It was a glorious 12-hour day of basketball paradise for hoops fanatics with 12 NBA games on MLK Day. The preview was epic, and the NBA game recaps shall be too. Three notes for each game.
12 NBA Game Recaps on MLK Day
New Orleans Pelicans at Boston Celtics | 12:30 pm
- The Pelicans took control early on, leading by as many as 18 points with Jonas Valanciunas making hay inside without Robert Williams lurking (did not play, out for personal reasons: to be present for the birth of his child). Valanciunas put in 22 points and snagged 14 rebounds.
- Boston completely flipped the script in the second half. It was the usual suspects, Jayson Tatum with 27 points and Jaylen Brown with 23. The Celtics also got a 23-point contribution from Dennis Schroder whose three-pointer at the end of the 3rd quarter gave the Celtics their first lead of the game.
- The Celtics outscored the Pelicans 65-46 in the second half behind a locked-in defense that held Brandon Ingram to just four second-half points and 15 for the game.
Final: Celtics 104, Pelicans 92.
Charlotte Hornets at New York Knicks | 1:00 pm
- LaMelo Ball did not play due to a non-Covid related illness. Miles Bridges picked up the slack for the Hornets, showing up to MSG with a New York state of mind. Bridges was hotter than two-dollar pistol! A 20-piece in the first quarter en route to a career-high 38 points.
- Terry Rozier also found his groove, scoring 22 points, dishing out seven assists, and hauling in six rebounds. Cody Martin stepped up as well, taking LaMelo’s place in the starting lineup and playing a double-take worthy 46 minutes. He played every minute but two!
- A recurring theme for the Knicks this season: the entire starting lineup had a negative plus-minus while every bench player was positive.
Final: Hornets 97, Knicks 87.
Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards | 2:00 pm
- Bradley Beal did play, returning from the protocols, and the Wizards came out with their foot on the gas. Seth Curry made the first shot of the game, but that 2-0 Sixers lead would be Philly’s last of the game. The Wizards scored 11 straight points and never looked back.
- In the second quarter, Kyle Kuzma threw down a vicious power dunk on top of Joel Embiid, something Kuzma tried to pull off back in his Lakers days. Kuzma scored 15 points and pulled in 16 rebounds, his 20th game of ten or more rebounds already this season after having 14 such games all of last season. A board man, indeed, but Kuzma also had some crisp passes and played good defense.
- The Kuz power dunk on Embiid was symbolic for this game, however, Embiid did finish with 32 points, his 10th 30-point game in the last 11. Bench points were an enormous factor: Wizards 63, Sixers 27. Philadelphia felt the effects of not having Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, and Danny Green available.
Final: Wizards 117, Sixers 98.
Brooklyn Nets at Cleveland Cavaliers | 3:00 pm
- Fresh off being named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Darius Garland followed up his spectacular 27-point 18-assist performance from Saturday night with 22 points and 12 assists against the Nets on Monday.
- It took a full team effort with six Cavaliers scoring in double-figures. All nine Cavaliers players scored at least 7 points, spreading the love around. (Kevin Love had 14.)
- James Harden (22-10-7) and Kyrie Irving (27-9-7) had a good synergy going for Brooklyn, and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 13 big points off the bench, however, the Nets failed to connect on shots down the stretch in crunch-time. That was the difference.
Final: Cavaliers 114, Nets 107.
Bonus note: Play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle called Cavaliers rookie Evan Mobley an octopus after an enormous Mobley block. Bird also called Kyrie a basketball surgeon as he carved up the Cavaliers defense for 14 third-quarter points, including 7 straight.
Chicago Bulls at Memphis Grizzlies | 3:30 pm
- Tied at 20 after the first quarter, the Grizzlies outscored the Bulls by 13 points in the second quarter. Desmond Bane had it going, his 19 points in the first half were good for the highest-scoring half of his career.
- The Grizzlies stayed on top of things after halftime and stretched the lead all the way up to 28 points, out of the Bulls reach. Points in the paint: Grizzlies 64, Bulls 38. Fast break points: Grizzlies 26, Bulls 9.
- In the fourth quarter, Ja Morant could be seen spinning and winning, a 360 layup followed by getting into a scuffle with Tony Bradley. Hopefully, by now, you saw Steven Adams play his role as a bouncer and literally pick up the 6’10” 248-pound Bradley who was forced to oblige.
Final: Grizzlies 119, Bulls 106.
Indiana Pacers at Los Angeles Clippers | 3:30 pm
- All it took for the Clippers offense to come alive was playing the Pacers. Talking about ALIVE, too. The Clippers offense had been stuck in a reef, scoring a LOW 99.8 points per 100 possessions so far in January. Today? A 40-point first quarter set the tone for a Clippers season-high 139 points.
- In the immediate on-court post-game interview, Reggie Jackson fanned down Nicolas Batum who was hotter than molten lava! Batum was 0-for-3 with 0 points at halftime, but the Frenchman rang up the Pacers for 32 second-half points on 11-of-13 shooting, including seven 3-pointers.
- 32 was the magic number for the Clippers who totaled 32 assists, the most assists the Clippers have tallied since December 1st.
Final: Clippers 139, Pacers 133.
Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks | 6:00 pm
- The Hawks were due. It sure took them a while — all the way until the 4:37 mark of the fourth quarter — to take snag their first lead of the game by way of a Danilo Gallinari 3. Gallo chipped in 16 crucial points off the bench, the Rooster in the clutch.
- Trae Young struggled shooting the ball early, but that didn’t stop him from showing out in the game’s biggest moments, ripping 30-footers and scoring 15 fourth-quarter points. Ice Trae finished with 30 points to go along with 11 assists to lead the Hawks in snapping their infamous 10-game home losing streak.
- The Bucks All-Stars did their part, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points and Khris Middleton poured in a season-high 34. Milwaukee’s record when leading after the third quarter was 23-0. That record is now 23-1 as the Hawks won this game by snatching the fourth quarter 38-26.
Final: Hawks 121, Bucks 114.
Portland Trail Blazers at Orlando Magic | 7:00 pm
- CJ McCollum saw his first game action since December 4th, recovering from a collapsed lung. McCollum was efficient, scoring 16 points in 28 minutes on 7-of-13 shooting.
- It was Jusuf Nurkic who did most of the damage for the Blazers. He had a 20-20 game with 21 points and 22 rebounds. (Surprisingly, Nurkic and Moe Wagner did not get into a fight.)
- In announcer David Steele‘s renowned segment “Is This Anything?” we learned that the Magic this season have tied the 1974-75 New Orleans Jazz for playing the most road games in the first 44 games of an NBA season at 27. That means that 23 of the final 37 Magic games will be at home. (Although the Magic have still not won at home since December 1st.)
Final: Blazers 98, Magic 88.
Toronto Raptors at Miami Heat | 7:30 pm
- The Heat led for the majority of this contest but never by double-digits. The Raptors kept within striking distance throughout.
- In the final minute with a 3-point Heat lead, Jimmy Butler secured his second triple-double of the season (19-10-10) by driving down the lane, baiting the defense to collapse around him, and passing to a wide-open P.J. Tucker who knocked down the corner-pocket dagger 3.
- Bam Adebayo played for the first time after missing 26 games (the Heat went a solid 14-8 without him), but Kyle Lowry did not play in what was going to be his first game on the Heat against the Raptors — out for personal reasons that have not been brought to light. Bam played 32 minutes, including crunch-time where he made some big-money free throws in the final seconds to put the clawing Raptors away.
Final: Heat 104, Raptors 99.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks | 8:30 pm
- Dallas led by nine points after the first quarter and by 11 at halftime. Then OKC started making threes in the third quarter to get back in and make it a game.
- Luka Doncic had a Westbrookian triple-double, 20-12-11 on just 4-of-17 shooting. But Luka did make his free throws (12-of-14) and had three steals, three blocks, and just two turnovers.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander did what he could, scoring 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting in a narrow two-point loss despite being down by as many as 22.
Final: Mavs 104, Thunder 102.
Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs | 8:30 pm
- It was a cookout with Devin Booker! He scored the most points by any player on this MLK Day with 48 points on 18-of-33 shooting. There was also some serious playmaking precision from Chris Paul: 15 points and 12 assists and grasping the game in winning time.
- San Antonio continues to play sound team-ball, with six players in double-figures for a second straight game.
- The Spurs not only held their ground against the Suns but also held a four-point lead going into the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter was ALL about Phoenix, a 34-16 blitzing that left this final score not a true indicator of how close this game really was.
Final: Suns 121, Spurs 107.
Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers | 10:30 pm
- There were jokes that when Russell Westbrook grabbed the mop to help clean up in the second quarter that it was the loudest Lakers fans had cheered for Westbrook all season. But then Westbrook proceeded to unleash a hellacious power dunk right on top of Rudy Gobert, climbing over the 7’1″ center. He also had a clutch and-one late to put the cherry on top.
- Even so, this was the Stanley Johnson Game! Johnson was just signed to another 10-day contract and promptly delivered his best game in a Laker uniform yet, scoring 15 points in 25 minutes with a game-high plus-minus of +18. Stanley Johnson outscored Donovan Mitchell who had an off game, just 13 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Johnson and the Lakers exposed Gobert and the Jazz like it was the 2021 playoffs.
- The Lakers defense had given up a ridiculous 128 points per game to opponents in their recent 3-game losing streak, but the Lakers and LeBron James held true to his King’s promise, holding the #1 offense in the league to under 100 points for just the fourth time all season.
Final: Lakers 101, Jazz 95.
Google says that MLK Day in 2023 is on January 16th. Only 363 days away!
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