Denver Nuggets vs San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio Spurs 

The Spurs are in a tough position now, after a tough loss to the Denver Nuggets. It was a close game for the entire four quarters, and San Antonio did a good job of not letting Denver get a big edge. Down the stretch, it was hard for the Spurs to keep up with Denver, and they fell late game.

Takeaways

Derrick White is on another level.

Without the Spurs second leading scorer, the team has turned their heads to Derrick White. White scored above 20 points again, and had a productive night from beyond the arc. This season, he is averaging just 11 points. In each of the games in the bubble, he has beat that. White dropped 26 on the Nuggets, and was 6-15 from the field. He has helped San Antonio get into close contests, and keep them in the game. With this performance, it will definitely be a plus to have down the stretch. Putting up 125+ points a game will win San Antonio more games than they expected, and D-White will be a part of it.

The Spurs need to find a way to close out games. 

In the last couple of games, San Antonio has not been able to squeeze out much needed victories. They fell to the 76ers in a game winning 3 by Shake Milton, and gave the game to Denver because of terrible defense. San Antonio had the lead for most of this game, but they allowed too many easy buckets, and sloppy defense accounted for it. Because the Spurs are one of the teams fighting for the eight seed, they must be able to play clutch ball down the stretch.

Up Next

Next up for the Spurs are the Utah Jazz. The bench for San Antonio scored a season-high 70 points, and it’s important that they play well again. Utah is coming off of a win against the Grizzlies, and Mike Conley is making a lot of noise. This game is a must win for San Antonio. 

Denver Nuggets

After an exciting OT thriller against the OKC Thunder, the Nuggets went on to face the San Antonio Spurs. Michael Porter Jr scored a career high against Oklahoma City, and he had a great performance against the Spurs as well. The offense was clicking, and so was the clutch defense.

Takeaways

Michael Porter Jr continues his dominance in the bubble.

After dropping 37 points on the Thunder, MPJ was back for more. He gave the Spurs all he had, and made Derrick White look very bad on defense. He shot over 50% from the 3 point line, and was 11-19 from the field. He finished with 30 points, and dropped a double-double, grabbing 15 boards. His stats are crazy to look at, but down the stretch, he came in clutch for Denver. As the Spurs eased back in, Porter Jr made sure that they didn’t get too close. He drove in for easy layups, and made San Antonio pay. 

The offense finally found a rhythm.

An important factor in this win was the offense. Denver scored 132 points, and had 3 players score over 20. A 43 point fourth quarter gave the Nuggets a major boost in getting this win, and their offense was generating as efficiently as it ever has. Jerami Grant had 18 points, helping the effort in that huge fourth quarter.  Statistically, it also looked very well. Denver was 50-91 from the field, and 18-21 from the free throw line. Denver did this all without Jamal Murray, or Gary Harris. In the playoffs, if they face a team like Dallas or Houston, this offense will be vital. 

Up Next

Next up for Denver come the Portland Trail Blazers. The key for this game is to keep the offense going. Jamal Murray is listed as questionable, but regardless of if he does play or not, the offense needs to pick up right where it left off.

Final Score: DEN 132, SAS 126

Orlando Magic vs Toronto Raptors

Orlando Magic

After getting off to a hot start, the Magic have cooled down and it hasn’t looked good. There have been some pluses, but injuries and slow offense have set this team back after game 2. In their fourth game, Orlando went up against the Toronto Raptors. The Magic will likely be playing the Raps with the seven seed, so they got an early taste of what to expect. 

Takeaways

First and Second half were two completely different stories. 

The Magic ended up losing by ten points, and the main reason was because of the first half. Orlando managed to score just 35 points in two quarters, which ultimately gave Toronto a double digit lead at half. In the second half, the Magic scored 64 points, almost doubling what they scored in the first two quarters. Ironically, they outscored the Raptors by ten in the second half, and lost by ten. This offense is going back to its old ways, as it has been the focal point this entire season. The highest scorer for Orlando was Evan Fournier, who finished with just 15 points. To keep up with a team like Toronto, they need to be firing on all cylinders. 

The defense played pretty well.

In the recent games, the Raptors have been clicking on offense. The Magic did keep them under 110 points, and made sure that they didn’t let anyone catch fire. If the offense played better, this game may have been a little more competitive. Fred Vanvleet was the leading scorer for Toronto, and he had just 21 points. They held Kyle Lowry to eight points, making him give up the ball when he wanted a shot. Orlando had 8 steals, and scored only 11 points off turnovers. The defense played well without Jonathan Issac, but just couldn’t fuel good defense to good offense.

Up Next

Next up for the Magic are the Philadelphia 76ers. Aaron Gordon is listed as doubtful for this game, so Orlando will really need to step it up on both ends of the floor.

Toronto Raptors 

After a 3-0 start to the restart all of a sudden the defending champions are getting attention again. Unfortunately for everyone in the Raptors way they keep bringing the underdog energy and are hungry for more.

Takeaways 

VanVleet cannot be stopped 

Fred had another big game vs the Orlando Magic with 21 points and 10 assists in the win. He led the team in points and once again is just playing at a high level at the right time. He was 8-13 from the field and 2-5 from beyond the arc. Once again it raises the question on whether anyone can stop VanVleet, and at this point for me the answer is just no. He consistently gets to the basket and makes it hard for anyone to guard him. He deserves a big pay day at the end of this year. 

OG and Gasol

The Raptors have different guys stepping up and having good nights over and over again. Today some great performances from these two players and I like to single out Gasol specifically. Gasol held Nikola Vucevic down to 12 points which is well below his season average. He also had 13 points of his own and had a great night. OG is a player that we have been watching closely after superstar potential games from him. Today was not a superstar night, but still had a good day with 12 points and 5 assists. 

Up Next

The Raptors take on the Celtics on Friday at 8 PM.

Final Score: ORL 99, TOR 109

Utah Jazz vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Utah Jazz 

After close games against the OKC Thunder and L.A Lakers, the Jazz are just looking for a win. Against a Grizzlies team that is winless in the bubble, the Jazz took advantage of great team play and tight defense to squeeze out the win. 

Takeaways 

Great group effort 

The Utah Jazz relied way too much on Donovan Mitchell against the Lakers. Against the Grizzlies, the Jazz had 6 players score in double digits. This takes the burden of Mitchell, and on too the team as a whole. Joe Ingles had 25 points and Mike Conley had 23 points, both leading the team in scoring. Both of these role players stepped up in a big way, and showed everyone that they can still produce points. This is a great sign for the Utah Jazz, because they can rely on their role players when either Gobert or Mitchell isn’t hitting their shots. 

Where able to come back from a deficit 

The Memphis Grizzlies pulled to a 13 point lead within the first half. The Jazz were able to pull back within striking distance, and even build their own lead of 11 points. This was due to big plays by Joe Ingle and great defense from the team as a whole. The Jazz were able to rely on alternate scoring options such as Jordan Clarkson, 14 points, or Mike Conley when their stars were on the bench. The ability to come back from a deficit from a talented team such as the Grizzlies, shows the resilience and talent of the Jazz. 

Up Next 

The Jazz are going to be playing the San Antonio Spurs next in the bubble. While the Jazz should be able to beat the Spurs, they need to be ready for anything that Popovich can pull. 

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies have lost three straight and their lead on everyone else fighting for the playoffs has suddenly disappeared. Can they get in rhythm and get a win?

Takeaways 

Stepping Up 

As soon as Memphis heard the news that Jaren Jackson Jr. would be out for the whole season, they knew someone was going to have to step up. The biggest question is who that would be. This game wasn’t just one person; it was multiple, 4 Grizzlies had  20 plus points in this game. Grayson Allen’s 20 would be his career-high, he had 6 buckets from beyond the arc. Jonas Valanciunas had 21, Ja had 20, and Dillon Brooks had 23. Brooks had struggled in previous games, especially with his shot selection. Today was an improvement for him, but still has a lot of work to do. 

3 Ball 

Memphis is a very good team when they can hit shots from beyond the arc, it is one of the biggest reasons for their struggles in the bubble. This game we finally saw the Grizzlies hit some threes with a total of 11. The biggest problem here is 6 of them came from Grayson Allen who has been heating up, but the rest of the team still has their struggles. Allen has been a 66% 3 point shooter in the bubble going 14-21 from beyond the arc. He could be the weapon they need to get some much needed 3 balls. 

Up Next 

The Grizzlies last  4 games come against winning teams, they are going to have to figure something out soon. They take on the Thunder next at 3 PM on Friday. 

Final Score: MEM 115, UTA 124

OKC Thunder vs L.A Lakers

L.A Lakers 

The Lakers have already clinched the one seed, now they just playing some games and getting ready for the playoffs. 

Takeaways 

Beyond the Arc

The Lakers are another team in the bubble that are just struggling to shoot well from beyond the arc. Danny Green has been one of the bigger 3 point shooters for LA, and he finally got 2 to go down against OKC. In the previous two games, Danny made 0 from 3. If he is able to get going again it would be some huge points for LA. The Lakers shot 13.5% from beyond the arc against the Thunder and they look to correct it before the playoffs. 

Dion Waiters 

Dion was looking to be a part of the Lakers rotation as a player that just got signed before the restart. It looks like he will be there for the long haul for the Lakers as he continues to put up points and solid minutes in each game. He put up 14 tonight and it was a solid performance  from a bench player. Minutes like this could lead to Dion getting some more minutes and if he played like he did tonight it could be worth it. 

Up Next 

The Lakers take on the Houston Rockets on Thursday at 8 PM. 

OKC Thunder 

Will the dark horse Thunder keep their momentum into a win over the number one Lakers?

Takeaways 

Team Basketball 

I cannot stress how important it is for the teams with less superstars to have multiple players step up. OKC is one of the teams where you can see exactly what I am taking about. All of their starters were in double digits in this game, because they spread the ball. They give each other chances, and that is super important in order to make a run. The top scorer for OKC was Chris Paul who had 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists in the win. OKC is ready and they have shown in the past few games they have a strong team. 

Steven Adams 

Adams has been an important part of the OKC runs and quite honestly he is just very tough to guard. Steven can move very well and make tough shots over his defenders especially around the basket. During the game though, Adams left the game after a tough layup over JaVale McGee and would eventually exit the game. While Thunder fans might be worried, there is so much reason to be as Adams said he is fine and should play in the next game. 

Up Next 

OKC looks to stay in the West seeding race while they take on the Grizzlies on Friday at 3 PM. 

Final Score: OKC 105, LAL 86

Final Score: OKC 105, LAL 86

Boston Celtics vs Brooklyn Nets

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics are coming off a tough loss against the Miami Heat, and were looking for something to get them going. With Kemba Walker resting, the Celtics were trying to take any easy dub without getting into a close call. 

Takeaways 

Offensive Explosion 

The Boston Celtics scored the most points as a team since 1992 with a 149 point game. Every Celtics starter scored in double digits as well as two players off the bench. Jaylen Brown led the team in scoring with 21 points, and the Celtics cruised to easy victory over the Nets. while the Nets might not be a great team or have an awesome defense, the feat of 149 points is nothing to laugh at. With another great game from Jayson Tatum, the Celtics should be able to breathe easy knowing that the five point game was just a one time thing. While this game would have provided a nice time to get Kemba Walker back into the starting lineup, the Celtics will be happy with the rest day that allowed Walker to get back to 100%. This game should just be seen as an easy bounce back game, and no one will expect a repeat of this game tomorrow. 

Locked down the Nets stars

The Brooklyn Nets have lost a couple of stars to opt-out decisions, and when they headed to the bubble the only hope Nets had was with Jarret Allen and Caris Levert. Both players have played quite well in the bubble, but the Celtics were able to limit the damage of the Nets stars. Levert and Allen combined for a measly 24 points. The Celtics are a very good defensive team, and after the disappointing game against the Heat they should be glad to put their defense back on track. 

Up Next 

The Celtics next game is against the second seed Toronto Raptors. The Raptors have played out of their mind in games against the Lakers and Heat, and the Celtics will need to be locked in if they wanna come out with a win. 

Brooklyn Nets 

The Nets are the team with a different team heading into the restart, after back to back wins they look like a decent team.

Takeaways 

Caris LeVert

Caris was out in the last game vs the Bucks due to an injury, today he returned and struggled through the game. This is definitely something to watch for because if Caris is going to be struggling this team will not be ready for the playoffs. LeVert may get away with this one because he is coming off an injury, but another game like this causes worry. It definitely is someone the Nets need in order to win and it showed in this game. 

Sloppy play

The Nets had plenty of opportunities to get going, but all of the sudden the game was blown open. The Nets had sloppy play with constant turnovers and not enough ball movement. Lack of effort on the defensive side was another problem for Brooklyn and clearly they  need to fix that before the next game. It was frustrating for all Nets fans as this was not a good enough performance for them

Up Next

The Nets take on the Kings on Friday at 8 PM. 

Final Score: BKN 115, BOS 149

Wizards vs 76ers

Washington Wizards 

After a couple of close games against superior opponents, the Washington Wizards have been making their games interesting. Playing against the 76ers was no different, as late pushes helped seal the deal for Philly. 

Takeaways 

Couldn’t stop Embiid 

When Ben Simmons exited the game with an apparent injury, the Sixers were waiting for Joel Embiid to step up. Embiid ended the game with 31 points and 11 rebounds, as the Sixers completely dominated the Wizards down low. The Wizards group of young centers and power forwards couldn’t do much against Embiid. This experience against a premier center such as Embiid should prove vital for both Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant, who should both be learning from the things that Embiid was doing. For the team as a whole the ease that Embiid was able to attack the hole should not be unexpected, and if Bryant and Hachimura can gain anything from playing against Embiid then the Wizards should take one positive from this game. 

Getting consistent performances from Bryant and Brown 

The Wizards have been giving their young frontcourt more opportunities in the bubble then they had ever gotten. Both Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. have been scoring in double digits for the past games in the bubble. They have been playing really well down low, and making the most of their opportunity. While they might not be playing the best defense down low, this could be due to the Wizards horrible defense. The development of both of these players is very encouraging for a team that lacked offensive options outside of Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans.

Up Next 

The Wizards will be playing the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, and should expect the same result as the Sixers game. If the Wizards can keep it close, then they should be able to gain a few positives from the next game. 

Philadelphia 76ers 

Will the new look 76ers be able to get their act together before the playoffs start?

Takeaways 

Ben Simmons 

Ben Simmons has officially had a very good season this year, news has come in that he has partially dislocated his kneecap. For now he will be out indefinitely and hopefully be able to return before the season ends. It is very disappointing news for the Sixers as Simmons has been having one of the best seasons of his career. He averaged 16.4 points this season and will be a  big blow for the Sixers until he can get back.  

Joel Embiid’s best ball

Joel has been very good in the bubble and has led the Sixers into their two wins in the bubble. He is playing some of the best ball of the season right now and should be able to keep it going. He is averaging 32 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists in the bubble. The loss of Simmons will only make the Sixers rely on Joel even more. Will he be able to handle the pressure and keep delivering? We are about to find out what Joel is made of. 

Up Next

The Sixers take on the Magic on Friday at 5:30 PM. 

Final Score: PHI 107, WAS 98

Top Photo: thecommercialappeal.com

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