Huge day of NBA action, with 14 teams taking the floor on Sunday the 3rd of March.
Portland accounted for the Charlotte Hornets behind a shock points-outburst from a forgotten contributor. James Harden had another Harden-esque game, as Houston continued to fire on all cylinders Sunday night against a lacklustre Celtics. The Atlanta Hawks overcame the loss of Trae Young to account for the Chicago Bulls in their second outing in three days. The Pistons held tough at home to grind out an OT thriller against the in-form Raptors, and Washington caused an upset at home against the Timberwolves in a shootout.
Here are our key takeaways from the games which meant the most:
1. Portland Trailblazers 118 def Charlotte Hornets 108
If the Hornets were told pre-game that Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were only going to combine for 29 points, it’s fair to say they would’ve taken it with open arms.
After all, who would’ve predicted Rodney Hood going for 27 points in 24 minutes? The same Hood who had only hit 7 of his last 32 shots, and was scoreless until 3 minutes left in the third quarter against the Hornets.
With 6 minutes left in the last quarter the game was still close, until the Blazers went on a 12-2 run to put it beyond doubt. In what turned out to be a surprising key matchup of the night, Jusuf Nurkic bullied Cody Zeller (who had a plus/minus of negative 25) to the tune of 26 points 15 rebounds.
For the Hornets, Jeremy Lamb continued his quality season with 23 points on almost 70% shooting, Frank ‘the Tank’ Kaminsky had 18 points and 7 rebounds, while Kemba Walker dished out 12 assists. The bad news is he only shot 25% from the floor for his 18 points.
Next up the Blazers travel to Memphis on Wednesday night, whilst the Hornets host the Heat in a crucial Eastern Conference matchup on Tuesday.
2. Houston 115 def Boston 104
It feels weirdly blasè to write at this point, but James Harden hit 6 3-pointers and had 40+ points for the 24th time this year, including this outrageous (and probably illegal) step-back over Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum.
Harden (as we all know by now) is essentially unstoppable and he was ably supported by Eric Gordon, who contributed 32 points on 66% shooting. The Rockets have arguably the best backcourt in the league with Harden, Gordon and Chris Paul, and when those three contribute 89 points and 19 assists between them, they’re going to be hard to beat.
The Celtics did well to keep this game close after going 28 points in the third quarter, but they just aren’t getting enough contribution from their lesser-lights – their bench, excluding Jaylen Brown (who chipped in a handy 15) combined for only 16 points, and Marcus Morris scored 0 points with only 3 rebounds in 18 minutes. Kyrie Irving scored 24, but it’s perhaps telling that the Celtics were outscored by 17 points while he was on the floor
Next up the Rockets have a showdown with the Raptors in Toronto, while the Celtics’ woes are likely to continue as they travel to Golden State both on Tuesday night.
3. Atlanta 123 def Chicago 118
As predicted (despite the results being reversed against the home sides), the Hawks and Bulls split their little two game series over the weekend.
Coming off a 4OT thriller on Friday, it was perhaps to be expected that things would get a little chippy in this one. Trae Young was ejected early in the third quarter (some would say unluckily) for taunting Kris Dunn, but the Hawks held on behind a season-high 28 points from Alex Len and even contributions across the board. 6 Hawks scored in double figures, including Young who had a quickfire 18 points in 18 minutes on 66% shooting before being tossed out.
The Bulls were within 3 points with 8 seconds remaining, but Lauri Markaanen could not convert a three from the top of the key. Markaanen was the high scorer with 19, but that came off a fairly inefficient 21 shots. Antonio Blakeney continued to show why Bulls fans rate his scoring ability so highly, with 17 points on 8/13 shooting off the bench.
Next up the Hawks travel down to Miami tomorrow night, whilst the Bulls are in Indiana on Tuesday.
4. Toronto 107 def. by Detroit 112 (OT)
Kawhi Leonard didn’t play, but the Raptors nearly got the job done away against the Pistons.
Detroit have won 9 of their last 11 games to emerge from nowhere as a contender in the East. A lot of that has been thanks to potential All-Pro Blake Griffin, who had another 27 points from 21 shots (even though this spectacular effort didn’t count) to lead the Pistons. They can thank Andre Drummond’s improved free throw shooting – he hit two clutch free throws with 46 seconds remaining in OT, which proved the difference. Reggie Jackson’s hot month continued with 19 points, while Luke Kennard backed up his previous game with 19 points on 60% shooting.
Kyle Lowry effectively kept the Raptors in this game – scoring 5 of their last 7 points in regulation and their first 10 in OT. He finished with 35 points, and Pascal Siakam chipped in 21. Marc Gasol’s poor shooting may have been the difference – he was 2/10 from the floor and missed a chance to win the game at the buzzer in regulation.
Next up the Raptors get a marquee matchup against the Rockets at home on Tuesday, whilst the Pistons continue their home stand agains the Timberwolves on Wednesday.
5. Minnesota 121 def. by Washington 135
The Timberwolves might just slip out of playoff contention with this loss to the Wizards.
Karl Anthony-Towns continued his incredible run – he had 28 points to take his average in his last four outings to 35 – but it wasn’t enough. Derrick Rose is a potential 6th Man / Most Improved candidate, and continued to show it with 18 off the bench. Minnesota only hit 4 of 27 from three, and it’s likely this which cost them the game.
Bobby Portis paced the Wizards with 28 points 12 rebounds, while Bradley Beal had 22 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and a plus/minus of positive 24. The Wizards were ahead most of the game, and in the end were never really headed, despite the Wolves pulling it back to 110-105 in the last quarter.
The Wolves host the Thunder on Tuesday, whilst the Wizards have the Mavericks in Washington on Wednesday.
Magic def. by Cavaliers 93-107
Knicks def. by Clippers 107-128
Grizzlies def. by Thunder 95-99
Player of the night: James Harden
Best team performance: Atlanta Hawks
Most disappointing: Minnesota Timberwolves
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