While everyone else was watching the first night of Sweet 16 action in the Men’s NCAA Tournament, I was watching… well, I, too, was watching the Men’s NCAA Tournament. But thank goodness for iPads, right? That’s how I streamed Thursday’s NBA action, four games that not only all had the potential to be tight — and started out that way — but were important tilts for at least one team in each matchup. Let’s dig in.
Cavs stun Nets on Okoro game-winner, heels of late run, 116-114
It is a genuine wonder that the Cleveland Cavaliers won this game. Simply put, they had no reason to win it. Trailing 112-104 with 2:13 left in the game, they appeared dead in the water, minutes from a loss that would put one hell of a damper on an otherwise immaculate run of success over the last few weeks. Then, out of practically nowhere, they ended the game with a 12-2 run, one that was capped off by a corner three from Isaac Okoro, one that put the Cavs ahead, 116-114.
It sounds awfully simple. You’ll be far from shocked to learn that it was anything but.
The missed free throw; the multiple missed putbacks; the borderline backcourt violation; the crosscourt pass from Caris LeVert to the corner, where Okoro waited, wide-open. It was like a jigsaw puzzle that suddenly found itself assembled, despite having been scattered across the living room floor mere seconds before it created a beautiful picture of a dandelion field.
Okoro finished with just 11 points, but his final three were easily the most vital of the entire night. To lead the way for Cleveland, Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points, Evan Mobley had 26 points and 16 rebounds, and Jarrett Allen racked up 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Cavs are 8-2 in their last 10, and are now just one game from clinching a playoff berth. In defeat, Mikal Bridges scored 32 points, while Spencer Dinwiddie had 25 points and 12 assists for the Nets, who have now lost their fifth straight game.
Magic drop struggling Knicks, 111-106
Paolo Banchero must’ve gotten the memo about putting together a late flurry to close out a Thursday-night game. In the last 90 seconds of Orlando’s game against New York, he managed to drain a vital three and knock down two free throws in the final seconds en route to a sealed victory. While New York trailed by 19 in the second quarter and came back to tie the game at 75 late in the third, it failed to take the lead for the remainder of the game. Banchero led the Magic with 21 points, though five others — Cole Anthony (18), Franz Wagner (16), Wendell Carter Jr. (16), Moritz Wagner (11), and Markelle Fultz (10) — also finished in double-figures.
The win marked Orlando’s second in a row. The loss for the Knicks, who were led by 25 points apiece from Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes, was their third straight.
Pelicans win third straight, pummel Hornets, 115-96
What if I told you Brandon Ingram had yet to record a triple-double until Thursday night? Believe it: His 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists added up to the sole triple-double he’s put together in his seven-year career. He scored 17 points and had six assists in the first quarter to set the tone, helping New Orleans never really look back en route to a third consecutive win. Jonas Valanciunas added 20 points and 19 rebounds, while C.J. McCollum (20 points), Trey Murphy (19), and Naji Marshall (16) all served as worthy contributors.
Clippers rebound from Tuesday’s loss, crush Thunder, 127-105
This one was, unfortunately for viewers, never close. What had been a tightly-contested thriller of a matchup on Tuesday turned into a messy blowout on Thursday, with the results swapping in favor of the Clippers. L.A. led by as many as 28 points, with Kawhi Leonard’s 32 points on 13-of-15 shooting leading the way. Westbrook added 24 points and seven assists for the Clippers, and despite Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 30 for the Thunder, this one was never in doubt. The Clippers remain tied with the Suns for fourth in the West, with Phoenix slightly edging L.A. for homecourt advantage at the moment. The rest of the season can’t play out soon enough.