Huge day of NBA action, with 18 teams taking the floor on this Monday the 18th of March.
Cleveland and their new-found star Collin Sexton shocked the Pistons; the Nuggets clinched a playoff berth by crushing the Celtics; Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic led the Heat to a massive win over the Thunder; the Spurs kept on rolling against the Warriors; and the Trailblazers showed their class with a win over the Pacers.
As Sportstips.com does every day, we’ve watched 5 of the day’s biggest games so you don’t have to!
Here are our key takeaways from the games which meant the most:
Detroit Pistons v Cleveland Cavaliers
What a weird game. The Cleveland Cavaliers, without Kevin Love, defeated the Detroit Pistons.
Granted, the Pistons were also without the services of Blake Griffin, but this is one they may just look back on in a month’s time and wish they’d showed up for defensively. Allowing the Cleveland goddam Cavaliers to shoot 58% from the floor is horrendous.
Collin Sexton was excellent for the Cavs with 27 points on 10-16 shooting (including 5-6 from three). He looked slightly busty early in the season (he shot just 36% from the floor in January, for example) but has well and truly put those opinions to bed of late – he’s averaging over 22 points per game in his last 10. Sexton hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 2 minutes to go and the Cavs ended up winning fairly comfortably. Nik Stauskas came out of nowhere with a clutch fourth quarter performance, scoring 15 of his 17 points in the final frame.
The Pistons really (and obviously) missed Griffin. Andre Drummond was immense with 21 points and 21 rebounds, and is just quietly averaging 18 points and 20 rebounds in his last three appearances. Yikes. Wayne Ellington led the team in scoring in Griffin’s absence with 25 points, including 7 threes.
Next up the Pistons go to Phoenix to take on the Suns on Thursday, while the Cavs will be hard-pressed to stay on the winners list as they host the Bucks on Wednesday.
Cleveland win 126-119
Top scorer: Collin Sexton – 27
Top rebounds: Andre Drummond – 21
Top assists: Cedi Osman – 6
Denver Nuggets v Boston Celtics
The Nuggets are going to the playoffs for the first time in six years!
Denver have now won four in a row (including back-to-back against Eastern playoff teams) and sit equal with the Warriors for top spot in the West. Home-floor advantage in the playoffs may end up being crucial for them, and they just need to keep winning. Nikola Jokic was again excellent with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists. When the Nuggets went up 106-94 with 3:47 left, this one was basically over. Boston kept it slightly interesting until quite late but weren’t ever really in the game.
For Boston, Kyrie Irving continued his hot form with 30 points, and is now averaging almost 28 in his last 5. Jaylen Brown was coming off three straight 20 point games but completely stunk it up with just 6 points in 20 minutes off the bench.
Next up the Nuggets are in Washington on Thursday, whilst the Celtics look to hit back on the road against arch-rival Philadelphia.
Denver win 114-105
Top scorer: Kyrie Irving – 30
Top rebounds: Nikola Jokic – 13
Top assists: Nikola Jokic – 7
Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder
Enormous win for Miami, keeping them firmly in touch with the playoffs.
The Thunder will be ruing Russell Westbrook’s ill-discipline, as his one-game suspension arguably cost them this game. The Heat were paced by their veterans. Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade were outstanding, with 51 points between them off the bench – as much as all of Miami’s starters combined (Kelly Olynyk was best with 18). Dragic also dished out 11 assists in arguably a season-best performance. With 11 minutes to go the Thunder were within 7, but that was as close as they got.
The Thunder missed Westbrook dearly. Dennis Schroder started in his place but didn’t quite contribute the same energy, although he did finish with 20 points and 5 assists in 36 minutes. Paul George was good (31 points 9 rebounds) without being the great that was needed to win this game, while Jerami Grant put in a 41 minute shift and ended up with 27 points and 10 rebounds. He’s had a great year.
Next up the Heat get a trip to take on the white hot Spurs in San Antonio, whilst the Thunder need to bounce-back against one of the best teams in the NBA when they host the Raptors both on Wednesday.
Heat win 116-107
Top scorer: Paul George – 31
Top rebounds: Steven Adams – 12
Top assists: Goran Dragic – 11
Golden State Warriors @ San Antonio Spurs
Who saw this coming two weeks ago?
When the Spurs lost to Brooklyn (for their third straight loss) on February 26 they fell to 33-29 and looked like a genuine chance of missing the playoffs. They’ve now won 9 straight games (11th straight at home, 6 against highly-ranked playoff teams) and have moved in to 5th spot in the West, ahead of the Thunder. DeMar Derozan was beautifully efficient as always; he had 26 points shooting over 50% from the floor and is now shooting almost 48% for the season.
The Warriors were missing Andre Iguodala and Demarcus Cousins (Andrew Bogut started), so admittedly were slightly undermanned. That said, they still kept the game close right up until the final minute, where it remained within two possessions. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson opened the game 0-11 collectively, and finished 14-43 from the floor overall, although Curry still ended up with 25 points (including another outrageous three-quarter court buzzer beater). This was a dirty shooting night for the Warriors, and they’ll be better next time out.
Up next the Warriors are in Minnesota on Tuesday night, while the Spurs have an old-timey, 2012-esque showdown against the Heat at home on Wednesday.
San Antonio win 111-105
Top scorer: Demar Derozan – 26
Top rebounds: LaMarcus Aldridge – 13
Top assists: Steph Curry / Derozan – 8
Indiana Pacers v Portland Trailblazers
Damian Lillard needed to step up without backcourt mate CJ McCollum, and boy did he ever.
Lillard ended up with 30 points and 15 assists in a virtuoso performance, including this absolute bomb from the carpark to close out the second quarter. Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and, to be honest, the final scoreline completely flatters the Pacers. Portland led by 21 points at one stage and really should have finished this one off more convincingly than they did, as Indiana drew back to within 5 points with less than 2 minutes to play.
The Pacers’ got a much-needed 28 points (season high) and 10 rebounds, but may be left ruing a terrible second quarter where they scored just 17 points. This was a chance to clinch a playoff spot, and they may just find themselves slipping out of home-court advantage if Boston can get their act together. Bojan Bogdanovic has been a revelation this year, but if they’re any chance to make it through round one of the playoffs he will need to take more than the 13 shots he put up against the Trailblazers.
Next up the Pacers continue their road trip in LA against the Clippers tomorrow, whilst the Blazers stay home and take on Dallas on Wednesday.
Portland win 106-98
Top scorer: Damian Lillard – 30
Top rebounds: Jusuf Nurkic – 11
Top assists: Damian Lillard – 15
Utah 116 def Washington 95
Top scorers: Donovan Mitchell / Jabari Parker 19
New York 92 def by Toronto 128
Top scorers: Alonzo Trier 22, Jeremy Lin 20
New Orleans 129 def Dallas 125 (OT)
Julius Randle, Luka Doncic 29
Chicago 116 def Phoenix 101
Robin Lopez 24, DeAndre Ayton 25
Player of the night: Collin Sexton
Best team performance: San Antonio Spurs
Most disappointing: Oklahoma City