Only two games on the schedule, but there was plenty of action. Here are some thoughts on an entertaining Thursday night in the NBA.
Milwaukee Bucks 137, Portland Trail Blazers 129
With Damian Lillard and Hassan Whiteside sitting out this game, I figured we were in for a blowout. However, I was pleasantly surprised, and we were treated to an entertaining matchup filled with big performances and a combined 33 made 3-pointers.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had one of those performances that emphasized why he is the reigning MVP. He shot a disappointing 9-of-27 from the field, but he still found ways to impact the game for his team. Giannis grabbed 19 rebounds and a career-high 15 assists, marking his second triple-double of the season.
Meanwhile, CJ McCollum paced Portland with 37 points and 10 assists. I’m glad he was able to come up big in a game where the odds were stacked against him and his team.
Carmelo Anthony also had a better performance in his second game with the franchise. He went 3-of-5 from 3-point range and pulled down seven boards. However, he still couldn’t find his touch inside the arc, going 3-of-10 on 2-point attempts.
And a special shoutout to Skal Labissiere, who came off the bench and produced 22 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks. He was a solid rim protector and stretched the floor by being a threat off the screen, mostly in the pick-and-pop but also off the roll a few times.
These are the traits the Blazers are missing with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins out, and Whiteside is nowhere near this potent offensively. Here’s hoping this is the beginning of something for Labissiere, because Portland sorely needs it.
New Orleans Pelicans 124, Phoenix Suns 121
This was another game where the jumpers were pure. New Orleans and Phoenix combined to shoot 29-of-66 (43.9 percent) from 3-point range.
Brandon Ingram struggled in the first half, shooting 1-of-7 from the field. But TNT’s “Audio Assist” segment showed Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry encouraging him to keep playing within the rhythm of the game. That paid off in the second half, as he shot 6-of-10 en route to 28 points on the night.
Honestly, this was the Ingram I knew was eventually coming in Los Angeles with a little time. It was good to see him overcome the rough half and turn things around instead of retreat into himself and letting the game pass him by. In addition to having the tools, it shows he also has the temperament to be a top option on a contending team.
For Phoenix, this was the first game I saw where they didn’t look lost without Ricky Rubio on the court. I liked their energy overall, and the bench really came through in this game.
The Suns reserves outscored the Pelicans’ 52-38. Rookie Cameron Johnson led the unit with 14 points and knocked down a team-high three 3’s. Mikal Bridges had 12 points (6-of-6 from the free throw line) and three steals, and Chieck Diallo (eight points) put in some solid minutes that caught my eye. This team has a lot of upside, and I credit head coach Monty Williams for giving this team something to play for other than a lottery pick.