We hyped it up, but unfortunately today just failed slightly to deliver as expected.
24 teams took the floor on Wednesday 3rd April, and whilst not many of the games went down to the wire, there were some playoff-shaping results.
Here are our key takeaways from the games which meant the most:
Philadelphia @ Atlanta
Philadelphia’s form is ice-cold, but watching this game was an eye-opener as to how good the young Atlanta Hawks just might be.
Trae Young (33 points, 12 assists) and John Collins (25 points, 8 rebounds) were the standouts, but they also got fantastic contributions from Kevin Huerter (15 points and Taurean Prince (13 points). The Hawks were able to keep Philadelphia at bay throughout the game, in a remarkably mature display from such an inexperienced roster against a playoff team. Atlanta have now won 3 of their 4 games this season against the 76ers.
Philadelphia were missing Joel Embiid, but on paper their roster should still easily be good enough to beat a team like the Hawks. JJ Redick dropped 30 points (on 6-13 shooting from 3) and Ben Simmons controlled the floor with 15 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals, but it was their free throw shooting which killed the 76ers. They were just 16 of 38 from the line overall, with Jimmy Butler and Simmons the main culprits (5-10 and 3-18 respectively). Disappointing loss.
Atlanta win 130-122
Top points: Trae Young – 33
Top rebounds: Ben Simmons – 15
Top assists: Trae Young – 12
Next up the 76ers host the Bucks tomorrow, while Atlanta are in Orlando on Friday.
Toronto @ Brooklyn
This game might be a fair indication of where the Nets are at; they’re good, they’re tough, they’re young, but they’re not quite good enough to compete (yet) with the best teams in the East.
Brooklyn went with some strange lineups in this game. They’re a small team with some great perimeter shooters, and at times they played basically four smalls lined up around Jarrett Allan in the middle. Needless to say, it didn’t work particularly well against Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and co. D’Angelo Russell had 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists, but ultimately this was an opportunity missed – with Detroit’s loss to Indiana, the Nets could have moved up in to 6th place, but instead they remain tied with the Magic in 7th after their fourth loss in five games.
Toronto received dominant performances from Siakam (28 points, 10 rebounds), Leonard (26 and 9) and Ibaka (23 and 12). The most impressive aspect of this game was the way they were able to comprehensively exploit their size against the smaller Nets. D’Angelo Russell pulled the margin back to just 5 points with 1 & 1/2 to play, but Toronto were able to comfortably keep them scoreless down the stretch.
Toronto win 115-105
Top points: Pascal Siakam – 28
Top rebounds: Serge Ibaka – 12
Top assists: Marc Gasol / D’Angelo Russell – 6
Next up the Raptors are in Charlotte on Friday, whilst the Nets visit the Bucks on Saturday.
Minnesota @ Dallas
Luka Doncic passed up a shot to win the game with 1.1 seconds left, and the Timberwolves were able to hang on to a hard-fought win.
Luka hit one of his patented step-backs to put the Mavericks in front with 2:47 in the last quarter, before an Andrew Wiggins lay-up with 19 seconds remaining proved the difference. Luka had the chance to hit another step-back to win the game, but made the decision to defer to fellow-rookie Jalen Brunson. Brunson had a good look but his shot rimmed out.
It’s hard to criticise Luka – he had 27 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists in another fantastic performance by the rook, and the dish to Brunson was actually a brilliant one. And, it’s not hard to see why he passed up the three – Luka was just 2-8 from beyond the arc, which continues a horrendous month of March in which he shot just 22% from three. Dwight Powell has turned in to a bona fide NBA backup level centre, and was just one point off his career-high after scoring 25.
Karl Anthony-Towns was utterly dominant in the paint with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks shooting 12-15 from the floor. Andrew Wiggins scored 19, including the eventual gamewinner, and Tyus Jones added 15. The Wolves led by as many as 13 early in the last quarter before allowing the Mavericks back in to the game late.
Top points: Karl Anthony-Towns – 28
Top rebounds: Karl Anthony-Towns – 13
Top assists: Andrew Wiggins – 7
Next up the Wolves host Miami and the Mavericks host Memphis, both on Friday.
San Antonio @ Denver
We were hoping for a tight game in this one but instead, the Nuggets finally put it all together for a big win.
The game started bizarrely, with Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich ejected for arguing with the referees less than 2 minutes in to the first quarter. That was a bad start for San Antonio, and things only got worse from there. They allowed the Nuggets to shoot out to an 18 point halftime lead and scored just 42 points in the second half. Nikola Jokic did basically whatever he wanted in the paint (and everywhere else) on his way to 20 points (9-10 shooting), 11 rebounds and 9 assists in just 29 minutes, while Jamal Murray also dished out 11 assists.
This was a big win for the Nuggets – it gives them some much-needed breathing space from the chasing Rockets in third, and leaves them just 1.5 games behind the Warriors for the best record in the West. For the Spurs, rookie shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV was the highlight with 16 points on 6-11 shooting in just 16 minutes off the bench.
Top points: Nikola Jokic – 20
Top rebounds: Nikola Jokic – 11
Top assists: Jamal Murray – 11
Up next the Spurs are in Washington on Friday, while the Nuggets begin a home-and-home with Portland on Friday in Denver.
Houston @ LA Clippers
At this point we think it’s fair to say that the Rockets might just be the best team in the NBA.
This was meant to be the best matchup of the evening, and it turned in to a blowout in LA. Chris Paul clearly had a point to prove against his old team, and did so with gusto. He had 29 points on 10-19 shooting, including a ridiculous 60 footer to beat the three quarter-time buzzer. James Harden was his usual self with 31 (10-12 from the free throw line), while Clint Capela was outstanding on both ends with 24 points and 15 boards.
The Clippers were flat from the outset. We predicted the Rockets would have no matchup for Danilo Gallinari and they didn’t – but the Clippers for some reason refused to get him the ball. Danilo was clearly LA’s most dangerous offensive player but just didn’t get enough usage – he finished with 16 points on just 12 shots. Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the team with 20. Disappointing performance from the Clippers.
Top points: James Harden – 31
Top rebounds: Clint Capela – 15
Top assists: James Harden / Lou Williams – 7
Next up the Rockets host the Knicks while the Clippers host the Lakers, both on Friday.
Player of the Night: Trae Young
Best Team Performance: Houston Rockets
Most disappointing: Philadelphia 76ers
Indiana 108 def. Detroit 89
Thaddeus Young 21, Andre Drummond 28
New York 100 def. by Orlando 114
Mario Hezonja 29, Nikola Vucevic 29
Chicago 115 def. Washington 114
Walt Lemon Jr. 24, Thomas Bryant 20
Boston 112 def. Miami 102
Gordon Hayward 25, Dion Waiters 21
Charlotte 115 def. New Orleans 109
Kemba Walker 32, Julius Randle 34
Utah 118 def. Phoenix 97
Donovan Mitchell 29, Richaun Holmes 16
Memphis 89 def. by Portland 116
Enes Kanter 21, Chandler Parsons 16
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