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NBA ICYMI: A Short Bench and a Long Night in Minnesota

The Celtics and Timberwolves show off contrasting coaching philosophies to predictable results. Plus, the Process feels the Heat, the Thunder avoid the worst loss of the year, and everything else you need to know from Thursday’s action.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

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

Oh, Thibs, Where Art Thou Defense?

When Nemanja Bjelica is your leading scorer with 30 points, it’s going to take a stellar defensive effort to withstand a Celtics team that makes half of its shots. (No offense, Belly.) The Wolves couldn’t hold Boston off Thursday night at home, allowing more than 115 points for the 19th time this season in the 117-109 loss that gave the Celtics a playoff berth and Minnesota its third straight L.

The Wolves left the rim unattended, begging the Celtics to take advantage of the open invitation. In the first half, they did so gladly.

First, Jayson Tatum glided through the air and hung for an eternity before putting this back …

Then, Marcus Smart soared and dunked a rebound with a judicial-like authority.

But the disparity between the teams showed itself most in bench play. The Celtics and Wolves are the antitheses of each other when it comes to the philosophies of depth and minutes distribution, and it showed. Boston played 11 players on the night. Six scored in double-digits and the Celtics’ bench totaled 42 points. Minnesota played three bench players, who scored a combined 20. Classic Thibs, and not the good kind. The Wolves actually outscored the Celtics in both the third and fourth quarters, but the hole they’d dug in the second quarter by putting up only 18 points was too much to overcome.

Another Ankle Issue for Steph

The Warriors announced Curry tweaked his ankle during this play and that he would not return to the game after re-taping it and testing it out.

Surprise! A Competitive Warriors Game

At Oracle Arena, the third quarter is where competitive games go to die. But not on the Spurs’ watch. San Antonio outscored Golden State 37-32 in the third frame of Thursday night’s matchup and turned a Kawhi- and Curry-less matchup into a rare fun duel for the Warriors.

In the fourth quarter, though, Kevin Durant said “I’m still here” quite loud for us all to hear. Down the stretch, with the Spurs up as many as seven, Durant unleashed 14 points with such ease you would have thought he was simply taking out the garbage.

And of course, with the game tied late, the go-ahead basket came from Draymond Green missing an alley-oop pass and finishing the lay-up while he was already screaming for the foul call. The Warriors won 110-107. Water is wet.

Yes, it’s likely things would have gone slightly different had Curry not gotten hurt, but saying that’s like trying to #WellActually a dunk highlight by calling it a travel. Nobody wants it. Durant deciding to flip on the switch after LaMarcus Aldridge (30 points) and Kyle Anderson (five steals!) had carried the Spurs to a valiant effort and a moral victory was the perfect foreshadowing for how good Golden State will be once the games actually matter. I, for one, can’t wait.

The KAT’s Out of the Bag and Into Your Face

A Scary Moment in Minny

Late in the third quarter of Thursday night’s game between the Celtics and the Wolves, Jaylen Brown drove to the hoop and dunked before coming down hard on his back. Brown stayed down for a few minutes and looked shaken up. I’m linking the play here, so watch at your own disclosure. The good news is Brown was able to walk away under his own power to a courteous standing ovation from the crowd.

Brown did not return to the game. He was evaluated for concussion-like symptoms and taken to a nearby hospital, according to the broadcast.

The Process Feels the Heat

There was nothing Joel Embiid could do. When Hassan Whiteside’s legs hit Embiid’s head and straddled him after Whiteside’s thundering dunk late in the fourth quarter, Embiid could only shove them away in resigned disgust. He didn’t have time to contest the dunk, and even if he would have, he shouldn’t have; Embiid had already been roped into five fouls on the night.

All night, the Heat made a tired Embiid miserable. All night, Whiteside played up to his competition, forcing him into a lackluster performance (at least by his standards) with only 17 points as Miami limited the Sixers to fewer than 100 points. Whiteside finished with 28 points and eight rebounds, helping the Heat gain a 44-28 edge in the paint and giving himself some social media fodder for future Twitter beefs.

Led by a rampant Justise Winslow who locked down Robert Covington (0-for-10, three points) and a team effort that made Ben Simmons a nonfactor in the fourth quarter, the Heat put on a defensive clinic. Miami was fueled by 46 bench points, which helped them grab a much-needed 108-99 win that broke their tie with the Bucks for the 7-seed. The win now puts them only one game behind these Sixers for sixth place in the East.

It’s Good to Be Home Again

Your Nightly Wild, Wild, West Update

Don’t let the 115-87 final score fool you. For one and a half quarters, it looked like the Thunder would supplant the Nuggets’ defeat earlier this week at the hands of the Mavs for worst loss of the season as they were down to the Suns and had scored only 31 points to that point.

However, both teams realized the priorities quick enough—the Thunder, that they needed to beat one of the worst teams in the league; the Suns, that they needed to lose and remain one of the worst team in the league—and their respective ships were righted.