This was the Gary Trent Jr. game! He willed the Raptors to a much-needed victory over the Cavs in Cleveland. Of course, we have to start off with Trent Jr. Last night, the man shot 17-19 (89.5%!) from the field and did not miss a single two-pointer on his way to 44 points! He also grabbed seven boards while dishing out four assists. Rookie Malachi Flynn also had a very good game scoring 20 points, handing out 11 assists, and stealing the ball twice. Chris Boucher had another excellent defensive night swatting four shots while getting one steal with his teammate OG Anunoby scored 15 points with five rebounds and three assists. 

On the other side, the Cavs got 29 points from Collin Sexton, who shot 50% from the field and also handed out five dimes. Kevin Love put another 20 minutes of action under his belt scoring 18 points, grabbing in three boards, and stealing the ball once. Before exiting the game due to injury, Darius Garland put up 19 points and had eight dimes on 41.2% shooting from the field.

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It’s been just over a week since a friend of mine pointed me toward the Kevin Durant/Michael Rapaport beef that had bubbled up on social media. At the time, I somewhat gleefully read through their back and forth until I felt my emotions start to turn. KD, from all the stories I’ve heard and books that I’ve read, does not strike me as a happy man. The texts he sent to Rapaport support this. Then I saw the follow-up video that Rapaport put out that provide additional context for his spicy IG chat with Durant and I felt even worse. KD might be unhappy, but Rapaport strikes me as something far more distasteful than the aloof ennui of the unfathomably talented. After eating my fill of online garbage, I sent the following text to my buddy:

I wish I could get that time back. 

I can’t, obviously. None of us can. But what we can do is make up for the time lost, and Durant did just that in his return to NBA action on Wednesday night. All told, the Nets played 23 games since KD was last in uniform, but you wouldn’t have known that by watching him.

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Just an overall tough night as a basketball fan in terms of the level of competitiveness in the NBA last night. Only one game was decided by ten points or less. We had blowouts ranging anywhere from 12 points all the way to a whopping 53 points! But with blowouts comes a handful of big-time performances and some nice performances by some bench guys that do not typically see a lot of playing time. So with that in mind, here are the Friday Night Primetime Performers from last night’s games across the league.

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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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The NBA Trade Deadline is officially in the books and we all know what that means. New faces in new places. Teams are tanking. Contenders are making their final push for the playoffs. And most of all, the lights get brighter as every game means more than the last.

But no matter what time it is in the NBA season, we all know that nothing shines brighter than the Friday Night Lights! So, to kick off Post-Trade Deadline weekend in the NBA, here are some of the top performers from Friday night’s great slate of games.

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How about some love for the underdog?

These daily recaps, especially on nights with a lot of games, often demand focusing on one of two players per team that had good nights. Most of the time we’re looking at star players doing what they do. It’s tough for a role player to get a write-up, and it’s even tougher for those end of the bench guys to get any ink.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to…

Alize Johnson

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
23 15 3 2 0 0 11/15 1/1 1

Johnson signed a 10-day contract with Brooklyn on Sunday and had himself a debut on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City. A G-League monster who averaged 16 points and 13 boards in this season’s bubble, Johnson stepped up for a Nets squad that was without Durant, Irving, and Harden while playing the second night of a back-to-back against the best team in the West. If you watched the highlights, you noticed that this game was O-V-E-R pretty much from the jump. Johnson was doing major mop up work and will be facing an uphill battle for PT going forward. He’s not an add by any stretch, but I’ve got no problem highlighting him to celebrate his big night. Raise a glass to my man. He earned it.

Here’s what else caught my eye on a busy night of basketball…

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The second half of the season is in full swing as we finish out the first full week of NBA basketball since coming back from the All-Star break. This may be the most grueling part of the season, but this is also the stretch where we see a lot of guys play a bit out of their mind.

Sometimes it is to help propel their team to a playoff position. Sometimes it is to help create a solid highlight tape for themselves as they head into free agency. Sometimes it is even to prove the doubters wrong as way of showing those in the comment section that they swung and missed on their perception of certain players.

With all that being said, there are a lot of guys who fall into this category across the NBA. Ironically, a handful of them were gathered together last night under the bright Friday Night lights. All faced with an opportunity to do something special with the world watching. So, after a night filled with thrilling finishes and plenty of season-high benchmarks, here are the Standout Performers from this week’s slate of Friday Night games!

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Career night for Joe Ingles, who stepped in as a starter for the resting Mike Conley. Ingles went off for a career-high 34 points on just 17 shots, including eight connections from long distance. With so much scoring he only distributed two dimes, but chipped in with a pair of steals as well. Conley’s return will cap Ingles’ value, but he’s still a borderline top-100 player off the bench contributing threes, assists and good percentages.

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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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