All the need-to-know info from Wednesday’s slate.
Clawing Their Way Into the Playoffs
It took a wild comeback in Detroit, but the Toronto Raptors have become the first NBA team to clinch a playoff berth this season.
Toronto’s dynamic backcourt duo put together stellar performances to fight back from a 17-point first-half deficit. Kyle Lowry, who ended the night with 15 points and 15 assists, scored 10 in the third quarter, when the Raptors went on an 18-2 run to take the lead. But DeMar DeRozan shined the brightest on Wednesday.
Down one with no timeouts and 10 seconds to play, DeRozan sprinted unopposed down the court for a soul-snatching and-1 poster on Anthony Tolliver:
But Blake Griffin—who finished with 31 points—provided an answer, and an easy five-footer sent the game into overtime.
Tied 119-119 with eight seconds remaining in the extra period, DeRozan again held the fate of the game in his hands. With his earth-shattering dunk still reverberating, DeRozan was circled by four Pistons as he darted into the paint, leaving Fred VanVleet wide open for a corner jumper:
Though DeRozan carried the Raptors with his 42-point performance, the undrafted sophomore ended up the night’s hero. Now that the team has secured a playoff spot, it’s time to see if it can finally exorcise its playoff demons.
Your Nightly Wild, Wild West Update
Utah continues to prove that it deserves a spot in the playoffs, as the team dominated the Pacers en route to a 104-84 win in Indianapolis.
Rudy Gobert led the way with 23 points and 14 rebounds, and as always, Donovan Mitchell continued to make a case for his Rookie of the Year candidacy with another strong performance and nightly highlight:
The Jazz locked down Victor Oladipo and the Pacers, holding them to a mere 38.6 percent from the field. Utah has now won 16 of its past 18 games, including nine straight road wins. If you’re a Jazz fan, it’s all right to be feeling yourself a bit right now (Joe Ingles certainly is):
Why’d he do him like that? pic.twitter.com/88im82wmJI— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 8, 2018
With the win and the Nuggets’ loss on Tuesday (more on that below), Utah is now in a virtual tie with the Nuggets and Clippers for the 8-seed in the West.
A Couple New Starters, but the Same Closer for Cleveland
The Cavs’ new starting lineup is paying dividends, but let’s not forget who makes the whole thing go:
LeBron James cashes the clutch 3⃣ pic.twitter.com/MEozYWICEA— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 8, 2018
LeBron scored 39 points (on just 25 field goal attempts). He went 5-for-8 from deep, scored Cleveland’s last nine points, added 10 assists and eight rebounds, and did typical LeBron things:
LeBron STEPBACK PACKAGE back-to-back possessions to bury the Nuggets. Good lord. pic.twitter.com/4dsGf03oz3— LeWob James (@World_Wide_Wob) March 8, 2018
The 113-108 win was the team’s second consecutive since Tyronn Lue announced he was changing starters. (The team also got strong contributions from Rodney Hood, who had 15 points, and Monday’s hero, Larry Nance Jr., who added 13 points, 13 rebounds, and four steals.)
The Nuggets wasted a 36-point outing from Nikola Jokic and have now lost two straight. They’ll face the suddenly hot Lakers in two of their next three games.
More Bad Luck for the Brow
After returning from a scary rib injury to finish up a 41-point performance against the Clippers on Tuesday night, Anthony Davis suffered another injury in Wednesday’s matchup against the Kings. The MVP candidate landed awkwardly while coming down with a rebound late in the third:
Uh oh. Anthony Davis to the locker room. pic.twitter.com/O29OWvECBs— Dime on UPROXX (@DimeUPROXX) March 8, 2018
Davis did not return to the game, but he walked off under his own power and X-rays came back negative. New Orleans went on to win 114-101—its 10th consecutive, which ties a franchise best. But another injury for Davis—even if only a minor one—doesn’t bode well for the Pelicans as they continue to fight for their place in a tightly contested Western Conference. They can never seem to catch a break from the injury bug; maybe it’s time to bring back that voodoo doctor.
Dunn Steal Leads to the Nasty Finnish
Rockets Streak Powers Through the Greek Freak
Giannis came to play—he put together another 30-point performance—but the Rockets’ dominance continues. Houston improved the second-longest winning streak in franchise history to 17 games with a 110-99 victory that prevented the Bucks from climbing up from the final playoff berth in the East.
James Harden dropped a casual 26 points and an even more casual buzzer-beater 3 to close out the first half:
Pull up and splash— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 8, 2018
James Harden ends the first half with a deeeeeep buzzer-beater pic.twitter.com/zB2o9czqC9
The CP3-Harden-Capela tandem is now 34-1 when sharing the court, and Houston remains the most unstoppable force in the league.
Ibaka Exits With Rare Non-Punching Ejection
The Tank Is Strong
In a marquee tanking matchup, Chicago made sure to throw the league off its scent after being called out for some not-so-subtle tactics on Tuesday. Chicago went up by as many as 21 points before allowing Memphis to pull within a single point in the fourth. But the Grizzlies’ tank is just too strong, as Memphis dropped its 15th straight with the 119-110 loss.
At least the ref seemed to be having some fun:
Billy Kennedy is jacked up for this tank war pic.twitter.com/mIHVkNiJeW— Tankathon.com (@tankathon) March 8, 2018
Strange Night in L.A.
Brook Lopez went to work on the Magic’s bigs on Wednesday, scoring 27 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 0.6 seconds left to seal the 108-107 victory for Los Angeles. There’s nothing abnormal about that—Lopez is a veteran scorer facing a mediocre defensive team. What is definitely abnormal—historically so, actually—is that he managed to go the entire game without grabbing a rebound:
Brook Lopez dropped 27 points and had zero rebounds tonight in a @Lakers win. Per @bball_ref, that's the only time since at least 1963-64 that a 7-footer scored over 25 points and had no rebounds. Zelmo Beaty (6-10) is the last center to do it in 1967. pic.twitter.com/1pv7VZeY2I— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) March 8, 2018
Even weirder? Check out how the game ended:
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, one of the most absurd clock operator gaffes/reviews in a long time occurs with Lakers up 1 ... 0.6 seconds left ... Magic ball.— LeWob James (@World_Wide_Wob) March 8, 2018
Clock starts early
Refs go to monitor
Refs rule jump ball
Game ends pic.twitter.com/7o8HTITJVp
Somebody might be losing their job at Staples Center, and no, it’s not a Lakers coach or Doc Rivers. My thoughts and prayers are with you, clock operator.