Both the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets entered Wednesday with a chance to improve their playoff seeding.
Yet things went south for the Spurs just 63 seconds into the game when coach Gregg Popovich was ejected after picking up his second technical for arguing a call.
If that seems awfully early to get the boot, it is the fastest ejection for an NBA coach in history, beating the old mark held by the Washington Wizards' Flip Saunders (106 seconds) in a game against the Boston Celtics in 2012. And it's the second straight game Popovich was ejected, an odd occurrence for a coach with 20 ejections in 23 seasons.
Denver went on to win, 113-85, with the outcome never in doubt.
The only way Popovich could have made a difference for the Spurs would be if he had suited up and started knocking down 3-pointers. San Antonio was dreadful from behind the arc, hitting only 5-of-27 attempts.
Nikola Jokic scored 20 (with 11 boards and nine assists) to lead six players in double-figures for the Nuggets, who improved to 52-26. That leaves it only 1 1/2 games behind the idle Golden State Warriors for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Denver has four games remaining, while Golden State has five.
At the other end of the playoff field, the Spurs (45-34), dropped from seventh to eighth in the standings, a half game behind the idle Oklahoma City Thunder. As the final week of the season plays out, those potential one-eight and two-seven first-round playoff matchups bear a close watch.
Studs of the Night
Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond narrowly missed another 20-20 game, scoring 28 and collecting 19 rebounds in a loss to the Indiana Pacers. Center Nikola Vucevic had 29 points and 13 rebounds in Orlando Magic's 114-100 win over the New York Knicks.
Knicks forward Mario Hezonja scored 29 points and added nine rebounds in the loss to the Magic.
Chicago Bulls guard Walt Lemon Jr. scored 24, had eight assists and won the game with two late free throws in a 115-114 victory over the Wizards.
Portland Trail Blazers wing Evan Turner came off the bench for a triple-double (13/12/11) in a 116-89 victory over the Grizzlies.
Dud of the Night
Pacers guard Tyreke Evans hit only one of 13 shots and scored six points in a win against the Pistons.
James Harden makes even difficult shots look easy, as he shows in this quick five-play clip.
Karl-Anthony Towns drives the lane not once, but twice, for thunderous dunks in the first quarter against the Mavericks.
76ers forward Tobias Harris goes up strong to dunk, but Atlanta's John Collins has other ideas.
Bucks (58-20) at 76ers (49-29) — You don't need to be Nostradamus to figure out that the way the standings look now, this could be a preview of the Eastern Conference finals. The 76ers expect star Joel Embiid back in the lineup after a three-game break. But even with Embiid on the floor, the 76ers recently lost games to the Hawks and Magic — it lost again to the Hawks on Wednesday — so it needs to rediscover its form before the playoffs begin.