Philadelphia had it tough against the lowly Cavs; the King returned to form against the ice-cold Bulls; the red-hot Spurs accounted for the spiralling Mavericks; Denver blew-out the Minnesota Timberwolves; and Portland showed they’re the real deal with a comfortable win against the Clippers.
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:
Cleveland 99 defeated by Philadelphia 106
Philadelphia have an innate ability to make even the simplest matchups appear incredibly difficult.
When Cedi Osman put the Cavaliers up by 1 with 3 minutes to go, this genuinely looked like a game the 76ers were going to lose in front of a stunned home crowd. Thankfully for Philly, Joel Embiid responded with this thunderous dunk with less than a minute on the clock, and then hit 4 clutch free throws to seal a scrappy win.
Ben Simmons was outstanding, and clearly the best player on the floor for most of the night. He finished with 26 points (10-16 shooting), 10 rebounds and 8 assists, but most impressive on the stat sheet is his 6-8 free throws (despite being just 60% on the season) and only 2 turnovers (despite averaging 3.6 per game).
Joel Embiid had 19 rebound but was inefficient for his 17 points (6-16 from the floor), and compounded that with 6 turnovers. Philadelphia would be rapt to see Boban Marjanovic back playing meaningful minutes, and he was as impactful as usual with 11 points in just 14 minutes.
Collin Sexton was best for the Cavs with 26 points shooting better than 50% and Osman is loving his new expanded ball-handling role this year – he had 18 points (on 19 shots :/), 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in another well-rounded performance. The game was lost for the Cavs in the wastefulness of their bench, who contributed just 25 points on less than 25% shooting.
Next up the Cavs travel to Orlando to take on the Magic on Thursday, whilst Philadelphia host the Kings on that same evening in a battle of the up-and-comers.
LA Lakers 123 defeated Chicago 107
At one point, when the Bulls shot out to a 20 point lead early in the second quarter, our infallible confidence in the ability of LeBron James was starting to crack.
Then the real King showed up. LeBron finished with 36 points (shooting 65% from the floor), 10 rebounds, 4 assists and an unbelievable reverse-alley-oop off the backboard which basically sealed the game with 5 minutes left and the Lakers up by 14. He was immense, and looked every bit of the LeBron we have come to expect – hitting DEEP three pointers (over Robin Lopez no less) and dunking with reckless abandon. Kyle Kuzma was pretty good with 21 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope dropped 24 off the bench in 31, but the real story of this game was the return of the King.
This was a dirty night for the Bulls, with their three offensive weapons (Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter and Kris Dunn) shooting a combined 36% from the floor on 47 shots. Markkanen was 0-8 from three point land, and finished with just 11 points. Lopez was easily their best with 20 points and 7 rebounds, and just quietly has scored over 15 points in 10 of his last 14 appearances.
Next up we get to see if the Lakers have genuinely turned things around, as they visit Toronto on Thursday, whilst the Bulls are playing the Clippers in a rare LA back-to-back set on Friday.
San Antonio 112 defeated Dallas 105
Don’t look now, but the Spurs have won 6 games in a row, moved in to outright 6th in the West.
Demar Derozan and LaMarcus Alridge continued their hot form with 33 and 28 points respectively, both shooting better than 50% from the floor. Neither missed a free throw either, and the Spurs collectively were 18-18 from the line. The play of Derrick White has been a huge highlight lately. The sophomore point guard dropped 23 points in 33 minutes, with this tenacious defence causing the Mavericks huge problems. The Spurs led all night and were never really headed.
It was a dirty night for Dallas, as they dropped their 6th game in a row. Luka Doncic shot less than 30% from the field for his 12 points, with the offensive standout clearly (and surprisingly) rookie Jalen Brunson, who dropped a career-high 34 points on 12-16 shooting, and a plus/minus of +5 in the loss.
Next up the Spurs host New York on Friday as they seek to continue their hot-streak, whilst Dallas are in Denver on Thursday.
Minnesota 107 defeated by Denver 133
This was exactly the blow-out, morale-boosting performance the 2nd placed Nuggets needed.
Denver’s talent-level was clearly on another stratosphere to the Andrew Wiggins-less Timberwolves, and they were never really headed in this one. Jamal Murray dropped 30 points (10-16 shooting), Mason Plumlee somehow dished out 8 assists and Nikola Jokic was back to his usual self with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in a highly impressive team victory.
The lack of Wiggins really hurt the Timberwolves. Rookies Keita Bates-Diop and Josh Okogie started at SF and SG in his place, and went a combined 3-15 from the floor for 9 points in 55 minutes (Okogie scored 0). Karl Anthony-Towns carried a heavy load (34 points 10 rebounds) and was basically all that kept this one even slightly close – he DROPPED Nikola Jokic with this step-back too.
Next up the Timberwolves get the Jazz in Salt Lake City, whilst the Nuggets should comfortably account for Dallas at home.
Portland 125 defeated LA Clippers 104
Unfortunately our game of the night ended up being a fizzer, as CJ McCollum turned on the afterburners in the last quarter to sink the Clippers.
After missing his first 7 from the floor, McCollum went on to hit 12 of his next 14 (including 6 threes) to finish with 35 points. At one point early in the last quarter, when Portland only led 95-94, McCollum scored 13 of their next 15 points to blow the game wide open.
Damian Lillard showed his ability to play second-fiddle when needed, deferring to the hot McCollum noticeably at times, to finish with 20 points on only 14 shots, whilst dishing out 12 assists. Jusuf Nurkic was also excellent with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Enes Kanter showed what he can offer to this franchise with 14 points and 9 rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time.
The Clippers would be encouraged by how close they kept this game for three quarters – they actually led for most of that time. It’s safe to say they would have been a fair chance of winning if it wasn’t for McCollum. Montrezl Harrell was excellent (as usual) off the bench with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks in just 26 minutes. At this point he’s probably Lou Williams’ main threat for 6th man of the year. The knock on the Clippers is the lack of scoring from their starters, as again that was on show with their starting 5 only contributing 49 of their 104 points.
Next up Portland are in New Orleans, whilst the Clippers host Chicago, both on Friday.
New York 98 defeated by Indiana 103
Top scorers: Bojan Bogdanovic 24. Emmanuel Mudiay 21.
Milwaukee 130 defeated New Orleans 113
Top scorers: Giannis Antetokounmpo 24. Julius Randle 23.
Player of the night: LeBron James
Best team performance: Denver
Most disappointing: LA Clippers
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