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Last Night In The NBA: James Harden Put The Clamps On Giannis, The Suns Surprise, San Antonio Won't Die And More!

Jesse D. Garrabrant. Getty Images.

Good morning everybody happy Monday and welcome back to another edition of Last Night In The NBA where we bring you up to speed on everything that went down from the night before in the Association. I hope everyone had a great weekend, it sure was filled with some quality basketball and that's especially true on Sunday. If Saturday was all about blowouts, Sunday was all about close games. When four of the six were decided by 4 points or less you know it was another great day of hoops. I have to say, the quality of the bubble games has been incredible pretty much right away which was not something I was expecting. These feel like playoff games. Of course if you missed any of the action that's OK, just keep reading because here's what happened.

Washington Wizards (24-42) 110 vs Brooklyn Nets (31-35) 118

OK raise your hand if you give a shit about this matchup? Yeah I'm not seeing many hands so we can make this quick. This result pretty much guaranteed that we won't be getting a play in game in the East, and outside of some pretty great individual performances this game was mostly meaningless. I suppose if you're a Wizards fan you liked seeing Thomas Bryant dominate

he actually has a lot of potential to be a solid big, and then there was Troy Brown Jr

but there's no chance you even knew who those two guys were so we can move on. You'll never believe this but the Wizards were ultimately done in by their defense falling apart. Who could have seen that coming.

For BKN, their stay in the bubble will be short as well after they drop to the 8 seed and play MIL, but their individual performances were a little more important. For example, Joe Harris is a free agent and he looks pretty damn good

In a weird free agency year, could a contender scoop him up for the MLE or something? I'll take that shooting. Then there was Caris LeVert, who really asserted himself and put in a monster 34 points

Why is this important? Well if the Nets are going to bring in that third start they are most likely going to have to flip LeVert. The better he looks in the bubble the higher is value will be on the open market. Then you sprinkle in Jarrett Allen, another trade chip and his 22/15 and the Nets pieces played well

It's annoying that we still haven't seen Jamal Crawford play, but at least these three guys can have Nets fans excited about their potential future. Either they ball out for the Nets next year, or they are flipped for a star. Not a terrible place to be for a team that got dismantled heading into the bubble.

Portland Trail Blazers (30-38) 124 vs Boston Celtics (44-22) 128

We'll talk about the Celts in their normal blog so for this one we'll focus on the Blazers. I have just one thing to say really. Damian Lillard is one of if not the most terrifying player in the entire NBA. The second he starts to feel like he's in the zone it is absolutely terrifying

He started to feel that way in the second half and there was pretty much nothing the Celts could do. For some reason they went under every screen like they had never seen Dame play before, and he obviously made them pay. This is a team that put up 76 second half points, shot 61/56% and made 13 3PM. It was like night and day from the first half and they came back from 24 at one point to lead by 3. You combine a 30 spot for Nurkic as well

and 7 3PM from Gary fucking Trent Jr

and you can see why a ton of people like the Blazers in a first round series if they are able to make the play in. Unfortunately what did them in with this game is what has done them in all season. Their defense. It didn't exist for the first 24 minutes and that's a problem. The Celts were really able to expose their depth at wing, it's a glaring weakness that ultimately could keep them out of the playoffs. They have great guard play, solid bigs with Nurk back, but the wing is a big time problem. It didn't matter if it was Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, or Gordon Hayward, they all dominated. 

This loss dropped POR to the 10 spot behind SA for the time being and don't look now but that team has won 3 in a row. 

San Antonio Spurs (29-36) 108 vs Memphis Grizzlies (32-25) 106

The Grizzlies loved to tell you how they felt disrespected heading into the bubble that everyone was putting numerous teams over them for the 8 seed. Well they had a chance to prove why that would be silly and all they've done since is not win games in the bubble. Now their lead over the 8 spot is only 2 games. Even with both Ja Mortant and JJJ having solid performances

the largest lead the Grizzlies ever had in this game was 2 points. They were able to keep it close, with 12 lead changes and 8 ties, they even had a great fourth quarter including a couple prayer threes, but their lack outside shooting (7-23) is ultimately what did them in. Also they had a rough time defending without fouling. It's looking more and more likely that there will be a play in game in the West, especially since MEM has to be like 5 games clear of the 9 seed to prevent it. I don't see how they made up 3 games before it's all said and done. 

For the Spurs, I mean this franchise just won't die. This was supposed to be the year they finally missed the playoffs right? Ha, you fool. Can't you already see that after all the hype surrounding the Pelicans and the Blazers making the playoffs and a total of zero (0) talking about the Spurs that SA is going to be the one that makes it? That's how this story ends, I just know it.

You know it's a weird night when SA of all people beat someone in 3PM. Pop hates threes like poison and yet here the Spurs are, just doing their thing, winning games and flying under the radar.

Sacramento Kings (28-38) 116 vs Orlando Magic (32-35) 132

Too early to declare the Kings race for 8th over? Maybe, but it's sure getting close. Not their fault, they got boned with injuries, but I'll give them credit they were balanced as hell in this one. A total of 7 players in double figures, their only problem was they were down 44-26 after the first quarter and got down by as much as 36 points at one point. Never led, never tied, just a total beat down pretty much from the jump. Basically he only positive was that Harry Giles looked great

but barring something wild, the Kings time in the bubble will be coming to an end shortly. But hey, at least they had a monster fourth quarter which helped them cover. There's always that.

For ORL, it's time people start taking this team seriously. They were playing great before the hiatus and picked up right where they left off. Will they always drop 132 with 52/47% splits with 18 3PM? No, but this shows they are capable and their collection of talent is nothing to scoff at

You know those guys can score though. It's not surprising when Gordon/Vucevic/Ross play well. You know what is surprising though? Markelle Fultz actually looking like a basketball player!

to think the Magic basically got this kid for free from the Sixers who last time I checked…..started Shake Milton at point guard. Woof. I hope Fultz continues to play well and work out in ORL, what a crazy story his career has been so far. If he can contribute that makes ORL an even tougher out.

Sadly, it's not all great news. Jonathan Isaac tore his ACL. Fucking sucks. The guys can't catch a break and was having a pretty awesome return so far. He's a defensive monster and really could have helped this team. After missing so much time with a knee injury and then tearing your ACL, in hindsight you wonder if he should have even been playing in the bubble. Really sucks for him and we'll see him again in a year.

Milwaukee Bucks (54-13) 116 vs Houston Rockets (42-24) 120

Now this was the matchup we all wanted to see. Three MVPs on the court, the Giannis/Harden beef, two really good teams, and boy did it not disappoint. Close pretty much the whole way it looked early like MIL would run away with things until the Rockets finally made some threes. As you can expect Giannis was a monster, with 36/18/8 in only 32 minutes

Khris Middleton had a huge night himself with 27 on 10-18 shooting

even Brook Lopez got in the mix, really exposing the HOU lack of size. He pretty much had his way with any Rockets defender which is something to keep in mind if this is your Finals

So how did they lose? Well, Giannis struggled down the stretch, the Bucks defense had issues in the fourth, and the Rockets took 12 FTs to their 0 in the final 12 minutes. Again, none of these games really mean all that much to the Bucks, and yeah it was annoying that ONCE AGAIN the officially blatantly cheated for Giannis not calling ANOTHER late goaltend, so this was more about the Rockets than Bucks. The Bucks don't need these games, the Rockets very much do.

Speaking of HOU, games like these are why you created the Westbrook/Harden backcourt

They combined for 55 points and 25 FTs. But more importantly, I want to talk about the defense of James Harden. It won this game for the Rockets because he put clamps on Giannis on multiple occasions down the stretch. People still love to make jokes about his defense and it just shows they aren't watching 2020 James Harden. This dude is actually good on the defensive end, especially in the post. When it comes to post defense he's elite, ranking in the 95th percentile. So what happened? Giannis tried to take him in the post and got stonewalled. Forced into making the biggest turnover of the game that sealed the win for HOU. I know it's fun to get jokes off, but Harden deserves the proper credit for the work he does on the defensive end. Taking the Giannis responsibility at the crucial part of the game when you know refs are going to be looking to bail him out, defend him without fouling and cause him to not know what to do is a huge win for Harden and Rockets fans everywhere.

The Rockets have now won 3 in a row and are just 1 game back from DEN for the 3 seed. They took 61 threes which is outrageous, but if they can get 21 to drop like they did last night, who beats them?

Dallas Mavericks (40-29) 115 vs Phoenix Suns (28-39) 117

And here we have one of our bigger upsets of the night to cap us off. Admit it, you didn't see the Suns beating the #1 offense in the NBA. On a night where Luka went for 40/8/11?

and Porzingis went for 30/5/8?

When that happens that's usually a Mavs win. But their defense in the second and third quarter was pathetic, it gave the Suns life and the rest was history. Tough decisions by Luka to try and make the extra pass rather than go up strong at the rim in the final moments was tough, as was the whole only scoring 42 second half points thing. Getting 1-12 from THJ isn't going to cut it and neither is the 19% from three. It's not like the Suns are some sort of defensive juggernaut so it was just one of those shooting nights.

For PHX, I told you, this team is going to be a bitch to play! They play everyone tough, their top end talent is elite, and you saw why in this game

I don't know if this team can go on a run and make the play in, but I do know they are a threat to beat anyone on their schedule on any given night. They haven't even added Baynes yet! You sprinkle in a little double double action for Cameron Johnson

and the Suns are one of the most fun teams to watch in this bubble. Who knew!

And that's it, you are now all caught up with everything that went down last night in the NBA. We're back today with 6 more games starting at 1:30pm, so let's have ourselves a great Monday!