Saturday, August 1:
2. Toronto Raptors (47-18) beat 1. Los Angeles Lakers (50-15) 107 – 92
Top Performance: Kyle Lowry, PG, TOR: 33 points, 14* rebounds, 6 assists (*career high)
💰TOR +2, 💰 u223
Lebron and AD seemed uncharacteristically limited by Toronto’s stifling defense, finishing with 20 and 14 points respectively. OG Anunoby had a very solid night, posting 23 points on 8/9 shooting and 4/4 from behind the arc, but the high performer was certainly Kyle Lowry. Lowry recorded 33 points, 6 assists, and a career high 14 rebounds in the commanding win over the leaders of the Western Conference, demanding some respect for the reigning champs.
4. Miami Heat (42-24) beat 3. Denver Nuggets (43-23) 125 – 105
Top Performance: Bam Adebayo, PF, MIA: 22 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists
💰 MIA -4, 💰 o215.5
An all-around underwhelming performance from the Denver Nuggets raises questions about the legitimacy of their current three seed. On the other hand, the Heat looked very strong, showcasing the strength of their deep rotation of shooters and their nonstop scoring abilities. Butler and Adebayo both led the team with 22 points, but other notable performances are Duncan Robinson’s 17 points with a team leading +28 plus/minus, and Kelly “the clinic” Olynyk’s 20 points on 8/11 shooting off the bench.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (41 – 24) beat 5. Utah Jazz (42 – 24) 110 – 94
Top Performance: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, SG, OKC: 19 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals
💰 OKC -1, 💰 u218.5
This win was a blowout from the get. The Thunder appear to be closing the gap quickly between them and the Jazz in the standings. They looked really solid on Saturday afternoon, demonstrating the strength of their team-basketball mentality. Out of the nine players that took the floor for OKC for longer than five minutes, six posted scores in the double digits. As for the Jazz, they looked miserable. They never found a scoring rhythm, and the absence of second-option Bojan Boganović appeared critical. After barely scraping out a win against the Pelicans, this convincing loss raises a lot of eyebrows.
2. LA Clippers (45-21) beat 11. New Orleans Pelicans (28 – 28) 126 – 103
Top Performance: Paul George, SF, LAC: 33 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals
💰 LAC -5, 💰 U232.5
This was kind of expected, sorry Pels fans. The main thing that struck me was, once again, the lack of Zion. With only 14 minutes played, seemingly everyone on New Orleans had more floor time than the superstar rook. Why is he still being restricted? Is he out of shape? Is he still injured? If the Pelicans want to actually make the playoffs, they’re going to need to start playing Zion more. On the other hand, the Clippers look scary despite the absence of Lemon Pepper Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Paul George was a flamethrower, shooting 8/11 from three and likely worrying a lot of Lakers fans. I would go as far to say they’re my new favorite to come out of the West once they get their bench back.
5. Indiana Pacers (40 – 26) beat 6. Philadelphia 76ers (39 – 27) 127 – 121
Top Performance: T.J. Warren, SF, IND: 53* points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks (*career high)
💰 IND+6, 💰 o216.5
The Sixers’ locker room woes seem to be surfacing again. Shake Milton played 19 minutes and only took one shot, prompting questions about his role in the starting lineup. Embiid was a beast, posting 41 points and 21 rebounds, but nobody could pull it together in the final minutes leading to an upsetting loss. As for the Pacers, they proved they are not willing to go down without a fight. TJ Warren proved the whole world wrong, dropping a career high 53 points on the Sixers’ head. He seemed unstoppable when given the green light, shooting 9/12 from three and 20/29 from the field. Could he be a serious threat in games to come, or was this just a fluke?
Sunday, August 2:
4. Houston Rockets (42 – 24) beat 1. Milwaukee Bucks (54 – 13) 120 – 116
Top Performance: Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF, MIL: 36 points, 18 rebounds, 8 assists
💰HOU+4.5, 💰 u244
As much as we might hate to admit it, Mike D’Antoni’s full commitment to small-ball seems to be working. The Rockets have fought up to the fourth seed in the West and now pose a threat to the Nuggets to sneak away with their three seed. As for the Bucks, they looked very beatable. Giannis was Giannis, so he still dropped 36 points, but outside of him and Khris Middleton (who scored 19 in the first half and then kind of turned off), the Bucks rotation players showed a lot of weakness when unable to hit the outside shot. This allowed the Rockets to focus even more on the inside drive leading to a whopping 15 steals and 22 total turnovers from Milwaukee. For the Rockets, Russ led the team with 31 points, demonstrating that even in a small lineup they can still penetrate the number one rated defense in the league and operate their offense as desired. This resulted in the Rockets putting up an NBA record-tying 61 three-point attempts.
8. Brooklyn Nets (31 -35) beat 9. Washington Wizards (24 – 42) 118 – 110
Top Performance: Caris LeVert, SG, BKN: 34 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists
💰BRK -4, 💰 u231
What is there to say about this game? Not much. The Wizards still lack a number one option without Bradley Beal, signifying further their inevitable fate of missing the playoffs as they continue to implode. The Nets don’t look great either, though, but Caris LeVert showed up and solidified his spot as the temporary number one guy in Brooklyn.
3. Boston Celtics (44 – 22) beat 9. Portland Trail Blazers (30 – 38) 128 – 124
Top Performance: Jayson Tatum, PF, BOS: 34 points, 4 rebounds, 8* assists, 2 steals (*career high)
💰BOS -4/POR +4, 💰 o228
Boston looks back on their game. Tatum took to high pre-hiatus form and Jaylen Brown posted 30 points demonstrating the potential of the young duo to take over games. Kemba was still on restricted minutes, but looked great when in the game, shooting 5/6 from the field and 2/2 from behind the arc. They went up early by 24, but fell asleep in the third quarter and allowed Dame and CJ to get hot, resulting in a worrying comeback from the Blazers. Fortunately, they were able to hold them off with clutch shooting down the stretch from JB, who posted 16 points in the fourth quarter alone.
10. San Antonio Spurs (29 – 36) beat 8. Memphis Grizzlies (32 – 35) 108 – 106
Top Performance: Dejounte Murray, PG, SAS: 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
💰SAS +3, 💰 U236
All-around competitive game with solid performances from the young Memphis core. Ja Morant led all scorers with 25 points (along with 9 rebounds and 9 assists), and his shooting big man Jaren Jackson Jr. posted 21 for himself. But it wasn’t enough to get past Pop and the Spurs, who are proving everyday that you should never bet against them to miss the playoffs. Dejounte Murray was their high scorer with 21, but it was their team-basketball approach (6/9 players with more than 5 minutes scored in the double digits) that won them the game in the end.
7. Orlando Magic (32 – 35) beat 12. Sacramento Kings (28 – 38) 132 – 116
Top Performance: Nikola Vucevic, C, ORL: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
💰ORL -1.5, 💰 o227.5
Absolute domination from start to finish on the court from the Orlando Magic. Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and Terrance Ross all scored 20+ in an effort that showed a lot of promise for the seventh seed in the East. If it’s this team that shows up in the playoffs, they could potentially steal a few games from the Raptors in the first round. The Kings on the other hand performed terribly, with no notable performances other than Harry Giles III, who dropped 23 on 9/11 shooting off the bench. Prayers up for Jonathon Isaac who suffered a torn ACL.
13. Phoenix Suns (28 – 39) beat 7. Dallas Mavericks (40 – 29) 117 – 115
Top Performance: Luka Doncic, PG, DAL: 40 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists
💰PHX +6, 💰 u235.5
Aside from Luka (40 points) and Kristaps (30 points), the Mavs neglected to show up to this game that was supposed to be an easy win. They were out-efforted by the Suns after a promising start, as Booker and Rubio combined for 50 points despite being in foul trouble. While the Mavs have secured their playoff spot, if they want to go further than the first round, they’ll have to move up to the six seed (currently occupied by the 41 – 25 OKC Thunder), which is going to require some much stronger performances than this.
Monday, August 3:
2. Toronto Raptors (48 – 18) beat 4. Miami Heat (42 – 25) 107 – 103
Top Performance: Fred VanVleet, PG, TOR: 36 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists
💰TOR -3, 💰 u221
The Raptors are heating up! They’ve now won their past two matchups in the bubble against two very competitive teams, and are solidifying their position as the two seed in the East. Close game throughout, but Toronto’s stifling defense proved superior once again as they limited the Heat’s outside game significantly. The Heat looked solid, though, demonstrating their ability to adapt on the fly and keep the game close, but ultimately the outstanding performance of Fred VanFleet helped lift the Raptors to another dub.
3. Denver Nuggets (44 – 23) beat 6. Oklahoma City Thunder (41 – 25) 121 – 113 OT
Top Performance: Michael Porter Jr., PF, DEN: 37 points, 12 rebounds
💰DEN +5.5, 💰 o219.5
MPJ showcased impressive potential as he led the Nuggets to a formidable win over the Thunder. He shot 12/16 from the field and 4/6 from deep, demonstrating that he is the real deal. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, he is yet to showcase this potential at a consistent level, but these results are promising. The Thunder should be upset with this loss as they were the favorites. The absence of sixth-man Dennis Schroder proved critical, as they severely lacked scoring off the bench, but 20+ point performances from Chris Paul, SGA, and Danilo Gallinari exhibited the high potential of their starters.
5. Indiana Pacers (41 – 26) beat 9. Washington Wizards (24 – 43) 111 – 100
Top Performance: TJ Warren, SF, IND: 34 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 4 blocks
💰IND -8.5, 💰 u227.5
This went about as expected. The Wizards continue to spiral downwards without a consistent number one option, while the Pacers look more and more confident in offseason pickup TJ Warren. Warren had another outstanding night, scoring 34 despite shooting 1/6 from behind the arc. As he continues to be hot, the Pacers look more and more threatening of a potential first round upset.
11. New Orleans Pelicans (29 – 38) beat 8. Memphis Grizzlies (32 – 36) 109 – 99
Top Performance: Brandon Ingram, PF, NOP: 24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
💰NOP -4.5, 💰 u236
Zion finally took the floor for significant minutes, helping the Pelicans to a much-needed first win in the bubble. In 25 minutes played (still the least of all starters), Zion scored 23 points on an alarming 9/21 from the field. Nevertheless, Brandon Ingram helped boost the Pels over the hump with 24 points on 8/16 shooting. They shut down Ja Morant, limiting him to 11 points, which proved critical in this potential Western Conference play-in matchup.
6. Philadelphia 76ers (40 – 27) beat 10. San Antonio Spurs (29 – 37) 132 – 130
Top Performance: Joel Embiid, C, PHI: 27 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists
💰SAS +7.5, 💰 o227.5
The Sixers snuck out a much-needed win against the Spurs thanks to a clutch three from Shake Milton with 10 seconds remaining. While the win was important, it came against the 10th seeded Spurs who played Philly hard all night. The Sixers showed a lot of weakness. They couldn’t stop DeRozan, who scored 30 points on 11/20 shooting, doing what he pleased throughout the game. But behind a combined 52 points from Embiid and Tobias Harris, Philly was able to come out on top in the end.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (51 – 15) beat 5. Utah Jazz (42 – 25) 116 – 108
Top Performance: Anthony Davis, PF, LAL: 42 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
💰LAL -6, 💰 o217
Another poor performance from LeBron (in LeBron standards) raised a lot of eyebrows in this win. He was limited to 22 points as the Jazz kept it close for most of the game with motivating performances by Donovan Mitchell (33 points) and Mike Conley (24 points). Fortunately for the struggling Lakers, Anthony Davis showed once again he’s one of the best players in the world, scoring 42 points and hitting multiple clutch shots down the stretch to put LA up late. Though this win was a battle, Lakers fans should rejoice as it secured them the number one seed for the first time since the 2009-10 season.