February 3, 2021, 12:12 pm
Tuesday’s slate was heavier than usual and it didn’t disappoint. Highlighted by Fred VanVleet’s career game, we also saw a battle of juggernauts between the Nets and Clippers and ended the night on a competitive Warriors-Celtics matchup. Let’s break down the action.
The Raptors were able to beat the Magic on the back of Fred VanVleet, who scored a career-high 54 points on 17-of-23 shooting, hitting 11-for-14 from deep. FVV has been the best player on the Raptors this season and has shown he was worth every penny. Norman Powell has been heating up the past week, scoring at least 20 points in his fifth consecutive game while Chris Boucher remains in Coach Nick Nurse’s doghouse. Boucher presents a fine buy-low opportunity as he only needs minutes in the 20s to be a top-50 option. He played 19 last night and hasn’t topped the 20 minute mark since January 25th against the Pacers.
On the flip side, the Magic got solid contributions from Nikola Vucevic (21 points, 18 boards, four dimes and two triples) as always. Evan Fournier tied Vucevic with 21 points and Cole Anthony had another strong game with 16 points and seven dimes. If you listened to us and held onto him through his struggles, you’re being rewarded now. Point guards always take some time to adjust, look at Collin Sexton a few years ago. Anthony is figuring it out much quicker than I had expected.
Nicolas Batum (21 points, six boards, one steal and five triples) had his best game of the season and it’s going to become a trend that players will pop off against the Nets and their porous defense. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both did their usual damage, but it wasn’t enough in crunch time as they didn’t get enough from everyone else. Marcus Morris (16 points, four boards, one steal, one block, three triples) outscored the rest of the bench combined.
Kevin Durant had a quiet game and by that I mean he scored 28 points with nine boards, a block and a triple on 11-of-13 shooting. He didn’t record an assist or a steal, but also hit all five of his free throws. His comeback has been extraordinary. Kyrie Irving came to play against an elite Clippers team, dropping 39 points on 15-of-23 shooting with six triples and James Harden continues to churn out assists at a rate no one can match currently. The Beard logged 43 minutes, scored 23 points with 14 dimes and held his own on defense to help topple the No. 1 team in the NBA. Harden has had a funky few weeks since joining the Nets, but it’s always been his nature to be more of a playmaker than a scorer, contrary to popular belief. The Rockets always had him as their entire engine, but now that he’s on a team that doesn’t require him to be responsible for 80% of the team’s points, we’re seeing him slide more into his natural role which should lead to an increase in assists and efficiency but a dip in scoring (and by dip, it’ll be around the mid-20s in ppg).
Desmond Bane (16 points, five assists, three triples), De’Anthony Melton (12 points, six dimes, two blocks and a triple) and Tyus Jones (12 points, three dimes and two triples) is such an eciting trio of guards to watch and I highly suggest you tune into see the havoc they cause. Although the Grizzlies lost 116-134, it was mostly due to the starters being demolished, with the best plus-minus rating going to Kyle Anderson with a minus-19. The Grizzlies trio all had positive plus-minuses and it matched the eye test.
If the Grizzlies starters got destroyed, that meant the Pacers’ starters feasted. Every starter scored in double-digits with both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner recording double-doubles.
Dame Time is not an exaggeration as Lillard sent the Wizards home in the final minutes with his clutch play again. He ended the night with 32 points, eight dimes, a block and four triples while hitting all 10 of his free throws. Robert Covington (19 points, nine boards, a steal and five triples) showed signs of life while Gary Trent Jr. (26 points, three boards, three assists, two steals and seven triples) bounced back in a huge way. The Blazers are better off with Trent starting and Carmelo Anthony off the bench based on everything we’ve seen so far.
Bradley Beal seemed to quiet down trade rumors after their great win against the Nets, but the Wizards fell back to Earth against the Blazers. Beal had 37 points on 14-of-24 shooting while Russell Westbrook had a 17-12-10 triple-double. Davis Bertans came off the bench, logged 30 minutes and went 2-for-10 from deep, scoring six points and lowering his 3-point percentage to 31.6%. A lot has been said about his contract, but last season he was a 42.4% shooter from deep and hit 200 triples. He started the season hurt and the Wizards as a whole are a mess right now so it’s hard to calibrate expectations for this squad. Just look at how Joe Harris is thriving.
Kemba Walker (19 points, seven boards, five dimes and three triples) bounced back against the Dubs while the Celtics are finding a lot of success with Daniel Theis (eight points, 11 boards, one assist, one steal, one block and one triple) as their starting center. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are still getting their numbers as well and the Celtics clawed their way back from a big Steph Curry game to steal one from the Warriors.
Stephen Curry (38 points, 12-for-21 shooting with 11 boards, eight dimes, three steals and seven triples) had a hot start and kept the Celtics at bay for most of the game, but for the fourth time this season, he outscored the other four starters combined and the rest of the squad gave up the lead and the win. Curry is without a doubt an elite talent and there should be no questions around that. If you’ve seen a few Warriors games, you could tell that Kelly Oubre and Andrew Wiggins are far from the ideal fits to utilize Curry’s talents. With James Wiseman sidelined with an ankle injury, Kevon Looney started, but left after 13 minutes with an ankle injury of his own. The Warriors are playing without a true center and it showed tonight as Eric Paschall logged 14 minutes with zero boards. The Warriors are going to squeeze every ounce of juice they can get from Curry to make their playoff push.
Nemanja Bjelica (back spasms) is not listed on the injury report for Wednesday’s game against the Celtics.\
Head coach Steve Kerr said after Tuesday’s game that he expects Kevon Looney (left ankle sprain) to miss at least the “next couple of games” for the Warriors.
Austin Rivers (sore right ankle) is listed as probable on Wednesday vs. the Bulls.
Juancho Hernangómez (reconditioning) is questionable to face the Spurs on Wednesday.
Naz Reid (right wrist) has been listed as probable on Wednesday vs. the Spurs.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (left knee sprain) has been ruled out for Wednesday’s contest against the Rockets.
Nerlens Noel (sore left groin) is listed as probable on Wednesday vs. the Bulls.
Cam Payne (right foot sprain) is out on Wednesday vs. the Pelicans.
Abdel Nader (left ankle soreness) has been listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Pelicans.
Terry Rozier (ankle) is being listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia.
P.J. Washington (right foot sprain) has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game against the Sixers.
The Thunder announced on Tuesday that George Hill (thumb) had a minor procedure, and is expected to be reevaluated in four weeks.
John Wall (left Achilles, injury recovery) has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game against the Thunder.