Brooklyn Nets vs. San Antonio Spurs

The Brooklyn Nets took home the 121-119 victory in this Sunday matinee against the rebuilding, but still pesky San Antonio Spurs. In classic 2021-22 Nets fashion, they gave up a 14-point lead and allowed the Spurs to tie the game late in the fourth quarter and push the game into overtime, where Nets’ rookie Cam Thomas stole the show. Both teams struggled to score in the waning minutes of regulation and overtime, most notably Kevin Durant. As a result, when Durant was doubled on the Nets’ final possession at the elbow, with about six seconds left in the game, he rose up and fired a pass to Cam Thomas sliding up from the corner. Thomas pump-faked, took two hard dribbles and rose up for a one-legged runner fading to his left at the free-throw line. Nothing but net. Thomas’ made floater in overtime turned out to be the game-winner as Lonnie Walker was blocked on the Spurs ensuing inbound play. Even if he hadn’t been blocked, however, the shot wouldn’t have counted. Walker released the shot after the buzzer, as the Spurs had just one-point-four seconds to shoot. The narrow escape victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Nets.

Durant led the Nets in scoring and minutes (essentially tied with Harden at 43), finishing this midday showdown with 28 points, four rebounds, six assists, one steal, and three blocks. Durant was 11-21 from the field, but just 2-9 in the fourth quarter and overtime. James Harden was the other driving force behind the Nets’ attack and finished the game with 26 points, seven rebounds, 12 assists, and one block. Nic Claxton (16), Patty Mills (13), and the hero, Cam Thomas (11), were the other players to score in double figures. Bruce Brown, Jevon Carter, and Paul Millsap all received DNP-CD’s in this one and Kyrie Irving didn’t play because it was a home game—a totally normal thing to type. Bruce Brown is purely a streamer in all but the deepest of leagues (larger than 14-teams) now that DeAndre’ Bembry has become an alternative small-ball center option. Bembry it could be argued, provides a tiny bit more size and defensive versatility. LaMarcus Aldridge remained out for this game due to right foot soreness.

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Spurs Notes

In classic Spurs fashion, seven players scored in double figures: Lonnie Walker IV, Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, Joshua Primo, Jakob Poetl, Keita Bates-Diop, and Jock Landale. Lonnie Walker led the Spurs in scoring and finished the game with 25 points, three rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. It seems unlikely, given the Spurs track record, but Walker would be a prime trade candidate after the Spurs failed to come to an extension with him this summer. Dejounte Murray added 18 points, three rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Murray has been the Spurs best player this season and probably deserves more consideration for an All-Star selection, especially as Luka Doncic and other typical Western Conference stalwarts struggle with their health. Forbes (18), Primo (12), Bates-Diop (10), Poetltl (11), and Landale (10) just couldn’t do enough to steal the victory in Brooklyn. The teams lack of a closer on offense shined through in this game. However, outside of Walker and Murray, Jakob Poeltl was the Spurs’ most important player. He controlled the middle on defense and did a solid job on the boards; he finished the game with 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and two blocks, to go along with his 11 points.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Atlanta Hawks

The Los Angeles Clippers withstood a strong start from the Hawks to regain control of the game and secure the 106-93 victory. The Clippers out rebounded the Hawks 52-43 and outscored them 50-40 in the paint. They were 12-33 (36.4%) from three-point range compared to the Hawks 7-26 (26.9%). The three-ball kept the Clippers in the game early and when they started to get a few stops they ran away with the game. They secured the victory with a balanced attack that saw seven players score in double figures. Amir Coffey led the Clippers with a career-high 21 points and five made threes; he added five rebounds and three assists to round out his stat line. Serge Ibaka, in his best game of the season so far, added 16 points, two rebounds, two assists, and one block. Ibaka made his presence felt all over the floor, in particular, making life tough for John Collins. Marcus Morris Sr. finished the game with 15 points, two rebounds, and one assist. Reggie Jackson and Eric Bledsoe each scored 12 points and Terance Mann and Nicolas Batum added 10. Ivica Zubac had an underwhelming game as a scorer, but he was a terror on the boards, finishing the game with eight points, 13 rebounds (five offensive), and three assists. Even without Paul George, Luke Kennard, Justise Winslow, and Isaiah Hartenstein, the Clippers size, depth, and wealth of competence shined through in this game.

Hawks Notes

This game was a bit of a let down for me. I haven’t watched as much Hawks basketball as I have in previous years and as a result was excited to see Trae Young go to work in this game. Unfortunately, the Hawks failure to get stops and secure rebounds took the steam out of this contest. Young and the Hawks got off to a solid start in this game and trailed by just six points, 53-59, at the half, but even with Young and John Collins playing all of the third quarter, they trailed 73-86 at the end of the period. The game was never really in question in the final period.  Young co-led the team in scoring with 19 points and added three rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and one block. Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was 6-8 from the field and 3-4 from three for 15 points at the half, connected on just two shots in the second half and finished the game with 19 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Kevin Huerter (11) and Timothe Luawawu-Cabarrot (14) were the only other Hawks to score in double figures. As I mentioned above, John Collins had his hands full battling Ivica Zubac and Serge Ibaka on both ends of the floor. He finished the game with just nine points and seven rebounds. The Hawks sorely missed Clint Capela’s (ankle) rebounding progress in this game. Cam Reddish played just three minutes and left this game in the first quarter and did not return due to an ankle sprain. Do we think Reddish is still on the roster after the trade deadline?

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 105-101 to extend their winning streak to six games. They were led by strong play from Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. VanVleet finished the game with 32 points (11-27 FG, 8-17 3PT), four rebounds, four assists, and two steals. It was the sixth time in his last eight games that VanVleet scored 30 points or more. VanVleet is a career 38.8% three-point shooter, in other words a strong shooter, but he gets on some of the hottest shooting streaks outside of the Splash Brothers. For example, VanVleet is shooting 47% from three in his last five games, on a ridiculous 13.2 attempts a game. Siakam continued his strong play of late and finished the game with 29 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. OG Anunoby added 12 points, five rebounds, and two assists. Anunoby was playing pretty well at the start of the season, but it was obvious he was carrying too large of an offensive load with Pascal Siakam sidelined. Now, it appears Anunoby is still trying to find his footing after returning from injury and Siakam is the one who’s rolling. All the talk in previous seasons has been about trading Siakam, in part because he’s on a much larger contract than Anunoby. But it certainly seems like Siakam will once again look like the better player at the end of the season—interesting stuff! Scottie Barnes had a quiet night and finished the game with seven points, four rebounds, and two assists.

Pelicans Notes

Five Pelicans’ players scored in double figures, led by Brandon Ingram‘s 22 points. Ingram finished the game with 22 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Jonas Valunciunas tallied 20 points, 17 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block in his first game in Toronto since 2018. Herbert Jones, a seemingly entrenched starter at this point, added 13 points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block. If you’re in a league like mine, it’s too late to pick up Jones, but if he’s available he’s worth a look. He might have too many holes in his games for leagues smaller than 14-teams, but he’s probably a decent streamer for defensive stats even in standard leagues. He’s an obvious add in larger leagues and keeper and dynasty formats. Devonte’ Graham and Nickeil Alexander-Walker each scored 11 points.

Washington Wizards vs. Orlando Magic

The Washington Wizards defeated the Orlando Magic 102-100, behind another blistering shooting performance from Kyle Kuzma, who led the Wizards in scoring with 27 points and added 22 rebounds (career-high), one assist, and one block—I agree, nothing in the world makes sense anymore. Bradley Beal finished the game with 20 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and one block. It was the first time Beal failed to score at least 25 points in nine games. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 14 points and three rebounds. Daniel Gafford tallied 12 points, five rebounds, one assist, and three blocks. Spencer Dinwiddie tallied eight points, one rebound, 10 assists, and one steal. Rui Hachimura made his season debut and tallied six points, three rebounds, and one assist in 14 minutes of play. Montrezl Harrell cleared health and safety protocols, but was held out of this game. He should be on track to play in the Wizards next contest on Tuesday.

Magic Notes

This loss is the ninth in a row for the Magic. Terrence Ross led the Magic in scoring and finished the game with 32 points, two rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Ross scored 20 consecutive points for the Magic at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth. Franz Wagner added 16 points, six rebounds, and one assist. Cole Anthony notched 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block, but was just 4-17 from the field. Gary Harris notched 11 points, one assist, and two blocks. Mo Bamba tallied 10 points, nine rebounds, and two steals. Wendell Carter Jr. missed this game due to a sore left hamstring.

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Houston Rockets

The Minnesota Timberwolves ran the Houston Rockets out of the gym by a score of 141-123. Both teams were content to play in transition, but when the pace is fast, the more talented team usually wins. That’s exactly what happened in this game. Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for the Wolves with a season-high 40 points (15-25 FG, 4-6 3PT), and added nine rebounds, seven assists, and one steal. D’Angelo Russell finished the game with a double-double, notching 22 points (8-14 FG, 5-9 3PT), five rebounds, 10 assists, and one steal. Jarred Vanderbilt had a banner evening and notched career-highs in points and rebounds. He finished the game with 21 points, 19 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks. The Vando train just keeps chugging along. Anthony Edwards tallied 19 points, six assists, two steals, and two blocks. Malik Beasley (13) and Jaylen Nowell (11) also scored in double figures.

Rockets Notes

The Rockets are back to their losing ways. They’ve now lost 10 of their last 11 games. I want better for Jae’Sean Tate. Maybe I’m overreacting, but it feels like the Rockets have got to make a move at the trade deadline. Unfortunately Christian Wood‘s little standoff with head coach Stephen Silas has probably significantly reduced his trade value. On the other hand, it’s another Covid-marred season and Jalen Green has shown plenty of flashes. Eric Gordon can’t be on this roster after the trade deadline though, right!? Back to the game at hand! Christian Wood led the Rockets in scoring with 22 points and added eight rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Seth Partnow, on a recent podcast, suggested that Christian Wood has basically never played in a “real NBA” game in his career. The premise being, Wood has been a good stats bad team or good stats limited role/playing time guy his entire career. Another relevant obstacle to trading him for good value. Sigh, sorry Houston fans. Josh Christopher was frisky in the game, finishing with 19 points, three rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Garrison Mathews (14), Kenyon Martin Jr. (13), Eric Gordon (13), Jae’Sean Tate (10), and Jalen Green (10) were the other Rockets’ players to score in double figures. Kevin Porter Jr. finished the game with nine points, six rebounds, eight assists, and one steal.

Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Denver Nuggets held and defeated the Thunder 99-95 in a game where all eleven active players got some run. Nikola Jokic led the way for the Nuggets with a near-20-20 night. He finished the game with 22 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, and one steal. Austin Rivers also scored 22 points (season-high) and added five rebounds, one assists, and three steals. Jeff Green chipped in 16 points, one rebound, one assist, and one steal. Will Barton added 14 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Aaron Gordon and Monte Morris both had unusually quiet nights. Gordon finished the game with four points, six rebounds, and two assists. Morris finished the game with eight points, three rebounds, five assists, and one steal. On the transaction front, the Nuggets parted ways with Bol Bol, trading him to Detroit for Rodney McGruder and a 2022 second round pick. Bol Bol might be worth a speculative add in larger leagues and keep and dynasty formats. I don’t expect Bol Bol to start playing a ton of minutes or putting up monster stat lines in Detroit, but there’s no reason for the Pistons to acquire such a unique, polarizing player unless they thing there’s something in his game worth exploring.

Thunder Notes

Losing close games is just what young teams do. However, if you’re the Thunder, you’d like to see your best player, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, have a better performance and season than he’s had thus far. After a breakout campaign last year, Gilgeous-Alexander’s efficiency has taken a major hit. It’s hard to separate the bad environment from his seeming step back this season, however. Gilgeous-Alexander finished this game with eight points (2-14 FG, 0-3 3PT), five rebounds, four assists, one steal, and two blocks. Lugentz Dort led the Thunder in scoring with 14 points and added five rebounds, one assist, and one block. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl added 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, and three steals. Josh Giddey tallied 11 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, and one steal. Darius Bazley chipped in 10 points, five rebounds, and three blocks. I had a sobering thought watching the Pelicans vs. Raptors game today. Which player will have a better NBA career, Aleksej Pokusevski or Svi Mykhailiuk? Which is another way of saying, why exactly weren’t the Thunder more interested in Mykhailiuk? The Grizzlies are an example of all the important things going right, both the ones you can control and the ones you can’t during a rebuild. The Thunder are not quite the opposite, but definitely something further on the negative side of the continuum.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Chicago Bulls

The Dallas Mavericks are showing some strong signs of life. They defeated the Bulls 113-99 to notch their sixth straight win. Luka Doncic led the charge with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists. Maxi Kleber tallied 18 points, four rebounds, two assists, and one block. He tied a career-high with six made threes in the victory. Sophomore, Josh Green, set a career-high with 18 points and added six rebounds and one assist. Jalen Brunson tallied 17 points, four rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Dorian Finney-Smith finished the game with 12 points, two rebounds, two assists, and one block while Dwight Powell added 10 points. During their six-game winning streak the Mavericks have knocked off the top teams in both conferences, the Bulls and Warriors, and surprisingly their defense has looked stout. If Doncic and Porzingis can manage to stay healthy and the defense doesn’t abandon them, they’ll be an exciting team to watch after the All-Star break and a team to avoid in the playoffs.

Bulls Notes  

This loss stopped the Bulls’ winning streak at nine games. DeMar DeRozan turned in another strong performance but his co-alphas (remember the three alphas, Chicago) struggled in this game. DeRozan finished the contest with 20 points (9-16 FG, 0-1 3PT), four rebounds, eight assists, and one block. Zach LaVine also scored 20 points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals,  but shot 7-21 from the field and 2-7 from three. Nikola Vucevic finished the game with 13 points (6-17 FG, 1-5 3PT), six rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block. Coby White chipped in 13 points, four rebounds, and two assists off the bench, extending his double-digit scoring streak to seven games. It was a quiet scoring night for Lonzo Ball as he finished the game with nine points (5-9 FG, 1-4 3PT), six rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Klay Alexander Thompson returned to NBA action for the first time in 941 days and helped steward the Warriors to a 96-82 victory. It was raucous atmosphere and everyone in the building was rooting for Klay Thompson, who scored the first points of the game and the second half. He finished the contest with 17 points (7-18 FG, 3-8 3PT), three rebounds, one assist, and one block. Klay wasted no time getting shots up and just like old times, was second only to Steph Curry in shot attempts. Klay attacked a lot out of isolation in this game, one would have think, due to the absence of Draymond Green, who was a late scratch due to calf soreness. Curry started 4-4 from three-point range but then cooled down some. He finished the game with 28 points (10-21 FG, 4-11 3PT), five rebounds, five assists, and one steal. It was not the sort of full game explosion that might signal Curry is out of his shooting slump, but it’s a start. At least in this game, Andrew Wiggins was the most effected by Thompson’s returned. Although he played 33 minutes, Wiggins finished the game with just 10 points (3-9 FG, 0-3 3PT), two rebounds, one assist, and one steal. I would expect Wiggins to take more shots in future games, but he could have more quiet nights on the way as Thompson works to find his rhythm. Jordan Poole was the one other Warriors’ player to score in double figures. Poole finished the game with 14 points, two rebounds, two assists, and one block. For those who held on to Gary Payton II despite Thompson’s impending return, this was an encouraging game. Payton II continued to move well without the ball, make plays on defense, and finish extremely well around the basket. He finished the game with nine points (4-5 FG, 1-1 3PT), six rebounds, one assist, and two steals. And of course, I can’t close out this section without mentioning Kevon Looney, who is the undisputed unsung hero of this Warriors. He’s got experience beyond his years, he’s solid, intelligent, rarely makes mistakes, and gets the most out of his limited athleticism. He was instrumental in containing the Cavs size and protecting the defensive glass. He finished the game with six points, 18 rebounds (career-high), three assists, four steals, and one block. With James Wiseman sidelined for all of the season so far and no other traditional center on the roster, this might be the best (regular) season of Looney’s career.

Cavaliers Notes

The Cavs put forth a valiant effort in this game and trailed just 46-51 at the half. Ultimately, their turnovers and rebounding issues were too much to overcome—they were out rebounded 60-50 and turned the ball over 18 times. Four Cavs players scored in double figures, none of which were Darius Garland, who struggled. Garland finished the game with just nine points (3-12 FG, 2-7 3PT), two rebounds, four assists, and one steal. In the biggest upset of the night, Lamar Stevens led the Cavs in scoring with 17 points, four rebounds, one assist, and two steals. Rajon Rondo, recently acquired in a trade with the Lakers added 15 points, three rebounds, and five assists. Jarrett Allen (5-7 FG) finished the game with 12 points, seven rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. Given that the Cavs played big the entire game, Allen only taking seven shots is a huge win for the Warriors defense. Evan Mobley finished the game with 11 points (5-12 FG, 0-1 3PT), six rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 127-119, behind a breathtaking highlight reel performance by Ja Morant, who finished the game with 16 points (4-10 FG, 0-2 3PT), five rebounds, seven assists, one steal, and one block. But that one block, may be one of the most exciting plays in NBA history. Here’s the video:

Morant’s night also included this ridiculous dunk:

My favorite part of Morant’s dunk might is not the Uber-impressive dunk itself, but Desmond Bane’s wide-eyed, open mouthed face once he sees Ja running free along the baseline. Morant commanded and conducted the Crypto Arena crowd like all of the best performers do, regardless of genre.

The Grizzlies have become one of the best ensemble casts in the NBA. Morant is not the heliocentric force the Trae Young and Luka Doncic is, but he’s nearly as good, and he’s even more exciting. But the Grizzlies are the fourth seed in the Western Conference in large part because of the quality of their depth. Every player is competent, skilled, and athletic. There are very few holes to attack and almost no moments of relief, no matter who’s in the game. They’re like a steroid era lineup in baseball. That depth was on full display in this game as six players scored in double figures. Desmond Bane led the team in scoring with 23 points and added four rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Jaren Jackson Jr. tallied 21 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and six blocks. Kyle Anderson tallied 14 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and two blocks. Brandon Clarke (14) and John Konchar (12) rounded out the list of double-figure scorers. The Grizzlies are a very interesting test case in team building/rebuilding. Few people believe the Grizzlies are legitimate championship contenders this season and there have been calls in the media for them to make a big move for a star wing, like Jaylen Brown, for example. But I wonder what the staff in the front office think. There has to be some fear about messing up the secret sauce, the vibezzz, the gritty, get-it-out-the-mud attitude that defines this group. I imagine no matter what happens, it will be exciting to watch it unfold!

Lakers Notes

The Lakers would like to be a big, athletic, nasty team, one defined by their defense and their two star players. However, one of those stars is sidelined due to injury and the size they were counting on has been relegated to the end of the bench due to ineffectiveness. The team is somehow short on shooting and defense, to say nothing of all the injuries the team has suffered. Last night was another example of all the ways the Lakers have failed to take advantage of LeBron’s all-time great talent, by poorly constructing their team. LeBron James scored 35 points (14-19 FG, 3-4 3PT), grabbed nine rebounds, dishes out seven assists, and turned the ball over just three times and the Lakers lost.   Only three other Lakers’ players scored in double figures: Talen Horton-Tucker (13), Austin Reaves (16), Wayne Ellington (16). Russell Westbrook finished this game with six points (2-12 FG, 0-1 3PT), seven rebounds, six assists, and one block. Russell Westbrook is no longer a super star player although he is paid like one. The existence of a salary cap make that a roster construction issue for the Lakers, to go along with all the others we’ve outlined.  Once again, I’m writing negatively about the Lakers. It is a long season and a one-two punch of a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis could be the only panacea the Lakers need. For now, let’s just enjoy LeBron’s brilliance.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Sacramento Kings

The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Sacramento Kings 103-81, behind another strong performance from Anfernee Simons, who scored a game-high 31 points and notched three rebounds and six assists. Simons, Ben McLemore, Robert Covington, and Nassir Little all started this game due to injuries and Covid absences for the Blazers. Jusuf Nurkic started as usual and finished this game with  14 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists, two steals, and one block. It’s nice to see such a strong showing from Nurkic, given how lackluster his performance has been up to this point in the season. Hopefully this is a sign of better days ahead. Nassir Little added 13 points, three rebounds, and two assists. And McLemore rounds out the list of double-digit scorers with 13 points, 2 rebounds, and two assists. Robert Covington had a solid all-around game outside of scoring and finished this contest with eight points, six rebounds, one assist, three steals, and three blocks. The Blazers were without Damian Lillard (abdominal injury), Norman Powell (health and safety protocols), CJ McCollum (collapsed right lung recovery) and Larry Nance Jr. (knee injury).

Kings Notes

I understand that even end of the bench NBA players are incredibly talented. I’m also aware that the Kings were missing their two most reliable centers in Richaun Holmes and Damian Jones and another capable wing/small-ball big in Maurice Harkless. Nonetheless, this is a pretty pathetic loss given how much scoring and playmaking was missing for the Blazers. Although neither of these teams has been very good this season, the old saying, “good teams find a way to win and bad teams find a way to lose” still seems to ring true. Add the Kings to an ever growing list of teams who need a roster shakeup at the trade deadline or in the offseason. Tyrese Haliburton led the Kings in both scoring and assists and finished the game with 17 points, one rebound, nine assists, two steals, and one block. Alex Len, who got the spot start in Holmes’ absence, finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds. De’Aaron Fox added 14 points, five rebounds, two assists, and one block. Harrison Barnes tallied 13 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block. Buddy Hield notched 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals.