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!
Things kicked off a little earlier this excellent Friday afternoon as the NBA-leading Utah Jazz took down the Indiana Pacers 119-111.
Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell scored 22 points before leaving this game with a sprained ankle in the 3rd quarter. Nonetheless, Utah was still able to keep the ship afloat with great performances from the rest of their core squad.
Bogdanovic led the team with 24 points. Rudy Gobert had a monster double-double with 13 points and 23 rebounds along with four blocks. And the combination of Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles put up 29 points off the bench.
The Jazz continue to destroy teams with a full offensive onslaught as they improve their record to 42-14.
Solid one-two punch between Caris LeVert and Domantas Sabonis as they both combined for 46 points on the night. Sabonis also capped off his night with 15 rebounds to secure yet another double-double on the season.
The Pacers also got good performances from Goga Bitadze and Jeremy Lamb who combined for 25 points off the bench while shooting 5-of-8 from three.
These two would be the only bright spot in the three-point shooting department considering Indiana’s starting lineup alone combined to shoot 7-of-28 (Pacers shot 13-of-39 as a team from three).
On the back of a 29-point outing from Josh Jackson, the Detroit Pistons handed the Oklahoma City Thunder their 9thstraight loss as they won this game 110-104.
In this game, Detroit was missing a few key pieces including Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, and Wayne Ellington. But leave it to the young guys to take the reins and get the job done.
Rookie Forward Saddiq Bey put up 18 points and seven rebounds despite struggling from three (2-of-12). Rookie center Isaiah Stewart had himself a field day on the glass with 15 points and 21 rebounds along with two blocks.
Then there was rookie point guard Killian Hayes who showed some flashes at both ends of the floor with nine points, seven assists, and five steals. Not to mention Frank Jackson off the bench who gave the Pistons 18 points in 24 minutes.
This was truly a game where the Detroit rookie class really showed up and showed out.
All aboard the Tank-For-Cade-Cunningham Train! With the Thunder missing guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and continuing to sit center Al Horford, they are left with a handful of guys auditioning for a chance to be a part of the next OKC wave.
Lugentz Dort led the team with 26 points and also had some bright spots defensively with three steals and a block. Darius Bazley and Moses Brown in the frontcourt combined for 31 points and 15 rebounds. And center Tony Bradley played well with 11 points, seven rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.
Unfortunately, no Poku Magic in this one but still an entertaining game nonetheless between two young rebuilding teams.
Joel Embiid continues to try and play himself back into the NBA MVP race as he put up an epic double-double in rout to snapping the LA Clippers’ seven-game winning streak.
Winning the game in a close 106-103 battle, Embiid was a force on the boards as he dominated in the paint with 14 rebounds and shot 16-of-18 from the free throw line.
The big thing in this one is that the 76ers were missing Tobias Harris along with Seth Curry. But they got good contribution from Danny Green and Furkan Korkmaz to make up for the loss.
Green put up 11 points and seven rebounds along with four steals and two blocks. Korkmaz had 18 points and four assists while shooting 5-of-12 from beyond the arc.
This team continues to take strides as they jockey for position at the top of the Eastern Conference alongside the Brooklyn Nets.
Despite the Clippers missing Kawhi Leonard, their other All-Star forward was able to at least keep things interesting.
George led the team with a near 40-piece but struggled from three shooting 4-of-12. The big thing that LA fans should look forward to is that George had a steal and two blocks which indicates that his antennas are up on defense heading into the playoffs.
Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. also chipped in combining for 28 points and seven rebounds on 6-of-13 shooting from three.
Lastly was the Clippers bench which got a near double-double from Rajon Rondo (ten points and eight rebounds) and 18 points in 14 minutes from power forward Patrick Patterson.
With the playoffs only a few weeks out, every game this team plays between now and then will be under an even closer microscope. We all know the big question for LA that everyone is trying to figure out is whether or not last season’s collapse was a fluke or just who the Clippers are.
Did someone say Overtime Thriller?! Winning off two late-game free throws from All-Star guard Russell Westbrook, the Washington Wizards defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 117-115 in overtime.
Although Westbrook had a near triple-double on the night, it was his performance in OT that was the story in this game. He scored 10 of Washington’s 12 points in OT with his final two points coming off of a Zion Williamson foul to steal the game.
Bradley Beal was also solid with 30 points and six assists, but he shot uncharacteristically poorly from three going 0-of-9 from beyond the arc.
An unsung hero in this one was second-year center Daniel Gafford who put up 15 points, seven rebounds, and four big time blocks in 26 minutes off the bench.
Great win for a Washington team that is still quietly making a run at the Play-In tournament in the East.
Talk about having to carry your team. All-Star forwards Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson combined for 56 of New Orleans’ 115 points in this one.
The rest of the starting lineup (Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams) combined for 18 points, shot 5-of-17 from the floor and 0-of-9 from three.
It was up to forwards James Johnson and Naji Marshall to step up offensively as they combined for 27 points off the bench.
This game was really entertaining to watch and could have been even better if the game had a less anti-climactic finish than two Russ free throws.
Slim Reaper Alert! Efficient double-double from KD with 25 points and 11 rebounds on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor with three threes. A team high 26 points from Joe Harris who shot 6-of-9 from three. Not the greatest offensive night for Kyrie Irving who only had 12 points, but he also had six assists.
The big surprise in this game was Landry Shamet who scored 20 points in 21 minutes off the bench while hitting 6-of-11 threes. Three-point shooting would be huge in this one as the Brooklyn Nets shot 21-of-41 (51.2%) from beyond the arc.
Hate to say it but whether you have a dynamic duo, a Big 3 or just a group of solid role players, a shooting night like this will win you a lot of games.
The Charlotte Hornets continue to fight on despite missing their best players in LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward.
Despite losing this one 130-115, the Hornets got big time performances from three players in particular which was very promising.
The first was obviously Miles Bridges who has been killing it all season and has played even better since being re-inserted into the starting lineup. Bridges could not seem to miss as he was only a rebound shy of double-double.
Scary Terry Rozier put up 27 points and ten assists on 12-of-21 shooting from the floor.
Then last there was a surprise outburst from rookie center Vernon Carey who contributed 21 points and six rebounds while having the best +/- of any player for Charlotte (+14, the next best was Grant Riller and Nick Richards off the bench who were +2 and only played two minutes apiece).
Considering they were going up against one of the best offensive teams in the NBA, I would say that the performances by this trio were pretty great in regard to keeping this matchup interesting.
Paul Watson Jr.
Who is the world is Paul Watson Jr.?! With no Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby or Gary Trent Jr., it was up to a guy named Paul Watson Jr. to carry this Toronto Raptors team to a 113-102 win over the Orlando Magic.
For those who do not know, coming into this game Watson Jr. was averaging 3.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in 35 games played over the last three years. Nonetheless, with most of their starting lineup out and Fred VanVleet only scoring six points, Watson Jr. led the team with 30 points while shooting almost perfect from the floor and going ballistic from beyond the arc with eight threes.
Small Forward Yuta Watanabe also had a solid outing in this one with 21 points and six rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor in 27 minutes off the bench.
These guys are definitely some UnSung Hooper candidates with this performance because despite the Raptors being this short-handed, these guys literally came out of nowhere with this and are now guys I want to keep my eye out on in this final stretch of the season.
Wendell Carter Jr.
The Orlando Magic frontcourt was great in this game as Wendell Carter Jr. and Chuma Okeke combined for 34 points and 11 rebounds while both shooting relatively well from the floor.
Rookie point guard Cole Anthony also had a solid game with 19 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.
This was definitely an indication that the Magic are in full tank mode because even as a relatively young team, this team on paper still is more talented than what Toronto trotted out last night.
The race for the first pick in the draft continues!
The Memphis Grizzlies take down the Chicago Bulls 126-115 on the back of a career-high 32 points from shooting guard Dillon Brooks.
This game was tied 57 at half time then the Grizzlies blew the door off things as they put up 44 in the third quarter and headed into the fourth quarter 94-85 only to never look back after that. Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas played great as well as they combined for 31 points, 14 rebounds, and ten assists on the night.
Xavier Tillman and Tre Jones also gave them a great one-two punch combining for 24 points off the bench in less than 20 minutes apiece.
Good win for a Grizzlies team that is still working to maintain their position in the Western Conference playoff race.
With All-Star guard Zach LaVine out due to health and safety protocols, Coby White stepped up and might have had his best game of the season in this one.
Nikola Vucevic also played well in this one with 24 points and 14 rebounds as he continues to prove why he is one the Buckets and Boards kings in the NBA.
Outside of these two, Thaddeus Young showed off why he deserves to be a heavy contender in the 6th Man of the Year conversation as he put up 17 points, six rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes off the bench.
Chicago’s hopes of making the Play-In tournament are slowly dwindling but this is team is still pretty exciting to watch when they are fully healthy. We just unfortunately have not seen them very healthy as of late.
Blowout City! With no Jamal Murray, the Denver Nuggets kept business as usual as they took down the lowly Houston Rockets 128-99.
The MVP frontrunner in Nikola Jokic was un-guardable on his way to a near triple-double. Michael Porter Jr. also pitched in with 21 points and five rebounds on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor and 4-of-7 from three.
This game was 69-49 at halftime and honestly this game was pretty out of hand from the opening tip.
Hard to say very much positive about the only team to get blown out last night, but they did get solid performances from Kelly Olynyk and Jae’sean Tate. These two combined for 44 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Sorry Rockets fans but this game was just ugly on all fronts.
Big win for the Minnesota Timberwolves as Karl-Anthony Towns and the T-wolves beat the Miami Heat 119-111. Alongside Towns, Anthony Edwards and Ricky Rubio in the backcourt combined for 29 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists.
Minnesota also got solid contributions from their bench as Juan Hernangomez, Naz Reid, and D’Angelo Russell all scored in double figures. Great win for the T-Wolves as they continue to develop team chemistry and play spoiler to Miami’s playoff push in the process.
For the Heat, this game was all about the old heads. Jimmy Butler of course headlines the game as he put up a near triple-double and went crazy at the free throw line with 15 attempts.
But two veterans in Trevor Ariza and Goran Dragic also came to play. Ariza scored 21 points on 5-of-7 shooting from three along with seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Dragic put up 15 points, three assists, and had three steals in 23 minutes off the bench.
Bam Adebayo also had a solid night with 17 points, four rebounds, and four assists on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor.
All of the Heat’s key guys played well but it just was not enough to come out with the win. This kind of loss only further emphasizes how far from grace Miami has fell coming off of last season’s miraculous NBA Finals run.
This game was chippy and came down to the wire but in the end, it would be the Portland Trailblazers who came out on top as they beat the San Antonio Spurs 107-106.
Without Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Norman Powell combined for 51 points and ten assists. But they both struggled from three as they both shot 2-of-6 from beyond the arc.
In a shortened rotation, Carmelo Anthony, Enes Kanter, and Anfernee Simons were big off the bench ad they combined for 39 points and Kanter grabbed 13 boards to secure yet another double-double.
This game would come down to late-game execution of the San Antonio Spurs and the Portland Trailblazers were able to escape with the win.
As mentioned before, the San Antonio Spurs had a chance to win this game in the closing moments and blew it. They actually had three shot attempts in their final possession but unfortunately, they could not close the deal.
DeRozan led the way with a double-double and a team-high 26 points. The Spurs also got great production from their backcourt as Dejounte Murray put up 13 points, 11 rebounds, and ten assists along with 13 points from Derrick White.
Then in the frontcourt they got 17 points and eight rebounds from Jakob Poeltl. Power forward Drew Eubanks was also a big surprise in this one as he scored 15 points in 18 minutes while going a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor off the bench.
Really tough loss for a team that is still in hunt for a chance at the Play-In game with a record of 26-28 (10th in the West) but the margin for error is becoming thinner by the game.
History is made by the New York Knickerbockers! On the back of 44 points from Julius Randle, the Knicks defeated the Dallas Mavericks 117-109 to push their winning streak to five straight which in their longest streak in seven years!
Second year combo guard RJ Barrett had a solid night as well with 24 points and eight rebounds on 9-of-18 shooting from the field. Derrick Rose also was pretty good in this game with 15 points and five assists in 25 minutes off the bench.
New York is currently 30-27 in the Eastern Conference which is only a half game out of 4th place. They have a chance to shoot up to that Top-4 spot in the next couple of games as they have winnable matchups against the Pelicans, Hornets, Hawks, and Raptors.
After hitting the shot heard round the world to beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, the Dallas Mavericks are back on their losing stint. With this loss to the Knicks, the Dallas Mavericks have lost four of their last six.
Nonetheless, their superstars did play up to the challenge in this one. Doncic had an NBA 2K21 level double-double with 22 points and 19 assists. Kristaps Porzingis had a solid performance against his former team as he put up 23 points and 12 rebounds but shot 8-of-20 from the field in the process.
Dallas has some serious gripes with the Play-In tournament per their responses to the media but with the way things are going, that is exactly where they are headed if they do not pull themselves out of this recent funk.