We are finally here! The waning days of the 2021 NBA regular season where the Playoff picture is rounding out into its final form and teams preparing for their Road to the NBA Finals.
Yesterday marked the regular season’s last slate of regular-season games under the Friday Night Lights and boy did it go off in a bang. Unsung casts of characters. Triple-doubles and career-highs. And most importantly, we had a few playoff position clinches as well.
But enough talking, let’s get into these games as we highlight the last set of Friday Night primetime performers of the 2021 regular season!
The Washington Wizards have officially CLINCHED a spot in the Eastern Conference Play-In tournament! On the back of Russell Westbrook, they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 120-105. Westbrook did not bask in his glory too long as he recorded his first triple-double since passing Oscar Robertson as the NBA career leader last week. With Bradley Beal still out, the bench came out strong and held things down in the scoring department. Four players in double figures off the bench as they scored a combined 58 points on the night. In the starting forward spots, Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans combined for 31 points as well. Solid win for a Wizards team that has been firing on all cylinders since the All-Star break and should be viewed as one of the most dangerous teams in either Play-In bracket.
Tough loss for the Cavaliers as they put together a solid offensive output but still managed to be blown out by 15 points. All five starters scored in double figures as Sexton led the way with 17 points. Jarrett Allen was pretty good with yet another double-double on the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds.At the forward spots, Cedi Osman (16 points), rookie Isaac Okoro (17 points), and Dean Wade (12 points) all held it down. Unlike Washington, Cleveland is not walking away from this game very happy with their bench. The Cavs bench only scored 16 on the night meaning Cleveland was outscored by 48 just in the bench department alone. The season is almost over Cavs fans so at least you can start looking forward to the Browns this upcoming NFL season.
MVP Frontrunner Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets move just a half a game out of the No. 3 seed in the West with an easy 104-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons. Of course, The Joker continues to keep his MVP case strong with no Jamal Murray in the lineup as he posts yet another triple-double on the season. Rookie guard Marcus Howard got some serious burn in the starting lineup playing a team-high 34 minutes and did not disappoint. Howard scored a career 20 points on the night on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor. Michael Porter Jr. had a bit of a sloppy night with only nine points and six rebounds as he shot 3-of-11 from the field and 1-of-7 from three. In the midst of a rough night from Porter Jr., Monte Morris was solid off the bench giving Denver 15 points in only 18 minutes. Denver has one last chance to overtake the LA Clippers with a win in their final game of the season against the Portland Trailblazers and a Clippers loss to the OKC Thunder.
In expected fashion, the Detroit Pistons took the fall but that did not stop Hamidou Diallo from getting himself a double-double. Diallo led the team with 18 points along with 12 rebounds in spite of shooting 0-of-5 form threes. Saddiq Bey and Josh Jackson also struggled from three going a combined 2-of-17 from three, but they both still played well combining for 25 points. The bench duo of forward Tyler Cook and guard Deividas Sirvydis scored a combined 33 points off the bench to help keep this game remotely interesting. Cook went a near-perfect 7-of-8 from the floor and Sirvydis was 6-of-11 with four threes on the night. One small step for the Pistons player development and one larger step towards a chance at the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Got to love it!
Unsung hero Seth Curry led the way with 20 points as the Philadelphia 76ers took down the Orlando Magic to secure the top seed for the Playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Curry knocked down 7-of-9 shots on the night with four threes on the night. MVP candidate Joel Embiid did not go crazy in this one, but he did notch a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds while going 6-of-6 from the charity strike. Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris combined for 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists on the night as well. Considering the game was so lopsided, we got to see a lot of rookie Tyrese Maxey who scored eight points along with five rebounds and six assists in 23 minutes off the bench. Shake Milton would lead the bench mob with 15 points. With the No.1 seed locked up, one could argue that the 76ers have the easiest road to the NBA Finals out of the East bracket and their talent suggests that they might even be good enough to win the whole thing.
Not the most entertaining game to watch if you were in it to see the Orlando starters play well. The backcourt trio of Cole Anthony, Gary Harris, and Dwayne Bacon combined for only 23 points. Wendell Carter Jr. posted a goose egg while grabbing eight boards and Moe Wagner had a point for every Carter Jr. rebound (that’s eight points for those who didn’t follow that). But the Magic bench is where things got a bit interesting. Ignas Brazdeikis had the game of his life with a team-high 21 pints, six rebounds, and two blocks while going 9-of-12 from the field with three threes. The backcourt duo of R.J. Hampton and Chasson Randle both scored 12 points apiece and Mo Bamba chipped in 11 points of his own. A very interesting game as the bench mob looked more like the starters in this one which could spell trouble for Orlando’s future rebuild if they do not turn things around this offseason.
The Utah Jazz grabbed their 50th victory of the season over the Oklahoma City Thunder 109-93 to inch that much closer to securing the top seed in the Western Conference. Bogdanovic led the way with 22 points alongside Rudy Gobert who put up a monster double-double with 16 points and 18 rebounds. Mike Conley also returned from injury and struggled with ten points in 16 minutes on 2-of-7 shooting from the field and 1-of-3 from three. Jordan Clarkson continues to try and make a last late-season push for the Sixth Man of the Year award as he scored 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting from the floor in 25 minutes. Pretty decent win over a marginally talented Thunder team as Utah continues to rack up wins in Donovan Mitchell’s absence.
Really rough night for Thunder fans in this one as they watch a game with no Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and no Lugentz Dort AGAIN! Svi Mykhailiuk stepped up in a big way though scoring a team-high 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor in 26 minutes off the bench. Rookie forward Gabriel Deck would follow suit with 18 points and six rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor in 26 minutes off the bench as well. Looking at the OKC starting lineup, it was Theo Maledon and nobody else. Maledon scored 18 points along with three rebounds and three assists. The rest of the Thunder starting lineup proceeded to score 19 points combined. Talk about not being of much assistance. Aleksej Pokusevski and Moses Brown would both rebound the ball well though as Pokusevski grabbed nine boards and Brown had eight. Just another team competing for great NBA Lottery odds.
The Dallas Mavericks hold their position as the 5th seed in the Western Conference with a solid 114-110 victory over the undermanned Toronto Raptors. Great performances all across the board for the Mavs in this one. Dorian Finney-Smith with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and four threes. 29 points combined off the bench from Jalen Brunson and Josh Richardson. Kristaps Porzingis with a double-double of 21 points and ten rebounds. Then of course you cannot forget about Luka Doncic who posted yet another triple-double with 20 points, ten rebounds, and 11 assists in spite of going 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. Just a really good moral-boosting win as Dallas inches closer to locking up the 5th seed.
Considering the fact that Toronto has been literally resting everyone as of late, it only seems right that a guy like Jalen Harris would have a night like this. Harris led the charge with 31 points alongside Malachi Flynn who added 26 points, six rebounds, and five assists on the night. Stanley Johnson and Khem Birch were solid as well as they combined for 28 points and 16 rebounds in spite of both struggling from three (3-of-12 combined). Then coming off the bench, Aron Baynes had a solid performance with 13 points and six rebounds on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. Deandre Bembry was pretty good as well showing off his overall package with eight points, seven rebounds, six assists, a steal, and a block. The Raptors kept this game a lot closer than one would assume when comparing the two teams’ rosters. Promising performances across the board for both teams.
The Houston Rockets snap a seven-game losing streak on the back of 20 points from Kelly Olynyk to lift them to a 122-115 win over the LA Clippers. Olynyk has been looking like the second coming of Larry Bird since being traded to the Rockets as he posted a near triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds, and 11 assists. The forward trio of Khyri Thomas, Jae’sean Tate, and Kenyon Martin Jr. combined for 50 points on the night. Then off the bench, Anthony Lamb gave them 17 points and Armoni Brooks chipped in 15 points of his own. Considering the fact that LA rested key players like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Reggie Jackson, this win was not too impressive, but it was something that should be considered as a late season morale booster for Houston heading into the offseason.
Speaking of the Clippers resting players, Luke Kennard finally had his first and potentially only good game as a Clipper this season and it, unfortunately, came in a loss. Kennard led the way with 23 points alongside rookie Jay Scrubb who scored 17 points. Off the bench, Serge Ibaka made a much-anticipated return after such a long hiatus and gave LA 15 points and seven boards in 17 minutes.
Demarcus Cousins also played 17 minutes off the bench and had 13 points and five rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor. With this loss, the Clippers leave the door wide open for the Denver Nuggets to steal the No. 3 seed if LA loses to the Thunder this Sunday.
Justise Winslow posts season-highs en route to the Memphis Grizzlies holding on to defeat the Sacramento Kings 107-106. Winslow scored 25 points and 13 points on 9-of-19 shooting with four threes to finally show a glimpse of what kind of asset he can be to this young Grizzlies team when healthy. The center duo of Killian Tillie and Xavier Tillman both scored 16 points apiece while also collecting a combined 16 rebounds. Off the bench, De’Anthony Melton and John Konchar combined for 25 points off the bench. In this game, Memphis sat Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas, Jaren Jackson Jr. Brandon Clarke Dillon Brooks, and Kyle Anderson. So, with that in mind, this performance by the Grizzlies’ role players was pretty impressive even against the Sacramento Kings.
The King has Risen! Louis King came up big in this one with 27 points and nine rebounds to lead the Sacramento Kings in a very competitive ball game. Terence Davis did not have his usual crazy game as he only struggled shooting (2-of-18 from the field, 2-of-12 from three) but the most pivotal miss was the one in the closing moments of this game where he just barely missed a buzzer-beater that would have stolen the victory. Damien Jones was pretty good in this one with 17 points and 11 rebounds filling the role of Richaun Holmes who did not play in this one. Sacramento was much more competitive in this one than expected and it truly led to an exciting finish.
With coach Steve Kerr resting key guys like Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, and Draymond Green, it was time for the role players to get themselves a “feel good” game heading into the Play-In tournament. Well, they should definitely feel good when second-year guard Jordan Poole drops 38 points and Mychal Mulder goes 7-of-13 from three in route to 28 points on the night. The Warriors also got a great defensive stop from Kent Bazemore in the closing seconds of the game to help ice the game. Golden State has easily been one of the hottest post-All-Star break teams in the NBA. They just might be the team to watch heading into the Western Conference Play-In tournament because they could be playing spoiler all postseason long.
No Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, or Lonzo Ball. No problem for Nickeil Alexander-Walker who led the team with a smooth 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting from the floor. Naji Marshall also had a solid game with a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds. Then off the bench, the frontcourt duo of Wenyen Gabriel and Jaxson Hayes combined for 33 points and 14 boards. Although the role guys stepped up in a big way, the Warriors were just too much in the end as the Pelicans could not seem to close out the game strong.