Elevator Pitch: The Clippers notched their 40th win of the season in 60 tries with a 101-93 victory over the Rockets. On a bad note for the City of Angels top pro basketball team, however, the win doesn’t come without its share of concern. Jamal Crawford exited the game near the end of the first half due to a calf strain. Head coach Doc Rivers expressed concern, but said Crawford felt “OK” after the game. Oh, and the Clips appear to be the front runner to land the services of Danny Granger.
Game Ball: The guy who, by most accounts (including this one), ranks third in MVP voting behind “the other two guys” earns this honor. Blake Griffin’s 23 points and 16 boards paced Los Angeles. The outright dominance of Canelo Alvarez’s doppleganger’s game both facing and back to the basket has been a joy to watch the past three months. Now it’s all about doing so once the second season arrives.
Supporting Actor: Darren Collison, who scored seven of his 19 in the final two minutes.
Standings: In a way, the Clippers won twice last night. The victory gave Blake and company the tiebreaker over Houston for home-court advantage if both teams finish with the same record – a possibility that could very well happen with LA at 40-20 and H-Town at 39-19. They are currently the fourth and fifth teams in the Western Conference.
— Don’t look now, but the Thunder have lost three in a row. Their season is over. Durant’s overrated. Trade Westbrook. Move the team back to Seattle. They’re toast.
— Now that the faux-overreaction is out of the way, OKC is obviously experiencing the gelling issues many expected following the return of Russell Westbrook. Their latest loss came at the hands of Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two stars didn’t disappoint, with Durant nearly notching a triple double with 28-10-9, but Kyrie’s 31-5-9-4 helped push Cleveland to a 114-104 victory.
— Someone had to win when Philly hosted Orlando. And like a good host, Philly treated Orlando to only its fourth road victory of the season 101-90.
— Rajon Rondo’s 22 points and 11 assists gave Boston a 115-104 win. Following this loss, the Hawks are 1-9 in their last 10 and only four and four and a half games ahead of the Pistons and Cavs, respectively. The Ava Devine/Cleveland bet isn’t dead yet.
— Steph Curry experienced perhaps his worst game as a pro tallying only five points on 2-10 shooting as Taj Gibson and the Bulls coasted to a 103-83 victory. Pray for the Knicks, too. Why? Curry’s going to be pissed Friday night, New York stinks at team defense, they’ll be on the second end of a back-to-back (after playing Miami), and it’ll be exactly a year since this happened.
— Oy. Anthony Davis hurt his left shoulder in last night’s 108-89 defeat at the hands the Mavericks. Yep, for those keeping score at home, New Orleans is now down three of its top four scorers. Fret not, David D., only six months until Drew Brees and company report to training camp.
— Memphis pulled within a game and half of Phoenix for the eighth spot in the West with a 108-103 victory over the Lakers aka The Gasol Bowl. Both brothers posted double-doubles (Pau: 17-10; Marc: 14-12-5).
— Stop the presses! Andre Drummond shot 100% from the free throw line last night. Granted, he only took two attempts, but on any calculator, that’s 100%. Despite Drummond’s 16 points, 17 boards, three steals and two blocks, Detroit fell 120-110 to the Spurs. In classic Popovich fashion, he played every available Spur last night, with no one player tallying more than 30 minutes.
— The Jazz upended the Suns 109-86 on a night Phoenix would like to soon forget. Gordon Hayward’s 17-10-9 led the Jazz.
— Brooklyn boarded a luxury airliner for a flight to Portland and all they received in return was a 44-point ass whooping at the hands of the Blazers. Of the loss, Paul Pierce said, “No way against any NBA team should we lose by 40 with the guys we got. That’s a complete lack of focus.” Head coach Jason Kidd? “This is the NBA, games like this happen.” The ol’ glass half full/half empty routine, eh?
Bonus: Hands down the best performance on the hardwood last night wasn’t by a professional. That honor lands in the hands of UNC sophomore Marcus Paige. Not only has Carolina won 10 straight, Paige put forth one hell of a convincing statement game for his candidacy for ACC Player of the Year.
Paige’s 35 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals – including seven triples – bested North Carolina State’s T.J. Warren’s 36 points (the ACC’s leading scorer) as Carolina capped off one of the season’s best games in overtime 85-84.
Those 84th and 85th points just happened to come via a Paige full-court dash and layup with less than seven seconds remaining.