Last night provided us with Lebron’s return to where he won 2 championships, the Miami Heat, and an epic matchup between western conference rivals, OKC Thunder and Dallas Mavericks.
Miami upends LeBron, Cleveland
I always get a little annoyed when NBA media-folks react to every good Dwayne Wade game by saying “Wow – Wade really turned back the clock tonight!!!” I mean, he’s still only 33 years old, people. That may sound decrepit by basketball standards, but in rest of the world, Wade is no more than a headstrong pup.
Just because injuries have slowed him a bit over the past few years, that doesn’t mean he’s not still one of the baddest dudes in the game when healthy. Because, rest assured, he absolutely is. And last night was a testament to that.
If Wade still has any love left for his old running mate, he showed next to none of it in this one. He positively torched LeBron and the Cavs on Monday, sounding off to a tune of 32 points, 2 boards, 2 dimes, and 5 back-breaking steals over 31 minutes.
LeBron responded with a solid line of 26/2/4 in the wake of his knee injury scare, but he turned the ball over four times, and in the end, his effort wasn’t enough to keep Cleveland within striking distance. They wound up losing by a score of 106-92 – their worst defeat in over a month, since losing by 15 to the Bulls on February 2nd.
In fairness, The King got very little help from His Court last night against his former team. Kyrie “Just Call Me Robin” Irving mustered 21 points and 6 assists, but he shot a putrid 5 of 15 from the field in the loss (2 of 7 from deep) and played some suspect defense on Goran Dragic, who finished with 20 and 9.
Apart from LeBron, no other Cavaliers made much of a mark on this game on either end, other than perhaps Iman Shumpert with some solid D on Wade for very short spurts. It was an awkward effort. Kevin Love sat this one out due to “rest,” in case anyone was wondering.
For whatever Miami fans are left after the LeBron departure last summer, this one was a win to savor. They held the Cavs to 33% shooting from the field and out-rebounded their opponents by a margin of 13. The victory moves them to 30-36, and keeps them precariously perched in the East’s embarrassing playoff picture. They’re currently tied with Boston for the eighth and final seed, just a half-game ahead of ninth-place Charlotte.
Dallas holds on against OKC
The Dallas Mavericks held on for a victory last night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, eking out a 119-115 victory in the final minutes of a game that had a decidedly playoff feel to it. Chippy and physical play were abound in this one, leading to five technical fouls and matching flagrant fouls being handed out to Tyson Chandler and Russell Westbrook. It was frankly a surprise there were no ejections.
Despite all the extracurricular jostling, there was still a hell of an offensive display put on in last night’s game, by both teams. Dallas hit 10 threes and shot 47% from the field to pace their offensive outburst, their second game in a row scoring over 115 points. Chandler Parsons led the Mavs with 31 points and 6 boards, while much-maligned guard Rajon Rondo chipped in with a double-double, registering 11 points and 13 dimes.
It was his first double-double since late December, and came in a game immediately following high praise from his coach after their last win. Praise or no, Rondo was just +1 in (+/-) in that one – a 30-point win over the Clippers on Friday – but last night he was a team-high +12, so it seems his coach may have been on to something. Rondo seems to finally be hitting his stride in Dallas.
Westbrook and the Thunder won’t spend too much time stewing on this one, as they were without two of their best three players in Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. They can take solace in the fact that they probably would have won this game if healthy. That being said, though, this one still hurts for OKC, who are locked in a tense battle with the Pelicans for the eighth seed – a battle which seems unlikely to be resolved any time soon. They now sit just a half-game up on New Orleans with 15 left to play.
Last Night’s MVP: Kyle Lowry
After enjoying a breakout season last year and starting off this year’s campaign like gangbusters, Kyle Lowry and the Raptors had seemed to level off a bit over the past few months. Last night, though, he was back on the upswing.
Lowry registered a triple-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 dimes, and he even threw in 3 steals for good measure to lead his Raps to a 117-98 demolition of the visiting Pacers. The fiery point guard shot 7 for 13 from the field overall and 5 for 8 from deep. Needless to say, it was not George Hill’s best work on the defensive end.
Last Night’s MRP: Kevin Love
To answer your first question, no – MRP does not stand for “Mentally Retarded Person” (although, if you want to think of it that way, I certainly won’t stop you). What it actually stands for is “Most Replaceable Player,” which is basically the same thing as “Least Valuable Player,” only slightly less vague and unoriginal.
Anyway, last night’s MRP “award” goes to Kevin Love, who didn’t play a single second in his team’s loss to the Heat despite being reportedly healthy. I have no idea what this was about. He needed a mental-health day, I guess. Which is fine – I need mental health days all the time. I feel like I need one right now, and I’m not even stressed out. But then again, I’m also not a key player on the most scrutinized basketball team in the world. Kevin Love is. Maybe a mental health day wasn’t the best idea for him, if for no other reason than it rendered him very replaceable last night and set him up as a shoe-in for this award.
WTF Stat Line of the Night: Russell Westbrook
Westbrook finished with a very Westbrook-like line of 24/8/12, but he also had 7 turnovers, shot only 7 of 17 from the field, and was -3 for the game in (+/-). WTF? Somebody tell me if he had a good game or a bad game last night, because I really can’t decide. This is one of those box scores that just leads to more questions than answers. Like, if you didn’t watch the game, this box score would tell you nothing about the way Westbrook played other than he apparently had the ball a hell of a lot. A classic WTF stat line.