The NBA is amazing. That’s all I have for this intro. Sometimes, I have to let the games — well, my words about the games — do the talking. So, I’ll do just that.
TO THE SCORES.
Full disclosure: I tend to write these recaps as the games end. I try to assess what order to put them in as the slate of games unfolds, and occasionally, one or two games jump out as the obvious best ones from the night. On Sunday, Phoenix-Dallas felt like the clear-cut Game of the Day.
Then, the clock struck 7:30 p.m. ET, Knicks-Celtics tipped off, and the world tilted on its axis. Just your everyday, average Sunday in the NBA.
Last weekend’s epic tilt between the Kings and the Clippers — you know, the one that went to two overtimes and ended 176-175, in the Kings’ favor — was probably the game of the year, but Sunday’s matchup between New York and Boston gives it a run for its money. This game, too, went to double-OT and saw dozens of lead changes (15, to be exact), epic performances, and a playoff atmosphere to boot. Oh, and defense was played. That’s always a plus.
While the Celtics held a seven-point lead at halftime, the Knicks made quick work of that, and even surged ahead by double-digits late in the third quarter thanks to a 21-2 run. In the fourth, Boston responded with a 19-5 run of its own, cutting into the lead New York built. By the time the final moments of the final frame arrived, the teams were practically trading buckets, with Jayson Tatum and Immanuel Quickley putting on their own respective shows down the stretch. In the end, after more bucket-trading and more playoff-worthy moments, it was Quickley’s night.
The Knicks’ third-year point guard stepped into the starting lineup for Jalen Brunson (out with foot soreness) and casually dropped a career-high 38 points in — yes, this is correct — 55 minutes. He also had 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals. Julius Randle (31 points and nine rebounds) and RJ Barrett (29 points and 11 rebounds) were huge for the Knicks. Jayson Tatum (40) and Jaylen Brown (29) led the way for the Celtics, who have now lost two in a row and suddenly find themselves a game and a half back from the Bucks atop the East. Now is not the time for losses like these.
As for the Knicks, now is exactly the time for this sort of play. And it’s terrifying.
Clutch KD, Suns squeak past Mavs in thriller, 130-126
Okay, so, in case you somehow missed it, the end to this one got a little bonkers. First came a late almost-dagger from Kevin Durant, who finished with 37 points and drained the aforementioned contested midrange jumper with 11.7 seconds remaining to put Phoenix ahead for good.
What followed was a point-blank miss at the rim from Luka Doncic (who, prior to that miss, had scored 34 points to lead the Mavs).
What followed THAT was a fun lil exchange between noted besties Doncic and Devin Booker.
And THEN came the postgame chatter. Luka, on Booker, said “It’s a competitive game. It’s all good. Next time, just don’t wait until there’s three seconds left to talk.” Booker, on their in-game exchange, said, “You guys say you don’t want everybody to be friendly. There you go. We got some smoke.”
Do we ever. The Suns have won three in a row; the Mavs are now losers of six of their last eight.
38 from SGA lifts Thunder over Jazz, 129-119
Lakers top Warriors behind dominant night from AD, 113-105
For the Lakers — still half a game out of the play-in tournament — to make their way into the postseason, Anthony Davis needs to play at the level he played at on Sunday against the Warriors. Does he have to score 39 points, pull down eight rebounds, and dole out six assists every single night? Not necessarily. But given that L.A. will be without LeBron James for who knows how long, Davis needs to show up in a similar vein, at the least. Austin Reaves (16 points) and Troy Brown Jr. (14) provided a good bit of offensive help for the Lakers as well.
As for the Warriors, Steph Curry made his return after missing 11 games due to a left leg injury. Though he had just eight points on three-of-11 shooting through three quarters, he scored 19 in the game’s final frame to cut into L.A.’s lead. Klay Thompson added 22 points, but the Warriors’ five-game winning streak was ultimately snapped.
Bucks drop Wizards, 117-111
I feel like this shouldn’t be allowed. But I have so much respect for it.
Rockets clobber Spurs, 142-110
Nets handle Hornets, 102-86
The Hornets can’t score. For the second time in three games, Charlotte failed to crack 100 points, and no one on Charlotte’s roster scored more than 17 points on the night. Meanwhile, the Nets made quick work of things behind 33 points from Mikal Bridges and 24 from Spencer Dinwiddie.
Haliburton’s late triple leads Pacers over Bulls, 125-122
Zach LaVine’s 42 points may have led all scorers, but Tyrese Haliburton was the hero. He scored 29 points and knocked down a deeeeeep triple over Patrick Beverley to take a lead they wouldn’t give up.
Haliburton then clapped back at Beverley on Twitter after the game.
The NBA. Where amazing happens.
Trail Blazers finish off Magic in late free-throw battle, 122-119
Tied at 113 with 58.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Portland marched down the court, took its time, and saw Nassir Little drain a triple just before the shot clock expired to put them ahead, 116-113.
The final 12 combined points of the game came at the free throw line, with the Blazers and Magic trading trips to the charity stripe for the game’s final 30 seconds. I have a feeling those last 30 seconds took approximately 19 minutes.
Paolo Banchero (26 points) and Franz Wagner (24 points) paved the way for Orlando, but they were no match for Damian Lillard — who else? — who led Portland with 41 points, his 12th 40-piece in his last 39 games. That’s something else.
Clippers rally to beat Grizzlies, 135-129
Despite giving up 51 points in the third quarter to the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies, the Clippers were able to rebound in the fourth, winning that frame by a 38-17 margin, and ultimately regaining the same lead they held at halftime for good. It’s safe to say it was a much-needed win for the Clips, who had lost five in a row and seven of their last 10 entering Sunday’s game. Oh, and the team plane got struck by lightning. No big deal or anything.
Paul George scored a game-high 42 points and led the fourth-quarter comeback, while Kawhi Leonard poured in 34 of his own to aid the effort. Desmond Bane finished with 30 points for Memphis, while Tyus Jones — filling in as starting point guard for the suspended Morant — had 25 points, 12 assists, and five steals.