Good morning everybody happy Tuesday 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 don't know about you but I have been thoroughly enjoying these 10 straight hours of basketball day in and day out because every single day brings a slate of games that are usually competitive. Monday night and its 6 games were no different and it was filled with some pretty important seeding matchups. Things are still as close as ever and every single one of these games matters. These feel like playoff games despite the fact that we aren't even halfway through the seeding games yet. As usual if you for some reason missed yesterday's action, here's what happened.
Toronto Raptors (48-18) 107 vs Miami Heat (42-25) 103
Would you be shocked if I told you the Toronto Raptors were the hottest team in then NBA right now? Winners of now 6 straight games which is the best streak in the league, the Raptors have entered the bubble with purpose and are running over everyone in sight. First it was LeBron/AD and the Lakers, and yesterday it was the Miami Heat, a team that had looked great in the bubble so far and was starting to build a little buzz. Well, when does the buzz around the Raptors start because this team is rolling
It may sound crazy, but is FVV playing his way into someone throwing him near max money this offseason? I feel like the Pistons or Knicks are 100000% going to overpay for his services. Despite the 21 TOs which isn't all that great, it's just really hard to beat this TOR team when they are going to go 33-36 from the line and 16-32 from deep. This thing was back and forth once MIA came back from being down 17, there were 13 lead changes and 8 ties. The Raptors lost the points in the paint battle, 2nd chance points battle, and fast break points battle yet still were able to pull this one out.
Now they did get a little lucky which I'm sure MIA fans are bullshit about. Kelly Olynyk was called for a flagrant foul on Lowry that the ref admitted after the game he shouldn't have called. That was important because it was a 4 point possession for TOR in a tie game with about 6 minutes to go. Lowry grifted the foul, tricked the refs, and was a huge turning point. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good I guess.
For MIA, Jimmy Butler played which was good, and they were fairly balanced which is also pretty good. They didn't shoot the ball all that well which is unfortunate, but this team is deep that's for sure
Dragic is a legit starting point guard they have coming off the bench and he had 25, Bubble Olynyk chipped in 17, and I have to give the Heat credit, they are competing in all these games. Their zone is a nice wrinkle to throw out at opponents, but this was a tough one to drop especially with a game today against BOS if they wanted to snag that 3 seed. Looks more and more likely they will end up in the 4/5, but that matchup is still very much TBD.
Denver Nuggets (44-23) 121 vs Oklahoma City Thunder (41-25) 113 F/OT
This may have been one of the more impressive wins of the entire bubble so far. People realize the Nuggets are still missing three starters right? To hang with a red hot OKC team like this is rather impressive, and as a Nuggets fan I would be pumped because this was by far the best professional game of MPJ's career combined with a Jokic triple double there was a lot to love
MPJ might have some weird thoughts on science, but this is the type of performance that Nuggets fans dream about. This looked like a top 5 draft talent which is what MPJ was before his back shit happened. The Nuggets essentially got jack from their bench, nobody had more than 3 points, but when you have two unstoppable forces in MPJ and Jokic you can survive. I love Jokic's old man game and how it looks like he shouldn't be able to take over a game but that's exactly what he did down the stretch and then in OT. He did everything. Got all the rebounds, scored all the points, was the best facilitator, this was by far the best skinny Jokic has looked in Orlando.
For OKC, we're seeing what a 2 game skid can do to a team out West. Now they have slid down to the 6 seed, but remain just 1 game from the 4. As it stands now this would be your first round matchup which wouldn't be so bad, I think we all want to see OKC/HOU in the 4/5 matchup though. They were without Dennis Schroder in this game which obviously matters, but SGA/CP3/Gallo did not disappoint
You want to talk about a back and forth game, how about 22 lead changes and 13 ties. Both teams looked so gassed by the OT, OKC basically couldn't score because I'm not sure they had anything left. It'll be interesting to see how both teams respond to a quick turn schedule, but the Thunder need to be a little careful here. DAL only trails by 2.5 games for the 6 seed, and the last thing I think the Thunder want is a first round series against the Clippers. Now that I think about it though, I definitely want that as a fan.
Indiana Pacers (41-26) 111 vs Washington Wizards (24-43)
OK so TJ Warren might be the best player in the bubble until further notice. You back up your 53 performance with 34/11 on good shooting splits and I'm not sure that's debatable
They also got Malcolm Brogdon back and he stepped right in with a solid 20/7/6, Aaron Holiday chipped in 17
and the Pacers just keep finding a way to win. Sure this was against WSH, but all of these games are important for IND if they want to stay in the 4/5 spot. They own the tie breaker over PHI, have a 1 game lead, but have a tough closing schedule of ORL/PHX/LAL/MIA/HOU/MIA. It'll be interesting to see if TJ Warren & Co keep this up, or if PHI is able to catch them given their easy remaining schedule. Either way, what the Pacers are doing without their All Star PF is pretty damn impressive.
For WSH, do you really care? Thomas Bryant's performance is really all you need to know about their night
They put up a good fight I suppose, but nobody expects this team to win so we can move on.
Memphis Grizzlies (32-36) 99 vs New Orleans Pelicans (29-38) 109
Remember all the talk coming out of MEM about how they were disrespected and blah blah blah? Well
They are winless in the bubble. They've now lost 4 regular season games in a row, their lead over POR/SA is down to just 2 games, and it very much looks like we are getting a play in game in the West. Great for us fans, not so great for the Grizzlies. You could tell this game meant a lot to them because they brought out the fire throwbacks, but not even those could save this team from a horrific offensive showing. Just 39/27% splits, Ja Morant went 5-21, and honestly if not for JJJ and Grayson Allen this would have been even worse
The Grizzlies were trailing pretty much the entire game, their largest lead was 1 point, there was only 2 lead changes and 1 tie, and if they don't turn this thing around quick I wouldn't rule out a situation where they are even out of the play in game! That may seem drastic, but you have to win. Looking at their remaining schedule of UTA/OKC/TOR/BOS/MIL it's going to be tough as hell.
For NO, they finally got a much needed win in the bubble and wouldn't you know it came on a night where Zion actually played! He had 25 minutes and was back to being his old unstoppable self
Brandon Ingram was right there with Zion with 24 of his own
and the most impressive part of this performance has to be the fact that the Pelicans actually played defense. That was the one thing that was ultimately going to decide their playoff fate, if they could actually stop a team. If you're telling me they are going to be competent on that end, I look at their schedule of SAC/WSH/SA/SAC/ORL and I'm not ready to declare them dead just yet. Especially if Zion is going to get real minutes consistently.
San Antonio Spurs (29-37) 130 vs Philadelphia 76ers (40-27) 132
A classic game where whoever lost is going to regret missing late game FTs. Both sides did it, but today its the Spurs that wake up with regret. Can't leave points on the board in the final 10 seconds to go up 3. Why? Well because then the opposing team can go down and hit a game winning three, which is exactly what happened. On the other side, the Sixers also missed late fourth quarter FTs, but they were bailed out and secured their first win of the bubble.
The Spurs are very much still alive in the chase for the play in, and if they get nights like this from Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan
who combined for 50, they have as good a chance as any. I have to say I was a bit surprised that their 43 point fourth quarter eruption, but it felt like they could get whatever they wanted against the Sixers defense, even Rudy Gay
but in the end, you have to make your FTs. It's why they are so important. They didn't, and the Basketball Gods made them pay.
For PHI, there are a couple ways to look at this. First, you love to see Shake Milton bounce back and be the hero after his brutal first game of the bubble. That's pretty important for what they want to do.
you then of course had your standard Embiid domination and Tobias Harris production
You also as a Sixers fan must feel relieved that they finally secured a bubble win. But if their goal is to meet BOS in the first round, you almost should have preferred Milton miss that jumper. A loss there pretty much would have guaranteed PHI stays in 6th given how well IND is playing. But now they still have a chance to pass IND and get into the 4/5 and face a MIA team that has given them fits this season. There is still a ton of basketball to be played of course, but the Sixers don't exactly have a tough remaining schedule. Kind of crazy that the excitement of a Milton game winner could end up costing them their preferred first round matchup. Now if IND never loses it's all a moot point, but something to keep an eye on for sure.
Los Angeles Lakers (51-15) 116 vs Utah Jazz (42-25) 108
Yeah that Anthony Davis fella is pretty good I'd say. He and LeBron combined for over half of the Lakers points, which is pretty much how things are going to go
When AD is making 4 3PM and going 12-15 from the line, there's not really much you can go. Where was the DPOY on that matchup? The Lakers bench gave them just enough, they pulled away in the third quarter and never looked back. Tough to beat this team if they shoot 50% from the floor and barely turn it over.
For UTA, they got tremendous guard play from Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley
They had 57 of the 108. The problem was the rest of the roster decided to not show up. Nobody had more than 7 points, Jordan Clarkson had a brutal 2-13 off the bench, and that's really too bad because their starting guards did their job and kept the Jazz in it, they just needed a third guy to actually produce.
Their lead over OKC is down to 0.5 games, they've lost 2 in a row and I would imagine this is going to be a tight finish for everyone in the 3-10 seeds. We know the Jazz will struggle to score, but when their defense also has issues that's when things get tough for them.
And that's it! You're now all caught up with everything that happened last night in the NBA. We're back with another 6 games today so you should know the drill by now. Have a great Tuesday!