Here are my thoughts on what I saw today in the NBA
I know we tend to dislike Mondays, but hopefully this Monday was one of the better ones. The NBA gave us live basketball from noon-to-night, and most of it was really good!
Unlike Saturday’s ESPN NBA foursome, the league only had a virtual quadruple-header Monday: the first two games were on NBA TV and the latter two were on ESPN. If you enjoyed this type of schedule, get used to it, because that’s how most of the days moving forward will be set up.
Tonight I’m giving my observations on those four national games. That means I won’t be covering TJ Warren‘s 34 points in the Indiana Pacers‘ 111-100 win over the Washington Wizards nor the Philadelphia 76ers‘ 132-130 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Toronto Raptors 107, Miami Heat 103
Fred VanVleet unleashed a career-high 36 points, his output a result of seven 3-pointers (ties a career-high) and 13 made free throws (a career high). Pascal Siakam backed him up with 22 points. VanVleet and Siakam leading the Raptors charge while Kyle Lowry (14 points on 2-of-8 shooting) and Marc Gasol (six points) struggled is a basically why this team is still a championship contender.
VanVleet and Siakam had impressive 2019 campaigns, but many players before them with spectacular years would end up regressing to the mean the following season. These two, however, have continued to put in the work and remain important fixtures in this team’s offense. Now, they’re combining for nearly 60 points in late-season (in this case, very late-season) games against playoff teams.
Conversely, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn — two young players that have dazzled for much of the year — were hit in the mouth. Robinson was held to three points on 1-of-5 field goal shooting. He hasn’t been held to one made field goal since Dec. 23. Nunn scored two points off of free throws, going 0-of-7 from the field. This is the first time in his career that he went a game without making a field goal.
While these two have been a great story this season, they’re no longer a surprise to opponents. Teams — especially contenders like Toronto — know how potent Robinson is from beyond the arc and how dangerous Nunn can be off the dribble, and they have scouted accordingly. Now, the challenge for Miami will be adjusting so that their two rising stars can get back to producing consistently, especially as the stakes get even higher.
Denver Nuggets 121, Oklahoma City Thunder 113 (OT)
When it was announced that Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton were all missing this afternoon’s game, I figured trouble was on the horizon for the Nuggets. Instead, a big day from the frontcourt helped Denver push past OKC, who themselves were missing sixth man Dennis Schroder for personal reasons.
The story of the day was Michael Porter Jr. and his career-high 37 points on 12-of-16 shooting. 20 in the first half, 12 in the fourth quarter. He scored from all over the floor, basically showcasing all the skills talent evaluators noticed during his short time at Missouri. It honestly wasn’t a matter of if he could pull off a game like this, it’s just a matter of if he’ll be healthy enough to consistently produce for Denver.
Meanwhile, Nikola Jokic pulled off a 30-point triple-double, pulling down 12 boards and 10 assists. It’s his 13th triple-double of the season. With Porter’s fireworks, I didn’t even notice what Jokic was cooking up until half-way through the fourth quarter. But The Joker wasn’t done by that point in the game, as he scored eight of Denver’s 12 points in overtime to secure the victory.
At times, Jokic seems like a guy that shouldn’t be so dominant. He seems so doughy and aloof, how could he be an All-Star? However, his multi-level scoring abilities and elite passing inside of a seven-foot frame allows him to lead a championship-contending team to a win, even when they’re missing three starters.
It’s a bummer seeing a young, exciting team like the Grizzlies fall to 0-3 in the Bubble. Doubly so since every re-seeding game matters if they want to maintain the eighth seed. However, this loss keeps all five teams that are on the outside looking in well in contention for the play-in round.
Ja Morant had a rough game: 11 points on 5-of-21 shooting. However, he did have eight assists. Morant has routinely struggled against New Orleans this year, averaging 14.3 points per game on 36.2 percent shooting in three games. Then again, that’s bound to happen when you’re a rookie point guard facing Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball.
For New Orleans, it was the duo of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson that put the Pelicans over the top. Ingram led the way with 24 points, as he was unafraid of having the ball in his hands at crucial moments. We saw on Thursday that this can be an issue at times, but he really stepped up and took control in this game when needed.
Meanwhile, Zion pushed hisself to 23 points, steamrolling through his defenders and showing the ferocity we’ve seen out of him since high school. The key for New Orleans is getting him into shape so that he can be on the floor for more than 25 minutes.
Los Angeles Lakers 116, Utah Jazz 108
The nightcap was The Anthony Davis Show, as he finished the night with 42 points and 12 rebounds. With his multi-faceted skillset, there was no one on the Jazz equipped to stop him. The bigs were too slow and the forwards were too small. This was Davis’ playground.
AD’s big night neutralized a 33-point evening from Donovan Mitchell. Mike Conley also chipped in 24, making this a game where the Jazz backcourt was actually clicking. Unfortunately, no one else on the team could produce that third spark to get Utah past the Lakers. Jordan Clarkson tried, but he went 2-of-13 from the field. This is one of those games where not having Bojan Bogdanovic really hurt.
This win also helped the Lakers clinch the 1-seed in the West. With that out of the way, I wonder how much more of AD & LeBron James we’ll see in the remaining re-seeding games?
What was your biggest Monday observation? Let me know in the comments below!