The Thunder had a shock loss to the Pacers in Indianapolis; Boston held strong against the tiring Kings; the Lakers couldn’t quite hang with the explosive Raptors; Utah comfortably accounted for Minnesota; and Nikola Jokic’s heroics helped Denver hold off the impressive Mavericks.
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:
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Indiana Pacers
Welp. Safe to say we didn’t see this result coming, particularly when OKC went up by 19 midway through the third quarter.
OKC were flat-out cruising. Paul George was shrugging off boos from the Indiana crowd and hitting shots from everywhere (25 in the first half), and Russell Westbrook was all over the floor (as he normally is).
Then, the momentum turned. Domantas Sabonis started running rampant in the post and, suddenly, with 4 minutes to go in the final quarter, the Pacers were only down by one. The last few minutes were back and forth; George made some crucial mistakes in the last minute (two turnovers), which led to Wesley Matthews tipping in a gamewinner off a miss by Bojan Bogdanovic with 1.8 seconds to go.
Russell Westbrook couldn’t hit a three to win the game at the buzzer, and the Pacers pulled off a remarkable win.
George led the Thunder with 36 points, whilst Westbrook triple-doubled with 19 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
Sabonis’ ability in the post was the standout for the Pacers. He finished with 26 points in 28 minutes off the bench, whilst Bogdanovic added 23 points and 5 assists on 7-16 shooting.
Next up the Thunder host the Warriors, whilst the Pacers travel to Denver on Saturday night.
Indiana Pacers win 108-106
Top scorer: Paul George – 36
Top rebounds: Russell Westbrook – 14
Top assists: Russell Westbrook – 11
Sacramento Kings vs Boston Celtics
These Kings are pesky, and they refuse to be blown out by anyone.
This was a highly entertaining game to watch, the momentum swinging seemingly minute-by-minute in the second half.
The big moment in this game was a missed layup by Harrison Barnes under no pressure midway through the third quarter. Had he hit it, the Kings would’ve gone up by 12 points. He missed, the Celtics took it right down the other end to score and the margin was back to 8. From there it felt as if there was no way the Celtics would lose.
Kyrie Irving recorded a rare triple double – just the second of his career – with 31 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Jaylen Brown continued his hot recent form with 22 points (including three straight threes at a crucial point in the third quarter), and Marcus Morris dropped 21 as well.
Marvin Bagley III returned to action for the Kings. He had 10 points in the first half and didn’t miss a shot, dragging the Kings to as much as a 17-point lead before they were overhauled in the second half. Buddy Hield had moments where he looked unguardable, finishing with 34, whilst De’Aaron Fox dished out 9 assists.
Next up the Kings travel to Philadelphia tomorrow, whilst the Celtics host the Hawks on Saturday
Boston Celtics win 126 – 120
Top scorer: Buddy Hield – 34
Top rebounds: Willie Cauley-Stein / Marcus Morris – 13
Top assists: Kyrie Irving – 12
Los Angeles Lakers v Toronto Raptors
They weren’t completely blown away, but the Lakers couldn’t quite sustain a level of play high enough to stay with the Raptors, and were defeated by them for the 9th consecutive time.
Going in to the 4th quarter the score-line was tight. Then the Raptors went on a 13-4 run to blow the game open. Kawhi Leonard had 25 points to lead Toronto (including a classic first half buzzer beater), but most encouraging for the Raptors was the play of Norman Powell. He had 20 points and 8 rebounds in just 24 minutes, and hit a couple of enormous threes at key points in the game. Pascal Siakam was industrious for his 16 points – he got to the line 12 times but only hit three of his 16 shots from the floor.
For the Lakers, LeBron was his usual bulldozing self with 29 points 6 assists and Alex Caruso added a career-high 16 off the bench. Taking out Caruso’s 16 though, the bench for the Lakers added just 17 points – Mike Muscala, Mo Wagner, Johnathan Williams and Andre Ingram all going scoreless. This Lakers roster is just not very good at the moment.
Next up the Lakers are in Detroit tomorrow, whilst the Raptors are there Sunday night.
Toronto Raptors win 111 – 98
Top scorer: LeBron James – 29
Top rebounds: Javale McGee – 9
Top assists: Rajon Rondo – 8
Minnesota Timberwolves v Utah Jazz
It’s at the point where you almost feel bad for the Timberwolves.
Due to some snow-related travel mishaps, Minnesota didn’t arrive in to Salt Lake City until late Thursday morning, after being forced to sit in an airport for 10 hours on Wednesday. Karl Anthony-Towns has been ginormous of late – he had another 26 points and 12 rebounds and kept this game fairly close for three quarters before it blew out in the last. The Timberwolves were within 1 point late in the third, before a Jazz run (punctuated by a rare Joe Ingles dunk) left them 10 points down at the end of the third quarter.
Andrew Wiggins played through injury for his 14 points, whilst Tyus Jones dished out 9 assists. Donovan Mitchell was excellent for the Jazz; he had 24 points on 8-17 shooting despite going just 1-6 from behind the arc. Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors combined for 24 rebounds and 27 points, whilst Utah fans would’ve been thrilled to see Dante Exum finally return to the floor in Salt Lake City, although he left the game after three minutes with some knee soreness.
Next up the Jazz host Brooklyn on Saturday and the Timberwolves travel to Houston on Sunday.
Utah Jazz win 120 – 100
Top scorer: Karl Anthony-Towns – 26
Top rebounds: Rudy Gobert – 13
Top assists: Tyus Jones – 9
Dallas Mavericks v Denver Nuggets
Chalk this up to the “unexpected classic” list.
There was absolutely no way we thought this game would turn out the way it did. Dallas had a comfortable lead for 46 minutes, and should’ve put the game on ice, before Denver came roaring home to win it in the last second.
After the Mavericks had scored only 8 points for the entire fourth quarter, with 20 seconds left it looked as though Denver had snatched a 1-point victory thanks to a free throw from Nikola Jokic.
Then, all hell broke loose. Luka Doncic saw an opening at the top of the key with 6 seconds left, steamed past Mason Plumlee and dunked all over Paul Millsap plus the foul. If you haven’t seen the dunk, get a load of this. Enormous. Unfortunately Luka appeared to hurt his hand on the play, and missed the subsequent free throw, leaving Dallas up by 1 with 5 seconds left.
Enter Jokic. After bullying Dwight Powell for the entire fourth quarter (he was 4/5 from the floor in the last period alone), Jokic settled in the post, stepped through Powell and hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating, off-balance heave with his right hand from about 8 feet away from the rim. Majestic.
The Mavericks will take a lot of heart from this performance. Luka was magnificent for his 24 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists, but would be ruing his 1-8 from three and 3-7 from the line, including that costly miss with 5 seconds left. Rookie Jalen Brunson was again fantastic for his 20 points, whilst Dwight Powell dropped 16 but can be a liability defensively against big-bodied centres.
Paul Millsap was clearly the best player on the floor, with 33 points and 8 rebounds. The next-best Nuggets scorers were Malik Beasley and Jamal Murray with 12. Denver were very lucky to win this.
Denver Nuggets win 100-99
Top scorer: Paul Millsap – 33
Top rebounds: Nikola Jokic – 14
Top assists: Luke Doncic – 9
Orlando Magic 120 defeated Cleveland Cavaliers 91
Top scorers: Aaron Gordon 21 Pts Collin Sexton 23 Pts
Player of the night: Kyrie Irving
Best team performance: Dallas Mavericks
Most disappointing performance: Oklahoma City Thunder
Best overall game: Mavericks v Nuggets
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