NBA Weekly Recap 12/27 - 1/2
New Year. Same League.
New year same league, that’s the saying, right? From Steph Curry becoming the first player to make 3000 threes to Kevin Durant returning and dueling with Joel Embiid on the court or Lebron James proving age means nothing, NBA New Year week had it, so let’s jump in.
Brooklyn Nets @ Los Angeles Clippers
Final Score: 124 – 108
James Harden made a statement after missing two weeks through health and safety protocols as the Brooklyn Nets completed their LA trip with a win over the Clippers at the Crypto.com Arena.
James Harden carried the Nets with 39 points, 15 assists, and eight rebounds as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sat out. Patty Mills and Nic Claxton chipped in with effective points, scoring 18 each, with Claxton shooting 8-9 from the field.
“That protocol could have gone two ways and I just overly locked into my body and my eating, When you prepare yourself to be great, there's no surprise,”
It was always going to be an uphill battle for Clippers when they’re missing duo, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. However, Marcus Morris Sr. stood up for the Clippers putting up 24 points. Keon Johnson was also effective off the bench dropping in 15 points in 17 minutes.
Brooklyn took their first lead with 3:55 left in the first quarter and didn’t look back as they never trailed again. The Nets took their biggest in the game 98-76 with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter. The Clippers would eventually close the gap to 10 points with 4:17 remaining in regulation but couldn’t challenge any further as the Nets closed out the win.
Quick home visit:
James Harden’s visit to LA was primarily business with the Nets, however, he got the opportunity to visit his former high school, Artesia High to have his jersey retired. Harden also led his team to two state championships while he was there.
Denver Nuggets @ Golden State Warriors
Final Score: 89 – 86
Stephen Curry became the first player to knock down 3000 shots from deep as the Denver Nuggets held off a late surge from the Golden State Warriors at the Chase Center.
Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets scoring with 22 points and also reeled in a monster 19 rebounds in 35 minutes. Will Barton was the only other Denver player to hit double digits in scoring with 21 points in 36 minutes.
Steph Curry put up a game-high 23 points, 15 of which came from deep as he went 5-14 from beyond the 3-point line. Andrew Wiggins was second in points for the Warriors with 21 points in what really was a low-scoring game.
The Nuggets shot out to a 15-point lead at the end of the first and added on nine more to take a 60-36 lead into the locker rooms. From there, the Warriors kicked into gear, closing the gap to 13 heading into the final period.
Golden State kept their momentum going, closing the gap to five with 7:20 remaining in regulation. With a late surge, the home side went on a 10-2 run, tying the game with 1:04 remaining, but they weren’t able to seize the lead as a Will Barton tip-in and free throws sealed the win for the Nuggets.
"I couldn't be prouder of our guys, I thought Will Barton, down the stretch, made a couple of big, big plays. Nikola having 18 rebounds, 22 points, and making a key, key play down the stretch is why he's a great player, you need those types of plays to pull out wins like this,”
- Michael Malone (Nuggets coach)
Chef is cooking:
Fans were in awe when Steph Curry became the most prolific shooter from deep and now, he’s added to his resume as he becomes the first player to reach 3000 3-pointers made and leads the Warriors’ charge to the Playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Boston Celtics
Final Score: 91 – 82
Eric Bledsoe proved to be the x-factor as the Clippers were able to hold off the late-charging Celtics to take the win in The Garden.
Marcus Morris Sr. led the Clippers’ scoring with 23 points but missed all his attempts from deep, while Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, and Eric Bledsoe all dropped in 17 points each.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics in points with a game-high 30, he also raked in eight rebounds as the Celtics missed Jayson Tatum. Robert Williams III was the only other Celtic to hit double digits in points with 16 in his 28 minutes on the court.
The Clippers led for the majority of the game and led by six points heading into the final period. The Celtics scored the first five points of the fourth, making the score 69-68. They eventually took the lead 9:30 remaining and then again, a minute later as the sides traded baskets. From there it was Bledsoe who took over the game as the point guard scored 10 of his 17 points in the final period. LA shot out to a 9-point lead off a Mann dunk with 30 seconds left, sealing the win for the visitors.
Home court on the road:
Terance Mann grew up in Massachusetts, he’s played at The Garden before, but this was the first time at the pro level. He also had about 50 people in the crowd, spread out around the arena to cheer him on.
Utah Jazz @ Portland Trail Blazers
Final Score: 120 – 105
The Utah Jazz got past the Portland Trail Blazers, despite missing their leading scorer Donovan Mitchell at the Moda Center.
Rudy Gobert led the Jazz with 22 points and 14 rebounds in 29 minutes. Rudy Gay had an efficient scoring night as well, putting up 21 points off the bench while shooting 8-13 from the field in 24 minutes.
Damian Lillard and Norman Powell carried the Blazers’ scoring load, putting up 32 points each. Big man Larry Nance Jr. led the team in assists with nine, and also picked up three steals.
The Jazz never trailed, with a lot of the reasoning coming down to their monster first half where they put up 69 points. The sides fought hard, but the Blazers were never able to close in to threaten the Jazz’s lead as the visitors took a 14-point lead into the final period. It was plain sailing for the Jazz in the fourth as both sides traded baskets and Portland could never chip into the lead.
The Blazers had a hot start at home but have cooled off recently, a major reason for the blowout can be put down to their thin line-up. The Blazers had seven players in health and safety protocols for the second straight game.
Philadelphia 76ers @ Brooklyn Nets
Final Score: 110 – 102
Joel Embiid wiped former MVP, Kevin Durant, off the floor who returned from health and safety protocols as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center.
Joel Embiid led the Sixers scoring with 34 points in 32 minutes, he also brought in seven rebounds, three steals, and blocked one shot. Tyrese Maxey was the second-highest scorer for the road team with 25 points and knocked down five deep balls on eight attempts.
Kevin Durant made a statement in his return with 33 points, six rebounds, and four assists in 38 minutes. His scoring feat was matched by one of his big three members James Harden, who also had 33 points, 10 assists, and 14 rebounds but the pair’s performance wasn’t enough for the win.
Durant and Embiid paid tribute to each other as players after the game:
“If there's one player, I think is probably talented or more talented than me, it's definitely him, so I have a lot of respect for him. I admire his game. So, we're just competitive. Wins matter, every single one of them, and it's always good to beat the best in the conference,”
- Joel Embiid
“If you've been watching Joel and I play against each other, it's been like that every game, even the All-Star Game, we just respect each other so much that that natural competitive fire I guess comes out. So, it's the name of the game,”
The Sixers controlled the majority of the first half, building their lead to 11 points. Brooklyn slowly cut into the deficit throughout the second quarter and eventually tied the game with 3:19 remaining in the first half.
The second half saw both sides trade baskets and leads, with the margin never getting above double digits. Philly led by two heading into the final period and was a close battle until the final minutes. The Sixers went on a 10-3 run in the final three minutes and didn’t allow a single basket during live play to close out a hard-fought win.
Back in practice:
Kyrie Irving has been allowed to return to practice after being let out of the health and safety protocols, but coach Steve Nash still hasn’t had a discussion with the point guard on his vaccination stance leaving him in doubt for Nets' home games. Vaccinations are mandatory to be eligible for home games.
Portland Trail Blazers @ Los Angeles Lakers
Final Score: 106 – 139
Lebron James was the catalyst in a blowout win over the Portland Trail Blazers at the Crypto.com Arena.
King James dominated on the scoring end with a season-high 43 points on 16-26 from the field and reeled in 14 rebounds in his 29 minutes. Russell Westbrook picked up yet another triple-double with 15 points, 12 assists, and 13 rebounds.
“If that's what our team needs to win, I'm ok with that, I'm not a guy who goes out and sees if I can jack up a bunch of shots. The streak I have been on with my scoring, I have been efficient. I take pride in that as a player.”
Ben McLemore led the Blazers with 28 points off the bench in 30 minutes on the court. Damian Lillard led the starters with 18 points but could only manage to shoot 33% from the field and went 1-8 from deep.
The Lakers dominated the entire game, they took their first double-digit lead with 8:12 remaining in the first quarter and the margin would never drop into single digits again. The home side put up 43 points in the first quarter and took a 15-point lead into the locker rooms.
The Lakers didn’t let up throughout the second half, increasing their lead to 24 with a quarter remaining. The fourth quarter was once again a dominant scoring performance for the Lakers, as they piled on 38 points. The Lakers took their biggest lead in the final seconds before the Blazers knocked it back 33, but this one was over long before the final buzzer.
Still one of the best:
Lebron put up an age-defying performance in front of his family, where he became the oldest player to score at least 40 points and 14 rebounds. “I don't feel like I have been in the league 19 years. When I am daily reminded of it, I feel it sometimes, "Sometimes you do have to remind people you can still do what you can do at a high level,” James said as his team rolled to their 11th win at home.”
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Los Angeles Lakers
Final Score: 103 – 108
Lebron James gave the Lakers the edge over the Timberwolves to give the home team their 12th home win of the season at the Crypto.com Arena.
Lebron James extended his impressive run, putting up 26 points, five assists, and seven rebounds. Malik Monk shot 57% from the field for 22 points, while Westbrook was the third Laker to hit the 20-point mark.
"We're playing good basketball of late, even with some of the losses we've had, we're still trending in the right direction,”
Naz Reid led a depleted Timberwolves line-up with 23 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes. Anthony Edwards put up 18 points, but the former first overall pick failed to hit a deep ball in his six attempts.
Both sides played out a tight first six minutes, trading leads before the Lakers assumed control and took a 7-point lead into the second quarter. The Lakers stretched their lead to 10 early in the second quarter after a Carmelo Anthony tip-in. Minnesota closed the gap but couldn’t take the lead, trailing by three at the halftime break.
Minnesota took the lead in the third and built their advantage to six, which was their largest of the game. Again, the Lakers rallied, limiting the Timberwolves to a 2-point lead heading into the final period. After a close start, the Lakers took the lead with 8:00 remaining off of a Monk deep ball and left Minnesota in the dust. They stretched their advantage to six with 4:56 remaining, the Timberwolves closed the gap to a 1-point deficit but couldn’t take the lead as the Lakers closed out the game down the stretch.
The game marked Lebron’s 1336th NBA game, meaning he has now passed Gary Payton to be 16th on the all-time games played list.
Almost back together:
The return of Karl Anthony-Towns and D’Angelo Russell could be as early as this week as they get closer to exiting the league’s health and safety protocols.
Next week’s games:
Indiana Pacers @ New York Knicks
Golden State Warriors @ Dallas Mavericks
Utah Jazz @ Denver Nuggets
Boston Celtics @ New York Knicks
Los Angeles Clippers @ Phoenix Suns
Milwaukee Bucks @ Brooklyn Nets
Atlanta Hawks @ Los Angeles Lakers
Matt Skilton is a multimedia sports journalism graduate and covers all of your NBA needs at ThePyrrhic.com. Keep watching for recaps, analysis, trade news, and more! Follow Matt on Twitter @MSkilton16 Want more from The Pyrrhic? Check out these: