Each night, Eye on Basketball brings you what you need to know about the games of the NBA. From great performances to terrible clock management the report card evaluates and eviscerates the good, the bad, and the ugly from the night that was.
There's a pretty good reason why all that nonsense people talked about Russell Westbrook earlier in the season was, well, nonsense. Because the dude wins games for his team.
With Kevin Durant struggling unlike he has really any other time this season (8-26 shooting), Westbrook stepped up with 30 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, including two massive offensive rebounds that helped hold off a Clipper run. The win puts OKC's magic number for the No. 2 seed at two, basically locking them in to their spot save for a late season collapse.
All you can say about that performance is that it was terrific, and critical. The Grizzlies played their style perfectly, roughing up the Heat with an inside-out attack keyed by Zach Randolph going for 25 on 12-15 shooting with 11 boards.
But it was Mike Conley who put the finishing touches on it, holding off a Miami comeback with back-to-back 3s late in the fourth, putting the cap on a splendid 26-point night. Huge win for Memphis in its playoff chase, and one that wasn't completely expected.
For a young team in a playoff battle, this looked like a dangerous game. Playing on the road against a decent opponent in the Pelicans, it wouldn't have been surprising for the Suns to slip. Instead, they handled their business beautifully to win their ninth out of 11.
Sitting all five starters, the Pacers held on for an ugly, but needed win against the Bucks, surviving 104-102 on a Chris Copeland game-winner. And with that and the Heat loss, the Pacers' subs put them back in the East's top spot.
|B||The Hawks have all but survived the late scare from the Knicks, and just added to their cushion with a solid 105-97 win over the Celtics.|
|C||The Clippers trailed for most of the game, making three different pushes to trim the Thunder's lead. Eventually, Chris Paul got it down to one, but the Clippers couldn't finish off stops as Russell Westbrook and the Thunder basically sealed their fate as the No. 3 seed.|
Falling in overtime to the Bobcats in a big game isn't all that shameful. But the Wizards overtime performance was putrid as they only managed a long point in the extra five minutes.
|D||No Dwyane Wade again, and the Heat had major problems again. LeBron James tried to carry them with 37, but there just wasn't enough offense to hold off the physical Grizzlies.|
The Rockets are trying to get healthy and they're pretty much locked into their spot in the West, so there isn't a ton to play for, but their defensive effort allowing 123 points to the Nuggets just wasn't good.
Beat the Heat last night, so naturally you turn around and lose to the Magic, 115-111. Because that makes so much sense.
Make it stop.