The second half of the season is in full swing as we finish out the first full week of NBA basketball since coming back from the All-Star break. This may be the most grueling part of the season, but this is also the stretch where we see a lot of guys play a bit out of their mind.
Sometimes it is to help propel their team to a playoff position. Sometimes it is to help create a solid highlight tape for themselves as they head into free agency. Sometimes it is even to prove the doubters wrong as way of showing those in the comment section that they swung and missed on their perception of certain players.
With all that being said, there are a lot of guys who fall into this category across the NBA. Ironically, a handful of them were gathered together last night under the bright Friday Night lights. All faced with an opportunity to do something special with the world watching. So, after a night filled with thrilling finishes and plenty of season-high benchmarks, here are the Standout Performers from this week’s slate of Friday Night games!
Kicking off the night, the Sacramento Kings went on the road to take on the Boston Celtics. In a 107-96 win, the standout performers were the backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield along with Richaun Holmes down low. The combination of Fox and Hield went for 51 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists on 9-of-20 shooting from three. Holmes chipped in with a smooth double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor with three blocks as well to put a cherry on top of the performance. This win means that the Kings have swept the season series with the Celtics, a feat they have not accomplished since 2007.
Rough night offensively for the Celtics as everyone seemed to struggle shooting from the floor. Jaylen Brown may have had the most commendable performance on the night for the Celtics considering he was relatively active on both sides of the ball with double-digit rebounds and a handful of steals. Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker combined for 31 points on 5-of-13 shooting from three which is not bad, but they were 12-of-34 from the floor and the Kings took them out of the game. Daniel Theis went 0-for-5 from behind the arc which may be a sign that he needs to step in a little more on those jumpers. The Celtics fall back to below .500 with a record of 20-21 as they look to maintain a solid position in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Monster night for the San Antonio Spurs in their 116-110 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers as Keldon Johnson went for 23 points and a career-high 21 rebounds. This game looked like it was going to go down the wire as both teams traded baskets and, at around the 3:13 mark in the 4thh quarter, Cleveland cut the lead down to only eight (98-90). But the Spurs were just too much down the stretch riding the hot hands of Johnson and Dejounte Murray. Murray had 22 points and six rebounds along with Demar DeRozan who had 20 points and seven assists in this one. A great all-around team effort as veterans Rudy Gay and Patty Mills also combined for 22 coming off the bench. Solid win over a below .500 team to keep afloat in the Wild West.
Hard fought game from the Cleveland Cavaliers, but down the stretch, the Spurs were just the better team. The young backcourt of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton had 29 points apiece while also racking up a combined ten assists and six rebounds while hitting 5-of-10 threes. Another bright spot came in the frontcourt, specifically Jarrett Allen and Lamar Stevens. Allen had another double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds along with two blocks. Stevens also had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds in only 17 minutes off the bench. Tough loss for the Cavs but the team is slowly starting to show signs of a bright future with some interesting pieces.
Blowout city in Miami and unfortunately the Heat were not on the right side. The Indiana Pacers handled business winning this game 137-110 and it was never close. Malcolm Brogdon led the way with 27 points as seven Pacers players scored in double figures. The unsung standout may have been T.J. McConnell off the bench who had a double-double with 16 points and 15 assists while also chipping in six rebounds and three steals. Hard to stop a team that is red hot from beyond the arc as Indiana shot 20-of-36 from three compared to Miami who only shot 9-of-34 from deep. Big win for Indiana to hopefully kickstart a run after dropping their two previous games.
In a game that was not even close, the combination of the Heat’s All-Stars Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler was the only thing keeping this game interesting. The duo went for a combined 37 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists on 14-of-21 shooting from the floor. The only other bright spot may have been the production of Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic off the bench. Dragic had 16 points and three assists while Herro had 15 points and five rebounds but struggled from the field shooting 4-of-15. The Heat will be looking for revenge as they get their rematch with the Pacers this Sunday.
Looks like somebody has been checking his mentions on Twitter. After being heavily discussed in trade rumors over the last week or so, Aaron Gordon had himself a field day with a season-high 38 points on the night to take down the Brooklyn Nets. In the 121-113 victory, Gordon showed off that potential as a versatile stretch-big that the Orlando Magic desperately have needed him to be on a consistent basis as he was dang near perfect from three. Evan Fournier was huge in this game as well as he had 31 points while shooting 6-of-8 from three and 10-of-13 from the field. Then, of course, All-Star Center Nikola Vucevic got his nightly double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds along with eighth assists to cap off the Magic’s three-headed attack.
Strong offensive output for Kyrie Irving but it was not enough to combat the three-point barrage of the Orlando Magic. The Magic hit 21 threes as opposed to the Brooklyn Nets who only hit 10 of their 37 attempts on the night. James Harden had a bit of a quiet night in comparison to what he had been doing up to this point as he only had 19 points and nine assists. Joe Harris was the only other offensive threat for Brooklyn with 16 points, but he struggled mightily from three, shooting 3-of-13 from three which is pretty uncharacteristic for him as one of the league’s best long-range shooters. Tough loss but fortunately for the Nets, they still remain atop the East tied with Philadelphia for first place with a record of 28-14.
The biggest nail biter of the night as the Utah Jazz squeaked out the 115-112 victory over the Toronto Raptors on the back of their All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell was really aggressive in this game with nearly 20 free throw attempts and he came up big in the clutch as he got eight of his 31 points in the final minute and a half of the ball game. The other standouts for the Jazz were Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles. The Buckets and Boards king Gobert had another double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds along with two blocks on the night. Ingles had 19 points, five rebounds, and six assists on 5-of-6 shooting from three off the bench as the Jazz’s hottest shooter in this game.
With the chance to hit a game-tying three to send this one to overtime, Siakam’s fall-away three in the closing seconds went off the front rim, then the back rim, and then out. Definitely a hard loss to a quality opponent, but the Raptors look like a force to reckoned with in the East. All five starters scored in double figures as the backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet combined for 31 points, 17 assists, and 11 rebounds on the night. Chris Boucher, who is a legit 6th man of the year candidate, also came off the bench and gave the Toronto 16 points and two blocks with three threes in 20 minutes off the bench.
In a Battle of the Bad Teams, the Detroit Pistons prevaild on the back of season-high 23 points from point guard Frank Jackson. The forward combination of Jerami Grant and Saddiq Bey was big as well in this game for Detroit as they combined for 38 points and 11 rebounds. Josh Jackson and Isaiah Stewart also provided solid contributions off the bench as they combined for 28 points to help the Pistons hand the Houston Rockets their franchise-record 19th straight loss.
The nightmare just keeps on going for the Houston Rockets as the losing just won’t stop. Even with all five starters scoring in double figures, John Wall and the Rockets were somehow still not good enough to take out the lowly Detroit Pistons. The backcourt of Wall and Victor Oladipo led the way with a combined 40 points and 11 assists, but they struggled from three as they shot 4-of-14 from behind the arc. Christian Wood was also a bright spot with a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds, but he too struggled shooting the three, going 1-of-5 from deep. On the bright side, they are getting that much closer to having a real shot at getting Cade Cunningham in the 2021 NBA Draft.
No Curry, No Problem says Andrew Wiggins. With Stephen Curry out due to injury, the combination of Wiggins and Jordan Poole stepped up in a big way to propel Golden State to a 116-103 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. Wiggins scored a season-high 40 points and Poole chipped in 25 points as a starter in place of Curry as the two shot 9-of-17 from deep. Another major player in this game for the Warriors was Damion Lee who gave them 21 points and five rebounds in 28 points off the bench. The Warriors are not better when Curry is off the floor, but games like this should at least give Golden State fans hope that these guys can be reliable down the stretch as the team looks to make a run at the playoffs.
Really tough night offensively for the Grizzlies as their phenom point guard could not seem to do much on that side of the floor. Ja Morant and Grayson Allen both had 14 points apiece but that was really about as impressive as it gets when it comes to Memphis in this one. The only other noteworthy thing may be Jonas Valanciunas who had a solid double-double with ten points and 16 rebounds.
Late game heroics and clutch buckets in an overtime thriller! The combination of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were huge in this game for the Denver Nuggets as they both scored 34 points apiece to lead them to a 131-127 victory. The man with the plan in this game was most definitely Murray who hit the game-tying three-pointer in the final second of regulation and a clutch jumper in the final seconds of overtime. He shot 6-of-7 from three and each one mattered when it came to snatching this win away. The forward combo of Will Barton and Michael Porter Jr. also gave solid performances with a combined 35 points and 12 rebounds.
In a thrilling back and forth between these two teams, Zach LaVine did his part to keep the Chicago Bulls in the game. Outside of not shooting that well from three, LaVine was extremely aggressive and made up for some of his struggles by getting some of those points back at the free-throw line. Otto Porter Jr. and Coby White were also huge off the bench as they combined for 39 points on 7-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc. Tough loss for a young team but in their defense, they were going up against one of the best teams in the league in the clutch.
The Point God Chris Paul went all out to avenge the loss to Minnesota from the previous night by coming out and giving them a 20-piece in a 113-101 victory under the bright Friday Night lights. Devin Booker also added 16 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in the game. The bench mob was big in this game as the combination of Cameron Payne, Langston Galloway, and Abdel Nader combined for 35 points while all playing less than 20 minutes each. Solid bounce-back win for the Suns as they next look to head over to the West coast to faceoff with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Not as crazy as his 41-point performance in the first matchup with Phoenix, but still an All-Star level performance as usual. Karl Anthony-Towns once again was not alone in terms of showing up on the offensive end, but instead of getting help from the rookie guard Anthony Edwards he instead got it from veteran guard Ricky Rubio. Rubio had a double-double with 21 points and ten assists along with five rebounds while shooting 7-of-10 from the field with three threes. Edwards definitely simmered down after his career night, but still managed to put up a double-double with 11 points and ten rebounds.
Let’s give a Friday Night Lights Welcome Back to CJ McCollum who is playing under the bright lights for the first time since January 1st and looked good and his return to the big stage. In the 125-119 victory, the dynamic backcourt of McCollum and Damian Lillard went for 63 points, ten assists, and seven rebounds while shooting 11-of-23 from three. Carmelo Anthony was also a big contributor in this game with 18 points off the bench as the Portland Trailblazers were able to hold off the offensive clinic being put on by Luka Doncic.
Talk about a guy who is trying to play himself into the MVP race. As a guy who is on the outside of the Top-10 discussion in terms of the MVP debate, what better way to make a case for yourself than to drop nearly 40-points along with almost having a triple-double against one of the players who is considered to be in the Top-10? Well, Doncic surely took the opportunity to heart and balled out even in a loss. His partner in crime for this one was Tim Hardaway Jr. who dropped 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists while hitting seven threes in this one. Somehow Kristaps Porzingis was not even the best big man on the floor for Dallas as he only had 11 points while Maxi Kleber had 16 points and hit four threes.