Kevin Durant returns leads the Nets to the top of the East

The Brooklyn Nets took on the stubborn Cleveland Cavaliers today, and finished the day with the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Kevin Durant, in his first game back from a shoulder injury, led the way for Brooklyn with 27 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 blocks. James Harden had another double-double with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 14 assists and 3 steals.

Patty Mills continued to be efficient in his starting role, scoring 17 points while shooting 5 of 9 from beyond the arc, and LaMarcus Aldridge had big bench numbers again with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

It wasn’t an easy game by any means, as the Cavs even took a 105-102 lead with 3:31 left in the game after a Darius Garland jumper, but the Nets closed out with a 15-7 run that started off with a quick pair of buckets from the Slim Reaper.

Darius Garland, Lauri Markannen and Jarrett Allen combined for 66 points in the defeat. 


The Pacers went to Chicago and embarrassed the Bulls

The Chicago Bulls have been one of the most entertaining teams so far this season, but tonight they got a stark reminder that any team can win on a given night in the NBA. They welcomed the Indiana Pacers expecting a victory, but instead finished with an embarrassing 109-77 loss in front of their home fans. This loss, combined with Brooklyn’s win, saw them drop to second in the East.

The Bulls’ highest-scoring player was DeMar DeRozan, who finished with 18 points, and Zach LaVine came a close second with 17. Lonzo Ball finished the game with no points after going 0 of 7 from the field. The Pacers didn’t make it easy for them to get buckets, and Myles Turner had a highlight block on LaVine.

The Pacers won with a great team effort led by Domantas Sabonis’ 21 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists in just 26 minutes of action. Turner had 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Malcolm Brogdon had 16 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists. Caris LeVert had 12 points and Justin Holiday rounded it out for the starters with 14.

Without Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls were bullied on the boards, as Indiana finished with a 59-38 rebounding advantage. Chicago also shot 36.5% overall and 21.4% from the three-point line. The game was effectively out of reach after the first quarter after the Pacers raced off to a 31-16 lead – a big reason why the Pacers didn’t see any of their starters play more than 29 minutes.

The Pacers, who have struggled despite having a decently talented team, will be happy.

The Hornets pick up an important victory over the Wizards

The Washington Wizards were handed just their second loss at home this season by the Charlotte Hornets in a 109-103 game that was a lot of fun to watch.

LaMelo Ball had himself a game. He finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists. Terry Rozier was on a mission as well, finishing with 32 points, 2 rebounds and 4 assists while making 8 of 11 threes. 

You’d have to think Michael Jordan is going to be happy to see Rozier make plays like this:

Montrezl Harrell had his usual impact off the bench for the Wizards, finishing with 24 points and 18 rebounds, but his effort was wasted because none of the starters were able to step up. Bradley Beal struggled, needing 18 shots to score 18 points, while Spencer Dinwiddie finished with 8 points on 2 of 11 shooting. Kyle Kuzma finished with a double-double of 11 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists.

Harrell’s endless hustle is always a joy to watch, and he had a memorable fast break score this game:


The Phoenix Suns make it 13 in a row

The Phoenix Suns didn’t start the first quarter as fast as their previous game, but still eked out a good victory on the road against the San Antonio Spurs. Chris Paul had a quiet game heading into the fourth quarter, with 8 points, a rebound, an assist, and a steal. When the Spurs pulled it to within 96-85 with 9:06 left in the game, Monty Williams brought him back into the contest.

Paul, who has been arguably the best fourth quarter closer so far this season, looked a little gassed in the second game of a back-to-back set. He committed an uncharacteristic turnover, his second of the game, after dishing out 38 assists and turning it over just 5 times in their recent homestand. He made a couple of his patented jumpers, but two turnovers in the fourth quarter made the game much closer than it should have been. He finished with 12 points, 4 assists and 3 turnovers.

Cameron Payne had a great game off the pine, finishing with 20 points, 3 assists and 3 assists. NBA champion JaVale McGee was also effective as a reserve, finishing with 14 points and 8 rebounds while shooting 7 of 9 from the field.

DeAndre Ayton finished with another double-double of 21 points, 14 rebounds and 3 assists, while Devin Booker finished with 23 points and 4 assists.

The Spurs fought a tough battle, starting the fourth quarter with a 20-10 run, which forced a timeout with 6:08 left in the game with the Suns’ advantage getting cut to 100-95. 

As has become the custom for Greg Popovich-led teams, the Spurs started their comeback attempt with contributions from a wide array of players. Lonnie Walker and Jakob Poetl came up big in the fourth. 

Mikal Bridges, who had been scoreless through the first three quarters, came to life and scored a quick pair of buckets and a free throw for the Suns, which helped push their lead back to 107-95. Devin Booker followed that up with a three to make it 110-95. The Spurs went on another run and made it a 112-106 game with just over a minute left in the game. Booker again came up with another big bucket. 

Dejounte Murray stole the ball from Chris Paul and got a fast break layup to make it 114-111 with 15.2 seconds left, and then forced a jump ball after tying down Booker in the Suns’ half. Booker got free throws after that but split them, giving the Spurs a chance to get closer with the score at 115-111. They couldn’t get the bucket in the end and that was the final scoreline of the game. The Spurs had five players score in double-figures, led by Derrick White’s 19.

The Suns’ ability to come back under pressure has been a hallmark of their success in the 13-game win streak, but that was a dangerous game to play against a hard-charging Spurs team.

The Grizzlies stunned the Jazz with a game-winner from Jaren Jackson Jr

The Utah Jazz had a 118-112 lead on the Memphis Grizzlies with 1:28 left in the game, and blew it. It was a tightly contested game that saw the Jazz have an 11-point lead at one point, while the Grizzlies didn’t lead by any more than five.

The game-winning sequence was a beauty, too.

LeBron James and Isaiah Stewart get suspensions

LeBron James got his first suspension after his flagrant foul on Isaiah Stewart. James received a one-game ban, while Stewart was served with a two-game suspension. If you’ve forgotten what happened, here’s a quick reminder:

That means James and Stewart will both be eligible for the final Lakers-Pistons contest of the season next week. That should be fun.