A busy Wednesday night in the NBA was loaded with big matchups and games that could have affected the playoff race dramatically depending on which they went.
From San Antonio to the Big Apple and the Windy City, last night was one of the biggest nights of the NBA season for more reasons than we count, so let’s recap.
STREAK ENDS IN CHICAGO
The Miami Heat’s 27 game winning streak is done thanks to Luol Deng and the Chicago Bulls. Banging bodies around the basket, Chicago was able to outrebound Miami 43-31 and was able to lean on big performances from Deng and Carlos Boozer to frustrate LeBron James and the Heat and ultimately crush their run at history.
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In the end, the Heat can now rest a bit and get ready for another championship run. With history averted, there is no reason for Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh to push their bodies to the limit until the postseason or for James to risk injury in carrying the team. The Heat will casually top 60 wins and will very likely finish with the best record in the NBA, so from here on out they’d be best served making sure everyone is rested for the playoffs. They are essentially in the same position as the San Antonio Spurs when it comes to their view of the rest of the regular season, but with a two game lead for home court advantage in the NBA Finals, they can actually rest a little easier.
SPEAKING OF SAN ANTONIO
The Spurs faced quite a challenge on their home floor last night, the first difficult test in a long week of headline games as Denver made their way into San Antonio. The AT&T Center was treated to a classic game in which the Nuggets fell short in the end, losing 100-99 to the eventual Western Conference champions.
The Spurs just keep on rolling, but this game has big implications for the Nuggets who lost their standing as the No.3 seed to the Clippers who won in New Orleans. The difference is massive with the three seed lining up to play Golden State while the four has to face a gritty and defensively tough Memphis team. The Nuggets probably don’t care either way as they are 3-1 against Memphis this season and 2-1 against Golden State, but a seven game series is a different story and George Karl would rather face an inexperienced Golden State team rather than a Memphis squad full of seasoned players who have been there before.
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LAKERS CLING TO EIGHT SEED
The Lakers were just barely able to hold off Minnesota on Wednesday night, a victory that is undoubtedly crucial as Utah crushed Phoenix to turn the pressure up along with Dallas winning on Tuesday. The game was not just big because of the victory, but because the Lakers got a big performance out of Dwight Howard in which he didn’t disappear in the fourth quarter.
If Los Angeles is going to hang onto the final playoff seed they need more than just the stellar play of Kobe Bryant. Even with Pau Gasol back in the lineup, they need Howard to be firing on all cylinders. Last night, his 25 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 steals were a huge part of the victory, something he’ll have to repeat tonight against Milwaukee.
KNICKS BACK ON TRACK
New York seemed to be slipping as they struggle with injuries to their aging lineup, but since Carmelo Anthony returned last week, the team is on a five game win streak including a big win over Memphis in the Garden last night.
Beating the likes of the Grizzlies isn’t necessarily a statement on par with beating the Heat, something the Knicks will have a chance to do next Tuesday, but it does maintain their position in front of the Pacers for the No. 2 seed in the east. That’s the difference between playing a struggling Boston team or Atlanta, a group preparing for its final run in its current form. The Knicks hold a front court advantage over Boston they don’t have against the Hawks, so the difference between the two and three seeds could be massive for them.