The Dallas Mavericks suffer another setback at the New Orleans Pelicans, and to make matters worse, Luka Doncic is also injured. Kevin Durant misses his home debut due to an injury during the warm-up, but Devin Booker shines again.
Meanwhile, the Cavs celebrate an important away win and the Denver Nuggets lose feathers at home against the Chicago Bulls.
Washington Wizards (31-35) – Atlanta Hawks (33-33) 120:122 (BOXSCORE)
- Setback for the Wizards, who led that game by as much as 15 points midway through the third quarter, but then made costly mistakes late in the game. The career record of Kristaps Porzingis (43, 17/22 FG, 7/10 threesomes) was just thrown in the bin.
- 1:38 minutes before the end, Bradley Beal (24, 8/19) equalized again for the hosts, De’Andre Hunter countered with And-1. Beal had fouled the forward and the Wizards star generally played an unfortunate role in the closing stages. First he missed a free throw, then managed a steal against Trae Young, but in the fast break the guard missed the equalizer with a layup 31 seconds before the end. Instead, the Hawks finally put the lid on it with free throws.
- Free throws ultimately made the difference. Both teams hit 12 threes, but the Wizards sank a whopping 56 percent from the field (ATL: 53). However, the guests marched to the free-throw line 26 times (WAS: 17). That didn’t apply so much to Young this time, but he did put 11 of his 14 throws in the basket for 28 points and 10 assists. The other Hawks starters also ended the game in double digits, as did bench players Bogdan Bogdanovic (14) and Jalen Johnson (10). At Washington, Kyle Kuzma (25, 10 rebounds) recorded a double-double.
Boston Celtics (46-21) – Portland Trail Blazers (31-35) 115:93 (BOXSCORE)
- After three bankruptcies in a row, the Celtics are back on track. Boston had little trouble against Portland, in part because Jayson Tatum played his 36th 30-point game of the season. The forward converted 6 threes for his 30 points and only needed 17 throws for this yield. Tatum and Al Horford (17) were still suspended in Cleveland.
- Both played important roles as Boston rallied in the second quarter with an 18-7 run. The lead grew to 20 points, after that it was no longer exciting, also because the Blazers met just 36.6 percent from the field. Neither starter hit half of their attempts, including Damian Lillard (27, 7/16 FG, 11/11 FT). Jusuf Nurkic was pale on his comeback (5, 2/6) in 17 minutes.
- Robert Williams was again absent for Boston, the center was replaced by guard Derrick White, who once again confirmed his strong form with 21 points (8/12) and 7 assists. Jaylen Brown (11, 4/10) was hardly a factor, sixth man Malcolm Brogdon (5, 2/13, 9 rebounds) had a very weak shooting evening. But that didn’t matter at all against harmless Blazers.
Miami Heat (35-32) – Cleveland Cavaliers (42-26) 100:104 (BOXSCORE)
- Good test for the Cavs, who won another close game. At the beginning of the season this was still the big weakness because the offense got problems. But if you’re that good defensively, you can sometimes afford to do that. Darius Garland was the Cavs’ man of the night with 25 points (8/16) and 7 assists.
- The guests only scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, but only allowed 18 themselves. The Cavs always maintained the lead and always had an answer when things got dicey. With three minutes left, Miami reduced to -1, Garland countered with a short jumper, Isaac Okoro followed up. After a three-pointer by Tyler Herro, things got tight again 20 seconds before the end (100:102), but Jarrett Allen converted at least one free throw and on the other side Max Strus missed a possible three-pointer to equalize.
- Miami allowed themselves a season high of 24 turnovers and hit just 8/29 from long range. In general, only Jimmy Butler (28, 8/14 FG, 12/15 FT), Bam Adebayo (17) and Herro (22) scored double digits. The Cavs didn’t do well from downtown either (9/28), here the focus is on Donovan Mitchell (18, 1/7 3P). All other starters also scored in double digits.
New Orleans Pelicans (32-34) – Dallas Mavericks (34-33) 113:106 (BOXSCORE)
- A very important win for New Orleans, who overpowered Dallas for the second time this season. Brandon Ingram injured his ankle in the first half, but the Pelicans also had CJ McCollum to stop the visitors from making a late comeback. The guard scored 16 of his 32 points (12/22) in the last twelve minutes, sinking each of his four three-pointers.
- It was also three points that brought Dallas back into the game. Although the Mavs hit their first four triples of the game, 13 of 14 were missed after that. The Pelicans took a 19-point lead in the third quarter before things got exciting again. Davis Bertans started a 12-0 run from downtown, Kyrie Irving followed up with a 4-point game.
- Four minutes from time, the deficit was down to -3 after another Irving-Leger, then McCollum took over with 10 points and four converted jumpers in just two minutes. Luka Doncic was no longer there on the Mavs side. The Slovenian left the game with a pain in the front of his thigh in the third quarter. Until then, the Mavs superstar had remained rather pale with 15 points (4/14) and 8 assists.
- This also applied to Irving, who, however, came up with 27 points with a strong final section. Maxi Kleber (thigh) sat out again, but Jaden Hardy (11) was able to draw attention to himself late, including that dunk over Pels center Jaxson Hayes. Christian Wood played 15 and 8, for the Pels, after McCollum, Trey Murphy (16) was the best scorer.
- The Pelicans also announced just before tip-off that All-Star Zion Williamson would be out for at least two more weeks with his hamstring injury. The forward was last on the field for the Pelicans in mid-December.
Denver Nuggets (46-20) – Chicago Bulls (30-36) 96:117 (BOXSCORE)
- Look, the Bulls actually win in Denver, reducing the play-in seat gap to just one game. As weird as it sounds, the Bulls just had the better Nikola in that game. This refers to Nikola Vucevic, who made his namesake Jokic look old a few times with 25 points and 15 rebounds.
- It wasn’t the two-time MVP’s night anyway. For the second time this season, Jokic didn’t even hit half of his shots. 18 points (7/16), 12 rebounds, 8 assists and 5 turnovers were noted for the Joker. Another rarity was his plus-minus score of -14, only worse in the loss in Memphis two weeks ago (-20).
- The Nuggets still led at the break, but the second half went to the guests from Chicago with 66:44. Zach LaVine (29, 12/18) the mountain air in Colorado was obviously good, so DeMar DeRozan (17, 6/16, 8 assists) was able to relax a little. The performance of Patrick Williams (18, 8/9) was also pleasing from the Bulls’ point of view. Aaron Gordon (17, 9 rebounds) was the most likely to achieve normal form for Denver, but Jamal Murray (11, 4/15) didn’t do much.
Phoenix Suns (37-29) – Oklahoma City Thunder (31-35) 132:101 (BOXSCORE)
- A month after the trade, Suns fans still have to wait for Kevin Durant’s home debut. The forward slipped while warming up and sprained his ankle, according to coach Monty Williams. It is still unclear whether KD will also fail in the upcoming games. However, according to eyewitnesses, Durant left the arena in a boat (the boot, water is scarce in the desert).
- For this game at least, Durant’s absence wasn’t a problem. OKC had no chance without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (bar) and Phoenix has another elite scorer besides KD. Devin Booker recorded his fourth 35-point game in a row, which has never happened in Suns history. In the end it was an outstanding 44 points (17/23 FG, 6/10 threesomes) in just 28 minutes. The guard was visibly disappointedwhen Coach Williams took his star off the field at +33 with seven minutes remaining.
- It was a performance KD would have been proud of. Booker didn’t record a single field goal in the restricted area, and 14 of the 17 field goals were jump shots. It was just a game where the shooting guard couldn’t miss. Incidentally, this also applied to Chris Paul (18, 6/8, 9 threes) and Terrence Ross (24, 8/13), who together recorded a layup. The Thunder couldn’t keep up, after all, top scorer Lindy Waters III (23) hit six threes. Josh Giddey (10, 3/12, 5 assists) wasn’t a factor this time.
Los Angeles Clippers (35-33) – Toronto Raptors (32-35) 108:100 (BOXSCORE)
- Big point for the Clippers, who were almost exclusively behind in the first half, but set the course for victory with a strong third quarter. Kawhi Leonard scored 24 points (8/15), 12 rebounds and 3 steals against his former team and also reached the plateau of 12,000 career points. Paul George contributed 23 points to the success.
- It wasn’t a gala, but the Clippers looked significantly improved offensively. The zone was increasingly attacked, fewer jumpers were taken. Turnovers (17) remained a problem, but Toronto were so weak offensively that it didn’t really matter. The Raptors took a whopping 25 more throws than LA, but could hardly capitalize on it (37/96, 38.5 percent).
- Interesting from a Clippers point of view: Russell Westbrook (7, 7 assists) had to watch the entire fourth quarter, but ex-starter Terance Mann (14, 6/7) was able to diligently collect plus points. With the exception of the two stars, the remaining seven rotation players played between 16 and 28 minutes. Ivica Zubac (17, 8 rebounds) was a key factor in the third quarter.
- For the Raptors, Scottie Barnes (6/21) and Pascal Siakam (9/21) were top scorers with 20 points each, while OG Anunoby (18, 4/7 3P) was responsible for outside threats. The three-pointer wasn’t the problem this time, instead the Canadians didn’t even hit 40 percent in the zone.