NBA 2020: This Week In Hoops 2/15, Part 2
(originally written 2/15/20)
The NBA season is 70% complete; loads went down these past seven days. Here’s what you need to know—and I promise you’ll want to know some of this:
NORTHWEST DIVISION (Nuggets 38-17, Jazz 36-18, Thunder 33-22, Trailblazers 25-31, Timberwolves 16-37)
The Nuggets held on to 2nd place in the West, as they split home games against San Antonio and the Lakers this week. Trailing by up to 23 against the Spurs 2/10, G Jamal Murray's huge 4Q keyed the comeback victory. But Lakers F LeBron James' triple-double sunk Denver two nights later...Staring defeat in the face, F Bojan Bogdanovic sunk a buzzer-beating three through two Houston defenders for Utah's 34th victory. G Jordan Clarkson continued to light it up off the Jazz bench, racking up 76 points in three games this week and helping Utah run its win streak to four games. C Rudy Gobert, the NBA's second-leading rebounder, tallied 20 of them 2/12 vs. the Heat.
Oklahoma City dropped its first two games of the week despite the return of G Terrance Ferguson (personal) after eight games, but they entered the break on a high note by squeaking past the host Pelicans. In that game, C Steven Adams hit his first career three-pointer...FROM 56 FEET!
The big story out of Portland: G Damien Lillard's groin injury suffered late in Portland's 2/12 loss at Memphis; no word on how long he'll need to recover. The Blazers looked especially bad at the Pelicans the day before, falling behind by 26 and shooting just 7-of-29 on triples after leading by 16 early. Portland did beat Miami 2/9 to open the week.
New Timberwolf D'Angelo Russell did what he does—score the basketball—but his team did what it does, which is find ways to lose games. At Toronto 2/10, Minnesota allowed 34 points off 23 turnovers and lost; that was cleaned up 2/12 vs. the Hornets (11 TO) but it made no difference because the Wolves shot 39% and 29% on threes (14 of a whopping 49) while playing without Karl-Anthony Towns (wrist). F Evan Turner, acquired at the deadline, still has not suited up for Minnesota.
PACIFIC DIVISION (Lakers 41-12, Clippers 37-18, Suns 22-33, Kings 21-33, Warriors 12-43)
The #1 seeded Lakers had little problem with the Suns on 2/10, but Denver posed a tougher challenge, and F LeBron James needed a triple-double effort to stave off the Nuggets in overtime 2/12. Helping matters: an uncalled travel on F Anthony Davis just ahead of a bench-sending foul on Nuggets C Nikola Jokic...the Clippers destroyed host Cleveland 133-92 on 2/9 despite F Kawhi Leonard's absence. Then things went downhill for the squad, specifically F Paul George, who shot just 5-of-22 in the next two games—both losses—before departing with a hamstring injury. G Patrick Beverley (groin) remains out.
As for Phoenix, G Kelly Oubre was disciplined for missing the team bus with a removal from the 2/10 starting lineup; the Suns fell 125-100 to the Lakers despite only being down 31-30 after 1Q. (Oubre was a -34 that night.) Golden State then fell to Phoenix behind 27 from formerly-snubbed All-Star G Devin Booker. Centers DeAndre Ayton (ankle) and Aron Baynes (hip) remain out.
F Harrison Barnes of the Kings continued to mystify, dropping 23 in a loss at Milwaukee 2/10, but then going 2-of-7 two nights later at Dallas. G Buddy Hield continues to come off the bench for Sacramento, and led Sac with 22 points in the Dallas loss. The Kings had won three in a row entering the week...the 12-win Warriors fell to former star Andre Iguodala and the Heat on 2/10, thanks to 39% shooting. C Marquise Chriss returned to Phoenix 2/12 and put on a dunk fest, but the Suns still triumphed as Golden State turned it over 22 times. G Stephen Curry (hand) remains out, probably until March.
SOUTHWEST DIVISION (Rockets 34-20, Mavericks 33-22, Grizzlies 28-26, Spurs 23-31, Pelicans 23-32)
The Rockets, playing without G Eric Gordon (leg) this week, lost on a buzzer-beater to the Jazz 2/9 despite G James Harden's triple-double; he was just 2-of-13 on threes. Two nights later, Harden poured in 42 to sink Boston in a contest that A) saw the Houston bench score all of five points, and B) saw the Rockets shoot 42 free throws (making 37)...the Mavs opened the week without G Luka Doncic (ankle) and lost to Utah despite Tim Hardaway Jr.'s 33 points. Doncic returned 2/12 vs. Sacramento and, along with F Krystaps Porzingis, powered Dallas to a 19-point win. The duo teamed for 60 points against the Kings.
A rough week for Memphis G Dillon Brooks, who shot 8-of-33 in two games this week. Still, his team emerged victorious at Washington 2/9 and against Portland 2/12, maintaining its hold on the #8 seed. Rookie F Brandon Clarke dropped 27 on the Blazers in 23 bench minutes, and C Jonas Valanciunas snagged 18 boards in each of the two games...Here's something we're not used to seeing: the Spurs lose five in a row. But after blowing a 23-point 3Q lead at Denver 2/10, there it was. San Antonio recovered at the Thunder 2/11 behind 25 points from Dejonte Murray; it was Game 6 of an eight-game road trip.
Zion Williamson continued to shine for the Pelicans, scoring 31 and 32 points, respectively, in a win over Portland and a loss to Oklahoma City. Something I haven't seen too often: in the 2/11 Portland game, both G Jrue Holiday and G Lonzo Ball racked up 10 assists apeice. New Orleans trailed by 16 early but led by up to 26 late against the Blazers.
Contrary to popular assumption, I did not personally view every NBA game this week—help was needed putting this together. Thanks to ESPN, Basketballreference.com, Rotoworld.com, the NBA Network, and various local publications for your respective assists.
(Return to Part 1: Eastern Conference)