Good morning everybody happy Friday and welcome to another edition of Last Night In The NBA where we bring you up to speed on everything that went down from the night before in the Association. For some reason the NBA sort of boned us and there were only two games on the schedule last night, granted they were two good matchups but given the fact that some people out there may use this blog to delay actually doing anything at their 9-5, the league wasn’t all that helpful. The good news is both games were pretty important in terms of playoff seeding so at least there was some juice to make up for the lack of games, and the Blazers/Thunder game was one of the more crazy games of the entire year so that was good. Granted maybe you didn’t watch and that’s OK, just keep reading because here’s what happened.
Indiana Pacers (42-24) 98 vs Milwaukee Bucks (49-16) 117
For a team that has only lost back to back games once all year, you had to realize there was very little chance a Bucks team that is 26-5 at home was going to lose three straight. They came out right away and established themselves with a strong first quarter, and a lot fo what we saw from MIL was a nice reminder of just how good they are. I know IND doesn’t have their best player, but they are something ridiculous like 26-8 since Oladipo went down, they have shown no signs of slippage and remained in that 3 spot this whole time. But here’s the problem, they don;’t exactly have the defensive matchups to contain MIL’s two best players
Like I said it was a very typical Bucks performance. Giannis was his relatively unstoppable self, Middleton was the solid secondary scoring option, their offense was balanced and efficient finishing with 50/40% split and 14 3PM, and the defense was back to that elite level holding IND to just 38/37% splits. Every starter outside of Malcolm Brogdon shot at least 50% from the floor and every one of them outside of Bledsoe made at least 1 three. Things were relatively close until the bucks turned their offense in the second half dropping 66 points, and this win was important not just because is ended their losing streak but because it increased their lead over TOR to 3 games for the top overall spot in the East. They are the only team in the NBA with at least 23 home wins and 23 road wins, so something tells me that lead is pretty safe.
For IND, while there’s no shame in losing in MIL, the Pacers are about to embark on the biggest stretch of their entire season. Myles Turner was a monster for the Pacers leading the way with 22/17, and he’s going to have to be just as good the rest of the way for the Pacers if they want to hold onto their current playoff positioning
Again, nobody could really hit a shot and this is where their lack of a star can hurt them come the playoffs when defenses tighten up. They don’t really have that guy you can just give it to and be guaranteed a bucket. Here’s why things are getting a little hairy for IND, after this loss they not only have a 0.5 lead over PHI and a 2 game lead over BOS. They play PHI in a few days and still have 2 games to play against BOS. Given tie breakers and all of that there is a very real possibility this is when their slide finally happens. They’re 5-5 over their last 10 and have one of the hardest remaining schedules left in the league, so while it’s been impressive what they’ve been able to do without Oladipo, we’re about to see if they can hold on just long enough to avoid dropping to the 4/5 matchup which all three of those teams are trying to avoid.
Oklahoma City Thunder (40-25) 129 vs Portland Trail Blazers (39-26) 121 F/OT
Now this game was wild. Already a huge game because these two teams were tied going into the night, and while the Blazers had already lost the season series, there is definitely some bad blood between these two and each of their four games this season have been relatively close so even though OKC owns the 4-0 advantage it could easily have gone the other way. I think we all deserve a playoff series between these two given what we’ve seen this regular season.
Throughout this whole game neither team was really able to pull away until the OT period, and while OKC’s studs combined for nearly 60 points
that still wasn’t enough for them to win comfortably. Westbrook was up to his usual antics of talking shit and rocking the baby right in Dame’s face, and as we’ll see that didn’t exactly go over too well. The good news is they were the team that had juuuusssst a little more gas in the tank for the extra OT period where they ended up doubling up the Blazers, and the impressive part was they did all this while only shooing 8-27 from deep. In fact both sides really struggled from three in this game which is what made it such a rock right. All the buckets you saw were tough makes down to the final whistle.
For POR, it’s a tough one to lose not just because of the standings but also for their confidence. It must never feel good to be swept by anyone in your conference, and especially on a night where Dame went nuts and had 51 right in Westbrook’s face
Things got a little crazy at the end of the fourth when Nurkic got ejected for his second tech on this play
but was also fouled which was interesting because he couldn’t then take his FTs. That meant that OKC could choose whoever they wanted to take the shots, they chose Skal Labissiere and right on cue he missed his first. After missing the second intentionally the Thunder stupidly fouled Aminu on the rebound and he then went to the line, made both, and we were tied with 3 seconds left. Plenty of time for OKC to win right? Well as soon as Westbrook got the inbounds pass he dribbled it out of bounds giving it right back to POR, and Dame just missed a half court heave to win it. Once they got to OT it was clear that POR didn’t have the legs and Westbrook who honestly never gets tired was able to hit that extra gear and the rest was history.
It was a real tough night shooting for POR as they finished with 29/22% splits, and really outside of McCollum’s 25 there really wasn’t all that much scoring to be had by another Blazer. Both starting guards took 52 of their 94 shots, and that makes sense because Dame was certainly in the zone and it’s not as if anyone else was doing much. This is going to be their challenge in the playoffs when defenses hone in on Lillard, who else can step up and be an offensive weapon? The bench was good not great, Kanter didn’t do much in his 18 minutes and Rodney Hood only went 3-8 so even their new additions couldn’t solve that puzzle last night.
For us to get this in the first round we’re going to have to see POR slide a little bit, they have a 1.5 game lead over UTA for the 6 spot, but honestly for them a top 3 seed is still in play and it wouldn’t shock me if they got there. It’s not as if OKC has been lighting it up recently, just 4-6 over their last 10.
And that’s it! You’re now caught up on everything that happened last night in the NBA. Hopefully this helped you kill some time this morning, have a great Friday!