LeBron’s Cavaliers made a statement, Russell Westbrook missed a triple-double, but got another win, Kyle Lowry made his return, we might see Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant on Saturday, and the Spurs lost to the Lakers, despite not resting anyone. The Western Playoffs offer a pretty clear picture, while the East is still a complete mystery, with literally every playoff spot still being undecided.
Cavaliers 114, Celtics 91 – The Cavaliers made a statement in this one and took a 1.0 game over the Celtics for the lead in the East. Tristan Thompson was out with a thumb injury and won’t play again until Sunday at the earliest. Channing Frye started in his place and had 10 points, eight boards, two steals and two 3-pointers. LeBron James (36 points, 10 rebounds), Kyrie Irving (19), Kevin Love (15 points, 16 rebounds) and J.R. Smith all played well, but the Cavs, as usual, didn’t get much of anything off the bench. Frye is worth grabbing if you can do it. The Cavs have a back-to-back on Sunday and Monday, so it will be interesting to see if they rest guys in one of those. They’ll want to keep the lead now that they have it again, so there’s a chance LeBron will play this thing out. After all, there are no back-to-backs in the playoffs.
Isaiah Thomas had 26 points and six dimes in the loss, while only Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Kelly Olynyk joined him in double figures.
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Thunder 103, Grizzlies 100 – Russell Westbrook didn’t make history with his 42nd triple-double, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He had 45 points on 14-of-25 shooting, nine rebounds, 10 assists, five steals and eight 3-pointers in the win, and would have my vote for MVP if I had one. He needs one more TD to pass Oscar Robertson for the season record, and his stat line was just sick. Victor Oladipo played well with 15 points, while the rest of the Thunder were pretty quiet, which will happen when your spark plug is going all-world. OKC is destined to be the No. 6 seed in the West.
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph led the way for the Grizzlies, who were without Mike Conley after he took a blow to the head in his previous game. Conley is questionable for Friday. Andrew Harrison started and had 12 points and three assists, Tony Allen scored 14 with seven rebounds and two steals, Vince Carter scored 10, and JaMychal Green hit just 1-of-5 shots for three points. The Grizzlies are going to be the No. 7 seed and just want to get everyone healthy at this point.
Rockets 110, Nuggets 104 – James Harden had a 31-7-10-1-3 line with four 3-pointers, Trevor Ariza and Clint Capela double-doubled, and Nene had 16 points off the bench on 7-of-8 shooting. Troy Williams started over Eric Gordon with Ryan Anderson (ankle) out, but played just 15 minutes, while Gordon hit just 2-of-14 shots in the win. The Rockets are locked into the No. 3 seed, so they could give guys some rest down the stretch.
Nikola Jokic was great again with 12 points, 19 rebounds, 12 assists, five steals and a block, despite hitting just 6-of-17 shots, and the only question remaining is, how high will he be drafted next year? Kenneth Faried played through his back injury and Jameer Nelson started, but neither player was great. Honestly, I think the Nuggets are better when those guys are sitting with injuries. Jamal Murray moved back to the bench and hit just 3-of-13 shots, while Danilo Gallinari and Gary Harris both came through with solid lines in the starting lineup. Wilson Chandler led the bench with 16 points and five rebounds, while Will Barton missed another game with his foot injury. This was a big loss for Denver, who now sit 1.0 games behind the Blazers, on the outside looking in. Unfortunately, Denver and Portland won’t play head-to-head again this season, so the Nuggets are going to need some help from the Blazers to get in.
Heat 112, Hornets 99 – The Heat hopped over the idle Pacers with the win and are now a ½ game up on Indy and tied with the Bulls for the No. 8 seed in the East. There is talk of Dwyane Wade returning from his elbow injury on Saturday now that it looks like the Heat might make the playoffs, so pick him up if you’re playing next week. James Johnson was one of the stars of the night, getting a rare start for Luke Babbitt (hip) and going off for 26 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a season-high six triples. He hit 10-of-12 shots and I have no idea why the Heat didn’t make this move about 75 games ago. Hassan Whiteside went off for 13 points, 20 boards and three blocks, Goran Dragic dropped 33 points and five treys, and even Josh Richardson looked good with a 19-6-5 line with four 3-pointers. The Heat, Pacers, Bulls, Hawks and Bucks are all still fighting for position and a playoff spot, so it should be a fun battle to watch down the stretch.
The Hornets fell to 2.5 games behind the Pacers, meaning they’re 3.0 games out of a playoff spot. They’re not officially eliminated, but they’re also not making the playoffs this year. Nicolas Batum, Kemba Walker and Marvin Williams all played pretty well, but the Hornets are going to be tough to get a read on going forward with their playoff dreams now in the toilet.
Raptors 105, Pistons 102 – Kyle Lowry was back after missing 21 games due to wrist surgery and looked great, hitting 9-of-16 shots for 27 points and 10 assists to lead the Raptors to a win. He now qualifies as a waiver-wire wonder in fantasy and the Raps moved a ½ game ahead of the Wizards and sit in the No. 3 hole in the East. DeMarre Carroll and Serge Ibaka really struggled, while Jonas Valanciunas and DeMar DeRozan (double-double) each played well in the win. Perhaps the second most surprising thing for the Raptors was Cory Joseph getting 15 points and a couple threes, despite returning to the bench for Lowry’s comeback.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope showed up midway through this one after witnessing the birth of his child. He played just 17 minutes and didn’t do much, but props to KCP for taking care of his family, as well as honoring his commitment to his team. Ish Smith had 16 points and six dimes, Andre Drummond double-doubled and Aron Baynes somehow had 12 points, seven boards and a block, but there was basically nothing to see in this one. Reggie Bullock started for KCP and finished with seven points.