Going into their Wednesday night tilt yesterday, both the Charlotte Bobcats and the Toronto Raptors occupied playoff spots in the hilariously bad Eastern Conference – this despite being a combined seven games under .500. If I had to guess, I’d say you could probably count on one hand the number of times these two teams featured among the top eight this deep into a season in the last ten years.
Nevertheless, Kemba Walker and DeMar DeRozan – two pretty good players on otherwise not-so-good teams – were putting in work at the Air Canada Centre, and possible trade-bait Kyle Lowry did his part for the home team by hitting a late three to send the game to overtime.
Neither squad could hit a jumper to save their lives in the extra period, but a comedy of errors (mostly at the free-throw line) led to a Charlotte possession with one second left with the game tied at 102.
Usually, with one second left, the most you can hope for is some sort of catch-and-shoot play. But this is the Raptors, a team that once allowed an in-bounds, alley-oop game-winner. Cue Walker, who managed to duck under a screen, free himself from a late chasing Lowry, and off a bounce pass, calmly splash an 18-foot buzzer-beater over an outstretched Jonas Valanciunas.
A flashy finish, but who won this game, really? The Bobcats, who could plausibly provide a fourth winning team in the East, or the Raptors, who inched a game closer to Andrew Wiggins.
Fast Break Notes
Words by J. Tinsley
— The Knicks are officially on a one-game winning streak with Tyson Chandler back in the line-up thanks to a double-overtime road win in Milwaukee 107-101. And the title says “amazing stat lines,” but we didn’t necessarily mean “amazing good.” The Knicks as a team shot 38-101 (37.6%) and J.R. Smith went 7-23 from the field (5-17 from three!) to amass a whopping 19 points. It’s soothing to know J.R. is always going to J.R. regardless of the circumstances. Melo shot 9-29 for 29 and nine rebounds. Andrea Bargnani was 5-16. Iman Shumpert was 0-5. In fact, the best shooting Knick was Beno Udrih who went 8-12. But the Knicks won. That’s all that matters.
— Detroit’s 107-106 victory over Boston puts them within a game of .500 and you know who they have to thank? None other than The Game’s “favorite” point guard Brandon Jennings who finished with 28 points and 14 assists.
— Break up the Wiz Kids! Washington’s on a two-game winning streak following a successful sweep of the New York metropolitan basketball clubs (not exactly the most impressive feat currently). They won 113-107 in Brooklyn, led by John Wall’s 21 points and six assists.
— Dame Lillard had his second consecutive monster game with 36 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals. But it was Kevin Love’s 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists that helped Minnesota momentarily halt the hottest team in basketball 120-109.
— The Chicago Bulls without Derrick Rose and Nate Robinson are virtually impossible to watch. The Rockets used a balanced attack from Dwight Howard (23 points, nine rebounds), Chandler Parsons (19 points, nine rebounds), Patrick Beverly (15 points) and James Harden (19 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals) to win a snoozer 109-94. Bad news for Chicago? The slate doesn’t get any easier tonight with Oklahoma City on the menu.
— To the casual eye, a Hawks/Kings matchup may not sound enticing. But realizing it matches two of the games most talented centers in DeMarcus Cousins and Al Horford. Both big men earned their money – 28-7-6 for Cousins and 25-10-5-4 blocks for Horford – but Atlanta’s 124-107 win was also aided by Jeff Teague’s 18 points and 15 assists and Kyle Korver’s 28 points (8-10 from three).
— Sans Tony Parker, the Spurs did what the always do when bit by the injury bug. They inserted the next man up into the starting five and still won anyway. Case in point, their 108-101 road dub in Phoenix with the immortal Tim Duncan leading the charge with 17 points and 13 rebounds.