The stars shined brightly in the Pacific Northwest on Thursday night in a game that oozed with playoff intensity.
Russell Westbrook had 37 points and Paul George added 32 points and 14 rebounds for the Oklahoma City Thunder in a chippy 129-121 overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Damian Lillard turned in an epic performance, finishing with 51 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
The end of regulation was filled with drama. Jusuf Nurkic took an elbow to the face from George, but George was not called for a foul. George missed his layup attempt on the play, but with Nurkic on the floor, Terrance Ferguson grabbed the rebound and scored with 13.1 seconds left to put Oklahoma City up 113-111.
Moments later, George and Nurkic jawed at each other and drew technical fouls with 4.4 seconds left. Because it was Nurkic’s second technical, he was ejected. Thunder coach Billy Donovan then chose reserve Skal Labissiere to shoot the Blazers’ two free throws in place of Nurkic. He missed both, but a loose-ball foul was called on the Thunder and Al-Farouq-Aminu made both shots to tie it at 113 with 2.9 seconds left.
After a turnover by the Thunder, the game went to overtime, where Westbrook scored eight points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer.
The victory gave the Thunder a four-game series sweep of the Blazers this season, and pulled them ahead of Portland and Houston, who entered the night in a three-way tie for No. 3 in the West.
Russ silencing the crowd 🤐😂 pic.twitter.com/xwhelCbfIa
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) March 8, 2019
Enes Kanter reconnected with Westbrook before the game and received a nice cheer from fans at Moda Center as he checked in for his home debut in the first quarter. Kanter later introduced himself to woman sitting courtside while chasing down a loose ball.
After leading by as many as 14 points, the Bucks found themselves in a tight battle with the Pacers midway through the third quarter.
With the Bucks up 67-61, Giannis Antetokounmpo was hit hard on a dunk attempt. No whistle. Instead, Myles Turner was credited with a block and the Pacers went the other way, with Bojan Bogdanovic drilling a 3-pointer. Three-point game.
Antetokounmpo stayed under the basket in disbelief for a moment before getting up and running down an official to voice his displeasure, immediately getting assessed a technical.
Milwaukee responded with a 13-0 run. Antetokounmpo started the spurt with a dunk and finished it with another.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said the entire team fed off the technical foul.
“It felt like the whole arena, his teammates, I think everybody was probably somewhat frustrated, but I think that frustration got channeled into a great energy,” Budenholzer said.
The Bucks never looked back on their way to a 117-98 victory, halting their first losing streak of the season.
Antetokounmpo finished with a team-high 29 points and 12 rebounds. He scored eight straight points in the final minutes, including two spectacular dunks.
Milwaukee’s Got Talent
Can you name all 50 states in under 30 seconds? Bucks guard Sterling Brown can, and apparently without a mnemonic device. The video aired during a timeout and quickly went viral.
Brown, who missed his sixth straight game due to a right wrist injury, says he remembers “all 50 of these from social studies.”
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 8, 2019
Carter not ready to retire
About Last Night: Latest updates to the playoff standings
While Ja Morant and the NCAA tournament provided much of the basketball buzz across the nation on Thursday, the NBA was still in action.
There’s only two Thursdays left in the regular season, so let’s cut to the (postseason) chase.
Here are six updates to the standings following Thursday’s six-game slate.
Milwaukee clinched its first Central Division title since 2001 following Indiana’s loss
With both Denver and Golden State winning, the Nuggets remain a half-game back of first in the West
Utah’s loss means there’s now a four-way tie with San Antonio, Oklahoma City and LA (Clippers) for seeds 5-8 in the West
Indiana’s loss means Boston is just a half-game back of fourth in the East
Charlotte moves three games out of the eighth spot in the East following a win
Detroit moves one game ahead of the Nets for the sixth spot in the East following a win
Jazz’s streak ends
Was this equivalent to Murray State’s upset of Marquette?
The Jazz flew into Atlanta riding a five-game win streak, a stretch that propelled them to fifth in the Western Conference standings. The lottery-bound Hawks, however, stunned Utah with a 117-115 victory that sent Donovan Mitchell and company back to the West’s seventh slot.
Trae Young recorded 23 points and 11 assists, outscoring everyone in the fourth quarter and hitting the go-ahead three-point play. Mitchell poured in a game-high 34 points and nearly drilled a last-second 3-pointer that could’ve the sent the game to overtime.
It was a tough setback for the Jazz, who held the fifth spot for all of 24 hours. But sudden shifts are expected in the cutthroat West standings at this point. The good news for the Jazz: Of the four teams tied with a 42-30 record in the West, Utah has the easiest schedule remaining.
Towns passes Love
Karl-Anthony Towns has passed Kevin Love for fourth on the Timberwolves’ all-time scoring list. Love spent six seasons with Minnesota, while the 23-year-old Towns is still in year four.
One of the greatest. pic.twitter.com/91xmaUWVM8
— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) March 22, 2019
Towns now trails Sam Mitchell, Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Garnett. He’s averaging 22.0 points in his career, a mark that would be good enough for No. 1 in Timberwolves history.
The two-time All-Star has been on a tear this past month, averaging 31.3 points (second in NBA) and 14 rebounds (third in NBA) since Feb. 25.
Young does it again
Remember when Trae Young completely lost his defender with a nifty behind-the-back dribble for possibly the most viral play of his rookie season?
If not, here’s a refresher:
Troy Brown is still spinning. Young brought the move back out against the Jazz, and while no one went in circles this time, both defenders were thrown for a loop by these sick handles.
Fox on the loose
Swipa steals, Swipa slams.
Booker one-legged 3?
Andre Drummond could only smile.
In case you’re wondering what Tim Duncan is up to these days…
— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) March 22, 2019
This Is Why We Play
As always, it’s bigger than basketball.
After tonight’s game, @spidadmitchell gifted a young fan, the daughter of his 4th grade teacher, with a $25,000 scholarship through his SPIDACARES Foundation 👏(via @E_Woodyard) pic.twitter.com/HXgfYfglVU
— ESPN (@espn) March 22, 2019
Raptors’ Kyle Lowry (ankle) sidelined Friday vs. Thunder
TORONTO (AP) — The Toronto Raptors say all-star guard Kyle Lowry will miss a second straight game with a sprained right ankle when the Oklahoma City Thunder visit Soctiabank Arena on Friday night.
The team made the announcement Thursday on Twitter.
Lowry was injured in Toronto’s 128-92 win over the Knicks on Monday night when New York rookie center Mitchell Robinson fell on Lowry’s ankle. Lowry, who had just returned after missing two games with a left ankle injury, had to be helped to the locker room.
He missed Toronto’s 132-114 overtime victory at Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
The 32-year-old Lowry will miss his 15th game this season due to back, hip and ankle injuries. He is averaging 14.8 points and 9.0 assists per game.
Celtics’ Smart fined $50K for pushing Embiid
NEW YORK — Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been fined $50,000 for forcefully shoving Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid to the floor, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.
Smart’s fine was also based on his repeated acts of unsportsmanlike conduct during NBA games, including two prior incidents this season which have resulted in fines.
The incident, for which Smart received a Flagrant Foul 2 and an automatic ejection, occurred with 7:06 remaining in the third quarter of the Celtics’ 118-115 loss to the 76ers on March 20 at Wells Fargo Center.
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