Enormous, pulsating, thrilling day of NBA action, with 16 teams hitting the floor on Sunday the 24th of March.
The Pacers smashed the Nuggets at home; Charlotte pipped the Raptors thanks to a truly insane buzzerbeater from Jeremy Lamb; San Antonio comfortably accounted for the Boston Celtics; the well-rested Warriors destroyed the Pistons; and the King hit back at home against the Kings.
Here are our key takeaways from the games
which meant the most:
Denver Nuggets v Indiana Pacers
Every single time we write this plucky little Pacers outfit off, they prove us wrong
It happened again on Sunday night, on the back of a truly ridiculous shooting performance from Bojan Bogdanovic. He had 35 points (26 in the first half alone) on 13-16 shooting (5-6 from three) to go along with 6 rebounds. What a performance. Indiana were playing their first game at home in their last 5, and desperately needed a good performance after dropping four in a row on a Western road trip. This was a crucial win; the Pacers are now 2 games clear of the Celtics in 4th, and just 2 1/2 behind the 76ers in 3rd. Myles Turner was again excellent on both ends of the floor with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks, and comfortably took the points in his matchup with Nikola Jokic; the Pacers outscored the Nuggets 72-42 in the paint.
To be fair to him, Jokic still had 19 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists, but a fair few of those stats came when the game was as good as over. At half time the Pacers were up by 16 points and were never headed; the closest the Nuggets got in the second half was 11 points. The Nuggets shot just 7 of 29 from beyond the arc, which will never be good enough to win you a game in the NBA.
Indiana win 124-88
Top scorer: Bojan Bogdanovic – 35 points
Top rebounds: Domantas Sabonis – 13
Top assists: Nikola Jokic – 8
Next up Denver are back at home against Detroit on Tuesday, while Indiana get a juicy matchup against the sliding Thunder.
Charlotte Hornets v Toronto Raptors
With all the fuss about Jeremy Lamb’s (admittedly outrageous) buzzer-beater, how important this game was the for the Eastern Conference playoff picture has been lost a little.
The Hornets kept their (faint) playoff hopes alive, clinging to 10th place in the East and remaining just 2 games behind the Heat. Toronto’s loss also means the Bucks have just about sealed top spot, with the Raptors now 4 games behind with 8 games to play. That’s taking nothing away from how ridiculous Lamb’s half-court, rainbow heave with time expiring really was. ESPN reports that it’s the second-longest game-winning buzzer-beater in the past 20 seasons (just behind Tyreke Evans’ 49-footer against the Grizzlies 9 years ago). Kemba Walker scored 15 points and dished out 13 assists and Dwayne Bacon continued his good form with 20 points, but all this game will be remembered for is Lamb’s hail-mary.
All the Raptors could do after this one is shake their heads. After Kawhi Leonard hit a go-ahead jumper and then blocked Kemba Walker in the final minute, it looked like they were going to win a nailbiter. Even more so when Pascal Siakam knocked the ball away from Lamb on an inbound pass with 5.4 seconds left. But then all hell broke loose. Leonard scored 28 and Siakam 23 points. Siakam is now averaging 25 points in his last 4 outings, and is almost indisputably the Most Improved Player in the league.
Charlotte win 115-114
Top scorer: Kawhi Leonard – 28
Top rebounds: Willy Hernangomez – 10
Top assists: Kemba Walker – 1
Next up the Hornets host the Spurs and the Raptors get a visit from Chicago both on Tuesday night.
San Antonio Spurs v Boston Celtics
If you needed any more evidence that Al Horford is the most important player on the Celtics roster, this is it.
Boston just had no answer for Lamarcus Aldridge in the paint without Horford in the game. Aldridge scored 48 points on 20-31 shooting to go on with 11 rebounds, and, in complete contrast to James Harden’s 61 point explosion against the Spurs on Thursday, hit just one three pointer. Only two other Spurs hit double digits in scoring – Demar Derozan and Patty Mills – but Derozan still double-doubled with 11 assists. The Spurs have now won 10 of their last 12 matches, but still sit just 8th in the West.
Boston trailed by 16 points early in the fourth quarter, and the lead blew out to 25 at one stage as the Celtics threw in the towel. This was a dirty day out for a team sitting 5th in the East and fighting for home-court playoff advantage. Marcus Smart (of all people) led the Celtics with 14 points, and collectively they shot just 40% from the field. Kyrie Irving dished out 12 assists and had 11 points but shot just 5-17 from the floor.
San Antonio win 115-9
Top scorer: Lamarcus Aldridge – 48
Lamarcus Aldridge – 13
Top assists: Kyrie Irving – 12
Next up the Spurs and the Celtics are both away; San Antonio are in Charlotte and Boston are in Cleveland both on Tuesday.
Detroit Pistons v Golden State Warriors
As we predicted this morning, Steph Curry coming off a one-game rest was back to his to his absolute best against the Pistons on Sunday.
Curry had 26 points shooting 50% from beyond the arc, Klay Thompson contributed 24 points, and Kevin Durant was outstanding in the point forward role with 14 points 11 assists while taking just 6 shots. Andrew Bogut started at centre in place of Demarcus Cousins and showed exactly why Golden State wanted to bring him back from Australia. He’s always been an efficient, clever basketballer and tonight was no different. This win puts the Warriors back in to 1st place in the West, and the smart money would have them coasting through their last 9 games to finish on top of the Conference.
Pretty disappointing overall performance by the Pistons. They were down 14 points at halftime and 20 at the end of the third quarter. It’s fair to say they were never really in this game, apart from a brief hot period in the last quarter where the lead was pulled back to 5. Detroit have now lost 13 of their last 16 games to the Warriors. Blake Griffin had 24 points and dished out eight assists, but all other starters were fairly disappointing. Luke Kennard had 20 points off the bench in 28 minutes and shot 8-12 from the field to continue a decent year for the sophomore out of Duke.
Golden State win 121-114
Top scorer: Stephen Curry – 26
Top rebounds: Andre Drummond – 11
Top assists: Kevin Durant – 11
Next up the Pistons are in Denver on Tuesday, while the Warriors get a trip to Memphis on Wednesday.
Sacramento Kings v LA Lakers
2018 hasn’t quite been the year for the Kings, but they’ll be back next year.
It’s unfortunate that they just happened to run in to a LeBron James sized roadblock on Sunday night. The King was back to his absolute best with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists and was ably supported by Kyle Kuzma, who added 29 (21 in the third quarter alone). Javale McGee was again brilliant in the paint with 17 points and 14 rebounds to back up his historic performance from Thursday night.
The Kings were just two points down with 17 seconds left thanks to a Bogdan Bogdanovic three-pointer, but LeBron hit four clutch free throws to seal the game. Marvin Bagley III continued an outstanding rookie season with 25 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes off the bench, but a cold shooting night (6-21 for 18 points) from Buddy Hield proved costly. Bagley was the only Kings player with more than 20 points. The Kings will be better for all of these games which they keep close down the stretch.
LA Lakers win 111-106
Top scorer: LeBron James – 29
Top rebounds: Javale McGee – 14
Top assists: LeBron James – 11
Next up the Kings are in Dallas, while the Lakers host the Wizards, both on Tuesday.
Milwaukee 127 def. Cleveland 105
Giannis Antetokounmpo 26, Kevin Love 20
LA Clippers 124 def. New York 113
Top scorers: Lou Williams 29, Emmanuel Mudiay 26
Houston 113 def. New Orleans 90
James Harden 28, Frank Jackson 19
Player of the night: Lamarcus Aldridge
Best team performance: Indiana Pacers
Most disappointing: Denver Nuggets
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