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Last Night In The NBA: The Contenders Are Starting To Separate Themselves

Cleveland Cavaliers v Portland Trail Blazers

Happy Friday everybody and welcome to another edition of Last Night In The NBA where we catch you up on everything that went down from the night before in the Association. We had a total of 9 games last night, and while you perhaps spent the night watching college basketball, some pretty cool shit happened at the next level. We have a couple teams continuing their long ass winning streaks, some teams got must needed wins, even the games between tanking teams provided actual entertainment. All in all it was another solid night of basketball as we sprint towards the finish. If you didn’t see it that’s OK, here’s what happened

Raptors (51-17) 106 vs Pacers (40-29) 99

Heading into this game, it wouldn’t have been crazy to think the Pacers were going to be the ones to snap TOR’s winning streak. They have been playing well as of late, were at home where they were 23-12 and had some pretty legit wins in their last few games. Sadly, TOR has no intention of ever losing a basketball game again, and last night showed why.

TOR didn’t even play well, they had 43/37% splits and turned the ball over 19 times. Their stellar bench was relatively quiet, finishing with just 36 points. That number is good for most teams, but with TOR their bench usually is around the 50 mark. Kyle Lowry shot 3-10 and JV 5-14. This was a game they should have lost, and yet a big fourth quarter kept their streak alive.

Oh and DeRozan was pretty good

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Don’t look now, but TOR is extremely close to having the same record as the Golden State Warriors. Read that sentence again. They’ve now tied BOS for the most road wins in the East with 23, to go along with their stupid 28-5 record. The Raptors are showing they are legit, winning 10 in a row is no joke, but for me all this is doing is putting more pressure on them come playoffs. If this team doesn’t make it out of the East, or at the very least make the ECF, I don’t ever want to hear TOR fans talk about how legit or different they are. Those are the rules.

For IND, it hurts a little when two of your starters combine to go 3-17, but their bench more than made up for it. A tough loss considering they only turned the ball over 8 times, I did enjoy the vintage 20/12 from Big Al

and Oladipo continued his steal streak to 52 games which is quite ridiculous. The good news is CLE also lost so IND still owns the 3 spot in the East with a 0.5 game lead, but their immediate schedule is no joke. They go WSH/LAL/NO/LAC/MIA/GS to close out the month, so we’re about to see how for real this team is.

Hornets (30-39) 129 vs Hawks (20-49) 117

Even tanking games can be entertaining, it’s true! Dwight Howard was pretty motivated to play his old team, and it showed. He finished with another 33/12 on 13-20 shooting in his 32 minutes

Kemba did his thing with 24/8, and Nic Batum came out of nowhere for a rather ridiculous looking triple double (for him) of 10/10/16

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Not that it matters but CHA has now swept the season series and considering they are in NBA purgatory this win doesn’t really help or hurt them. They just exist. Terrible place to be in my opinion.

For ATL, they know what’s up. They know they have no business winning a game for the rest of the year. There isn’t much to be excited about with this team, but ATL fans let me tell you, be excited about John Collins. He’s going to be really good

Oh and Dennis Schroder shut the fuck up. Of course Dwight Howard doesn’t try all the time. That’s why he’s Dwight Howard. You aren’t exactly breaking news, you just sound salty.

Sixers (37-30) 118 vs Knicks (24-45) 110

The Sixers even at this point of the season are confusing to me. Who exactly are they? They love to play .500 basketball as of late, unlike other teams in their conference we’re still waiting for their big time run. The thing is, they have games like this every once in a while where they look really fucking good. As always, it starts with their basketball aliens, were were lights out. Embiid with a nice 29/10/4 and Simmons another triple double with 13/10/12

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Add in the fact that Dario Saric has been playing out of his mind for about a month and had another 21 last night

If this is the version of PHI that shows up in a playoff series, they are absolutely an extremely dangerous 6 seed. But that’s the thing, to me this team should be higher than that. It’s hard to complain because they’ve had this type of success with such young talent, but I’m not sure they catch WSH/CLE. It does look like they’ve separated themselves from MIL/MIA so maybe this is where they finish, but as a Sixers fan it has to be a little worrisome about what Sixers team you’re going to get. If it’s this one, they should absolutely win a round at a minimum.

For NYK, look the season is almost over, the pain is almost over, so spend the remaining time at least watching Michael Beasley dominate fools

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Rockets (54-14) 101 vs Clippers (37-30) 96

A close call for HOU at home, but just like that they’ve won 3 in a row and increased their lead over GS to 2 full games. As you can expect these teams pretty much hate each other, and Harden made sure to let his feelings towards Rivers known

Much like TOR, it’s not really fair that HOU can have 38/29% splits, have only 1 quarter of 30+ points, CP3 go 3-13 and it not make a difference. Guys like Capela stepped up for sure with 19/12

and Eric Gordon did his thing off the bench with 23/6 including 7 3PM, which just goes to show you how hard it is to kill this beast of a team. Also, you think James Harden wants it this season?

For LAC, they came close, you have to credit them with that. Unfortunately, tie breakers are a motherfucker and they are now on the outside looking in. Imagine being 7-3 over your last 10, but then losing 1 game to HOU and all the sudden you’re in the lottery and not the high lottery? Woof. Tobias Harris led the way with 29, and he’s been someone who has flourished after this trade

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and you combine his recent play with that of Austin Rivers, and they are the main reasons why LAC is even in playoff contention

Can they sneak in? Well they have OKC/POR/MIN/MIL/IND/TOR/MIL/PHX/POR to close out this month, so things could get real ugly for them real fast.

Bulls (24-44) 111 vs Grizzlies (18-50) 110

I’m telling you even tanking games can be entertaining! It’s always fun to see two teams see who can refuse to win harder, and I have to commend MEM on their dedication. 19 losses in a row, wow, incredible. The Bulls pulled it out despite their best effort to blow it by giving up 35 points in the fourth quarter, and even with only 2 starters in double figures, it wasn’t enough.

This game had an insane 19 lead changes and 15 ties, and CHI can thank their bench for screwing things up

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For MEM, I used to hate them. Their lack of respect for basketball was awful to watch, but now that they’re on the brink of 20 losses in a row I am ALL IN. I want to see some history, I want to see them lose every game from here on out. Who cares? They almost fucked it up with Tyreke Evans and Marc Gasol playing in this game

They need to cut that shit out. Now is not the time to try and win a game after you’ve spent all season doing the exact opposite. Let’s get nuts and end the season on an 0-fer run.

Spurs (39-30) 98 vs Pelicans (39-29) 93

Juuuuuust when you thought maybe the Spurs were dead, not so fast. They’ve won 2 in a row and are back in the playoffs in an 8 spot. Making them perhaps the scariest 8 seed in the history of 8 seeds if this holds and Kawhi comes back. Until that happens it’s on other guys to step up, and that’s what Dejounte Murray did last night with his 18/12/4 performance

To be honest the Spurs sort of stunk, shooing just 37/26% and only three guys finishing in double figures. Murray was solid, and LMA carried most of the weight with his 25/7 on 11-27 performance. I will say it was impressive to see Danny Green finish with 6 blocks, you don’t see that everyday

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For NO, they need to be careful here. Much like LAC, they’re 7-3 over their last 10, lost a game and now find themselves in the 6 spot. Here’s why it’s OK in my opinion though. NO is 21-15 on the road this season, that’s the third most wins on the road in the entire conference. Them snagging homecourt really isn’t that important, they’ve proven they can win anywhere. Now they can’t get too crazy and start dropping games because UTA/LAC/DEN are right behind them, separated by just 1.5 games, but I think they’ll stay in and be a tough out for whoever they play in the first round.

More importantly, RIPIP to their owner Tom Benson, who passed away at age 90

Nuggets (38-31) 120 vs Pistons (30-38) 113

I really want DEN to find a way into the playoffs, mostly because they are such a fun team to watch at home. Last night was a prime example of that as their main guys put on a show

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50/42% splits, 12 3PM, 28 FTA and 120 points in regulation is something that happens pretty often in the Pepsi Center, and given they’ve shown they can run with the elite in the conference at times, watching playoff games in that building would be fun as hell. They had three straight quarters of 32+ points, but things are going to have to really break their way if they want to get in. Playing 5-5 basketball over their last 10 probably won’t cut it.

For DET, Blake played well in the game before his birthday finishing with 26/6/9, but we already know he’s good. Same thing with Drummond and his 12/17. Impressive, but not a surprise. The surprise came from someone named Dwight Buycks, who had himself a career night of 22/4 on 8-15 shooting

DET is now 2-8 over their last 10, and much like NYK they’re just counting down the days until the season is over. Pretty sad given how they started.

Jazz (39-30) 116 vs Suns (18-51) 88

20 of 22!! Go Jazz Go! Another 8 in a row for UTA they are absolutely balling right now. Did you know the Jazz have the third best point differential in the entire conference? They are one of only two teams to be currently holding teams to under 100 points. It’s them and SA. That’s it, that’s the list. Donovan Mitchell is obviously a big part of this run and he was again great last night

but that’s not even the best part. First there was the “fight”

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which Jared Dudley went on to explain

Poor Ricky Rubio man. He just had Jeff Tegaue body check him into the first row not too long ago, and now this. Why does everybody pick on Rubio? Is he that annoying? Either way I give this “fight” a good 6.7/10 on the NBA scale. It was also a big night for Jazz fans because Dante Exum made his return after being out all year. Love that

Oh and Joe Ingles is most definitely underrated. Guy has been playing some fantastic basketball during this amazing stretch

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And now that he’s healthy, the same could be said for Gobert

For PHX, don’t worry about it, there’s nothing worth showing. Trust me.

Trail Blazers (42-26) 113 vs Cavaliers (39-29) 105

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start taking the Blazers seriously. 11 wins in a row, sitting comfortably in the 3 seed in the West, this team may not be on the level of HOU/GS but they are in no way a pretender. What we’re seeing is legit, and it’s going to be a problem for someone in the playoffs

They’re now 24-11 at home this season and have a full 2 game lead over OKC which I can’t see them giving up based on how they look. Dame is at another level, they’re defending, and some might say they’re peaking at the right time. If they take care of the ball like they did last night (7 TOs), then watch out.

For CLE, Coley broke down the night of Lebron late last night, so I’ll show you what it looked like on the court in addition to that dunk

Can’t lie, pretty impressive stuff, but at the end of the day his team lost and the Cavs still find themselves in the 4 spot, with a legit threat of dropping out of the top 4. Things aren’t so peachy in CLE now are they? They’re dealing with injuries just like everyone else at this time of year, and that’s not really an excuse. CLE’s defense is still a BIG TIME problem, here are their points allowed recently: 110, 129, 108, 126, 90, 108, 116, 127, 107, 113. That stinks and it stinks bad. Now add in the fact that Lebron is yelling at his coach and all that positivity we saw a month ago is gone.

Maybe things will get better when Nance/Love/Thompson get back, but I don’t see how that changes their defense. It stunk even with those guys. I know that when you have Lebron that’s all that matters, but how can a CLE fan feel confident watching them right now? Even if they end up making the finals, are you watching Lebron thinking he’s buying into this team? No fucking chance.

And that’s it! You’re now all caught up on everything that happened last night in the NBA. We’re back at it tonight with 6 more games including BOS/ORL, LAC/OKC, and MIA/LAL. Go enjoy your Friday night and I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow morning.