triple-double from Elfrid Payton, the Pistons beat the Magic 118-112. That’s four straight wins for Stan Van Gundy’s crew, who are so hot Reggie Jackson is bouncing in threes (this didn’t count, but damn):
While that was happening, the Bulls were losing to the Knicks at home. How does a team fighting for a playoff spot fall to New York at home? How does a team fighting for a playoff spot lose to a team that starts a Jose Calderon/Sasha Vujacic backcourt? Because Jimmy Butler is clearly still not healthy but is trying to play through a bum knee. Because the Knicks frontline owned Pau Gasol and the Bulls the glass. Because the Bulls did not defend the three-point line. Because the Bulls just are not a very good team and not one their new coach seems to inspire quite like the old coach did. Chicago is now one game behind Detroit and Indiana for the final playoff spot in the East (with the second game of a home-and-home against the Knicks tonight).
3) Warriors thump Clippers 114-98, move closer to 73 wins. Golden State wants 73 wins — even Steve Kerr finally admitted it after the Warriors swept the season series from the Clippers 114-98 Wednesday. Now they just need to go 9-2 the rest of the way to make that happen. This was vintage Warriors — Stephen Curry dropped 33, but it was Klay Thompson‘s sharpshooting in the third quarter that helped the Warriors pull away (Thompson was 7-of-10 from three on the night). Clippers starters not named DeAndre Jordan struggled against the Warriors defense — Jordan had 19 points (and 20 boards), the rest of the Clippers starters had 27. It was an off game for Chris Paul, and that’s not going be enough against Golden State. (The Clippers miss Blake Griffin, but it’s difficult to see them beating the Warriors in a likely second round matchup.)
4) Emmanuel Mudiay hits ridiculous game winner for Denver. When you’re the Sixers nothing goes your way. Also, Emmanuel Mudiay had 27 points and 11 boards on the night, and he’s starting to develop into the point guard Nuggets fans hoped he would be.
5) Delaware guard Russ Smith sets D-League record with 65 point game. Russ Smith played well when it mattered in March for Louisville — maybe March is his month. Smith is playing for the Delaware 87ers in the D-League and on Wednesday Smith dropped 65 points on 24-of-42 shooting — and his team still lost 140-129 to the Canton Charge.
Smith was attacking the rim — he had 32 points on layups and was 16-of-20 at the free throw line.