All the need-to-know info from Friday night’s action.
The Takeaway: Golden State Holds Its Breath
In the third quarter of a largely meaningless game against the Hawks, Warriors center JaVale McGee fell on Curry’s left leg. Curry looked frustrated and exited the game immediately.
The Warriors announced that the injury was a left knee strain, and Curry did not return to the game. Reports following the game indicated that it was diagnosed as an MCL injury to Curry’s right knee, and that the two-time MVP would have an MRI Saturday to determine the severity of the injury. Curry injured his left knee in 2016, and this was his first game back from an ankle injury he’s been dealing with since December. Saturday’s MRI could have a ripple effect that would be felt all the way until the Western Conference finals.
The Bonus Takeaway: The Game That Was Better Than Whatever You Did Friday Night
If you’re reading this, it’s (probably) too late. You missed one of the best games of the season. The Spurs and the Jazz met Friday in San Antonio during a Western Conference playoff race that shifts by the game, and provided us with a competitive 48 minutes, then gifted us five more just for good measure.
After keeping close all game, the Jazz turned it on in the fourth and made a small-scale comeback at the hands of rookie Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell dropped 14 in the final frame and a ridiculous 11 points in the last 1:47. On the other side, LaMarcus Aldridge had the game of his life. The two traded shots down the stretch like brokers on Wall Street trying to one-up each other. Mitchell made the final move in regulation—a ridiculous, off-balance shot to send the game to overtime:
Donovan Mitchell is something special pic.twitter.com/KXIK6B32kP— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) March 24, 2018
But in overtime, Aldridge and Patty Mills put together enough shots to edge out the Jazz. The forward hit a second-chance layup after grabbing a rebound with 34.8 seconds left that all but sealed the result. Aldridge, who has fallen under the radar beneath the shadow of the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard story line, scored a career-high 45 points Friday, 43 of them coming in regulation. San Antonio grabbed a key victory, 124-120, which tied them for fifth in the West.
The Cheat Sheet
- Russell Westbrook is The Closer. Nobody would embrace the theatrics of being shot out of a bullpen and onto the mound to close out a ninth inning more than Russell Westbrook. That’s what it felt like when the fourth quarter of Thunder-Heat began with OKC down two points at home Friday night.
RUSSELL WESTBROOK EURO STEP! pic.twitter.com/wfxYuB2dnH— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) March 24, 2018
Westbrook Euro-stepped his way to 17 points in the fourth quarter, scorching Miami’s defense with his patented, unbridled stubbornness to get to the rim—and, when needed, to hit the 3, too. That was the unplanned gameplan when Paul George and Carmelo Anthony decided to play colder than the ice caps, going a combined 5-of-24 from the field and 0-of-10 from 3. Westbrook did it all when it mattered most: He finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists. The last one of those dishes was to Steven Adams, who once again was the unsung hero. Adams’s dunk in the final minutes clinched the 105-99 win, and he finished with 24 points of his own, plus 12 rebounds.
Watch Steven Adams direct traffic on this play. He knew exactly what he wanted. pic.twitter.com/HIQTbXvpEl— Up The Thunder (@UpTheThunder) March 24, 2018
For better or for worse, Adams and Westbrook are still the pillars of this OKC team. The good news: They’re playing their best basketball right before the playoffs.
- The Clippers stumble while the Nuggets stay alive. Both the Nuggets and the Clippers found themselves in crunch-time finishes on the road Friday night with playoff implications on the line. The former held the lead for most of the game, while the latter came back from a 15-point deficit. The final few minutes of both matchups deviated in their result. In Indiana, Austin Rivers couldn’t hit a shot and the Clippers fell to the Pacers 104-109 despite 27 points off the bench from Lou Williams. In Washington, Will Barton’s 3 went in late to solidify the 108-100 Denver win against the Wizards. Indy is now tied for the 4-seed, while the Wizards stayed in the 6-seed, one and a half games behind the Sixers. But for the Nuggets and Clippers, both of whom are on the outside of the West’s playoff picture looking in, the results mattered more. Denver’s win, combined with the Jazz’s loss, puts them just two spots behind the 8-seed, while the Clippers’ loss sets them back to two and a half games behind the coveted spot.
- The Celtics head Northwest and come out with a win. Despite an increasingly injured roster, Boston overcame a 12-point Blazers lead in the fourth quarter and won 105-100 thanks to 30 points and a clutch 3-pointer late by Marcus Morris. Morris also hit a game-closing 3 in the Celtics’ one-point win against the Thunder Tuesday.
- The Raptors barely finished out the Friday work day. The Nets were up by as many as 13 points on the 1-seed in the East before Toronto clamped down and realized what was happening. Brooklyn missed 12 free throws, which didn’t help their case to play spoiler, though they did spoil D’Angelo Russell’s triple-double. Kyle Lowry tallied a game-high 25 points to help Toronto edge the Nets 116-112.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. scores a career-high 39 … in a loss. The Knicks hung with the Wolves for the entirety of the game, but when New York needed Hardaway to hit a clutch layup—not once, but twice—to keep them in it, he couldn’t finish. Minnesota’s five starters all scored in double figures, and every one of those points kept them from avoiding what would have been a bad loss for a team hanging on to the 7-seed in the West.
Play(s) of the Night
This was about the only thing that mattered from Suns-Cavs, which ended up as expected, with Cleveland blowing out Phoenix 120-95.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, Thon Maker channeled his inner Giannis for this one.
Thon Maker throwdown through the defense pic.twitter.com/iIGBsg6zPf— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 24, 2018
The Bucks took care of the Bulls, 118-105.