There is Derrick Rose, fitting the knee brace and coming back out to battle. There’s Dwyane Wade – hurt finger and all – promising to be healthy for the playoffs. Here returns Amar’e Stoudemire in the Knicks’ lineup after 13 games. Kobe has shrugged off his injury too, and seems to be in playoff-form already. Zach Randolph has been slowly reintegrated into the Grizzlies lineup. Manu Ginobili is getting into rhythm again.
It’s the last week of an exciting, frenzied NBA regular season, in a season that seemed like a bruising battle for players and teams across the league. But that chapter is about to be closed; with the playoffs set to begin on April 28th, the stars are shrugging off their injuries and bracing for the tougher battle ahead.
It’s a pity that many fans got to miss seeing their favourite players – Rose, Wade, Kobe, etc – in action a little more this season because of injury layoffs, but they can cross their fingers and thank the stars that these stars are back on the floor now. No matter what happened in the past, everyone aims to be healthy for the playoffs!
Here is a recap of some of the games from the last week:
Tuesday: Thunder @ Clippers
The Thunder may have been one of the best teams in the league this year, but the Clippers have been their one Kryptonite. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Co. have given Kevin Durant’s crew problems this season, and this meeting was no different. Trailing by double digits at one point, the Clippers made a great comeback to hold down one of the NBA’s most potent offenses. A 26-11 surge in the final quarter gave the Clippers a 92-77 victory, their 12th in the last 14 games, which clinched them their first playoff spot in six years.
Wednesday: Celtics @ Knicks
Two storied franchises meet yet again for an exciting game in New York, in what turned out to be one of the best performances by the Knicks this season. Already surging behind the improved play of Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks made 19 three-pointers in the game – most of them by JR Smith (7-10 3PT) and Steve Novak (8-10 3PT) to defeat the Celtics, 118-110. Carmelo Anthony had a triple-double (35 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) to outduel a great game by Boston’s Paul Pierce (43).
Thursday: Clippers @ Nuggets
In a game crucial for teams jockeying for playoff positions, the Clippers beat the Nuggets for their 13th win in 15 games. It was an especially entertaining battle between the opposing point guards – Chris Paul (21 points) and Ty Lawson (24). Former Nugget Kenyon Martin came up big with important hustle plays in the last minute of the game to help his new team win 104-98.
Friday: Bulls @ Heat
The Heat and the Bulls – two of the best teams in the East – have already played several colossal games against each other this season, and the two defensively-minded teams weren’t going to rest in their final meeting. Of course, with the two sides primed to face each other again in an epic playoff series, there could be many more battles ahead. Facing the Bulls without Derrick Rose, LeBron James (27 points, 11 rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (18) led big most of the way, before the Bulls made a fourth quarter comeback to make things interesting. Still, Miami remained unstoppable on their home floor to defeat Chicago 83-72 and move a step up the ladder in the East.
Saturday: Thunder @ Kings
Thunder’s ‘Big Three’ of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden came up big again in a comfortable win over Western Conference minnows, the Kings. Durant flirted with a triple-double, with 29 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists, while Harden and Westbrook added 20 and 18 respectively. The Thunder won 103-92, while the Kings fell to their ninth defeat in 10 games.
Sunday: Mavericks @ Bulls
To face the reigning champs, the Bulls were rewarded with the return of their reigning MVP Derrick Rose. But it was their other All Star – Luol Deng – who was the MVP of the game, scoring 22 points to help his side. The Bulls played their trademark defense on the Mavericks, who played without Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, to win 93-83.
Monday: Magic @ Nuggets
Missing Dwight Howard, the Magic dropped their third straight game to the inspired Nuggets, who strengthened their own playoff position with their sixth win in eight games. The Nuggets had clinched their playoff spot a day earlier by beating the Suns, and celebrated by blowing out Orlando, 101-74. Most Improved Player nominee Ryan Anderson had 24 points for the Magic, but the team look to have a tumultuous ride for a post-season without Howard.
… And the rest of the weekend
The biggest game on Sunday night was a showdown between the Thunder and the Lakers – both teams at full strength, both teams priming for a championship run. While Metta World Peace’s elbow blow on James Harden stole the early headlines, it was Kobe Bryant’s clutch play that gave his side a double overtime win. Earlier that evening, Carmelo Anthony (39 pts, 10 rebs) and Amar’e Stoudemire (22 pts 12 rebs) seemed to be in synch as the Knicks got a close win over the Hawks in Atlanta. On Saturday night, the Nuggets had dealt a heavy blow to the playoff-hoping Suns with a crucial 118-107 victory.
On your TV sets this week: Tue – Trailblazers @ Spurs (SIX), Wed – Heat @ Celtics (Ten Sports), Thu – Nuggets @ Thunder (SIX), Fri – Knicks @ Bobcats (Ten Sports). And then… The PLAYOFFS!