We feel like we’re at a basketball buffet this time of year. Between conference tournaments and early NBA games, we could easily have our fill by 7 p.m., and yet there we go, back for seconds and thirds as the night goes on. Given that many choices it truly means something when a game can hold our attention and Miami’s 21st win in a row, 107-94 over Milwaukee, kept us zoned in. This even though the possible first-round matchup in the East didn’t resemble the usual struggle the Bucks put Miami in (they hold the Heat to their fifth-worst shooting percentage this year). LeBron had 17 points by half en route to his 28 points and 10 boards. Even when Dwyane Wade briefly left the game with a neck injury the Heat pressed the accelerator harder. There was a stretch in the second quarter where the style was decidedly outside-in. Without LeBron playing — he was on the bench after doing this to poor John Henson — and guys such as Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy Jr. on the floor, penetrating the lane was done expressly to kick it out for three. Then again, it’s not like they were going to give it to Birdman down low, either. After LeBron’s 17 points in the first half, he came back and threw a ridiculous outlet pass 50 feet to Chalmers, who before falling out of bounds lobbed it to Wade (20 points) for the slam. … Streak watch: Only the ’71-’72 Lakers (33 games) and ’07-’08 Rockets (22 games) have longer winning streaks than Miami now. … Kobe Bryant started at Indiana after that brutal sprained ankle Wednesday night, but we spent more time talking about it than he actually played. He barely mattered on the court while in for 12 minutes. He didn’t score, and barely broke out of a trot in L.A.’s 99-93 win, but we did see him drawing up plays on the sideline for his teammates like a coach. Roy Hibbert‘s early foul trouble meant the Pacers lost a 19-8 lead and pressed Jeff Pendergraph into duty guarding Dwight Howard (20 points, 12 boards). Howard’s kind of an idiot at times but against the 6-9 Pendergraph he looked like Godzilla vs. Tokyo. His back-to-back dunks were the epitome of ease. Before Howard got a third foul halfway through the second, the only thing to distract Pacers fans was an interview with Tyler and Ben Hansbrough‘s brother in the stands in which he talked about them fighting over the last pizza slice as kids. … Steve Blake’s five threes (for 18 points), Antawn Jamison‘s three (had 17 points) with 50 seconds left and the Lakers’ ridiculously easy press break in the final 35 seconds gave L.A. a big win over a superb Indiana team while playing 36 minutes sans Kobe. This might be the grittiest road win of the year for L.A., which has shown zero heart when Bryant doesn’t play typically. After the game George Hill called out his fans for not having the team’s back, a bold move in hoops-mad Indiana. He needs to realize that in March allegiances are torn in a bunch of different directions with regards to the NCAA Tournament. Those fans will come back soon enough. … Hit the jump to read about a bad night in the Bay Area …
Did you guys hear the one about John Wall not hitting at least two threes in a single game this season? Oh, sorry, there’s no joke there. It’s just a fact that he hadn’t made two triples in a game since April 6, 2011 (he’s shooting .150 from deep per 36 minutes, so should we be surprised?). When he hit his third straight triple Friday in a 96-87 win over New Orleans — the last time he’d done that was November 2010 — we didn’t know what was happening. He must have dipped into the juice Deron Williams was drinking when he drilled nine threes in the middle of a terrible season shooting from downtown last week. Wall’s game was seriously impressive, though, getting 29 points on just 12-of-15 shooting. When we play word association with Wall we don’t often arrive at “efficient,” but his explosive play highlighted a sneaky good matchup with the Hornets’ Greivis Vasquez (18 points, nine dimes). … Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and C.J. Fair of Syracuse threw down huge dunks in their conference tourney wins. The ‘Cuse win over Georgetown in the Big East semis was an instant classic that was too good to finish in regulation. We’re sad to see the Big East break up, because that tourney at MSG every year is madness. The Big East title game, Syracuse vs. Louisville, is actually a preview of next year’s ACC tourney, which means that 2014 tournament with Duke, Carolina, the Orange, Cards and more is essentially a Dick Vitale fever dream. … Golden State laid an inexcusable egg in a 113-95 loss to short-handed Chicago at home. How do you do that in the middle of a playoff run? Meanwhile for Chicago, this was a 60-point turnaround in final margin after losing by 42 Wednesday, the most impressive back-from-the-dead story we’ve heard of since Lazarus. Luol Deng’s 23 points and the Dubs’ ice-cold (3-of-14) touch from three means that the Warriors’ lead for the No. 6 spot is one game over Houston. … Speaking of those Rockets, they’re gunning for that sixth seed and finding ways to overcome their streaky nature. James Harden had 37 points to pull Houston out of a 20-point hole in the third quarter in a 108-100 win over Minnesota. Can we end the T-Wolves’ season now, out of mercy? … On the complete opposite end of the Struggle Spectrum from Minny is Denver, which sent a message by proving its offense (at home, anyway) can handle Memphis’ NBA-best defense, 87-80. They had just a huge fourth quarter outscoring the Grizz 29-14 thanks to the team’s most unlikely source: Kosta Koufos (18 points, 16 boards). We knew this team has no alpha dog but we didn’t know its depth went this far. He cut to the rim for a huge layup off Andre Iguodala‘s penetration in the fourth quarter to go up four, and the Nugs got a 15th straight win at home. This is a potential first-round matchup we would do a lot to see, like step under a shooter’s landing spoâ€”just kidding, we’d never do that (looking at you still, Dahntay). … Oklahoma City dropped 73 points at half on Orlando and lost interest the minute the third quarter opened in a 117-104 win. With its lead suddenly just four and its home crowd sounding like one big, collective “UH, GUYS?!?!” the Thunder awoke and took over. The assist of the night came on Thabo Sefolosha‘s no-look from halfcourt to Kevin Durant (26 points, nine boards) on a bend-it-like-Beckham angle. Nikola Vucevic had 21 and 14 boards. In other news Rudy Gay had 28 points, Amir Johnson had 12 and 21 boards and Toronto eliminated Charlotte from the playoffs, 92-78. … Atlanta beat Phoenix, 107-94, because they balanced their game with every starter in double figures, while Phoenix was 3-of-14 from three trying to catch up. … Finally the Mavs pulled off a 17-4 run to start the fourth to beat Cleveland, 96-86. … We’re out like the Warriors’ grip on sixth.
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