There is nothing better than a night full of down-to-the-wire games to get the blood rushing for NBA fans. Palms sweaty and backsides tight with every shot potentially being the game-changer. Last night, we had six games decided by ten or fewer points. One game went into overtime and another went to double-overtime with the outcome decided in the final seconds. That’s what the NBA is all about right? A make-or-miss league where every possession could be the difference between winning and losing. Well, let’s take a look at some of the top performers from last night’s games as these guys put on a show in a few of these nail-biters.
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The New York Knicks got long-overdue revenge as they took down the Atlanta Hawks, 99-90. With the absence of both Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker, it was up to players like Alec Burks and Evan Fournier to carry the slack. And carry the slack they did as Burks led the team with 23 points and Fournier added 20 points. In the frontcourt, Julius Randle had a quiet eight points and 11 rebounds, but Obi Toppin contributed 13 points in 16 minutes off the bench. Next, the Knicks prepare for the Battle of New York as they take on Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets.
The Atlanta Hawks’ seven-game winning streak came to a halt as the duo of Trae Young and Clint Capela didn’t get much help from their supporting cast. Capela had a dominant night on the glass as he had nearly half of the team’s rebounds. Alongside him, Young led the team with 33 points and added seven assists. The only other player that even scored double figures for Atlanta was John Collins who finished the night with 12 points and nine rebounds. The Hawks look to get back in the win column as they take on the Indiana Pacers.
The Miami Heat capitalized on the Bulls’ turnovers to squeak out a 107-104 victory. Miami turned it over ten times while Chicago turned it over 22 times. The Heat scored 21 points off of turnovers while the Bulls only scored 12 points. But in terms of primetime performers, Kyle Lowry had 19 points and Jimmy Butler added 18 points. Miami’s Player of the Game could arguably be Gabe Vincent who played big minutes in the absence of Tyler Herro and dropped 20 points with four threes. Next up, the Heat head home to take on the Denver Nuggets
Even with all the turnovers, Chicago was still in this game and that was due to the play of DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso. In spite of a heartfelt reunion with long-time teammate Kyle Lowry, DeRozan still gave the Heat buckets as he finished with a game-high 28 points. Then there’s Caruso who was second on the team with 22 points off the bench including a thunderous dunk on PJ Tucker. Other notes are that Lonzo Ball had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds while Zach LaVine finished with 16 points. Next up, the Ball Brothers face off as the Bulls host the Charlotte Hornets.
The Washington Wizards are starting to get back on track as Bradley Beal leads them to a 120-114 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Despite missing Spencer Dinwiddie, the team was firing on all cylinders, Kuzma with a near double-double of 22 points and nine rebounds. A double-double from Daniel Gafford who finished with 14 points and ten rebounds while going 6-of-7 from the field. They even got 24 combined points off the bench from Raul Neto and Montrezl Harrell. This win pushes them to two in a row as they look to close out their three-game Western Conference road trip with the San Antonio Spurs.
Although this game was relatively close, Luka Doncic was literally the only reason why the Mavericks were even in this game. Outside of Doncic’s 33 points, not a single Dallas player finished with 15 points or better. Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber did finish with 13 points apiece along with Trey Burke who gave them 14 points off the bench. Despite the Mavericks’ bigs playing decently, the key stat was that Dallas allowed 60 points in the paint. Easy buckets all night long for the Wizards. Next up, Doncic takes on Darius Garland and the scrappy Cleveland Cavaliers.
Off a clutch steal and assist in the final seconds of the second overtime, D’Angelo Russell led the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 121-120 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. The T-Wolves Big-3 put on a clinic in this one. Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 28 points and ten rebounds on 11-of-16 shooting from the field. Anthony Edwards added 19 points, six rebounds, and seven assists despite struggling from three (1-of-8). By clutching out this victory, Minnesota is back to .500 with a record of 10-10 and they have won seven of their last ten games. Next up on the schedule is the Indiana Pacers.
Tough loss for All-Star center Joel Embiid and Philadelphia 76ers as he had a monster game in his return to the lineup after missing the last nine games due to COVID-19 protocols. Alongside Embiid, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey both had solid games as well. Harris finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Maxey finished with 15 points and nine assists. This may not have been the way the Sixers wanted to welcome back Embiid, but this team was 3-7 in their prior ten games so seeing him come back and dominate should spark the team. Speaking of a spark, the Sixers may quickly get that first win with Embiid back as they have the Orlando Magic up next on the schedule.
The Phoenix Suns pushed their winning streak to 16-straight games with a big victory over Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets. The lead guys for the Suns were Devin Booker who finished with a team-high 30 points and Chris Paul who added 22 points. This game ended 113-107, but Phoenix dominated for most of the game as they led by as many as 22 points. Next, the Suns look to match an NBA record 17-straight victories as they prepare for another tough test: Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
Kevin Durant basically carried the Nets to help keep this game close. He finished with 39 points on 28 shots while the next closest person in terms of shots was James Harden with 15 attempts. Speaking of Harden, he finished with a quiet triple-double of 12 points, 13 rebounds, and 14 assists. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre’ Bembry contributed 18 points apiece in this one but Durant was forced to be overly aggressive on offense to give Brooklyn a chance. It just wasn’t enough. The Nets still sit atop the Eastern Conference as they prepare for the Battle of New York as they take on the Knicks.
Another Saturday night overtime game as Christian Wood dropped a career-high 33 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 146-143 win over the Charlotte Hornets. After losing 15 straight games, this makes two straight wins for the Rockets and over two potential Eastern Conference playoff teams at that. Houston put on an offensive clinic as Eric Gordon (22), Garrison Matthews (20), and Kevin Porter Jr. (23) all finished with 20 points or more. This was all without stud No.2 overall pick Jalen Green who will miss some time due to a hamstring strain. Next up, tanking teams collide as Houston faces the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Rough loss to an inferior team as this snapped the Charlotte Hornets’ three-game winning streak. But this was a highlight reel game filled with offense and the Hornets did not disappoint. Terry Rozier led the team with 31 points. Gordon Hayward (21), Miles Bridges (22), and Kelly Oubre (23) all finished with 20 points or more. And of course, LaMelo Ball orchestrated all the shenanigans as he finished with a triple-double of 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists. Ball and the Hornets prepare for an Eastern Conference showdown against Lonzo Ball and the Chicago Bulls.
Darius Garland scored a season-high 26 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 105-92 victory over the Orlando Magic. Although Garland balled out, for Cavs fans the real story in this one was the return of rookie center Evan Mobley. Mobley missed the last four games with a right elbow sprain but came back like he never left. He finished with a near double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds along with four blocks. But he was not the only one balling in Cleveland’s frontcourt. Jarrett Allen finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds while going 8-of-9 from the field. Also, Lauri Markkanen was second on the team in scoring with 20 points. This win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Cavs as they have Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks next up on the schedule.
Wendell Carter Jr.
It was a rough night for the Magic’s offense without Cole Anthony who missed this game due to an ankle sprain. Nonetheless, the top performer was Wendell Carter Jr. who finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds. The only other player worth highlighting is rookie forward Franz Wagner who finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. In some respects, one could argue that the team stats favored the Magic but shooting 8-of-32 from three was a real momentum killer. Orlando has yet another matchup against a relatively big team as they look to take on Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Revenge is a dish best served sweet as the Utah Jazz bounced back from their one-point loss to the New Orleans Pelicans by blowing them out last night, 127-105. Donovan Mitchell led the way with 21 points as the Jazz finished with seven players in double figures. The funniest part was that Rudy Gobert played relatively pedestrian as he finished the night with only six points and eight rebounds. Nonetheless, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson each had 20 apiece and Utah led this game by as much as 40 points. Next up, the Jazz look to take on a motivated Portland Trail Blazers team led by Damian Lillard.
That moment when you are the only team on the night to lose by 20+…Nonetheless, the man of the hour for the Pelicans was Jonas Valanciunas who seems to always finish the night with a double-double. Brandon Ingram also contributed 11 points as he struggled from the field, shooting 4-of-14 from the fields and 0-of-4 from three. One guy worth shouting out though is Jaxson Hayes who dropped 15 points and four rebounds in only seven minutes on the floor. This may not be anything, but it also could be a sign that Hayes should get some more shine in the rotation to figure out what he brings to the table.