For a game hyped to no end on ESPN all day Wednesday, it’s safe to say the third matchup between Eastern Conference BFFs Miami and Indiana lived up to its billing.
1. The Greg Oden experiment. Pat Riley signed him for the specific reason to guard Roy Hibbert. And he guarded him, he just didn’t do it well. Hibbert once again morphed into Hakeem Olajuwon against the Heat in the first quarter. Then, the Heat pulled long-time muscle and goon Udonis Haslem off the bench and Hibbert’s impact on the game was never truly the same the rest of the way.
2. Indy’s Defense. Yeah, they struggle on offense at times. And when they do, good grief are they difficult to watch. But their defense frustrated nearly everyone on Miami not wearing No. 6 (and even him to an extent) all night. Miami shot an uncharacteristic 45.9% from the floor as a team.
3. Mutual hatred. Dwyane Wade suckered Lance Stephenson into an ejection, a moment everyone knew would happen at some point. From that, to near tackles on LeBron in the open court to LeBron’s own inadvertent elbow on Hibbert drawing an offensive flagrant foul (huh?), Wednesday night was about as physical and emotional as we’re going to get in the regular season.
When the game ended, Indy not only took a 2-1 season series advantage with an 84-83 win, but more importantly a three-game lead over the Heat for Eastern supremacy. The Heat had legit causes for frustration following the game – Dwyane Wade being called out-of-bounds on a made three pointer and David West traveling on his buzzer-beating triple to put Indy up 84-80 – but several careless possessions of their own did them in as well. Head Coach Erik Spoelstra’s clock management and decision not to draw the play up for LeBron – which he immediately regretted – was head-scratching, too.
LeBron led Miami with 38 points, eight rebounds and five assists (six turnovers, too). Paul George paced Indiana with 23 points and eight rebounds (and one dunk on LeBron). The fourth and final regular season street fight takes place April 11 in Miami.
— AJ called it. The Bobcats are a playoff team barring an April implosion. Charlotte needed overtime to dispatch the Nets 116-111 led by Al Jefferson’s 35 points and 15 rebounds. That’s the third time he’s hit those numbers this season (tied for most in the league). He likely won’t receive any MVP votes, but don’t tell that to anyone in Charlotte.
— The Wizards didn’t do themselves any favors to make ground up on Brooklyn because they lost, too. With a 99-93 victory, however, the Suns temporarily move back in the eighth spot out West after Dallas reclaimed it Tuesday night. That finish should be a good one.
— It’s a good thing Toronto beat Boston 99-90 behind Kyle “Contract Year” Lowry’s 23 points and nine dimes. They’re tied with Chicago for third in the East.
— The good thing for Minnesota? Their defense was in the slums, but they held Atlanta to 37.8% shooting Wednesday night in a 107-83 win. The bad thing? Too bad it doesn’t help their playoff positioning.
— All one needs to know about Pistons/Cavs is Detroit blew a humongous lead in the fourth and Dion Waters cut the lights off in The Palace of Auburn Hills with a game-winning bucket. The Cavs are on a three-game winning streak, America. Sadly, the Ava Devine is out of play. Hell, she might still go through with her end of the deal anyway.
— In perhaps the weirdest game of the night, the Pelicans won their fourth in a row with a 98-96 win over the Clippers. Chris Paul went – wait for it – 0-12 from the field finishing with only two points (12 assists and three steals, too, but still).
— San Antonio’s now the author of a 15-game winning streak. The Nuggets attempted to make it a game in the fourth, but the Spurs edged by 108-103 led by a vintage Tim Duncan performance of 29 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.
— A night following the most embarrassing loss of the Carmelo Anthony Knicks era, Melo and the gang redeemed themselves 107-99 in Sacramento behind No. 7’s 36 points. And yes, another great Boogie Cousins performance went to waste (32-15-8).
— Why the NBA chose Grizzlies/Jazz to follow Heat/Pacers, none of us will ever know. Yet, thanks to a 29-13 fourth quarter, Memphis captured a critical win in Salt Lake City 91-87 to remain a half game ahead of Phoenix. Zach Randolph was his regular Zach Randolph self with 22 points and 13 boards.