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NBA ICYMI: The Shape of Playoff Losses to Come?

The Rockets give the Thunder a preview of what a first-round matchup between the two could look like. Plus, AD and Dame continue their one-man shows, nobody wins in Nuggets-Mavs, and everything else you may have missed from Tuesday’s action.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports

All the need-to-know info from Tuesday’s slate.


The Rockets Show the Thunder the Future

Late in the third quarter of Rockets-Thunder, James Harden drove past Carmelo Anthony on the perimeter like he was swerving around a traffic cone on the road. Harden finished the layup. Melo, who was made an impromptu statue on the floor of Chesapeake Energy Arena, was enraged. He screamed at Steven Adams, asking him where the help was. The problem? Harden was too fast for the help to even begin rotating. Melo was burned. Adams pointed to a frustrated Paul George, and that about summed up OKC’s night. Houston won 122-112.

Melo had a proficient shooting night (44 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3) and scored 23 points, passing Jerry West for 20th all time on the NBA’s top scorers list. But it was as if the Rockets made it their goal to expose why Melo is nearly unplayable in today’s NBA against a team with the offensive caliber of the Rockets or Warriors. Defense is important, too. (So is having Andre Roberson) And on that end, Melo is a liability. He’s not entirely alone. Westbrook was 15-of-27.

The Rockets are hotter than a ghost pepper dipped in habanero sauce. They have now won 16 in a row. They’re the top seed in the West by a full game, and they are the first team to get to 50 wins this season, while the Thunder fell to the 7-seed in the conference with the loss. Tuesday night’s game wasn’t just another loss for the Thunder, but also a glimpse at how a matchup in the playoffs could go if these teams meet in a 1-8 or 2-7 matchup. For OKC, it wasn’t promising.

Your Nightly Wild, Wild West Update: What in the World Happened in Dallas?

At the risk of hyperbole, the Nuggets’ 118-107 loss to the Mavericks in Dallas on Tuesday is one of the worst results this season. For both teams. The Nuggets were holding on to the 8-seed by a hair and dropped a game to one of the worst teams in the league. The Mavericks are tanking; they’re not good, and every loss for them is a win. But Dennis Smith Jr. scored 18 points and added 11 assists and five rebounds. Yogi Ferrell dropped 24 points, and he and Dirk Nowitzki combined to go 11-for-14 from 3. Nikola Jokic (who didn’t play the entire fourth quarter) and Jamal Murray combined for 10 points. That about sums up what was still a mind-boggling result.

The Mavericks are now a full game above the worst record in the league (i.e., the best odds for the no. 1 pick) after the Hawks fell to the Raptors, who have won five straight and remain atop the East. And the Nuggets [looks at their last 10 games of this season] can’t afford many more losses, especially given that the Clippers own the tiebreaker against them. Ignore the scoreboard; nobody won in Dallas on Tuesday.

In the nightcap, Damian Lillard continued his voluminous rampage and made eight 3s on his way to 37 points, giving the Blazers a 111-87 win (their eighth straight) over the Knicks to remain the 3-seed. Meanwhile, the Clippers couldn’t take advantage of the Nuggets’ loss because, well, Anthony Davis happened.

The Highbrow Show

Davis exited the Pelicans’ game against the Clippers on Tuesday night in the second quarter with a hip injury after getting bumped by DeAndre Jordan on his left side.

For a quick second, the basketball world feared the worst: another injury for Davis. Then, the Pelicans announced the X-rays on his hip were negative, and Davis returned to lay waste to the Clippers in a third quarter where he made four 3s, including this one …

And swatted the Clippers’ shots into fateful oblivion:

Davis’s exorbitant performance didn’t stop there. The Clippers erased the Pelicans’ 20-point lead and grabbed a four-point lead of their own with 2:05 left. So, Davis had to come to the rescue, and he turned crunch time into his own showtime, going on a 6-0 solo run in a span of 90 seconds with shots that looked right out of Cirque du Soleil.

Davis was everywhere and did everything. He finished with 41 points and propelled the Pelicans to their ninth straight win. They’re now in sole control of the 4-seed.

What’s the Canadian Version of the Statue of Liberty Dunk?

The Battle of the Two Guards

Dwyane Wade and Bradley Beal are shooting guards traveling in opposite directions—the former heading down the mountain of his prime while the latter is climbing his. For one night in Washington, D.C., though, they were hikers carrying a similar load. Wade tallied a team-high 22 points on the night, while Beal finished with a game-high 30 points in the mild overtime thriller that saw the Wizards edge out a 117-113 win over the Heat.

Wade tapped into the old reservoir of water from the Fountain of Youth more than a few times.

But with a win hanging in the balance, the Heat down two, and the ball in Wade’s hands, his potential game-tying floater rattled out with 4.1 seconds left. The Wizards are now half a game back of the Pacers for the 4-seed, and the Heat fell back to the 8-seed, a half game in back of the seventh-seeded Bucks.

If Dwight Howard Has a Good Game but Nobody Acknowledges It, Does It Really Count?

Ben-Air

You may know Ben Simmons as a point guard. Let me introduce you to Ben Simmons, the dunker.

Is it possible that we’re already taking Simmons for granted? He’s a rookie who is an athletic freak that can post a double-double faster than In-N-Out can cook one. (He has 25 this season.) Tuesday against the Hornets, he tallied an effortless 16 points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds. He was the only Sixers starter who finished with a positive plus-minus.

Every Philly starter scored in double digits, and the bench added 39 points as the Sixers downed the Hornets 128-114—the second-most points the Sixers have scored in a game this season—and kept pace with the Wizards.

Caught Red-Handed

In yesterday’s ICYMI, I pointed out that the Bulls were producing some lowlight-worthy moments on their journey to the bottom (top?) of the tanking race. It seems that the league office was paying attention, too.