Every morning, we’ll give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.
1: The Spurs demand your attention
I’m not sure if you noticed, and considering the Spurs under-the-radar history as a franchise, you probably didn’t… but the Spurs are one game away from tying the Oklahoma City Thunder atop the Western Conference. Yeah, the old, slow, past-their-prime Spurs are right there with the big boys.
The thing is, the Spurs really aren’t old (they’re actually middle of the pack, and younger than the Bulls, Magic, Clippers and Heat)) or slow (They play at the 8th fastest pace in the NBA) and most certainly not past their prime (38-14, tied in the loss column with Miami and OKC). The Spurs can literally go 13 deep in their rotation if they need to and find production. Their Big 3 of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are all top 25 in PER, making the Spurs the ONLY NBA team who can say that. And with the Spurs win over the Boston Celtics, and the Thunder loss to Miami, the Spurs are now just a game away from that top spot.
People have a history of sleeping on the Spurs, but it’s time to wake up. They’ve got a lot of ways to beat you, and they’ve been showing it all season long. They’ll have something to say about that pre-ordained Thunder-Heat Finals.
Speaking of which…
2: Man, a Thunder-Heat Finals will be fun
The Spurs and Celtics had some fun in the first half, but the game got really ugly in the second. By contrast, the Heat and Thunder put on a 48 minute show for fans that has everyone (well, except Spurs and Bulls fans, probably) thirsting for seven games of this.
One of the game’s signature moments came in the first half when Russell Westbrook tried to prevent a LeBron James lay up, and ended up knocking him off balance and to the ground.
Westbrook appeared to be trying to wrap LeBron up, which is like trying to chase down a bus and drag it to a stop. But the game featured a lot of bumping and pushing and shoving and glaring as the the Thunder tried to wear the Heat down. But Miami hit back as LeBron James out-dueled Kevin Durant to give the Heat their 17th straight home win.
Whether they meet again in the Finals, obviously, remains to be seen. Both teams will have a tough road ahead of them. But if they do meet up, it promises to be a lot of fun.
Watch your head, Pau Gasol. Blake Griffin is coming through (and this wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. That’s coming up later)
Paul Millsap with the vicious finish
Ronny Turiaf apparently wanted to get on Kevin Durant’s new poster
4: Line of the night: Andrew Bynum – 36 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks
When you ask, “Why the hell would LA put up with all of Bynum’s bratty behavior?”… this is why. Because Andrew Bynum can be good enough to put these numbers up. And he did it after missing a game with a sprained ankle to help the Lakers to a win over the Clippers.
I’ll put it to you this way: Josh McRoberts can’t say and do the things Bynum does. He’d be fined, suspended, benched, hell… maybe even traded by now. Bynum? He gets fined and nicely asked “now can you please be nicer?”
Of course, I made that last part up. Bynum blew off the meeting with Mitch Kupchack where Mitch would asked him that.
5: You can quote me on that
“You get in those pressure situations and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but the thing is I’m not going to second-guess my decision. I thought I got a great shot, created some space right there at the free throw line. It’s just some days they fall, some days they don’t.”
-Paul Pierce, on missing the last second shot that could have beaten the Spurs.
“It was exciting,” Paul said, “but at the end of the day, we lost. Who cares?”
-Blake Griffin, on his posterization of Pau Gasol
“He’s a pain in the ass. I mean, the game starts and you know what he’s going to do. He’s going to cut from the corner to the bucket and lay it in. He’s going to cut diagonally from the top. You’ve got to give him credit. He knows his role and he does it very, very well. He killed us all night long.”
– Gregg Popovich, on Celtics reserve guard Avery Bradley, who had a game-high 19 points