Yet another set of lopsided Friday night matchups as teams look to assert their dominance heading into the playoffs. With ten or so games left before the Play-In tournament, the landscape of the NBA is set where every team qualifies as one of the following: A set playoff team jockeying for position, a Play-In team holding on for dear life, or a team playing spoiler. No matter where your favorite team sits in the standings, each game matters down this final homestretch of the regular season. This Friday night we got blowouts, a historic comeback, and the return of LeBron James! The final two-three weeks of the NBA regular have more at stake than ever before as teams all look to close the season on some kind of positive note. With that being said, let’s take a look at all of the Primetime Players from Friday night’s slate of games in the race to the 2021 Playoffs!
Bench Mob Crazy in Philly as the Philadelphia 76ers blew out the Atlanta Hawks, 126-104. In 17 minutes, Dwight Howard led the team with 19 points off the bench, but he was not the only Philly bench guy who had a solid game. The trio of Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, and Furkan Korkmaz combined for 34 points. From the starting lineup, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris all had 18 points apiece. This was an overall team win and the 76ers flexes their dominance against an Eastern Conference playoff team.
In the starting lineup, it was basically 1-on-5 with Trae Young having to carry things offensively to even keep the game close. While Young had 32 in this one, outscoring other four starters who combined for 31 points on the night. But similar to Philly, Atlanta did also get some solid contributions from their bench. Danilo Gallinari gave the Hawks 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from three and 5-of-10 shooting from the floor in 24 minutes. Rookie power forward Onyeka Okongwu also had a solid outing with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting but was a little foul happy with five fouls in only 22 minutes on the floor.
This was a game that went from being a potential 20+ blowout win for the Spurs to a three-point win in overtime for the Boston Celtics on the back of their star forward. Jayson Tatum went deep into his bag with a career-high (also tied for franchise record) 60 points as the Celtics came away with the 143-140 victory over San Antonio. Tatum was playing as a man possessed and it showed with his nearly 40 shot attempts and he was getting to the free throw line at will. Along with Tatum, Jaylen Brown had 17 points and hit a three-pointer with 16.7 seconds left in OT to ice the game. Then off the bench, rookie forward Aaron Nesmith put up 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor with two threes. Even Tristan Thompson was pretty solid with a near double-double with eight points, 15 rebounds and two blocks. his Celtics team was down 32 points at one point in this game and they rallied in a way that may be just the kind of momentum swing they need heading into the playoffs.
Tough time for the San Antonio Spurs who continue to struggle closing games. The most interesting part about this game is that the stat sheet would make it seem like the Spurs should have won this game handily. DeRozan led the way with 30 but everyone else on the team except for Devin Vassell and Drew Eubanks scored double figures. Dejounte Murray had a near triple-double with 24 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists on 10-of-18 shooting from the floor. Keldon Johnson and Jacob Poeltl both combined for 29 points and 18 rebounds on 11-of-16 shooting. The bench scored 55 points with Lonny Walker IV leading the charge with 24 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three. Everything pointed to the Spurs winning this game, but once again they struggled in the late moments of this game.
Back on track with the blowouts, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards took down the Cleveland Cavaliers 122-93 to continue their Playoff push. The Wizards had seven guys score in double figures as Beal led the way with 19 points. Russell Westbrook posted his 31st triple-double of the season with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. The newly acquired second-year center Daniel Gafford continues to impress as he had 13 points and seven rebounds on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor in 22 minutes off the bench. After falling to the Spurs earlier this week, Washington is back on track with back-to-back wins as they continue to shock the NBA world with their strong closing to the regular season.
In a not-so-impressive game for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sexton led the way with 22 points despite struggling from three. Jarrett Allen was also pretty solid with 13 points and 11 rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor. This team was horrendous from three (7-of-33) and with all those bricks from deep, the Cavs were never in this game from the opening tip.
The Portland Trailblazers remain undefeated (3-0) halfway through their six-game road trip as Damian Lillard led them to a 128-109 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. Lillard’s backcourt mate CJ McCollum did not have a great game with only ten points, but Jusuf Nurkic was a perfect Robin in his place. Nurkic had 23 points and 11 rebounds on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. Norman Powell did not have a great shooting night (1-of-7 from three), but he still managed 19 points in this one. The Trailblazers are smack dab in the heat of battle for Play-In tournament position and right now they are putting together the perfect stretch to keep them as high as the 7th seed and may be able to propel themselves into the Top-6 if the Lakers continue to struggle.
No Kevin Durant or James Harden leaving Kyrie Irving as the lone star and it just was not enough. Irving individually had a good game with 28 points, but the rest of the team just was not great offensively. As a team, the Nets shot 13-of-41 (31.7%) from three and the second scorer was Jeff Green who had 16 points and six rebounds. No offense to Green, but he cannot be your second-best player on the floor when you are trying to make a late run heading into the playoffs. A guy like that also cannot be your second-best player when you are taking on a desperate Portland team that is not planning on taking any prisoners on their way into the postseason.
This was literally one of the most disturbing basketball games played all season as Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Orlando Magic 92-75 despite both teams shooting poorly. For the Grizzlies, they shot 34-off-99 (34.3%) from the floor and 11-of-39 (28.2%) from three as a team. In the midst of that, Brooks led the way with 20 points and Jonas Valanciunas followed suit with 14 points and 15 rebounds. The backcourt of Ja Morant and Desmond Bane struggled as they combined for only 14 points on 6-of-22 shooting from the floor and 2-of-11 from three. Memphis will obviously take the win, but they clearly need to get it together if they have any hope of maintaining their position in the Playoff picture.
The expectations for the rebuilding Orlando Magic were already low, but they really sold themselves short with a performance like this. As a team they shot 27-of-86 (31.4%) from the floor and 6-of-26 (23.1%) from three. The two most impressive players for the Magic in this one were Mo Bamba and Cole Anthony. Bamba came off the bench and gave Orlando 15 points, 11 rebounds, and a whopping four blocks on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor with two threes. Definitely high energy and was a flash of what the Magic front office and fans hope Bamba can be on a nightly basis. Then there is Anthony who also had 15 points in this one along with six rebounds and two assists.
The Giannis-less Milwaukee Bucks roll past the Chicago Bulls 108-98 on the backs of Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton. Both Lopez and Middleton both had 22 points apiece in this one. Bobby Portis was a great surprise for the Bucks with a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor along with two steals and a block. In the backcourt, Jrue Holiday and Bryn Forbes combined for 26 points and 15 rebounds. Solid win for Milwaukee as they bounce back from a tough loss to Kevin Porter Jr. and Houston Rockets the night before.
Coby White led the charge with 21 points and seven assists to keep this game close, but this game was all about the big men for the Bulls. Nikola Vucevic had a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds, but he shot 7-of-27 from the field and struggled from three (1-of-9). Daniel Theis also had a double-double with 16 points and ten rebounds on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. The Bulls have lost three of their last five and they are dropping quickly out of the Play-In tournament picture. They are three games out of the 10th seed behind the Wizards who are surging which is not great for Chicago’s postseason chances.
On the back of 31 points from Devin Booker, the Phoenix Suns dominate the Jazz 121-100 to tie them for the top spot in the Western Conference. Alongside Booker, Mikal Bridge added 18 points on 7-of-8 from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Chris Paul had a quiet night with 12 points and nine assists on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor. The Suns have Oklahoma City, Cleveland, and Atlanta coming up as their next three games. So, they have a real chance to take that top spot in the next week if they keep playing the way they have over the last three games.
The Utah Jazz were blitzed by the Suns without Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley in the lineup as this team could not seem to hang with Phoenix offensively. Bojan Bogdanovic led the way with 22 points and then Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson were tied for being their second leading scorer with 12 points apiece. This was a tough scoring night for the Jazz, and it was particularly a tough night for Rudy Gobert. Despite having three blocks in this one, Gobert only had eight points and ten rebounds on a measly four shot attempts. This team definitely would like to close the regular season with their starting backcourt back as they 1-3 in their last four (the only win was a historic 154-105 win over Sacramento) and are looking to hold their position atop the West.
Haliburton and the Sacramento Kings play spoiler to LeBron James’ return to court as they held off the Los Angeles Lakers 110-106. This was one of only two games on the night that was actually competitive which was pretty unusual when you consider that the Lakers were reuniting one of the best duos in basketball. Nonetheless, with De’Aaron Fox out and Buddy Hield struggling (2 points), Haliburton led the way with 23 points and ten assists with four threes on the night. Richaun Holmes was also huge in this game with 22 points, nine rebounds and a block on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor. The bench mob also went crazy in this one as Terence Davis led the way with 15 points off the bench as the Kings’ bench combined for 47 of the team’s 110 points. As a team that is pretty much out of the playoff picture, Sacramento is out here playing spoiler as they look to face four playoff teams in their final nine games.
The Los Angeles Lakers are spiraling out of control as they are 1-4 in their last five and 3-7 in their last ten as they are fighting to avoid the Play-In tournament. Anthony Davis continues to play himself back into game shape with a solid double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Andre Drummond was also pretty good with 17 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks on 7-off-11 shooting from the floor. Then of course there is the man of the hour LeBron James. James had 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and a block, but it was not enough to propel his team to the win in his return. The Lakers have a tough close-out to the season as they play Denver, the Clippers, Portland, Phoenix, and New York all in row over the course of the next week and a half. In two weeks, we could legitimately be talking about the Lakers as a team who could playing for their playoff mortality in the Play-In tournament as a 7th seed or worse.