One team in this matchup projects to be a difficult and gritty playoff opponent and a sneaky conference finals contender; the other team in this matchup is the Brooklyn Nets. The Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 126-120, behind a historic 54-point performance from Jayson Tatum. It was Tatum’s fourth 5o-point game, tying him with Larry Bird for the most 50-point games in Celtics history. Tatum finished the night with 54 points (16-30 FG, 8-15 3PT), five rebounds, three assists, and it was his hockey assist that led to a dagger Jaylen Brown three to stamp out all hope for the Nets. Jaylen Brown added 21 points, four rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Marcus Smart finished the game with 14 points, three rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Al Horford finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. Robert Williams III tallied 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and five blocks.

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What kind of person are you? Would you want an investment that went up or down 25% on any given day or one that increased 3% all the time? If you lit a fire to keep warm while stranded in the mountains, would you want the flame to burst up four feet in the air, providing tremendous warmth for 15 minutes but then it shut off for five minutes? Or a steady flame that didn’t keep you quite as warm but stayed on all the time? The upside is always alluring but sometimes slow and steady wins the race, and no player exemplifies that more than Jalen Brunson. He’s been in the top 70 to 90 range for the entire season. Last night was just another one of his solid, yet unspectacular performances:

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The Denver Nuggets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 124-104, behind a well-balanced scoring attack and more Nikola Jokic brilliance. Seven Nuggets’ players scored in double figures, led by the Joker, who finished the game with 27 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, and one block. It was Jokic’s 14th triple-double of the season and the 71st of his career. Will Barton added 21 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one block. Aaron Gordon tallied 17 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and one steal. Monte Morris chipped in with 12 points, five rebounds, and eight assists and Jeff Green finished the game with 12 points, five rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Bryn Forbes (11) and Zeke Nnaji (10) also scored in double figures. Forbes (25), Nnaji (20), Bones Hyland (17), and DeMarcus Cousins (16) played the most minutes off the bench.

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The Miami Heat took home the nervy, 113-107 victory, but the Lakers nearly caught them slipping. In a game the Heat led almost the entire way and by as many as 26 points, the Lakers put together a fierce fourth quarter and nearly stole the victory. For three quarters, however, the Heat played the basketball version of “the beautiful game.” Offensive production was spread across the lineup and they were flowing into good looks. Jimmy Butler led the charge in Kyle Lowry’s absence (personal reasons) and he finished the game with a triple-double: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals, and one block. Butler’s 10th triple-double moved him into the first place on the Heat’s all-time list, surpassing LeBron James. Duncan Robinson was hot early and even scored some important points in the fourth quarter; he finished the game with 25 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Bam Adebayo had a decent, but uneven game. He was stifled a fair amount by LeBron’s defense, as he was LeBron’s primary cover when the Lakers went small. Adebayo finished the game with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. Gabe Vincent filled in admirably, once again, for Lowry and finished the game with 11 points, one rebound, six assists, and two steals. Caleb Martin also notched eleven points and further cemented his “best two-way player in the league status”—a dubious honor, he’d no doubt like to be rid of as soon as possible.

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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.

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Happy New Year to the Razzball community! I wish everyone good health, happiness, and fantasy basketball goodness. Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season and watched the games, which are some of the few in the year that are scheduled at convenient European times so we can also enjoy them without falling asleep, usually at halftime.

The basketball side of things last week was dominated by none other than DeMar DeRozan, as he became the first NBA player to hit back-to-back game winning buzzer beaters on back-to-back days. One can even say that those games were in two different years, if you didn’t have enough of that uncle who tells that kind of jokes at the Christmas table. Like the all time classic “I haven’t spoken to you since last year” after the New Year’s Eve which usually gets the following kind of reactions.

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Jrue Holiday got off to a slow start, but has caught fire since Thanksgiving. Over his past 19 games, he’s shooting a scorching 56 percent from the field (on over 15 attempts per game), and 40 percent from deep despite a fair number of those games coming without Milwaukee’s two All Stars. He’s averaging a 21-5-7 over that span and has been a top-30 player over the past 30 days. Gotta show some love for Holiday, who’s deserving of an All Star nod himself.

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The Covid situation and more specifically the Omicron variant has forced most NBA teams to sign players on 10-day deals, in order to fulfil the minimum roster requirement and avoid postponement of games. Most of those players come from the G-League, some from European Championships but the one signing that caught my eye was the return of Joe Johnson to the Celtics at 40 years old. Exactly 20 years ago, the Celtics drafted Iso Joe with the 10th pick and that age gap is the largest one in NBA history. Of course, what would be more fitting than him making a basket in his return with his usual isolation play.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week Nine!  Many of us are approaching the halfway mark of our seasons, with each matchup taking on increasing importance as we jockey for playoff positioning.  Meanwhile, cold and flu season is in full swing, with the added ingredient of COVID-19 sewing more chaos as teams scramble to field full rosters for game action.  Those of us with players on the Bulls, Pistons, and Raptors are already feeling the burn of game postponements this week.  Nonetheless, with every injury or health and safety setback, there are opportunities.  Look no further than the value that Cody Martin and Kelly Oubre Jr. returned while four of their teammates were out with COVID-19.

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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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After Jayson Tatum slammed home the first points of the game off a Laker turnover in last night’s renewal of acquaintances in the storied Lakers/Celtics rivalry, the possibility of a big night for number 0 cracked open ever so slightly. When he scored every one of Boston’s next 12 — including a banked tripled — and registered a swat and a steal by the end of the first quarter, a huge performance was all but locked in for the Celtic star. With a silky-smooth jumper and a 6’8″ frame, there wasn’t a whole lot that LA could do to put the shackles on the 23-year-old, three-level scorer.

In the past, Tatum has been chided for being a bit too Kobe-brained when it comes to shot selection — Stan Van Gundy bemoaned his year-over-year decrease in attempts at the rim on the broadcast — but it’s nights like these where you can get inside the young scorer’s head a little bit. If I can hit it from here, the thinking goes, how can it be a bad shot? Last night, while getting buckets from every corner of his idol’s backyard, Tatum was in full Mamba Mode.

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Five starters failing to score 10, four starters scoring less than ten combined, three teams that should blow it up, two Mondays skipped by the author, and one comment section debating Jayson Tatum. I realize it’s still November, but if the mall and my girlfriend force Christmas upon me I shall do the same to everyone reading this. Last night in the NBA, players failed to score, Andre Drummond proved he’s still Andre Drummond, and the Bucks disappointed everyone.

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