Ginormous day of NBA action, with 20 teams taking the floor on this Tuesday the 26th of March.
The Hornets snuck past the Spurs in OT; Orlando won a crucial away matchup against the Heat; an undermanned Milwaukee smashed the Rockets; Sacramento out-duelled Luka’s triple-double to top the Mavs; and Denver very unconvincingly beat the Pistons despite blowing an enormous lead.
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:
San Antonio Spurs v Charlotte Hornets
Cracking game, and huge win from the Charlotte Hornets to keep them in the playoff race.
The Hornets now pull back to just 1 1/2 games out of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Kemba Walker was immense (as usual) with 38 points to lead the Hornets. He hit the first 7 points for Charlotte in the overtime period, and was 4 of 4 from the field in the extra 5 minutes, whilst also just barely missing out on a triple double (by one rebound). Walker was very ably supported by Dwayne Bacon, who hit a career-high mark for the second straight game with 24 points. Frank Kaminsky also added 15 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes off the bench
San Antonio really should have won this one without needing OT; Demar Derozan missed a very makeable jumper right at the end of regulation. He still had an excellent night with 30 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and 15 rebounds and Marco Belinelli 17 points (5-11 from three). This was a game the Spurs may rue in a couple of weeks if they finish up having to face the Warriors in round 1 of the playoffs.
Charlotte win 125-116 (OT)
Top scorer: Kemba Walker – 38
Top rebounds: Lamarcus Aldridge – 15
Top assists: Kemba Walker – 11
Next up the Spurs host the Cavs on Thursday, while the Hornets visit LA to take on the Lakers on Friday night.
Orlando Magic v Miami Heat
MASSIVE win for the Magic – this was their 6th straight victory (the franchise’s longest streak in 8 years) and it’s caused them to leapfrog the Heat in to 8th position in the East.
Nikola Vucevic has been quietly putting together a resume this year which may see him make an All-NBA roster; he scored 24 and added 16 rebounds to continue a season where he’s averaging 21 points (on 51% shooting, 79% from the line), 12 rebounds and a block, while being on track to miss just one game for the year. He’s a star, but the Magic are also getting valuable help from some lesser-lights like D.J. Augustin (17 points) and Jonathan Isaac, the sophomore out of Florida State, who chipped in 19. We respect the hell out of what the Magic are doing. It would have been very easy to throw in the towel and tank for a lottery position a month ago, but they’ve done the opposite.
Conversely, this was a sucky loss for the Heat on the night they raised Chris Bosh’s jersey to the rafters. Dwayne Wade made a three with 14 seconds left to cut the lead to two, but Augustin sealed it with two clutch free throws. Dion Waiters led everybody in scoring, and Wade continues to prove that he has significantly more basketball left in the tank if he wanted to go on next season (22 points). This loss ensures the Heat will finish the season with a losing home record (currently 17-21) and they’re pretty likely to also finish below .500 overall, which is not a good sign IF they end up making the playoffs. Coach Erik Spoelstra would be particularly displeased with the rebounding stats (55-39) and the fact that a 19-34 third quarter scoreline allowed the Magic to come back from a deficit which at times was as large as 17 in the first half.
Orlando win 104-99
Top scorer: Dion Waiters – 26
Top rebounds: Nikola Vucevic – 16
Top assists: Dwyane Wade / D.J. Augustin – 7
Next up the Magic are in Detroit and the Heat host Dallas, both on Thursday.
Houston Rockets @ Milwaukee Bucks
Well, our game of the night turned out to be a bit of a fizzer in the second half.
Things were tight up until half-time; the Bucks held just a 5 point lead going in to the main break. It was the play of Eric Bledsoe in the third quarter that swung the game. He had 16 points alone in the third frame (23 overall) while also dishing out 7 assists, and, crucially, shooting an uncharacteristically-efficient 4-7 from beyond the arc to lead the Bucks to a 32-18 quarter. Even more importantly, Bledsoe was able to lock down on Harden and restrict him to just (lol) 23 points on 35% shooting (1-9 from three). Remarkably, this was Harden’s 8th equal-lowest scoring game for the season.
The Rockets did a good job containing Giannis offensively, but this game showed what can happen when Harden gets tied up by a dialled-in defensive guard (think Dante Exum in last year’s playoff series against Utah). No one else really picked up the slack, and with Eric Gordon shooting 0-7 from the field (0-5 from three), this performance was eerily reminiscent of that infamous game 5 against the Warriors last year. Danuel House Jr. was the major positive though with 15 points in 28 minutes off the bench.
Very heartening win for the Bucks with the amount of injuries they have. Maybe they do have the depth to go all the way?
Milwaukee win 108-94
Top scorer: Eric Bledsoe / James Harden – 23
Top rebounds: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 14
Top assists: Bledsoe / Harden – 7
Next up the Rockets host Denver Nuggets, while the Bucks have the Clippers coming to town, both on Thursday.
Sacramento Kings @ Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic’s 7th triple-double of a magnificent rookie season wasn’t quite enough to win this game for the Mavericks, but boy was this an entertaining clash.
Just as we expected (and hoped), it was high-scoring and featured highlight reel plays from young stars on both sides. Doncic was (obviously) the standout overall, but Kings’ fans would still be rapt with the performances of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Fox had 23 points and 8 assists, while Hield struggle from the field (4-13) but hit a crucial three to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, and was just behind Willie Cauley-Stein (+17) for best plus/minus on the court (+15). Hield and Fox also combined for 22 points in clutch last-quarter performances.
Doncic’s triple-double moved him to equal third on the all-time list for most in a rookie season. He had an excellent all-round game, but struggled again from beyond the arc (0-9) to continue a rancid last month of long-range shooting (22% in March). He was, however, 9-11 from the field if you discount the three point shots, and added 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10-11 free throws. Dwight Powell is having a great year, and put up 21 points (6-7 shooting, 9-11 free throws) and a career-high 13 rebounds.
Sacramento win 125-121
Top scorer: Doncic – 28
Top rebounds: Powell – 13
Top assists: Doncic – 12
Next up the Kings are in New Orleans, while the Mavericks are in Miami, both on Thursday.
Detroit Pistons @ Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets were seriously lucky to hold on to win this game.
Denver led by 27 points at halftime, before a Reggie Jackson three cut that lead back to 1 with just 11 seconds remaining. Thankfully for the home crowd, Jamal Murray hit two free throws, and Blake Griffin missed a three on the buzzer which would have sent the game to OT. The Nuggets’ MVP for this one was indisputably Murray; he scored 33 (including six in the final minute alone) on an extremely efficient 12-17 shooting. Denver now move in to a tie with Golden State at the top of the Western Conference standings. They would be very happy with the first half performance, but allowing the Pistons to outscore them 53-29 in the second half, and to commit 10 turnovers in that stretch, is extremely concerning. Nikola Jokic had 23 points and 15 rebounds but wasn’t his usual creative self with the ball, dishing out just 2 assists (he averages almost 8 per game this year)
For the Pistons, Griffin had 29 points and 15 rebounds to pace his side, and Andre Drummond had 13 points and 17 rebounds before fouling out in the last quarter. Detroit will be ruing a putrid first quarter in which they scored just 9 points (4-29 shooting); they’re now just a game in front of the 9th placed Heat, and are in severe danger of missing the playoffs.
Denver win 92-95
Top scorer: Jamal Murray – 32
Top rebounds: Andre Drummond – 17
Top assists: Blake Griffin / Murray – 5
Next up the Pistons will need to beat the Magic at home on Thursday, while the Nuggets get crucial back-to-back away matchups against Houston on Thursday and OKC the next night.
Boston 116 defeated Cleveland 106
Top scorers: Marcus Smart 21, Collin Sexton 24
Chicago 103 defeated by Toronto 112
Top scorers: Wayne Selden 20, Norman Powell 20
LA Clippers 122 defeated Minnesota 111
Top scorers: Danilo Gallinari 25, Karl-Anthony Towns 24
Atlanta 130 defeated New Orleans 120
Top scorers: Trae Young 33, Julius Randle 24
Washington 106 defeated by LA Lakers 124
Top scorers: Bradley Beal 32, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 29
Player of the night: Eric Bledsoe
Best team performance: Orlando Magic
Most disappointing: Houston Rockets