It was Bizarro World in the NBA yesterday. Six out of six underdogs covered, and five out of six won their games (the only exception being the Kings, who lost in OT). Truly a bettor’s worst nightmare (or wildest dream, if you’re one to bet on the dogs). Either way, everything was backwards and it made for some bustling basketball.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (31 – 38) beat 4. Houston Rockets (42 – 25) 110 – 102
Top Performance: Damian Lillard, PG, POR: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals
💰POR +3.5, 💰 u243.5
To close out the night, Portland, the largest team in the league, took on Houston, the smallest, in a battle of size. Portland ended up sneaking out an upset, with Melo hitting a clutch three to seal the game in the final seconds. Dame and CJ were their usual selves, lighting it up from deep, but the Rockets defense kept the game surprisingly low scoring by limiting Nurkic. Both Harden and Westbrook found themselves in foul trouble, ending the game with 5 personal fouls each, but I couldn’t help question the fact that Harden had all five of his by the third quarter. In the end, it was their personal fouls and rebounding (39 compared to Portland’s 64) that lost Houston this matchup. As a result, the Blazers look in a prime position to face the Grizzlies in the play-in tournament, but there are still plenty of games left and anything can happen.
8. Brooklyn Nets (32 – 35) beat 1. Milwaukee Bucks (54 – 14) 119 – 116
Top Performance: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, SG, BKN: 26 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist
💰BKN +18.5, 💰 o231.5
What in the hell? This game was absurd. The Brooklyn Nets, the 18.5 point underdogs, upset the reigning MVP and the league-leading team… whaaat?? This is what I mean by Bizarro World. To be fair, it really seemed like the Bucks didn’t care about this game. Giannis got into some beef with Donta Hall after he shoved him in a box out, then proceeded to sit the entire second half along with fellow All-Star Khris Middleton. Nobody in their right mind would’ve picked the Nets to win this game, but hey, in this perfect storm of crazy events anything could happen. And it really did. Props to Luwawu-Cabarrot, who stepped up while LeVert sat, scoring 26 points on 8/12 shooting and 5/7 from deep.
7. Dallas Mavericks (41 – 29) beat 13. Sacramento Kings (28 – 39) 114 – 110 OT
Top Performance: Luka Doncic, PG, DAL: 34 points, 20 rebounds, 12 assists, 2 blocks
💰SAC +5.5, 💰 u236.5
This was a good win for Dallas. They went down early and trailed for most of the game against a team they should’ve easily beaten. But they stayed strong and executed when it mattered most, leading to a scrappy, yet impressive comeback win. Luka manifested a triple double (with 20 rebounds!) out of thin air, and Porzingis and Hardaway dropped 22 points each. De’Aaron Fox led all Kings with 28 points, but a hordenous outing from Bogdan Bogdanovic (3 points on 1/15 shooting) hindered Sacramento from completing the upset.
12. Phoenix Suns (29 – 39) beat 2. LA Clippers (45 – 22) 117 – 115
Top Performance: Devin Booker, SG, PHX: 35 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists
💰PHX +8.5, 💰 o230.5
Are the Suns good now? Bizarro World. With this surprising upset, Phoenix is now 3-0 in the bubble and has moved up to the 12 seed, only 1.5 games behind the ninth-seeded Trail Blazers. Could they be making a last minute push for the playoffs? The bottom of the West is extremely volatile, and if a few games go their way, it could happen. This win was big for them, though. Paul George struggled from behind the arc, shooting 1/7, and the Suns took advantage of this and forced him to score inside. Booker had a huge night. He led all scorers with 35 points and hit a spectacular buzzer-beater (over PG of all people, ha) to seal the game. Anything can happen in the bubble.
5. Indiana Pacers (42 – 26) beat 7. Orlando Magic (32 – 36) 120 – 109
Top Performance: TJ Warren, SF, IND: 32 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
💰IND +1.5, 💰 o225.5
Holy hell TJ Warren cannot miss. Once again, he torched an unsuspecting team with a barrage of threes and opened up a lead early. He shot 6/6 from the field and 3/3 from deep in the first quarter alone, then proceeded to cool off once the Pacers had all but secured their dub. The Magic tried their best. Nikola Vucevic led them with 24 points and 10 rebounds, but in the end it wasn’t enough for Indiana’s flamethrower. After being outscored 43 – 22 in the first quarter, there was no chance Orlando could mount a comeback.
4. Miami Heat (43 – 25) beat 3. Boston Celtics (44 – 23) 112 – 106
Top Performance: Bam Adebayo, C, MIA: 21 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists
💰MIA +5, 💰 o/u218
As a Boston fan, this game was one of my least favorite to watch in a while. I’ll give credit where credit is due, the Heat played really well, even without their leading scorer Jimmy Butler. They exposed Boston’s recent defensive weaknesses, lighting up the C’s from deep on a plethora of open shots they should’ve never been given. Despite the score being close, Boston looked like they were being outplayed almost the entire game. Though the Celtics offense seemed to be working, they couldn’t hit shots when they were open and struggled with turnovers at the end of the game. All of this I can live with. What was painful to watch was the officiating. I don’t think there was a stretch of more than four possessions without some soft whistle halting everything. And on top of that, it seemed that most of the calls went towards the Heat. Marcus Smart managed to foul out in the third quarter with only 16 minutes played, then Tatum found himself with 5 personal fouls early as well. Gordon Hayward got a technical for arguing a horrendous call (only his third technical in his entire career) and Tatum got one for talking to himself under his breath. Every time the Celtics went on a run, it seemed their momentum would come screeching to a stop on another soft whistle. Again, the Heat were the better team and they deserved the win, but goddamn if I wasn’t fuming the whole time watching.