Brooklyn went 3-1 this week with a baffling loss to the Magic as its only blemish. James Harden keeps putting up MVP numbers, averaging 26.5 points, 11.8 assists and 8.3 rebounds this week despite a shooting slump from deep. Blake Griffin made his Nets debut in Sunday’s win over the Wizards, putting up two points (his first dunk since December of 2019) and two rebounds in 15 minutes. He made several high-IQ plays and slick passes on the offensive end, and it’s going to be interesting to see how he’s incorporated into the rotation.
Giving up 43 points to Bradley Beal and 35 to Russell Westbrook in a bad loss to the Wizards couldn’t have felt great, but the Jazz also picked up wins over the Celtics and Raptors this week. Utah’s gone 5-5 in its last 10 games, but a stretch like this had to be somewhat expected after the way they set the league on fire for most of the first half. Donovan Mitchell averaged 31.3 points in the three games, but struggled from 3-point range. Joe Ingles went off for 34 points and eight 3s, both career highs, in the loss to Washington.
Milwaukee continued to roll this week with three more wins, making it six in a row and 11 of their last 12. They also made some noise by acquiring PJ Tucker, who should help shore up their defense while providing corner 3-point shooting. Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t getting much buzz for a third straight MVP, but he probably should be. He averaged 29.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 10 assists this week while shooting 58 percent from the field, and those numbers aren’t even surprising given the way he’s played lately.
An impressive week for the 76ers, who went 3-1 without Joel Embiid (they beat the Kings without Ben Simmons as well), and their only loss was to the Bucks in overtime. Tobias Harris had no problem sliding into the primary scoring role, averaging 24.5 points and 4.5 assists for the week on 50 percent 3-point shooting. Seth Curry also missed the final two games this week, and Shake Milton stepped up in his absence with 49 total points in wins over the Kings and Knicks. Philly will be a team to watch with the trade deadline nearing and the Kyle Lowry rumors swirling.
The Suns had a slight blip on the radar when they allowed 42 points to rookie Anthony Edwards in a loss to the Wolves, but won their three other games this week to continue their march toward the top of the Western Conference standings. Devin Booker got loose for 26 points per game this week while the bench made major contributions behind Langston Galloway and Cameron Payne. New addition Torrey Craig got into his first game in Sunday’s win over the Lakers, and could carve out a rotation role with his defensive ability.
The Clippers split with the Mavs before delivering a good old-fashioned beatdown to the Hornets on Saturday. Ivica Zubac and Marcus Morris stepped up with Serge Ibaka out of the lineup for all three of this week’s games, while Paul George and Kawhi Leonard paced the team in scoring, as usual. The Clippers are 4-6 in their last 10 games, and they’ll be a fascinating team to watch with Thursday’s trade deadline nearing.
Denver rattled off wins over the Pacers, Hornets and Bulls to start the week before losing to the Pelicans on Sunday. Nikola Jokic, who could move to the front of the MVP race with Joel Embiid and LeBron James injured, averaged 26.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and 8.5 assists for the week on 58 percent 3-point shooting. Jamal Murray broke out of his post-All-Star break funk, putting up 23 points per game this week on 59 percent 3-point shooting. Despite the loss to New Orleans, the Nuggets are playing good basketball of late, winning eight of their last 10.
It’s not quite worst-case scenario because of the timing, but LeBron James being out indefinitely with an ankle injury with Anthony Davis already on the shelf is going to make things quite difficult for the Lakers. They understandably had trouble generating offense without James in losses to the Hawks and Suns to close out the week, and the Lakers have a decision to make about whether they want to look for extra help at the trade deadline — something they might have done even if James and Davis were healthy.
The Blazers went 3-1 this week, and most importantly saw CJ McCollum return to the lineup with 16.5 points in 24.6 minutes per game on 39 percent 3-point shooting. His presence only made things easier for Damian Lillard, who averaged a cool 34 points and five assists per game in the four games with some dramatic crunch-time moments, as per usual. With Jusuf Nurkic nearly ready to get back on the court as well, Portland in position to make a run in the West.
The Mavs split a pair of series with the Clippers and Blazers, but ended the week on a high note with a 40-point drubbing of Portland. Luka Doncic is on another planet right now, averaging 35.5 points, 9.5 assists and eight rebounds per game this week on blistering 22-for-44 3-point shooting. Kristaps Porzingis struggled from the field, but Tim Hardaway Jr. picked up the slack with 18 points per game on 50 percent 3-point shooting. Dallas has now won 16 of its last 20 games.
The Spurs rattled off three straight wins to start the week, two without DeMar DeRozan, before losing to the Bucks on Saturday without Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills. Keldon Johnson had a monster game with 23 points and a career-high 21 rebounds (11 offensive) in Friday’s win over the Cavs, then Lonnie Walker IV scored a career-high 31 points in the loss to Milwaukee. San Antonio’s host of exciting young guards and wings will be fun to watch for the rest of the season.
Fire up the Nate McMillan Coach of the Year campaign! Say what you want about the schedule, which got even softer when LeBron James left Saturday’s game with an ankle injury, but you don’t win eight games in a row unless something’s going right within your organization. The most encouraging part is that the Hawks are doing this with Trae Young being kept relatively under wraps as a scorer — he averaged a pedestrian 16.7 points on 16 percent 3-point shooting this week, but dished out 11.3 assists per game. Danilo Gallinari continues to find his form, averaging 18.3 points on 53 percent 3-point shooting this week, and De’Andre Hunter should be returning to the court any day now. Things are finally looking up in Atlanta.
The Warriors picked up one of their most inspiring wins of the season without Steph Curry on Friday, as Andrew Wiggins scored a season-high 40 points and Jordan Poole added 25 to beat the Grizzlies in Memphis. The offense hit the wall the following night in the rematch, but Poole tied a career high with 26 points and has now scored 20 or more in three straight games. He’s endeared himself to Warriors fans, and could be the answer to a second unit that has struggled to put points on the board all season.
The Pacers lost to the Nuggets and Nets to start the week, but bounced back to win back-to-back games in Miami, the second coming in overtime on Sunday. Malcolm Brogdon averaged 21.8 points for the week on 45 percent 3-point shooting, while Domantas Sabonis put up 14.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. Caris LeVert has injected some life into the team, averaging 14.3 points and 4.3 assists this week as he continues to get his legs under him.
Miami’s hot streak came to an end this week, with a loss to the Grizzlies in which they mustered just 85 points, and then dropping back-to-back games against the Pacers. Jimmy Butler had a chance to put the Heat ahead with 12.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter on Sunday, but missed the second free throw and the Pacers went on to win in overtime. Bam Adebayo returned to the lineup after a four-game absence, averaging 19.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists for the week.
All three of the Knicks’ losses this week were close, falling to the Nets and twice to the 76ers. They also beat the Magic in dramatic fashion behind a final-possession steal from Reggie Bullock. Julius Randle dished out a career-high 17 assists in the win as the defacto point guard due to numerous injuries, and he averaged 23.5 points, 11 rebounds and 8.5 assists for the week on 43 percent 3-point shooting.
Just devastating news that Rookie of the Year favorite LaMelo Ball is expected to miss the rest of the season with a wrist fracture. The Hornets beat the Kings this week before facing a tough road gauntlet of the Nuggets, Lakers and Clippers, losing all three games. Six players averaged double-figures for Charlotte this week, led by Terry Rozier’s 18.8 points per game. Devonte Graham had a solid week with 11 points on 44 percent 3-point shooting in the four games, and will need to step up his production with Ball sidelined.
Back-to-back losses to the Cavs and Kings had Celtics fans reaching for the panic button for about the 1,000th time this season, but Boston pulled things together for a solid win over the Magic on Sunday. Jaylen Brown averaged 27.3 points for the week on 46 percent 3-point shooting, while Jayson Tatum added 24 points per game on 42 percent 3s. Marcus Smart saw his minutes ramped up to the mid-30s to end the week, and the Celtics certainly need his defense and passing moving forward.
Surprise, surprise — the Grizzlies had another .500 week. Memphis lost to the Suns and beat the Heat before splitting back-to-back games with the Warriors. Offense was truly a struggle in the four games, scoring just under 100 points per 100 possessions, but the defense kept them afloat. Ja Morant struggled, shooting just 34 percent from the field, but it’s a testament to Taylor Jenkins’ group that they can pull out victories when they don’t play their best.
The Pelicans blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead to the Blazers to start the week, as Damian Lillard dropped 50 on them including the game-winning free throws. Portland beat them again the following game, but the Pelicans ended the week with an impressive road win over the Nuggets in which Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson each scored 30 points. Williamson averaged 28 points for the week on 62 percent shooting while shooting 10.3 free throws per game. The man is truly a beast.
The Bulls beat the Thunder and Pistons this week, with losses to the Spurs and Nuggets in between. Chicago was close to upsetting Denver on its home court, leading by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter, but a game-tying Jamal Murray 3-pointer at the end of regulation sparked the Nuggets to the overtime victory. Zach LaVine continued his prolific, efficient scoring, averaging nearly 30 points for the week on 46 percent 3-point shooting.
The Kings had a chance to build some momentum after consecutive wins over the Wizards and Celtics, but were blown off the court by a 76ers squad without Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid on Saturday to close out a 2-2 week. De’Aaron Fox continues to show his crunch-time chops, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter, including some big shots down the stretch, in the win over Washington. Buddy Hield has caught fire after a slow start to the season, averaging 21.5 points on 46 percent 3-point shooting this week.
After being blown out by the Bulls and Hawks to start the week, OKC showed some grit by beating a relatively healthy Rockets team with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Al Horford out of the lineup. Moses Brown has flourished in extra minutes since coming up from the G League, averaging 12.7 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks this week. Lu Dort averaged 15.5 points in the two games he played this week, and came up with a key block on John Wall late in the Houston game to help seal the victory.
Cleveland picked up impressive wins against the Celtics and Raptors this week, while falling to the Heat and Spurs. Collin Sexton has been feeling it, averaging 28.8 points per game this week on 46 percent 3-point shooting, including 36 in Sunday’s win over Toronto. Darius Garland had a strong week as well, averaging 20 points and 5.8 assists on 50 percent 3-point shooting.
Detroit notched a couple of ticks in the win column this week, getting the best of the Raptors and Hawks, but also fell to the Spurs and Bulls. Despite struggling in Sunday’s loss to the Bulls, Saddiq Bey had a strong week with averages of 14.5 points and six rebounds on 37 percent 3-point shooting. Isaiah Stewart has also carved out more of a role off the bench, averaging 11 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes per game this week.
Only the giant-slaying Wizards could lose to the Kings at home and then turn around and beat the Jazz the very next night. Russell Westbrook has been on an absolute rampage, averaging 28.3 points, 13.3 assists and 10.3 rebounds this week on an impressive (for him) 38 percent 3-point shooting. Bradley Beal was just as spectacular, putting up 31.5 points per game on 43 percent 3-point shooting, but the shaky Wizards defense only allowed them to come away with one win despite the offensive heroics from their stars.
The Raptors’ downward spiral continued this week with three more losses, including to the Pistons and Cavs, despite getting some players back from health and safety protocols. At 17-25, you have to wonder whether the front office will be more proactive in shopping Kyle Lowry, whose contract expires after this season. Lowry is one of the few difference-making assets as the trade deadline approaches, but trading him would indicate that Toronto is ready to hit reset — or at least the pause button — while its young talent continues to develop.
Anthony Edwards’ career-high 42 points powered the Wolves to their only win of the week over the Suns. Karl-Anthony Towns also had 41 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in that game, averaging 31.3 points and 8.3 rebounds for the week on 53 percent 3-point shooting. Minnesota has played much better following the break, and it will be interesting to see how they handle the trade deadline as one of only a handful of obvious sellers.
The Magic have one win in their last 11 games, and it came against the Brooklyn Nets … go figure. Orlando will be a team to monitor as Thursday’s trade deadline approaches, with players like Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross and Aaron Gordon potentially on the market. Nikola Vucevic, who averaged 20.3 points and 14.3 rebounds this week, might find some new pieces around him on Friday.
One look at Stephen Silas after the Rockets’ loss to the Thunder on Sunday, their 20th straight, shows you how much this streak is weighing on the coaches and players. The OKC loss particularly stings since the Rockets were relatively healthy and the Thunder didn’t have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but John Wall’s potential game-winning 3-pointer was off the mark as time expired, and Houston’s misery continues.