An extremely encouraging pattern is beginning to emerge with my every-other-week recapping of the Wednesday night games: Happy returns that are highlighted in the lede. You see, it was my distinct pleasure to highlight KAT’s return from his early season wrist + Covid absence, and I was the one who placed Kevin Durant in this place of prominence when he came back from the extended hammy vacation. Now, I’m due up for the recap on the night Jaren Jackson Jr. returned and you know damn well that I’m going to make him the lede. Welcome back, Jar—

Ah. Actually not. Sorry JJJ, I’m breaking up the welcome party and going with the 40 piece instead. We’ll see you later in the recap, because this lede (and maybe all of the Western world) belongs to…

Julius Randle

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
40 11 6 1 0 6 11/21 12/13 4

This is second time in the last week that Julius has gone 40+/10+/6+ with 6 made threes. Wut. That’s just unspeakable heat from New York’s Caesar, who led the Knicks to an OT win against the Hawks last night. Woe to those of you having wrestle this monster in head-to-head playoffs. It might be better just to simply bend the knee when Randle is going like this.

Here’s what else stood out on another busy Wednesday in the Association…

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Being in the zone is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Everything you chuck up has an increased probability of going in for some reason. Is it just perception? No, because the numbers bear it out. Is it some feeling or boost you get from confidence? Are the muscles and synapses firing faster and more efficiently to allow for greater accuracy? Are the stars aligned? Is the code in the matrix error-free? Whatever the case may be, it is amazing and I want it all the time. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible, and even if it was, then the script would flip because then the zone would be about missing a shot because we would be so accustomed to making everything. Ah, the conundrums of living. Last night, Landry Shamet was on one.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
30 2 3 0 0 1 7/12 10/15 3/4

The 30 points were a career-high. Over the last four games, he’s played 38, 21, 36, and 26 minutes, scoring 30, 20, 17, and 19 points respectively. The usage rate has been 22, 33, 19, and 20. That’s been good for top 70 value. Now, the 76ers are dealing with injuries so he will turn back into a pumpkin but enjoy this heater while it lasts.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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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This week the internet and NBA Twitter were set on fire with the release of ESPN’s NBA Top-25 Players Under the age of 25. Many agreed, many disagreed but in the end the list gave commentators and basketball fans something to openly debate. With the NBA world all discussing the top young players in the game, this was the perfect time for some of these guys to either show why they deserved to be on the list or show why they deserved to be higher up on the list. This week we are going to focus on two of the Top-5 players who were ranked on this list. These guys have had a great season thus far and really showed out this week with some primetime performances and some big time wins over top-level competition. With all that being said, this week’s Hoopers of the Week are rising stars Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic. Let’s get into it!

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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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Fox has been on an absolute tear. In the last month, he’s shot 50.2% from the field and 80.2% from the line while averaging 28.3/3.5/6.1 and almost 2 steals per game. I still think the percentages are bound to fall, but this hot stretch might take Fox straight through the season, prompting many to take him too early in drafts next year. Be careful is all I’m saying, but enjoy the production for now.

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Dallas rolled up without Kristaps Porzingis to face the Bradley Beal-less Wizards, and won on the second night of their back-to-back. 

Luka Doncic, for the Mavs, came close to a triple-double with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. He also had one steal to go along with that and shot 50% from the field. Overall, it was a very balanced scoring effort from the Mavs who had six players (including Doncic) in double figures. Jalen Brunson had another solid game with 19 points, three assists, and two steals. 

On the other side of the court, Russell Westbrook was five assists short of a triple-double (26 points, 14 rebounds), while backup point guard, Raul Neto, also had an impressive game in which he scored 16 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out two assists. Robin Lopez also reached double figures with 18 points, while also having four rebounds, a block, and a steal. 

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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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?