Honestly, I could get used to these 10-game nights in the NBA. Basketball is at its best right now, and it’s especially wonderful when there is action happening all at once, all over the league.
I’m sure the players agree. They don’t want the All-Star break to come, right? Just ask Derrick White.
Let’s get to the scores from the last full-slated day of games before the festivities kick off in Salt Lake City.
Sixers hold off Cavs comeback bid, win 118-112
After jumping ahead by as many as 28 points, the Sixers nearly collapsed in the second half, allowing Cleveland to get within four. Luckily for Philly, they were able to close out the game the best way they know how: By making 13 straight free throws in the fourth. Joel Embiid led the way with 29 points and crossed the 10,000-point threshold for his career. James Harden added 19 and 12 assists. Donovan Mitchell had 33 points — including 25 in the second half — to lead the Cavs; Darius Garland added 27 points, and Evan Mobley had 23.
The Sixers enter the break on a four-game winning streak, while Cleveland’s seven-game winning streak snaps with this loss.
Pacers come from behind to stun Bulls, 117-113
The Bulls can’t buy a win. They’ve lost five in a row, that streak being capped off by an epic collapse on Wednesday against the Pacers. Chicago led by 24 in the second half, only to throw away a game that had all the makings of a free win. Despite 35 points from Zach LaVine, the Bulls couldn’t stop Buddy Hield, who made six 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 27 points to fuel the Pacers comeback. Aaron Nesmith scored 21 points for Indiana, Myles Turner added 17, Tyrese Haliburton had 16, and Bennedict Mathurin, 14. It’s safe to say this win was much needed for Indiana, which had lost 16 of 18 entering Wednesday.
Knicks crush Hawks, 122-101
Starting to think (read: have been thinking for quite a while now) that Jalen Brunson should’ve been an All-Star. But maybe that’s just me. (Narrator: It’s not just him.)
He had 28 points, nine rebounds, and five assists to lead New York, which never trailed. The Knicks have won six of their last eight entering the All-Star break; not bad for a team that only plays six players a night!
Thunder hand Rockets seventh-straight loss, 133-96
You think the Rockets are bad?
Hornets hand Spurs 14th-straight loss, 120-110
Nah, the Spurs are BAD.
Nets light up Heat behind Mikal Bridges’ career night, 116-105
The Nets may have lost Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the trade deadline, thus ending their superteam experiment with a whimper, but to get players like Mikal Bridges in return can’t help but feel like a win. He scored a career-high 45 points on Wednesday to lead the Nets past the Heat, including 17 in the fourth quarter to seal the deal. They might not have won the trade, but… wait, did they actually win the trade?
Shorthanded Nuggets top Luka, shorthanded Mavs, 118-109
Nikola Jokic’s 21st triple-double of the season likely would’ve been enough to lead Denver — playing without Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, and the newly-acquired Reggie Jackson — but 24 points from Jeff Green will certainly help. What also helps? That the Mavericks were without Kyrie Irving, TIm Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, and Davis Bertans, leaving Luka Doncic (37 points, nine assists, and four steals) to fend for himself. That won’t often work, and I’m sure Luka would prefer to play alongside his new superstar teammate, Irving; the duo has played together just twice since Kyrie was acquired in a trade on Feb. 6. It’s not what you want.
Grizzlies’ big three fend off Jazz, 117-111
Jaren Jackson Jr. (26 points, nine rebounds, five steals, and four blocks), Desmond Bane (24 points, six rebounds, and four assists), and Ja Morant (20 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists) combined to lead a collective onslaught against Utah. It was the Grizzlies’ third win in their last four games, while Utah has now lost five of seven heading into the All-Star break.
New-look Lakers ground Pelicans, 120-102
The fresh faces in L.A. are already making good on what the Lakers hoped they added at the deadline. Sure, LeBron James (21 points in his return from a three-game absence) and Anthony Davis (28 and 10 rebounds) are familiar to Lakers’ fans, but D’Angelo Russell is a nice new addition (though somewhat familiar for longtime loyalists). He finished with 21 points to help the Lakers’ dominant second-half performance to send the Pelicans into the break on a sour note.
Celtics handle Pistons, 127-109
I attended this game, and I am happy to report the following:
- Jayson Tatum — 38 points, nine rebounds, seven assists — warrants all MVP chants and consideration at this point in the season. I’m not sure I had fully grasped how dominant a force on both ends he is before seeing him live. It’s insane that he’s only 24 (enough with the “he’s only 19!” jokes).
- Marcus Smart is, indeed, a defensive nuisance. He returned last night after missing 11 games with an ankle sprain and snatched six steals to sweeten his already sweet night of nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
- Malcolm Brogdon is just what the doctor ordered for this Celtics team. A measured, stoic presence on both ends of the floor, one who serves as an excellent secondary scorer whenever called upon. He shot 10-for-14, finishing with 25 points and six assists.
- Had the team I saw on Wednesday played in Milwaukee on Tuesday, that game would not have gone to overtime. The Celtics are among the league’s few title favorites, and sit atop the East for a reason. I’m not afraid to say it. You shouldn’t be either.