HUGE day of NBA action, with 20 teams taking the floor on this Wednesday the 20th of March.
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:
Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers
What on earth is going on in Cleveland?
The Cavaliers now have back-to-back wins, and in the last two weeks have beaten Milwaukee, Detroit and Toronto. What a stunning turn of form. The 7 Cavs fans still remaining after LeBron’s second exit must be loving it.
In all seriousness, Collin Sexton has put any bust talks firmly to bed. He now has 7 straight games over 23 points, which according to ESPN is the first time a rookie has done that since 1997. He scored 25 on 10-18 shooting, while Jordan Clarkson chipped in 23 off the bench. Kevin Love and Ante Zizic both had 10 rebounds, with SIX of Zizic’s coming on the offensive glass. Love left the game in the third quarter with a head injury, and for a while it looked like that would turn the game, as Milwaukee outscored Cleveland 34-23 in the third period. However, the Cavs hit more clutch shots in the fourth quarter (Sexton hit a big three with 1:42 left) and held on for probably their best win of the season.
Milwaukee were missing two starters, as Giannis Antetokounpo and Malcolm Brogdon both sat this one out – Brogdon’s is a long term injury but Giannis’ is just a sore ankle. In their place Khris Middleton scored 26 points and Eric Bledsoe 24, but this was a dirty night. Only 8 Bucks took the floor, in perhaps an indication that the length and pace of their season has started to catch up with them. The three Bucks that came off the bench (Pat Connaughton, Tim Frazier and D.J. Wilson) were a combined -52 in the plus/minus column, which certainly didn’t help.
Cleveland win 107-102
Top scorer: Khris Middleton – 26
Top rebounds: Khris Middleton – 12
Top assists: Eric Bledsoe – 8
It doesn’t get any easier for the faltering Bucks; they host Miami, while the Cavs host the Clippers, both on Friday night.
Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers
Cracking game in Philadelphia; the Celtics led almost wire-to-wire, but a clutch performance from Jimmy Butler and a monstrous night for Joel Embiid proved too much for Boston to handle.
Embiid was shoved to the floor by Marcus Smart in the third quarter, who earned himself an ejection. At that point the Celtics had all the momentum, and led by double-digits. The incident seemed to ignite Embiid, who scored the next 8 points and from that point on was basically unstoppable in the low post. He finished with 37 points and 22 rebounds, and looked like the most dominant player in the NBA.
The 76ers had trailed by as much as 15 in the first half, but had trimmed it back to one possession late in the last quarter. Ben Simmons hit a massive and-one layup (and uncharacteristically hit the free throw) to put them up by 3 with less than a minute remaining, before Embiid blocked Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler hit a clutch shot with 4.7 seconds remaining to seal the game. Butler was fantastic in the last quarter and finished with 22 points, JJ Redick struggled early but hit some big shots late to finish with 17, and Ben Simmons had a full line with 13 points (5-9 shooting) 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in a typically well-rounded performance.
For the Celtics, Irving had 36, but made some critical mistakes and took some bad shots late, while Al Horford was good offensively but for once struggled to contain Embiid. Terry Rozier was 4-4 at one point from beyond arc, and chipped in a valuable 20 points off the bench. Aron Baynes suffered a left ankle injury and left the game in the third quarter – he was a big loss.
Philadelphia win 118-116
Top scorer: Joel Embiid – 37
Top rebounds: Joel Embiid – 22
Top assists: Ben Simmons – 7
Next up the Celtics are in Charlotte and the 76ers are in Atlanta, both on Saturday.
Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder
Imagine hearing that James Harden dropped 57 points, but the Rockets still lost to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Well, that’s what happened on Wednesday night. This loss was (obviously) no fault of Harden’s – he almost single-handedly dragged Houston back from a 17-point final quarter deficit to send the game to OT, including hitting three free-throws with 4 seconds left to tie the game. From there it felt like the Grizzlies would capitulate, but they held strong in OT, and a free throw with less than a second left from Jonas Valancunias was enough to win the game. Harden scored all 10 of Houston’s points in OT. What a game.
If we hadn’t talked about him enough, this was also Harden’s second 57-point game against the Grizzlies THIS SEASON. It’s perhaps a little telling that the second highest scoring Rocket was Chris Paul with just 18, and the bench only contributed 23.
For the Grizzlies, Mike Conley and Valancunias were immense. They had 68 points combined (Valancunias also had 15 rebounds), and Memphis would be very happy with the contribution of Chandler Parsons, who gave them 11 off the bench and hit two massive threes in OT.
Memphis win 126-125 (OT)
Top scorer: James Harden – 57
Top rebounds: Jonas Valancunias – 15
Top assists: James Harden / Mike Conley – 8
Next up the Rockets host the Spurs in a blockbuster matchup, while the Grizzlies are in Orlando, both on Friday.
Miami Heat @ San Antonio Spurs
Well, well, well. Something is brewing in Miami.
The Heat won their third straight, snapping the Spurs’ 9 game winning streak, and causing a boil over against the second-best home team in the NBA. The Spurs were terrible early, falling to a 17 point deficit late in the second quarter. They managed to pull it back to a single possession with just over a minute remaining, but then Demar Derozan turned the ball over and Kelly Olynyk hit a pair of free throws to win the game.
For the Heat, Goran Dragic was again magnificent off the bench with 22 points in 23 minutes on 8-13 shooting. That’s back-to-back games in which he’s led the Heat in scoring off the bench. Dion Waiters chipped in 18, while Bam Adebayo was monstrous on the boards with 15. Dwyane Wade, in likely his last game in San Antonio, had 11, including a signature buzzer-beating, running three pointer to close the third quarter.
The Spurs had 5 guys with double digit points, including all four bench players. Patty Mills, Marco Bellinelli and LaMarcus Aldridge all contributing 17. Demar Derozan finally crashed back to earth with just 16, and a plus-minus of -16.
Miami Heat win 110-105
Top scorer: Goran Dragic – 22
Top rebounds: Bam Adebayo / Demar Derozan – 15
Top assists: Rudy Gay – 7
Next up we get to see whether the Heat are legit, as they’re in Milwaukee, while the Spurs have a huge game against the Rockets in Houston, both on Friday night.
Toronto Raptors v Oklahoma City Thunder
This game should NEVER have been this close.
The Raptors were up by as many as 20 in the second half, and were still up by double digits with less than 4 minutes remaining. Somehow, they recovered to outscore the Thunder 13-3 in OT, with Oklahoma City missing their first 7 shots in the extra period.
Kawhi Leonard was typically efficient and looked unguardable at times for his 22 points (8-19 shooting), but Pascal Siakam was the real star with 33 on 14-21 shooting, while also adding 13 rebounds. Fred VanVleet chipped in 23, and Danny Green hit 5 three-pointers, but it would be concerning for head coach Nick Nurse that the bench combined for just 18.
Russell Westbrook was the only reason this game was even slightly close for three and a half quarters. He had 42 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists and, remarkably, will finish another year averaging a triple-double. Paul George looks a shadow of the player he was a month ago. His right shoulder injury is clearly worse than we’re being told. George had 19 points and was just 3-10 from three. This was a concerning performance from the Thunder, the scoreboard flatters them, and their defence at times was utterly porous. They’re a huge chance to fall to 8th in the West and a first-round outing with the Warriors.
Toronto win 123-114
Top scorer: Russell Westbrook – 42
Top rebounds: Jerami Grant – 14
Top assists: Russell Westbrook / Pascal Siakam – 6
Next up these two teams play each other again in Toronto on Friday.
New Orleans 96 defeated by Orlando 119
Top scorers: Stanley Johnson 18, Evan Fournier 22
Utah 137 defeated New York 116
Top scorers: Donovan Mitchell 30, Kevin Knox 27
New Orleans 129 def Dallas 125 (OT)
Top scorers: Julius Randle, Luka Doncic 29
Washington 120 defeated by Chicago 126 (OT)
Top scorers: Jabari Parker 28, Lauri Markkanen 32
Dallas 118 defeated by Portland 126
Top scorers: Damian Lillard 33, Luka Doncic 24
Player of the night: James Harden
Best team performance: Miami Heat
Most disappointing: Milwaukee Bucks