The New Orleans Pelicans swung and missed (wait, wrong sport); they fumbled (still not there); they air-balled in their attempt to land an elite point guard in this year’s free agency period, so they now go into the season fully relying on their young and athletic forward combo of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson to get the Big Easy back into the playoffs for just the second time since 2015.

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During draft season, I joked with the other Razz writers that, according to my extremely unscientific research, 100% of LA guys were in on LaMelo Ball. The echo chamber and hype bubble were too well-constructed for this not to be the case (also I didn’t really do much research and threw out evidence that didn’t support my theory. I’m Mister Hooper, not Doctor.) LaVar’s greatest creation was not the trio of ballers he sired (or those ugly shoes), but the machine he constructed to discuss them ad infinitum. Put off the Ball family brashness, I was lukewarm on LaMelo when drafting and missed out on an extremely fun and productive rookie year. The hype will be hot again next season, I assume, especially if the Hornets show some fight against one of the beasts of the East, so I’ll probably miss him next year too. But perhaps there’s a backdoor to one of these Balls. While little bro is taking up all the shine, Lonzo Ball has taken another step forward, especially as a shot maker. The vision and passing has always been legit (even my hater-ass was quick to concede that after watching him at Summer League) but the stroke has been sanded down and his 3-point percentage now creeps towards 40%. Still shy of 24-years-old, he’s putting it together.

Last night, playing in the aptly named Ball Arena in Denver, Lonzo consistently got where he wanted to go on the floor and then dimed up his teammates once he cracked the Denver defense open. The highlight package below isn’t spectacular, but if you want to watch a dude move to the exact spots  where he’s most dangerous, then I have the clip for you.

Lonzo Ball

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
16 12 12 4 2 4 6/14 0/0 4

It was another busy Wednesday in professional hoops. Here’s what else stood out:

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This is probably one of the toughest parts of the season for NBA players, coaches, and fans alike. Teams are jockeying for playoff position as the postseason gets closer by the day. Players across the league are missing games due to injury or being sat for tanking purposes.

This weekend we are missing a lot of fire power as Donovan Mitchell went down with injury yesterday, Jamal Murray is out for the rest of the season, and a handful of teams are sitting their top guys to conserve their health heading into the postseason/offseason.

So, on this week’s edition of the NBA Friday Night Recap, there are going to be a handful of games you may have never heard or never expected to have such a great performance. With this all-in mind, let’s get right into it and take a look at some of Friday’s top performers under the bright lights!

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I used to love watching Animal Planet. That is, when they actually used to show freaking wild animals in their natural habitat. Now it’s a bunch of BS shows that IDGAF about. Anyways, watching a cackle of hyenas or a pride of lions working together to take down prey was always an exhilarating watch. That’s usually because the prey was a big, burly beast who could F shit up. It would take hours and a coordinated precision to take it down. Sometimes they trudged home empty-handed, but every once in a while, they would overcome and feast. Last night, a pack of Pacers Voltron’d up and took down the hurly-burly Grizzly for a 132-125 victory. Domantas Sabonis produced 18 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Malcolm Brogdon contributed 29 points, nine rebounds, 11 assists, and one steal. Caris LeVert went for 34 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three blocks. It took 48 minutes, but the Pacers finally defeated the Grizzlies, 132-125 as Jonas Valanciunas was a freaking beast, going for 34 points, 22 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. He shot 16-for-25 from the field.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The Washington Wizards picked up a much-needed win here against a lesser Detroit side who saw Jerami Grant go to the locker room early thanks to an injury. 

For the Pistons, Isaiah Stewart flirted with a double-double as he scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds with a block and a steal on 55.6% efficiency. Wayne Ellington also scored 15 points on the back of five triples while Mason Plumlee had an 11/81/1 game. 

Russell Westbrook put up another triple-double, 19/19/10 while Bradley Beal scored 17 and dished out six assists in a limited 29 minutes. Deni Avdija got the start scoring five points, grabbing five rebounds, and stealing the ball twice. Rui Hachimura scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds while being 54.5% from the field to contribute to this win. 

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In high school, I went out with a girl who was two years younger than me. Things were amazing but then I got accepted to a school on the opposite coast. There was sadness at the inevitable end of the relationship but we made the most of it for those six months. We spent as much time together as we could and tried to cherish every moment. As the summer came to an end and it was almost time to go, the crescendo of emotion and activity was heightened, until the last hurrah knocked on the door and said it’s time. Jusuf Nurkic is close to returning back to action for the Trail Blazers. Enes Kanter knows his time is almost near. As I did with my high school sweetheart, so did Kanter do last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
19 19 6 0 1 0 0 6/8 7/8

In 40 minutes of action. Sooooo close to his eighth 20/20 game of his career and second this season. He grabbed 10 offensive boards, the fourth time in his career he’s accomplished the feat. On the season, Kanter is a top 75 player. As a starter, he’s averaged 29.7 minutes per game. In 12 games off the bench, he’s at 18.7 minutes. When Nurkic returns to action, it may take some time for him to get ramped up, but once that happens, Kanter will be playing sub-20 minutes again.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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I have so many questions regarding the porn industry. Do the actors get royalty fees? Do they get paid by the hour? Salary? Per orgasm? 401k? Dental? Health insurance? Are performance-enhancing drugs allowed? Are there rivalries? I have too much time on my hands. I mean, I uh, had too much time on my hands. Anyways, I have no questions regarding Collin Sexton of the Bulls. He’s a professional hucker and chucker. Sometimes they go in. Other times they go clang. Last night, though….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
36 3 4 2 0 6 6/9 13/24 4/6

….as he led the Cavs to a 116-105 victory over the Raptors. Sexton has attempted 24, 25, and 20 shot attempts in the last three games. On the season, he’s attempted 20 shots in a game 12 times. He’s failed to score in double figures just once this season, has gone for 20 points 28 times with four of those 30-burgers and a high of 42 points. Sexton will contribute some steals, tres, boards, and some dimes, but no blocks. The field goal percentage is a respectable 48% while he’s converting 80% of his free-throw attempts. On the season, Sexton is a top 100 player.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Post-All-Star Break is the time when teams make their push for a spot in the NBA Playoffs. Every game becomes even more important as teams jockey for seed positioning and players look to make their cases for why they should win an individual NBA award or be named to an All-NBA team.

The road to the NBA postseason starts now and the lights are as bright as can be with last night being the first set of Friday night games of the second half of the season. These games did not disappoint as a handful of them quite literally had some second-half surges that flipped the outcome of those games as they ended in an exciting fashion.

With a promising second half to the season ahead, here are some of the top performers in the first slate of post-All-Star Weekend Friday night games!

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