kevin durant lebron james february 2014

Though it was an abbreviated week of action in the NBA , it was chock full of great performances and exciting finishes. Let’s take a look back.

Thunder Get Past Blazers


On Tuesday two of the best teams in the West faced off when the Oklahoma City Thunder took on the Trail Blazers in Portland.

The Thunder came in streaking (eight wins in the last ten games) thanks to a scoring outburst and overall stellar play from their superstar, Kevin Durant. The Blazers limped into this matchup having dropped six of their last 11 games, and facing recent struggles from their previously productive bench players.

The Blazers opened the game with a clear plan to attack the Thunder in the post. LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez combined for 12 of the Blazers 24 first quarter points as the hometown team led by as many as 13 in the first quarter.

The physical play of the Blazers got under the skin of the Thunder early with both Coach Scott Brooks and Kevin Durant getting technical fouls called against them.

In the second quarter, Jeremy Lamb picked up the scoring mantle for the Thunder netting 11 of his game total 19 points. C.J. McCollum came off the bench for the Blazers to drop in two from distance and 10 points in the quarter to help his team retain the lead. The Blazers took a 55-45 advantage into the half.

In the third quarter, the Thunder were able to completely eliminate the Blazers' halftime lead as Durant poured in 14 points to help tie the game at 80 heading into the fourth quarter.

Derek Fisher’s 3-pointer opened up the scoring in the fourth quarter, but by that point more than four minutes of game time had passed. The game was nip tuck throughout the final period as the scoring slowed down and gave way to defense.

Reggie Jackson’s layup with little more than two minutes left to play tied the game at 93, and his two free throws with seconds remaining gave the Thunder the lead for good.

Durant once again carried the load for the Thunder, finishing with 36 points on 15-28 shooting. It was Durant’s 32nd 30-point game of the season. Durant alone outscored the Blazers’ top two scorers, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, who combined for a paltry 28 points.

James Harden Leads Rockets To Victory Over Wizards


Wednesday night saw the Washington Wizards roll into Houston to take on the Rockets. The Rockets came into the game riding a six-game winning streak. The Wizards had been struggling, playing .500 ball over the last three weeks.

The Rockets came out of the gate hot, scoring the first nine points of the game as they ended the first quarter up by 12. The Wizards kicked it up a notch to start the second quarter and cut the Rockets' lead to two midway through the quarter, thanks mainly to the stellar midrange play of Nene.

A Bradley Beal 3 gave the Wizards their first lead of the game with a little more than five minutes left in the half. The Rockets scored their last eight points of the quarter from the free throw line, including four in a row by none other than Dwight Howard to take a 63-54 lead into halftime

The Rockets improved their lead mostly through the free throw line as they led by 18 with a little more than three-and-a-half minutes remaining in the quarter. That is when Trevor Ariza decided to enter the famed “zone”.

Ariza hit five three pointers in a little more than two minutes of game time to bring the Wizards back within three points as the Rockets led, 93-90, heading into the fourth quarter.

Bradley Beal and numerous unforced turnovers by the Rockets allowed the Wizards to stick around in the fourth quarter. By the time John Wall hit his free throw after an and-1 with little more than two minutes remaining, the Wizards found themselves with a 109-108 lead, only their second lead of the game.

Wall hit another pair of free throws with four seconds remaining to give the Wizards a 112-110 lead. After a Rockets timeout, Chandler Parsons held the ball on the sideline ready to inbound when Ariza fouled Harden, who was fighting to get open to receive the pass.

It was deemed a foul away from the play, giving the Rockets a foul shot and the ball. Harden connected on the free throw to go 16-16 from the line for the game.

Off the timeout, the Rockets' game plan was obvious: get the ball to Harden. Sure enough, Harden received the pass from Parsons and cut through the lane to drain a layup with .4 seconds remaining to put Houston ahead, 113-112, with .7 seconds remaining. Kevin Seraphin got off a final shot for the Wizards, but it clanged out.

Ariza’s 10 made 3-pointers, a career- and franchise-high and the most ever allowed by the Rockets. The Rockets were able to get the victory despite a season-high of 26 turnovers. Incidentally, Washington scored 24 points off those turnovers.

With the Rockets on a seven-game winning streak and the Blazers and Spurs floundering, the Rockets headed into the All-Star break with the third-best record in the West. This is the first year this lineup has been together and the Rockets hope they will find more consistency in the second half of the season.

The rest of the West should beware.

LeBron Nets Game-Winner To Drop Warriors


In the west coast nightcap, the Miami Heat took on the Golden State Warriors Wednesday.

The Heat were without Dwyane Wade, who sat due to nerve irritation in his left foot. This Heat squad has gotten used to playing without Wade, as they’ve gone 9-6 in games where the All-Star guard has been unavailable.

The first quarter saw the Warriors jump out to the early lead only for the Heat to take a 28-20 advantage into the second quarter.

Though LeBron James only had one field goal in the second quarter, the Heat managed to retain their lead through the strong play of Greg Oden, Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers. At halftime, the Heat took an 11-point lead.

In the second half, the Warriors came out firing and were able to eat into the Miami lead. Thanks to hot shooting from Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson, the Warriors were able to cut the Heat lead to two by the end of the third quarter.

The fourth quarter is where things got interesting and each team’s best players shined. With less than a minute to play Andre Iguodala’s 18-footer gave the Warriors a 105-104 lead. LeBron James answered with a 3-pointer then Stephen Curry hit a jumper to tie the game back at 107.

LeBron then hit the front end of a pair of free throws, and when he missed the second attempt Curry corralled the rebound and called timeout. Curry received the inbound pass and drove through the lane for a six-foot runner and the foul. He hit the free throw, putting the Warriors up two with 14 seconds remaining.

Down two with 14 seconds left, who do you think got the ball for the Heat? LeBron took the inbounds pass and meandered over to the left side of the arc. It was as if he was looking for a double-team that never came.

Matched up with Iguodala, Lebron dribbled further into the corner as the clock wound down before stepping back and launching a 3-pointer. Swoosh. Winner.

It was an epic moment and one that won’t soon be forgotten by those hearty Warriors fans. The arena stood in stunned silence as LeBron made his way back down the court pounding his chest. The look on the faces of the fans in the arena that night were ones of disbelief and awe simultaneously.

They knew they had just seen a signature performance from one of the greats.


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