After four days away, basketball has returned. Cue the happy tears.
A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. Let’s see if I can match that total. To the scores!
Sixers overcome 17-point deficit to top Grizzlies, 110-105
That’s five — count it — five wins a row for the Philadelphia 76ers, who almost certainly seemed out of this one through most of the action. Despite shooting just seven-of-25 from the field, Joel Embiid finished with a routine 27 points and 19 rebounds, while James Harden (31-7-and-7) and Tobias Harris (20 points) helped balance Philly’s onslaught, particularly down the stretch as they clawed their way from behind.
The Grizzlies, meanwhile, continue to struggle: They lost eight of nine before a 3-1 streak to end the first half of the season, but with this loss, they find themselves 4-11 in their last 15. Though Desmond Bane scored 25 with ease, seemingly coasting to floater after floater, Ja Morant scored just 15 for Memphis, and while trying to attack Joel Embiid at the rim, well…
Are the Grizzlies fine in the West? Are they fine… at all?
Jokic leads Nuggets over Cavs, 114-109
The notion that any player not named Nikola Jokic should be this season’s MVP frontrunner just seems silly to me. I mean, sure, I’ll entertain a heated battle for second-place. The more, the merrier! But the Joker is currently averaging a triple-double and has his team five games clear of the next squad atop the Western Conference standings. Voter fatigue, shmoter shmatigue; we shouldn’t be acting casually about what he’s pulled off this season.
Best of all? He still has 22 games to go. On Thursday, he dropped yet another triple-double — 24 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists — shot 61.5 percent from the field, and helped to carry Denver past the Cavs and an epic Evan Mobley performance. The sophomore dropped 31 points and pulled down nine rebounds, but Jokic and co. (particularly Michael Porter Jr., who led Denver with 25 points) stuck it out to win their fourth straight.
Celtics survive Pacers in OT, 142-138
For the first time since well before the All-Star break, Boston had all of its starters not just available, but in the starting lineup. It wasn’t just the first time since before the All-Star break: It was just the second time all season that Boston’s starting lineup of Jayson Tatum Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, and Robert Williams shared the floor at tip-off. Not half-bad for Boston, then, having the best record in the NBA despite said shortcomings as it pertains to their overall health.
Against Indiana — a tilt that, on paper, should have been a cakewalk — it didn’t seem to matter. Indiana caught fire from deep in the third quarter after trailing by as many as 16 to make things close. Plus, Myles Turner took the C’s to task, scoring a season-high 40 points and draining a career-high eight triples; and Tyrese Haliburton scored 22 points and dished out 14 assists.
Nevertheless, the Celtics held on down the stretch thanks to some late-game heroics from the ever-versatile Jayson Tatum. His tip-in with 10.4 seconds remaining effectively sealed the win for Boston, which has now won eight of its last ten games to remain atop the East.
Magic eke past Pistons, 108-106
Wendell Carter Jr., for the win.
The Magic are four games out of the play-in game. They should go for it. I will die on this hill.
Raptors out-duel Pelicans to win third-straight, 115-110
The Raptors, who we once assumed were a lost cause and a rousing disappointment for this season’s ages, have now won six of seven and look pretty, pretty good. Even without Fred VanVleet, the Raptors managed to outlast the consistently shorthanded Pelicans behind 26 points from Pascal Siakam, as well as 21 points and a career-high 18 rebounds from Jakob Poeltl. Toronto is now 3-1 since reacquiring Poeltl at the trade deadline, while New Orleans — led in this one by a casual 36-piece from Brandon Ingram, all for nothing — dropped its second straight and its sixth out of its last 10.
The Pelicans need Zion back, and then some.
Luka, Kyrie lead Mavs to rout of Spurs, 142-116
Luka Doncic scored 28 points; Kyrie Irving added 23. It’s the first time these two have won together in Dallas, and thank goodness for that. Had they somehow lost, who knows the questions that would’ve come in full force. Perhaps facing the hopeless Spurs helped the situation on this particular occasion, seeing as they’ve now lost 15 in a row, pathetically. It’s depressing basketball, if you can call it basketball, what San Antonio is putting out on a nightly basis. Is Pop okay? I genuinely hope they have the league’s foremost wellness coach on hand, for his sake.
Jazz sneak past Thunder in OT, 120-119
This is pretty cool.
Of course, he might’ve have remained at just 40 points on the night had a foul not been called on Lu Dort, sending Markannen to the free-throw line, where he nailed all three free throws to take a 120-119 lead in OT. (Naturally, it was the first time the Jazz had led since the second quarter.) SGA had a shot for the win, but it rimmed out. Game, set, Jazz. Markannen (43 points) outdueled SGA (39) in the contest as Utah attempts to stay alive in the play-in race. They are now 0.5 games back from the Thunder for the 10th seed. Who said this win meant nothing?
Kings power past Blazers, 133-116
It’s not a Jokic-esque total, but Domantas Sabonis had his seventh triple-double (18 points, 18 rebounds, and 10 assists) of the season on Thursday to help lead Sacramento to an easy win over the Blazers. De’Aaron Fox scored a game-high 31 points.
As for Portland, it wasn’t anywhere near a banner evening, but it’s forgiven considering the fact that Damian Lillard (rest), Jermani Grant (rest), Jusuf Nurkic (calf strain), Anfernee Simons (ankle sprain), and Justice Winslow (ankle sprain) all sat. That left Nassir Little (26 points), Cam Reddish (24), and Trendon Watford (15) to lead a Blazers squad that has now lost three of its last four.
New-look Lakers top Warriors, 124-111
Malik Beasley (25 points, seven triples) and Austin Reaves (a perfect six-for-six, en route to 17 points) were so good that LeBron James (13-9-8) and Anthony Davis (12-and-12) hardly had to show up. But the real star of this new-look Laker show has to be the man, the myth, the Mo.
Print the play-in banner.