Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks
The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the New York Knicks 112-97 in the matinee matchup yesterday. The Bucks are now back to their winning ways, having beaten the Rockets in their previous game after losing their first game with Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Khris Middleton in the lineup against an undermanned Miami Heat team on Wednesday. The sweet machine of destruction that is the Milwaukee Bucks appears to have returned. Seven players scored in double figures for the Bucks, led by Khris Middleton, who finished the game with 24 points (8-17 FG, 4-11 3PT), eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied 20 points (7-16 FG, 0-2 3PT), 10 rebounds, 11 assists, one steal, and one block. Bobby Portis chipped in 19 points (7-14 FG, 3-7 3PT), 10 rebounds, and three steals. Jrue Holiday added 13 points (6-11 FG, 1-2 3PT), four rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton, and Rodney Hood rounded out the double-digit scorers’ list.
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The New York Knicks are now 12-15, good for 12th in the East Conference. Kemba Walker has been excised from the rotation and yet the Knicks are just 2-6 since gluing him to the bench. The Knicks were without R.J. Barrett, Obi Toppin (health and safety protocols), and Alec Burks (personal reason) in this game. Derrick Rose started in place of Alec Burks and Quentin Grimes started in place of Barrett. Rookie Quentin Grimes took full advantage of his opportunity and finished the game with 27 points, three rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Grimes set a franchise record for most three-pointers made by a rookie with seven. Derrick Rose and Kevin Knox II both scored 18 points and Immanuel Quickley chipped in 11. You know things are bad when Kevin Knox is getting minutes. Julius Randle and Evan Fournier, the supposedly dependable veterans on the Knicks roster, couldn’t muster much in this game. Randle finished the game with eight points (2-9 FG, 1-5 3PT), 10 rebounds, seven assists, one block, and seven turnovers. Fournier finished the game with 6 points (2-8 FG, 1-7 3PT), two rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Mitchell Robinson appears to be out of the starting lineup. Nerlens Noel started this game and Taj Gibson started a game recently. Noel finished the game with 0 (0-2 FG) points, seven rebounds, one assist, two steals, and a block. No one is counting on Nerlens Noel to put up massive scoring lines, but 0 points is still a bit disappointing. Hopefully, Noel can manage to string some quality games together, it seems like he’s on the injury report before every game this year. Mitchell Robinson finished the game with 9 points (4-5 FG) and eight rebounds.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Detroit Pistons
Before last night, Stephen Curry had the highest-scoring game of the season, a 50-point outing against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks on November 8th. The only thing more impressive than Curry’s performance was Candace Parker predicting Curry’s explosive game in the tweet below.
Steph is gona have 50 tonight…. Anytime you play against a young protégé you gotta let ‘em know 🤷🏽♀️
— Candace Parker (@Candace_Parker) November 9, 2021
It’s safe to assume Kevin Durant agrees with Parker.
Durant made sure to remind Cade Cunningham and the rest of the league’s best young players that they might have next, but they don’t have now. Durant claimed the top spot from Curry by pouring in 51 points (16-31 FG, 5-10 3PT), and added seven rebounds, nine assists, one steal, and two blocks for good measure. Durant led the short-handed Nets to a 116-104 victory over the Pistons. The Nets needed almost all of Durant’s 51 points as neither James Harden (rest) nor Paul Millsap (personal reasons) played in the game. Durant has a legitimate opportunity to win league MVP this season, especially since Nic Claxton’s injury-plagued season has meant that Durant is often the best offensive and defensive player on the floor for the Nets. Durant can serve as the team’s de-facto rim protector for stretches and then deliver a death-by-a-thousand-cuts performance from the midrange on the other end of the floor. Although that fact should probably scare Nets fans, as Durant is not that far removed from an Achilles tear.
There were times in this game—even keeping in mind Harden’s absence—where I thought to myself, “this is a title contender?” The Nets struggled just to get the ball past halfcourt and get into their offense for stretches, turning the ball over 10 times in the third quarter alone. They relied heavily on LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills, and rookie Cam Thomas—the only other players to score in double figures. This was not the vision Steve Nash and company had for the team when the season started, but they remain, for now, at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 19-8 record. LaMarcus Aldridge started hot and then cooled off, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the first half. He finished the game with 15 points (4-8 FG, 1-1 3PT), five rebounds, one assist, and one block. Patty Mills had a solid game in a larger than usual role, finishing with 18 points (7-17 FG, 4-10 3PT), three rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Cam Thomas played 29 minutes and provided some needed scoring off the Nets bench, finishing the game with 13 points (6-11 FG, 1-4 3PT), four rebounds, three assists, and one steal.
some days you’re jay z when he said “a loss ain’t a loss it’s a lesson” and other days you’re jay z when he said “moral victories is for minor league coaches”
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) April 15, 2020
Such is the existence of this year’s Detroit Pistons.
At least when a future Hall of Famer hangs a 50 piece on you, it’s a digestible lesson. The highlight for the Pistons has to be Cade Cunningham‘s strong performance. Cunningham did his best to counter Durant’s brilliance and finished the game with 26 points (9-18 FG, 5-8 3PT), eight rebounds, six assists, three steals, and one block. It was the kind of controlled, all-around performance that inspires confidence in Cunningham’s future. After a slow start, the top overall pick is rounding into form. Over his last six games, Cunningham is averaging 22.7 points, five rebounds, four assists, one-point-eight steals, and 0.8 blocks, while shooting 47% from the field, 52.4% from three, and 75% from the free-throw line. The three-point shot is crucial for Cunningham, it’s no surprise his recent strong play has included a high percentage from deep. Frank Jackson also had a strong game, finishing with 25 points (8-19 FG, 6-13 3PT), one rebound, one assist, and one block. Saben Lee tallied 17 points (7-13 FG, 2-5 3PT), six rebounds, six assists, three assists, and one block. Lee’s shooting stroke is not exactly aesthetically pleasing, but he played with good energy and confidence and had some success attacking the basket.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Dallas Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-84 without Luka Doncic. Doncic could miss more than a few games to get over persistent ankle soreness. Jalen Brunson led the way for the Magic with 18 points (6-14 FG, 1-4 3PT), nine rebounds, and three assists, controlling the offense and filling in admirably for Doncic. Maxi Kleber scored 16 points (6-12 FG, 2-6 3PT), grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out two assists off the bench. Kristaps Porzingis finished the game with 13 points (6-17 FG, 0-3 3PT) seven rebounds, three assists, and one block. Moses Brown had a solid game on familiar turf, tallying 15 points (5-6 FG), six rebounds, one steal, and two blocks. Dorian Finney-Smith had a poor shooting night but otherwise had a solid all-around game, finishing with eight points (3-10 FG, 2-5 3PT) six rebounds, five assists, three steals, and two blocks.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder in scoring and finished the game with 18 points (6-15 FG, 1-5 3PT) four rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and one steal. Lu Dort left this game with an ankle injury and didn’t return, but was still able to tally 10 points and two rebounds before he went out. Darius Bazley and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl also scored in double figures. Bazley finished the game with 10 points, six rebounds, two assists, and three blocks. Robinson-Earl finished the game with 11 points (4-9 FG, 3-6 3PT) and one rebound. Robinson-Earl is one of the few bright spots for the Thunder this season. The numbers aren’t particularly impressive, but he’s had some strong defensive moments this year. After amassing some Globetrotteresque highlights earlier in the season, Josh Giddey appears to have hit a wall. He finished this game with six points (3-14 FG, 0-4 FG), seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. For the season, Giddey is averaging 10.4 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal, and 0.6 blocks, with shooting splits of 39/24/70. While I think concern over the development of Giddey’s shooting stroke is warranted, the solid rebounding numbers, steal a game, and 0.6 blocks suggest that Giddey will hold up as an athlete in the NBA. It also points to a level of grit and toughness that I didn’t foresee from the Aussie. It will be incumbent on both organization and player to improve Giddey’s jumper if they want to maximize his obvious passing talent.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 112-97. Six players finished the game with double-digit points for the Spurs. Derrick White has bounced back from his early-season malaise to remind us why so many of us stayed on Derrick White Island for so long. White finished this game with 24 points (9-17 FG, 1-6 3PT), eight rebounds, nine assists, four steals, and one block. Over his last six games, White is averaging 20 points, four rebounds, five assists, one-point-five steals, and 0.7 blocks a game, with shooting splits of 48/23/87. Jakob Poetl also scored 24 points (10-12 FG) and added 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two blocks. Dejounte Murray has been really good all season long and that trend continued in this game. While he didn’t shoot the ball well, he tallied a triple-double and racked up some steals as he’s wont to do. Murray finished this game with 10 points (5-13 FG, 0-2 3PT), 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and three steals. Keldon Johnson finished this game with 17 points (5-12 FG, 3-5 3PT), four rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Doug McDermott and Lonnie Walker IV were the other two players to score in double figures.
The New Orleans Pelicans continue to play without Zion Williamson who’s ramping down his rehab after persistent soreness in his foot. Five Pelicans players scored in double figures against the Spurs, led by Brandon Ingram. Ingram finished the game with 27 points (11-25 FG, 0-4 3PT), seven rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Jonas Valunciunas finished the game with 17 points (7-15 FG, 1-3 3PT), 12 rebounds, four assists, and one block. Nickeil Alexander-Walker finished the game with 15 points (6-16 FG, 3-6 3PT), two rebounds, and two steals. Josh Hart chipped in 13 points (6-8 FG, 1-2 3PT), 10 rebounds, and four assists. Willy Hernangomez continued his solid recent play and finished the game with 10 points (4-5 FG), nine rebounds, one assist, and one block. Devonte’ Graham‘s rough season continued, as he finished this game with eight points (3-11 FG, 2-6 3PT) two assists, and one steal. Herbert Jones is a bit of a liability on the offensive end, but he’s creating positive events for the Pelicans with his defense. He’s averaging one-point-four steals a game nearly a block a game (0.9). He finished this contest with two points (1-4 FG, 0-1 3PT), one rebound, one assist, two steals, and two blocks.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Portland Trail Blazers
The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Portland Trail Blazers 116-111. Karl-Anthony Towns set the tone early, scoring 19 of his 23 points in the first quarter. Towns finished the game with 23 points (7-17 FG, 0-3 3PT), 10 rebounds, and four assists. Towns scored just two points in the fourth quarter, nearly turned the ball over after getting double-teamed in the paint, and stepped out of bounds while being trapped as the Timberwolves were trying to run out the clock. I found myself thinking that Towns is by far the Wolves’ best player, but that D’Angelo Russell might be the more natural closer. Anthony Edwards finished the game with 24 points (7-13 FG, 2-7 3PT), four rebounds, three assists, and one steal. D’Angelo Russell returned from a three-game absence and orchestrated the Timberwolves offense to the tune of 18 points (5-12 FG, 4-8 3PT), five rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Jarred Vanderbilt, Patrick Beverley, and Jaden McDaniels all scored in double figures as well. Vanderbilt is a player with obvious limitations as a shooter and scorer, but he’s the best of slightly sub-optimal options at the power forward position for the Wolves and he’s manned those minutes admirably this season. Vanderbilt is the 62nd ranked player in total value according to Yahoo this season. He put together another solid game in this one, finishing the game with 14 points (6-8 FG, 1-1 3PT), eight rebounds, three steals, and one block.
Trail Blazers Notes
This was a classic game of runs as the Timberwolves led by 12 points at one point in the third quarter before Portland took a 100-93 lead at one point in the final period. If you’re wondering if this is the year Jusuf Nurkic figures out how to finish around the basket, the answer is no, it is not. Nurkic doesn’t even look like he wants to be on the court half the time. If you’re wondering if this is the year the Trail Blazers’ wings and spacing bigs make enough threes to keep defenses honest and open up driving lanes for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the answer is again, no. Nassir Little, Robert Covington, Larry Nance Jr, and Tony Snell are all shooting below 35% from three. Ben McLemore is shooting 42.9% from three, this season, at least. Outside of the juice Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons bring on a nightly basis, this team isn’t all that much fun to watch, especially with McCollum sidelined and Lillard still struggling to find his footing.
Damian Lillard returned to action after missing the previous five games due to lower abdominal tendinopathy, a condition for which he received a cortisone shot. Lillard was still inefficient in this game, as he’s been for much of the season, but he did say he felt better than he had in a long time after the game. Lillard scored 24 points (5-17 FG, 3-14 3PT), grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished out six assists. Anfernee Simons scored a season-high 26 points (9-20 FG, 6-12 3PT) off the bench and added one rebound and three assists. Norman Powell finished the game with 15 points (6-11 FG, 2-4 3PT), two rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Nassir Little and Ben McLemore also scored in double figures. Robert Covington had a rough shooting night after being replaced in the starting lineup by Larry Nance Jr., but he did provide strong contributions on the defensive end. Covington finished the game with 3 points (1-6 FG, 1-5 3PT), five rebounds, three assists, five steals, and four blocks. Nance finished the game with eight points (3-6 FG, 0-2 3PT) 12 rebounds, three assists, and one block.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Orlando Magic
The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic 106-94. The good news for the Lakers is that LeBron James looks to be rounding into form. James has scored 30 points six times in the Lakers’ last eight games. Over his last five games, James is averaging 27.2 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, one-point-eight steals, and one-point-four blocks, with shooting splits of 55/37/80. If LeBron James is his best self, the Lakers will be tough out come playoff time. James finished this game with 30 points (12-20 FG, 3-7 3PT), eleven rebounds, 10 assists, and three blocks. It was the full throwback experience, chase-down blocks and all. Russell Westbrook is also playing better of late and finished this game with 19 points (9-18 FG, 0-0 3PT), seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Talen Horton-Tucker also had a nice game, finished with 19 points (7-14 FG, 3-6 3PT), one rebound, three assists, and six steals. Carmelo Anthony chipped in 13 points (4-9 FG, 3-5 3PT), three rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. The Lakers are up to sixth in the Western Conference with a 15-13 record, with both the Los Angeles Clippers (15-12) and Memphis Grizzlies (16-11) well within reach. LeBron James appears to still be inevitable.
Anthony Davis did not play in this game due to left knee soreness.
Frank Vogel said that the key to unlocking this recent offensive tear from LeBron — six 30-point games over his last eight games — has been downsizing to smaller lineups w/ one or no bigs. Vogel said that the improved floor spacing has created easier driving lanes.
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) December 13, 2021
The Magic’s losing streak is now five games, but the organization clearly has its eye on the future and the strong play of Wagner, Carter, and Anthony should give Magic fans plenty of hope. Even Jalen Suggs showed some flashes of being an impactful defender, with some underrated passing skills before he went down with a thumb injury.
Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Cole Anthony, and Terrence Ross all scored in double figures. Anthony led the Magic in scoring with 21 points (6-18 FG, 4-11 3PT) and added six rebounds and five assists. Anthony is no longer shooting 47% on pull-up threes, but he is shooting a still-impressive 39%. All the juice Anthony has shown this season looks to be sustainable. For the season, he’s averaging 20.5 points, six rebounds, five assists, and 0.9 steals a game, with shooting splits of 42/37/87. Franz Wagner finished this game with 20 points (8-18 FG, 2-5 3PT), seven rebounds, and two assists. Wagner will certainly be on one of the All-Rookie teams and might even have some high-impact upside. Like Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr. is having a strong season and finished this game with 16 points (6-12 FG, 2-6 3PT), eight rebounds, three assists, and one block. Mo Bamba was quiet in this game, finishing with 2 points (1-2 FG, 0-1 3PT), four rebounds, and two blocks. Bamba played only 12 minutes in this game.