Tuesday night's NBA action varied. There were close games and blowouts, good teams and bad. But the story of the night was three dunks.
Two dunks and a missed dunk attempt, to be more accurate.
In Orlando, the Magic hosted Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers. It was a match up of Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin. Past Slam Dunk Contest champion against soon-to-be Slam Dunk Champion. So what happened in the game? The Clippers kept it close, but were outscored by close to a basket a minute over the last nine minutes and the Magic cruised to a 16 point win. Griffin had a highlight reel dunk in the game, but was completely overshadowed by Dwight Howard. Griffin finished with perhaps his quietest game of the year (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Howard put up a 22 and 20. Howard was active the whole game and showed Griffin just how far he still has to go before he's the type of player who can affect all facets of the game. This dunk said it all for Howard.
In Miami, the Heat hosted the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers held a 14-point lead at one point in the first half, but in the end, they couldn't handle the Heat's most important player: LeBron James. Over his last 20 games, LeBron is averaging 29.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists and the Heat have won 17 of those 20 games. LeBron ended the game with 41/13/8 with three steals and a block. Like in last week's evisceration of the Magic, LeBron could not be stopped, no matter who was in his path. Whether it's was a slew of Pacer defenders or even his teammate Dwyane Wade. In the first quarter, Wade led a fast-break and missed a contested lay up, but James swooped in and delivered a put-back slam with such force that the ball struck Wade--who was directly below the hoop--in the face. Stats can tell you a lot about who's the alpha dog on a basketball team, a dunk like this, while lacking any malicious intent on James' part, illustrates the dichotomy on the Heat better than anything you'll find in the box score.
In Atlanta, the Hawks were routed by the visiting Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers controlled things throughout the game, and improved to 24-27. Right now, the 76ers are the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, but they're not there just yet. Elton Brand is playing his best basketball in years, and the young players the team has are showing a lot of promise. But Andre Iguodala is still their franchise player. The team obviously hopes Evan Turner will take over that role, and soon, but for right now, their hopes rest on Iguodala's shoulders. Iguodala is talented and can occasionally take over a game. But he is not the MVP caliber player that the top teams have. He is a second-tier player that looks pretty good on a team that scratches and claws its way into the playoffs; a player who would really shine if he was the second or third option on a team with a bonafide star. 76ers fans would love it if Iguodala was that player, but unfortunately, sometimes he bites off more than he can chew.
Elsewhere in the league, the San Antonio Spurs beat the Detroit Pistons in their usual, surreptitious manner. The Spurs are now 43-8 and ever so steadily running away with the Western Conference. While other teams figure out how to share the ball or how to lighten the load for a young star, the Spurs figured that stuff out ages ago and are baffled that the other teams haven't yet; the Spurs are on another level. Highlights are all well and good, but the Spurs know that at the end of the day all that matters is the W.