Thunder vs. Celtics (7pm ET Wednesday, ESPN)
It’s the battle of the three seeds.
On Monday, the Thunder took a month’s worth of frustration out on the Portland Trail Blazers, delivering a 128-94 beating. Russell Westbrook posted 17-10-16 for his league-leading 12th triple-double of the season as the Thunder dominated the game on both ends of the floor, outshooting Portland 59% to 34%, outrebounding them 52-to-39, and out-stealing them 10-to-4. It was a badly needed victory for OKC, who had lost eight of 12 heading into the night. They’re now 45-22 and maintain their hold on third place in the West.
The Celtics last night fell to the Indiana Pacers 103-98 as they continue to struggle with the absence of Jae Crowder (sprained ankle) and Kelly Olynyk (shoulder). Boston actually led with about eight minutes left to play, but the Pacers turned on the jets, going on a 15-4 run that gave them a 10-point lead with 2:13 to play before they coasted home. Celtic’s guard Isaiah Thomas had a tough night, making just five of 18 from the floor, while little used Swede Jonas Jerebko stepped up on the offensive side to score 17, but his plus/minus of -8 suggests those may have been empty calories. The Celtics are 39-28 and have fallen back into a tie with Miami for third place in the East.
Clippers vs. Rockets (9:30pm ET Wednesday, ESPN)
It would appear the extended absence of Blake Griffin is finally starting to wear on the Clippers. Griffin last played on Christmas Day, a 10-point win over the Lakers. The Clippers promptly went on an 18-4 run, but then hit a brutal stretch in their schedule, during which they went 7-7, suffering losses to the likes of Golden State, Oklahoma and Cleveland. Last night, they fell to the Spurs 108-87 as San Antonio matched the second-longest home winning streak to start a season in league history at 33. Chris Paul (22 points, 8 assists) and DeAndre Jordan (16 points, 14 rebounds) did their thing, but Luc Mbah a Moute was even more feckless than usual with one rebound, one steal, one block, 0 points, 0 assists and three fouls in 22 minutes and 39 seconds of play while the LA bench made just six of 23 for 20 points. The Clips are 42-24 and remain in fourth place in the West.
The Rockets obliterated the injury-depleted Memphis Grizzlies 130-81 on Monday. Houston had nine guys score in double figures, make 48.5% from 3-point land, had 29 assists to Memphis’ 14, 13 steals to Memphis’ 7, and, perhaps most shockingly, 14 blocks to Memphis’ zero. Memphis shot 29.7% from the floor, including 23.5% from three and made just 60.7% of their free throws – it was all kinds of ugly. Houston is now 34-33 and tied with Dallas for the final two playoff spots in the West.