Indiana Pacers vs. Portland Trailblazers
The Indiana Pacers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 129-98. In a rarity for this version of the Pacers, they were the more veteran team. Oshae Brissett spearheaded the Pacers’ attack, as he tallied 24 points (8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), nine rebounds, one assist, and one steal. His day also included a highlight reveal reverse dunk in transition which came off a behind-the-back pass from Lance Stephenson. Have I mentioned that the Pacers are fun now!? Justin Anderson added 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Jalen Smith notched 17 points, five rebounds, and one block in just 17 minutes of play. I’m not sure if Smith will ever become the player the Suns hoped they were getting when he was drafted with the 10th pick in 2020, but he has at least grown into an intriguing prospect. He was 2-of-3 from behind the arc and also whipped out a Dirk-esque step-back off the dribble in the midrange. Terry Taylor (17) and Duane Washington Jr. (13) both had solid games as well. The Pacers led wire to wire and the lack of competitiveness of the game is reflected in the lower minute totals for Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. Haliburton finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds, and seven assists. Hield tallied nine points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Finally, Lance Stephenson scored just two points, but grabbed six rebounds, dished out 11 assists, and swiped three steals.
Somehow the Blazers are ahead of the Sacramento Kings in the standings, despite the Kings making a massive win-now trade at the deadline. The KANGZ are alive and well, my friends! Expect the Blazers to do everything in their power to drop even further in the standings as the key to a quick rebuild is some lottery luck and making a great pick (or some drafting luck, however you want to think about it). With all the Blazers’ injuries, Josh Hart is feasting. He had 44 points on March 12th and finished this game with 26 points (11-13 FG, 3-5 3PT), three rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Trendon Watford pivoted his way to 17 points ( 7-13 FG, 2-3 3PT) and added eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block. Drew Eubanks tallied 12 points, eight rebounds, and one steal. Kris Dunn notched 11 points, nine assists, and three steals. In a deep enough league Dunn might be a league-winning streaming option if he gets enough playing time and steals are a swing category. Ben McLemore and Brandon Williams (10) also scored in double figures.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Houston Rockets
The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Houston Rockets 122-98, without Ja Morant (right knee soreness). Nonetheless, the Grizzlies played their usual game. They forced turnovers, played in transition, and comfortably swaggered their way to another victory. Desmond Bane efficiently carried the offense, as he finished the game with 24 points (8-13 FG, 3-6 3PT), five rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. Dillon Brooks tallied 20 points (8-18 FG, 2-5 3PT), four rebounds, one assist, and three steals. De’Anthony Melton added 16 points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Melton had the three-ball going, as he finished 4-6 from behind the arch. Jaren Jackson Jr. held down the fort on the defensive end and finished the game with 15 points (4-9 FG, 3-5 3PT), five rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three blocks. Ziaire Williams notched 14 points as a reserve and Tyus Jones finished the game with 13 points, three rebounds, seven assists, and one steal as the fill-in starter for Morant.
The Grizzlies won the game, but the Rockets won the in-game dunk contest that broke out in this contest. There were two dunks from Alperun Sengun, two for Kenyon Martin Jr, a transition reverse from Jae’Sean Tate, and multiple backdoor cuts for dunks for Kevin Porter Jr. Emblematic of their season as a whole, however, not much else went right for the rockets. Dennis Schroder led the team in scoring with 17 points and added four rebounds and four assists. Kenyon Martin Jr. tallied 15 points, four rebounds, one steal, and one block off the bench, adding another positive data point to what has been a solid and encouraging season for the second-year pro. Kevin Porter Jr. finished the game with 14 points, five rebounds, three assists, and one steal, but shot just 5-18 from the field and 2-7 from three. Alperen Sengun has been one of the few consistent bright spots for the Rockets and that held true in this game. Sengun had the two thunderous dunks that we mentioned before, one of them coming off a transition push. There’s a herky-jerky flair to Sengun’s game and he seemed to benefit from the uptempo pace. Sengun finished the game with 12 points (5-7 FG, 0-2 3PT), nine rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Christian Wood quietly added 12 points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one block. Jalen Green finished the game with a mere 8 points (3-13 FG, 0-2 3PT), three rebounds, and one assist. Green made only three shots, but oddly, they were three encouraging shots. Two of them were strong finishes through contact in the paint and the other was a smooth midrange pull-up over a retreating Steven Adams. These feel like shots Green could make a living on in the not too distant future.
Phoenix Suns vs. Sacramento Kings
The Phoenix Suns narrowly defeated the Sacramento Kings 127-124 in overtime. The Suns played this game without Chris Paul (wrist), Cameron Payne (illness), Cameron Johnson (quad), and Jae Crowder left the game and did not return after twisting his ankle after attempting a three in the third quarter. Despite all of these absences, the Suns just keep winning. Devin Booker stuffed the stat sheet in this game, as he tallied 31 points (11-21 FG, 2-5 3PT), seven rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Mikal Bridges added 27 points (9-18 FG, 2-6 3PT), two rebounds, one assist, and two steals. Landry Shamet finished the game with 21 points (7-11 FG, 5-9 3PT), two rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block off the bench. JaVale McGee notched 14 points, seven rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. Deandre Ayton added 12 points (5-6 FG, 2-2 FT), 10 rebounds, and two assists. The Suns also got solid contributions from Aaron Holiday and Torrey Craig. Holiday finished the game with 9 points, five rebounds, seven assists, and one steal. And Craig finished the game with six points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
The aforementioned KANGZ deserve some respect for playing the Suns close, even with all their injuries. That said, a Cinderella playoff run seems nearly impossible for this group. To make matters worse, their best player, Domantas Sabonis, left this game with a left knee injury after playing 31 minutes. The Kings were also without De’Aaron Fox (hand) and Richaun Holmes (out for the season; personal reasons). With Fox sidelined, Davion Mitchell took over the reins alongside Sabonis and finished the game with 28 points (9-22 FG, 4-7 3PT), three rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Harrison Barnes added 21 points (7-16 FG, 1-5 3PT), four rebounds, and three assists. Although Sabonis’ day was cut short, he still had a strong game, as he tallied 18 points (5-8 FG, 1-1 3PT), 12 rebounds, six assists, and two steals. Donte DiVincenzo finished the game with 13 points, one rebound, three assists, and three steals. Damion Jones notched 13 points, seven rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one block. Trey Lyles finished the game with 11 points, five rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one block and Justin Holiday (10) also scored in double figures.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Atlanta Hawks
The New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Atlanta Hawks 117-112. Things can certainly change, but sitting in 10th place in the West it seems like the Pelicans will find themselves in the play-in tournament. That’s no small feat for a team who’s played the entire season without their best player and integrated a new coach. There seems to be a disconnect between Zion Williamson and the Pelicans front office and maybe even some of his teammates, but everyone else in the locker room seems to enjoy playing for Willie Green and be unified in their goals. The Pelicans managed to secure the victory despite playing without Devonte’ Graham (hip) and Brandon Ingram (hamstring). Jonas Valanciunas and CJ McCollum did the heavy lifting for the Pelicans’ offense. Valanciunas finished the game with 26 points (10-16 FG, 1-2 3PT), 12 rebounds, four assists, and one steal. McCollum tallied 25 points (9-26 FG, 2-6 3PT), four rebounds, eight assists, and one steal. Willy Hernangomez notched 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Jose Alvarado, the sparkiest sparkplug of them all, added 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Jaxson Hayes racked up 12 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, and one block. Hayes was on the business end of Danilo Gallinari’s slow-motion bucket getting, however. Herbert Jones finished the game with 11 points, three rebounds, two assists, and four steals. Jones spent much of the night hounding Trae Young.
The Hawks are currently in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, five games ahead of the Wizards and Knicks. One assumes they’ll hold on to that final play-in spot, but even if they do, they have to be feeling somewhat hollow. After a surprise Conference Finals run, things just never came together for this team. Furthermore, John Collins is currently sidelined (finger and foot), possibly for the remainder of the season. On the positive side, Bogdan Bogdanovic has looked spry recently, De’Andre Hunter is at least healthy, and as long as Trae Young is on the roster the Hawks have a puncher’s chance in most matchups. Danilo Gallinari led the Hawks in scoring in this game, as he finished the contest with 27 points (11-21 FG, 3-9 3PT), five rebounds, and three assists. Gallinari gave Jaxson Hayes everything he could handle and then some. The contrasts in their games are a reminder of the beauty of basketball. Gallo is obviously a late-career stretch four, who’s no one’s idea of athletic. Hayes on the other hand is a rim-running big man who’s playing the four because of team needs and individual weaknesses. He had his hands full guarding Gallinari on the perimeter and in the post—see Gallo’s grown man strength. Trae Young tallied 21 points (5-14 FG, 3-5 3PT), five rebounds, ten assists, and seven turnovers (compliments of Herb Hones and Jose Alvarado). Bogdan Bogdanovic notched 21 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Clint Capela posted a double-double, as he finished the game with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and one block. De’Andre Hunter added 11 points, two rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one block.
Orlando Magic vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Orlando Magic defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 90-85, in what I’m affectionately calling the prospect bowl. The Magic beat up the Thunder on the boards, outrebounding them 60 to 47 and 15-14 in offensive rebounds. Wendell Carter Jr. had a lot to do with the Magic’s performance on the boards, as he finished the game with 30 points (12-15 FG, 2-3 3PT), 16 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block. Franz Wagner added 11 points (3-12 FG, 0-3 3PT), seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block. Older brother Moritz Wagner tallied 10 points, five rebounds, and one block. R.J. Hampton notched eight points, four rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Chuma Okeke finished the game with 8 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block. Mo Bamba wracked up 7 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block. Cole Anthony finished the game with six points, two rebounds, and seven assists. Gary Harris scored just 6 points and Markelle Fultz finished the game with 4 points, two rebounds, two assists, and one steal. This game ended in a score we’d expect of bygone NBA eras so I suppose the port shooting performances on both teams shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Jalen Suggs missed the game due to an ankle injury.
The Thunder are dealing with a number of injuries and the competence on the floor to close out the season is likely to be rather minimal. The Thunder were missing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kenrich Williams (knee), Derrick Favors (back), Josh Giddey (hip), Mike Muscala (right ankle surgery), Ty Jerome (sports hernia surgery), and Lugentz Dort (shoulder surgery), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (right foot fracture). Due to all of the absences listed above, many of the remaining players have taken on outsized offensive roles—read Tre Mann and Aleksej Pokusevski. However, it was a “veteran” member of the team that led the team in scoring. Darius Bazley finished this game with 18 points (6-11 FG, 2-6 3PT), one rebound, and one assist. Mann finished the game with 13 points (5-19 FG, 3-11 3PT), five rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one block. Lindy Waters added 12 points (4-7 FG, 4-6 3PT), six rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Theo Maledon tallied 10 points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal, and two blocks. Isaiah Roby notched 11 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and two blocks.
Utah Jazz vs. New York Knicks
The Utah Jazz defeated the New York Knicks 108-93. The whole team shot the ball fairly well in this game, but Donovan Mitchell was scorching hot, as he finished the contest with 36 points (11-21 FG, 7-12 3PT), eight rebounds, six assists, and one steal. Jordan Clarkson added 23 points (10-18 FG, 1-5 3PT), six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Rudy Gobert tallied 14 points (2-3 FG, 10-12 FT), nine rebounds, and four blocks—a very James Harden-esque performance from the big man. Royce O’Neale wracked up 14 points (5-11 FG, 4-10 3PT), five rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Rudy Gay chipped in nicely, as he finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal, and two blocks. Nickeil Alexander-Walker started in place of Mike Conley (right knee soreness), but he played just under 18 minutes and did not score, as he finished the game with 0 points (0-6 FG, 0-6 3PT), four rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. Along with missing Conley, the Jazz were also without Bojan Bogdanovic (calf), Danuel House, Udoka Azubuike (ankle), and Trent Forest (wrist).
This season can’t end fast enough for the Knicks. It’s been a swift and inelegant fall from their early-season Bing-Bong glory. Here they rest—12th in the East with their head coach on the hot seat. The team will no doubt look quite different next season, although the early indications are that Tom Thibodeau will still be the coach. In this game, the Knicks shot the ball poorly and were pretty handily outrebounded. RJ Barrett led the team in scoring with 24 points (8-20 FG, 4-8 3PT), seven rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Evan Fournier added 17 points (6-13 FG, 5-10 3PT), two assists, and two steals. Immanuel Quickley tallied 16 points, four rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Julius Randle notched 13 points (6-21 FG, 1-6 3PT), 11 rebounds, and three assists. Alec Burks finished the game with 10 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors
The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Golden State Warriors 110-108, on a wild sequence of events. Jordan Poole missed a deep three with 9.2 seconds left to play, but Jonathan Kuminga rebounded the ball and passed it to Andrew Wiggins before he fell out of bounds. The Spurs fouled Wiggins, but he made just 1 of 2 free throws. On the missed second free-throw, Kevon Looney was called for a foul on Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl went to the line and made the first free-throw. Poeltl then missed the second free-throw and in the chaos to secure the free-throw rebound, the ball falls into Keldon Johnson’s hands. Johnson quickly lays it up and the Spurs tale a 110-108 lead, which holds up as the final margin of victory as Klay Thompson misses a rushed three-point shot as time expires.
Josh Richardson was the surprising leading scorer for the Spurs in this game, as he finished the contest with 25 points (8-12 FG, 3-5 3PT), two rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Dejounte Murray tallied 19 points (8-24 FG, 2-6 3PT), six rebounds, and eight assists. Keldon Johnson added 14 points (5-15 FG, 2-9 3PT), seven rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Devin Vassell tallied 12 points (3-12 FG, 3-8 3PT), six rebounds, one assist, and three steals. Joshua Primo (11) and Zach Collins (11) also scored in double figures.
This was the first game since Steph Curry injured his foot against the Boston Celtics, and it was also Draymond Green’s first night back in the starting lineup since returning from his calf injury that was actually a back injury. Unfortunately for the Warriors, Green was ejected in the third quarter after being whistled for two technicals in short order. Along with Curry, the Warriors were also without Moses Moody (shoulder), Gary Payton II (knee), James Wiseman (knee swelling), and Andre Iguodala. This backbreaking loss—on a game-winning free-throw put-back—puts the Warriors a game and a half back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the second spot in the West and could spell trouble for the remainder of the season. Obviously, you’d expect Draymond Green to keep himself on the court better than he did in this game, but without Curry, the Warriors may struggle to score.
On the positive side, Jordan Poole‘s breakout season is finishing strong. Poole led the Warriors in scoring and hit some clutch baskets late in the game, as he finished the contest with 28 points (11-21 FG, 4-9 3PT), five rebounds, and three assists. Klay Thompson tallied 24 points (9-22 FG, 6-12 3PT), three rebounds, and one steal. Andrew Wiggins added 16 points (5-13 FG, 0-3 3PT), eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Otto Porter Jr. notched 16 points, 16 rebounds (career-high), three assists, and one block. Draymond Green tallied just four points (1-3 FG, 0-1 3PT), six rebounds, and five assists in his 18 minutes of play. Kevon Looney was quiet in 17 minutes of play, as he finished the game with 2 points, three rebounds, and three assists. Nemanja Bjelica provided some solid contribution off the bench, hopefully breaking out of a prolonged struggle, as he finished this game with nine points, nine rebounds, and six assists. Jonathan Kuminga finished the game with nine points, five rebounds, and one assist.
Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The Toronto Raptors defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 93-88 to secure their sixth straight victory on the road. The win keeps them firmly in the hunt for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, as the Raptors are just a game back of the Cleveland Cavaliers for that coveted spot ahead of the play-in tournament. Pascal Siakam finished the game with 26 points (10-20 FG, 1-3 3PT, 10 rebounds, and five assists. Precious Achiuwa tallied 21 points (9-15 FG, 2-4 3PT), nine rebounds, and one assist. Scottie Barnes added 13 points (6-21 FG, 1-5 3PT), six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Chris Boucher finished the game with 12 points, 14 rebounds, one steal, and one block. Gary Trent Jr. notched just nine points, two rebounds, three assists, and one steal. The Raptors played this game without Fred VanVleet (right knee injury management), Malachi Flynn (hamstring), and OG Anunoby (finger).
Plenty of people have labeled the 76ers legitimate title contenders and at least by their current standings in the conference (3rd) and their potency on paper, there’s very little reason to disbelieve that notion. The 76ers are 8-3 in games James Harden has played in since the trade. Embiid might be the MVP front runner and James Harden is some slightly reduced, but still incredibly potent version of his peak self. What’s not to like? Well, there is the matter of Harden’s playoff history. And less discussed, Embiid’s own struggles, particularly with turnovers when seeing heavy double-teams in the playoffs. Although the team is 8-3 when Harden has played, the losses came to the Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, and in deflating fashion to the Brooklyn Nets. Harden missed a marquee matchup with the Heat, a game the 76ers also lost. I’m very interested in seeing how Harden and the 76ers as a whole react to playoff adversity. This game will do nothing to imbue 76ers fans with confidence, as the team dropped lost this game to a team with lesser talent, but exactly the kind of gritty style of play the 76ers should expect in the playoffs. The 76ers were outrebounded 56 to 40 and coughed up a 16-point lead in the first quarter. They also scored just 14 points as a team in the fourth quarter on only three made baskets. Harden was 0-2 from the field in the fourth and missed two free throws with the 76ers down 87-86. Joel Embiid turned the ball over with 37.3 seconds left in the game. Of course, no single game is a death knell to a team’s championship chances, but it’s clear the 76ers still have a fair amount to clean up and that probably extends to their head coach, Doc Rivers.
Joel Embiid led the 76ers in scoring, finishing this game with 21 points (6-20 FG, 0-3 3PT, 9-11 FT), 13 rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, and just one turnover. The 76ers will need better shooting nights from Embiid in the playoffs, but you like everything else he gave the team. Tyrese Maxey tallied 19 points (8-14 FG, 2-4 3PT), one rebound, and four assists. James Harden added 17 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and six turnovers. Matisse Thybulle notched 12 points, two rebounds, three steals, and four blocks. Georges Niang finished the game with 11 points, four rebounds, one assist, and one steal.
Boston Celtics vs. Denver Nuggets
The Boston Celtics comfortably defeated the Denver Nuggets 124-104. Can the Celtics win the East? The NBA Finals? It certainly isn’t crazy to ask the question. Jayson Tatum has been on fire recently and that continued in this game as Tatum tallied 30 points (11-17 FG, 6-10 3PT), six rebounds, seven assists, one steal, and five turnovers. Jaylen Brown also notched 30 points (12-19 FG, 3-6 3PT) and added six rebounds, and one steal. Payton Pritchard was perfect from the field and added 17 points (6-6 FG, 5-5 3PT), two rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Grant Williams finished the game with 13 points (4-8 FG, 1-2 3PT), six rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. Daniel Theis and Marcus Smart both scored just seven points, but Smart swiped seven steals. Derrick White finished the game with just six points, one rebound, and three assists.
Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets in scoring, but he shot just 8-23 from the field and 2-6 from three, as he finished the game with 23 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. As a team, the Nuggets shot just 40% from the field and a respectable, but totally overmatched 35% from three. The Celtics shot 57% from the field and 40% from three as a team. Aaron Gordon tallied 13 points (3-5 FG, 1-1 3PT) and four rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins notched 12 points (4-11 FG, 1-6 3PT), four rebounds, and one block. Bones Hyland added 11 points (3-8 FG, 2-5 3PT), three rebounds, and four assists. Will Barton finished the game with eight points, five rebounds, and two assists. Monte Morris amassed seven points, four rebounds, four assists, and one steal.