Rockets, Clippers clinch Playoff berth with wins; meanwhile race for final two spots in East gets even closer
Just like Wednesday, Friday night was another busy night in the NBA as 26 teams took the floor with a lot on the line. The Los Angeles Clippers became the third team in the West and first on Friday, to book a ticket to the post-season with a comfortable 119-98 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. The Houston Rockets followed them and clinched their Playoff spot after defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-110 behind Josh Smith’s near triple double [16 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds].
Golden State Warriors vs Memphis Grizzlies [Golden State won 107-84]
On a busy game day slate as Friday’s, the showdown between the top 2 teams in the West can be forgotten. Prior to the game, the Memphis Grizzlies were the only team in the NBA to have not lost to the league leading Golden State Warriors this season. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop the Warriors from entering the grindhouse, dealing the home team an embarassing loss and tying a franchise record 59 wins.
It was more or less a team effort from Golden State, led by their All-Star duo, the Splash brothers: Stephen Curry [38 points and 10 assists] and Klay Thompson [28 points]. 19 turnovers, Tony Allen injuring his hamstring and none of the big names stepping for Memphis, this was an absolute disaster game for the Grizzlies.
The win stretches the Warriors winning streak to eight and even closer to clinching the top seed. Meanwhile, the loss means the Grizzlies have very little breathing room, half a game to be precise, if they want to hang on to their second seed.
Dallas Mavericks vs San Antonio Spurs [San Antonio won 94-76]
The Spurs and Mavs met for the second time in four days and this time too, the victorious team did it comfortably. Three nights earlier, Dallas won 101-94 to come within half a game of San Antonio and their sixth seed, but today the Spurs returned the favor, winning by a convincing margin of 18 points.
Dallas’ realistic chances of having a long post-season could be lost if Monta Ellis’ knee clash with Manu Ginobili turns out to be serious. This game solidified the return to form for the defending champions, they blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder by 39 points in characteristic fashion with 28 assists on their 37 field goals. The Spurs can relax now having built the lead back to Dallas for the seventh seed
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Brooklyn Nets [Brooklyn won 106-98]
Brooklyn Nets are among the five teams still fighting for the last two Playoff spots in the East and they kept their chances of a post-season alive, with an upset 106-98 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James had 24 points and 9 assists, but it wasn’t enough as the Nets won the game behind Joe Johnson’s [20 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds] incredible all round play.
The Cavaliers came into the game having won 15 of their last 16 games and least expected to drop one in Brooklyn. Nonetheless, with a Playoff spot already booked, the Cavs will be weary of keeping the second seed with them and not hand it on a silver platter to challenging teams. The Nets have a tough road ahead, but are currently safe as they are positioned 9th, half a game behind eight seeded Boston Celtics and half of their schedule is against fellow .500 teams.
Miami Heat vs Atlanta Hawks [Atlanta won 99-86]
The Atlanta Hawks were the first team in the NBA to clinch a Playoff spot, but on Friday with a 99-86 win over the Miami Heat, they sealed the best record in the league thanks to a 9 game lead over second seeded Cavs. Often called the Spurs of the East, the Hawks outdid the Spurs today with 31 assists on their 37 field goals. Jeff Teague, Atlanta’s starting point guard was rested, so back up guard Dennis Schroder took full advantage as he finished with 12 points and 11 assists.
Miami Heat had a disaster day, committing 19 turnovers. Hassan Whiteside didn’t play, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic had terrible games and to put in short, the Heat are lucky they have 6 of their remaining 9 games against below .500 teams.
Here are the reamining games turned out:
Washington Wizards vs Charlotte Hornets [Washington won 110-107 in double OT]
Boston Celtics vs New York Knicks [Boston won 96-92]
Toronto Raptors vs Los Angeles Lakers [Toronto won 94-83]
New Orleans Pelicans vs Sacramento Kings [New Orleans won 120-88]
Denver Nuggets vs Utah Jazz [Denver won 107-91]
Portland Trailblazers vs Phoenix Suns [Portland won 87-81]
A mostrous LeBron James dunk leads the top 10 plays of the day: