No better way to treat your Super Bowl hangover than with the 10 — count ‘em, 10! — NBA games that were on Monday’s docket. Let’s dig into each, starting with the battle of New York.
Knicks take first matchup with new-look Nets, 124-106
I have a feeling Knicks fans are gonna like this Josh Hart guy.
I already know for a fact that they like this Jalen Brunson guy.
But perhaps what they love the most is owning New York. And, as it says in the very real rulebook I’m definitely not making up, the winner of a Knicks-Nets game is transferred sole ownership of the city immediately. It can only be taken out of their possession by 1) a win of equal dominance by the Brooklyn Nets in the future, or 2) a more significant sporting accomplishment by another team in New York. I don’t make the rules. But I do follow them.
Monday’s win over the Nets was as impressive a win by this Knicks team as we’ve seen this season, and two of their more consistent contributors didn’t play up to their typical standards. Julius Randle scored 18 and pulled down 10 rebounds, but was just one-for-seven from three; RJ Barrett finished with a paltry four points, three turnovers, and five fouls. Thanks to the likes of Hart and Brunson, it didn’t matter. The Knicks held Nets newbies Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson to just 21 points combined and took home their first win in three tries against Brooklyn this season.
Cavs win despite Spurs second-half comeback, 117-109
Hornets sneak past Hawks in high-scoring tilt, 144-138
Any time you can avoid an eighth-straight loss, you gotta do it, right? Charlotte eked out a tight, scoring-heavy matchup with Atlanta to narrowly elude its third eight-game losing streak of the year. Despite their struggles this season, the Hornets have, actually, had the Hawks’ number. The teams’ four-game season series concluded Monday with Charlotte’s third win out of four tries. Four Hornets finished with 20-plus in the victory, with LaMelo Ball (30 points) and Terry Rozier (29) leading the way.
Sixers cruise past Rockets, 123-104
James Harden (28 points and 10 assists), Tyrese Maxey (26 points, five rebounds, and six assists), and Joel Embiid (23 points) made things easy for Philly in this one. Jalen Green’s night of inefficient-yet-high counting stats helped out, too. Gosh, the Rockets are depressing.
Jazz eke out tight win over Pacers, 123-117
Timberwolves hang on to beat Mavs despite Dallas’ late surge, 124-121
Despite entering the fourth quarter down 18, when you have Luka Doncic — and now Kyrie Irving — on your squad, no deficit is too large. The Mavs outscored Minnesota 39-24 in the fourth to bring the game within three in the closing seconds, but failed to get a shot off before time expired.
Kyrie (36 points) and Luka (33) led Dallas in scoring despite the loss; Anthony Edwards (32) and Rudy Gobert (21 points and 14 rebounds) carried Minnesota to victory.
Magic stave off Bulls, 100-91
Pelicans survive late comeback from Thunder, win 103-100
Without Zion Williamson — who suffered yet another injury setback this week, keeping him sidelined with a hamstring injury that has kept him out since Jan. 2 — it’s fair to say that much of the offensive burden in New Orleans is going to fall on the shoulders of Brandon Ingram. Thankfully, he has the facilities to deliver. He made 14 of his 24 shots on Monday en route to 34 points, leading all scorers against the Thunder. Though Oklahoma City made a run at an epic comeback late in the game, Isaiah Joe’s three-pointer missed at the buzzer, sealing the deal for New Orleans.
Additionally, Josh Richardson was electric in his Pelicans’ debut. He was acquired from the San Antonio Spurs in a deadline-day deal, and poured in 10 points and five steals to aid New Orleans down the stretch. Not bad for a newbie.
Warriors snap two-game losing streak, drop Wizards, 135-126
Andrew Wiggins had 29 points and seven rebounds; Klay Thompson scored 27 points; Ty Jerome had nine points and seven assists; JaMychal Green was perfect from three and scored 14 points to go with five assists; Donte DiVincenzo had 17 points off the bench; and Kevon Looney added 13 points and 13 rebounds.
No Steph Curry for a while isn’t ideal. But with total-team efforts like this? The Warriors might just stay afloat long enough for him to return and set sail toward the postseason.
Another big night from Dame leads Blazers over Lakers, 127-115
Over his last 17 games, Damian Lillard has:
- Averaged 37.5 points per game, which would lead the NBA on the season by 4.3 points.
- Scored fewer than 20 points zero times.
- Scored 30-plus a whopping 13 times.
- Scored 40-plus eight times (including Monday’s 40-point effort to push Portland past L.A.)
- Scored 50-plus twice.
- Scored 60 points once. That’s still a lot.
He has been playing at an MVP level for the better part of two months. The Blazers are middling at best, but this stretch deserves an accolade of its own. If nothing else, then a standing ovation on a nightly basis.
(The Lakers have lost four of five and remain 3.5 games back of the 10-seed in the West.)
Nuggets beat the Heat in Miami, 112-108
There has never — I repeat, never — been a player like Nikola Jokic. He makes the ordinary look astonishing. He can record a triple-double rolling out of bed (and was two assists away from yet another on Monday). He can lead his Denver Nuggets past the near-full-strength Miami Heat without co-stars Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon. Their absences were felt, but not to the typical extremes, as Jokic (27-12-8), Michael Porter Jr. (17 points and six rebounds) and Bruce Brown (16 points) led Denver past Miami in a close contest. Jimmy Butler had 24 but ultimately sealed the game as he missed a point-blank layup with just under 15 seconds remaining, breaking bettor’s hearts in the process.
The Nuggets remain five games clear atop the West. Pick an alternate favorite wisely.