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Thrilling Finishes and Playoff Berths Headline Exciting NBA Weekend



The NBA season is hitting the home stretch, with teams jockeying for playoff positioning and players making their final case for individual awards and honors. This past weekend did not disappoint, featuring several incredible games, clutch performances, and a playoff berth clinched in dramatic fashion. Let’s dive into the biggest stories from an action-packed few days around the league.

Thunder Clinch Playoff Spot on Shai’s Heroics vs Knicks

One of the biggest developments was the Oklahoma City Thunder punching their ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2020 with a heart-stopping 113-112 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday night. With the game tied at 112 and just seconds remaining, Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander calmly drained an impossibly tough fall away jumper from the corner with 2.6 ticks left to give OKC the lead.

After a Knicks timeout to advance the ball, Gilgeous-Alexander switched onto Jalen Brunson and smothered the New York guard, contesting his potential game-winning turnaround jumper at the buzzer that clanked off the rim. Pandemonium ensued as the Thunder celebrated their first playoff berth in three years on the iconic Madison Square Garden floor.

“Man, that was just an unbelievable moment,” said an emotional Gilgeous-Alexander after the game. “To hit a shot like that to get us to the playoffs, there’s no better feeling. This whole year, this whole journey with my guys, we’ve gone through so much and we’re not done yet.” 

The 25-year-old guard has been simply sensational this season, firmly entrenching himself in the NBA’s elite with averages of 31.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game on ridiculous 51/35/91 shooting splits. He poured in 30 points against the Knicks despite playing through a torrid migraine headache in the second half.

Gilgeous-Alexander got help from rising star Josh Giddey, who recorded his fifth triple-double of the season with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. Rookie Jalen Williams led OKC with 33 points in another brilliant performance.

For the Knicks, it was a brutal loss that could prove costly in their quest for home court advantage in the first round. Jalen Brunson had 30 points in the loss, while Julius Randle struggled with just 12 points on 4-16 shooting.

The Thunder’s dramatic win not only clinched a playoff berth, but it also pulled them within 1.5 games of the Mavericks for the 6th seed and a guaranteed playoff spot after Dallas was upset by the lowly Rockets on Sunday.

Luka, Mavs Stay Hot by Downing Rockets

Speaking of the Mavs, Luka Doncic turned in yet another masterpiece in Dallas’ 125-107 win over Houston, erupting for 47 points on a career-high tying 9 three-pointers. The MVP candidate also added 12 rebounds and 7 assists, thoroughly outdueling fellow rising star Jalen Green, who led the Rockets with 24 points.

It was the 7th straight win for the red-hot Mavericks, who are finally looking like a legitimate threat after an up-and-down season. Kyrie Irving continued his stellar play since being acquired from Brooklyn, pouring in 24 points as the second fiddle to Doncic’s brilliance.

With the loss, Houston’s remarkable 11-game winning streak came to an end just three days after it started with an upset win over the Bucks. Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. matched his career high with 5 threes and 28 points in a losing effort.

Still, the rebuilding Rockets have to be encouraged by the growth of their young core throughout this surprising surge. Even after the loss, they remain just a game back of the Thunder for the 10th seed and final Play-In Tournament spot in the rugged Western Conference.

Joker, Nuggets Flex Muscle Against Cavs

In the other marquee matchup on Sunday, the West-leading Denver Nuggets made a statement against one of the East’s top teams, dismantling the Cleveland Cavaliers 130-101 behind another ridiculous performance from Nikola Jokic.

The two-time MVP continued making his case for a third straight trophy, going for 26 points, 18 rebounds and a career-high 16 assists in the blowout win. He was a force at both ends, thoroughly outplaying Cleveland’s All-Star big men Evan Mobley (23 points) and Jarrett Allen (19 points) as the Nuggets pulled away in the second half.

“You just have to continue to show the basketball world that this is real, that we are a real team and we can compete for a championship,” Jokic said postgame. “Beating a great team like Cleveland, as good as they are, proves that point and gets us ready for the big test coming up in the playoffs.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope matched his season high with 22 points off the bench, drilling 6 three-pointers. Reggie Jackson and Michael Porter Jr. also poured in 19 apiece as seven Nuggets scored in double figures in the balanced offensive attack. Denver is now 6-2 over its last 8 games as they continue to build chemistry and momentum heading into the playoffs.

For the Cavs, they struggled offensively as a team after Donovan Mitchell returned from a six-game absence due to a broken nose. Mitchell had just 13 points, looking rusty and perhaps still getting re-acclimated to wearing a protective mask over his face.

Cleveland fell 2 games back of the Bucks in the race for the 2 seed in the East, and they saw their lead over Philly for the 4 seed shrink to just 1 game after the 76ers drubbed the Raptors behind a barrage of 3-pointers on Sunday.

76ers Set Franchise Record in Blowout of Raptors

No team in the entire NBA was hotter from downtown on Sunday than the Philadelphia 76ers, who drilled a franchise-record 24 three-pointers in a comfortable 135-120 win over the Toronto Raptors. Kelly Oubre Jr went supernova, erupting for 32 points while burying 8 threes to lead the barrage from deep.

Veteran point guard Kyle Lowry added 11 points and 10 assists in his first game back in Toronto since leaving the Raptors as a free agent in 2021. He received a warm ovation from the Scotiabank Arena crowd in the homecoming, but his new Philly teammates quickly stole the show.

The 24 made triples were the most by any NBA team in a game this season, eclipsing the Celtics’ 25 treys in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks back on February 16th. Nine different Sixers connected from downtown, with Cameron Payne going 6-9 from deep for 24 points off the bench. Nicolas Batum added 19 points, Tobias Harris had 21, and Buddy Hield chipped in 13 as part of the floor-spacing onslaught.

For the reeling Raptors, they continued their stunning late-season swoon, dropping their 13th straight contest. Rising star Gradey Dick scored 12 points as one of six Toronto players in double figures, but they simply couldn’t keep pace with Philly’s white-hot shooting this afternoon.

The win was massive for the 76ers, pulling them within 1 game of the Cavs for the 4 seed and a home playoff series out East. With James Harden still working his way back and Joel Embiid sidelined with a calf injury, this Philly squad showed how dangerous their offense can be when everything is clicking.

Other Key Matchups from an Exciting Weekend

Some of the other notable results around the league this weekend:

– The LA Clippers kept rolling with their third straight win, defeating the Charlotte Hornets 130-118 behind Paul George’s season-high 41 points. Kawhi Leonard added 23 as Los Angeles moved half a game up on Golden State for the 5 seed out West.

– LeBron James was feeling it back in New York, torching the Nets for 40 points and tying his career high with 9 threes as the Lakers won 116-104. 

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