NBA Round-Up: 2/27/21


By Joe Torosian

(Feb.26)
Portland at Lakers: Lakers win—102-93
(The Corky Calhoun Trophy)
The Lakers (23-11) came into the game with a 4-game losing streak, the Trail Blazers (18-14) arrived with a 3-game losing streak. The teams were even until LA broke it open in the third and went on to win.

After scoring 57 points in the first half, Portland was limited to only 36 in the second. Damian Lillard scored 24 in the first half before the Lakers cracked down and held him to 11 the rest of the way. Lillard finished with a game-high of 35.

LeBron James led LA with 28-points, and Dennis Schröder, back from COVID protocol, scored 22.

The contest was sloppy, with the Trail Blazers limited (lots of standing around) to what Lillard could produce. If the Jazz on Wednesday night were the poster-child for the new NBA, Portland on Friday night was the exact opposite. Alice Cooper once sang, “Welcome to my nightmare!” Welcome to Blazer basketball last night.

The stat line will show Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter with 11-points and 17-boards…but that was without an athletically competent big opposing him. (Say what you will, Marc Gasol is not “athletically” anything these days) Kanter looked like the reincarnation of Jon Koncak. Koncak, of similar stature, played 11 seasons in the NBA, averaged 4-points, and 4-boards for his career, but made a little of $18-million doing it.

Good win for the Lakers, but painful to the eyes that watched it.

***

NBA Games Seen: 79
Celtics:12
Pelicans:12
Nets:12
Warriors:10
Mavericks:12
Bucks:9
Suns:9
Clippers:10
Lakers:13
76ers:10
Heat:6
Nuggets:5
Rockets:6
Trail Blazers:5
Knicks:3
Jazz:5
Magic:2
Pistons:2
Wizards:4
Pacers:2
Grizzlies:3
Kings:1
Raptors:1
Bulls:2
Hornets:1
Hawks:1

***

(Feb.25)
Dallas at Philadelphia: 76ers win—111-97
(The Shawn Bradley Trophy)

The 76ers (22-11) broke the contest open in the second quarter, and the Mavericks (15-16) never recovered. Playing without Kristnaps Porzingis, Dallas closed the lead to eight in the third but got no closer.

Philly dominated in the paint, outscoring the Mavs, 50-26. Joel Embid scored 23-points and grabbed 9-rebounds to lead the Sixers. Dwight Howard, off the bench, scored 14 and pulled 8-boards. Tobias Harris left the game in the third with a bruised knee and did not return.

Luka Dončić led Dallas with 19.

Going forward, Philly has a roster that can smoothly go nine and sometimes ten-deep with Tyrese Maxey. They’ll match up well with Brooklyn when they face off in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Mavs lack anything dependable beyond Dončić. If they manage to get into the post-season dance, they’ll be done at the end of the first song.

***

(Feb.24)
Lakers at Utah: Jazz win—114-89
(The Adrian Dantley Trophy)
The Lakers (22-11) hung around for a quarter and then were steamrolled for their fourth consecutive loss. The Jazz (26-6) have rapidly become the poster-child for this version of the NBA. They not only launch threes ceaselessly, but they make them at a higher rate than any other team. So they’re fun to watch.

Utah plays defense. Utah moves the ball around. Utah is deep and talented…but what happens when a lid is put over the rim? Sooner or later, those triples will dry up, the court will shrink, and who’s the dude that’s going to score in the paint?

LA’s top scorers were LeBron James, 19, Montrezl Harrell, 16, and Markieff Morris, with 12. That’s it. They were also 8-of-33 from beyond the arc and made only 13-of-20 from the line.
Kyle Kuzma did not start but delivered a big…drum roll, please…5-points off the pine.

The Jazz put six players in double-figures. Jordan Clarkson, off the bench, scored 18. Rudy Gobert also scored 18 as he lived off the lob. All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell only scored 13…Or…only needed to score 13. This team is very balanced. Utah also connected on 22-of-48 trey attempts.

***

(Feb.23)
Boston at Dallas: Mavericks win—110-107
(The Antoine Walker Trophy)
Luka Dončić hit two triples in the final ten seconds to give the Mavericks (15-15) the victory. The Celtics (15-16) led 105-104 and were tied at 107 to set up Dončić’s heroics.

Dončić led all scorers with 31-points. Jalen Brunson added 22 off the bench. The Mavs, without Kristnaps Porzingis, received only 12-points combined from its front line but picked up 51 from the bench.

Boston was led by its big three: Jaylen Brown, 29, Jayson Tatum, 28, and Kemba Walker, 21. No other Celtic was in double figures.

***

(Feb.22)
Washington at Lakers: Wizards win—127-124 OT
(The Mitch Kupchak Trophy)
The Lakers (22-10) led by 17 with 9:24 to play in the third—going on a stone-cold 0-12 run from beyond the arc. The Wizards (11-17) kept plugging away, took the lead, and held on through overtime for their fifth consecutive victory.

The loss was LA’s third in a row and fourth in its last five games.

Washington’s Bradley Beal led all scorers with 33, Russell Westbrook added 32, and Rui Hachimura chipped in with 15. The Lakers were led by LeBron James’ 31-points (9-rebs/13-ast) and his 43 minutes. Fatigued or not, James came up short on a critical free-throw in the final seconds of regulation, with the score tied 115-115. Montrezl Harrell scored 26 off the bench, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pop added 21.

***

(Feb. 21)
 Brooklyn at Clippers: Nets win—112-110
(The Brian Taylor Trophy)
Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard was called for an offensive foul with 10-seconds remaining to nullify a game-tying basket and secure a Nets victory.

Down early and without Kevin Durant, Brooklyn led most of the second half and was up 110-108 with ten seconds left to play. Leonard drove the lane and scored but was called for throwing an elbow into Harden—who went down like he was blasted by Aaron Donald.

The Nets were led by Harden’s 37 points. Kyrie Irving scored 28, while DeAndre Jordan, Joe Harris, and Bruce Brown Jr. each added 13. Paul George with 34 and Leonard with 29 paced the Clippers, who hurt by Marcus Morris, Lou Williams, and Nicolas Batum combining for only 13 points.

***

(Feb. 20)
Miami at Lakers: Heat wins—96-94
(The Lamar Odom Trophy)
The Heat (13-17) opened with a 36 point first quarter, only added 60 the rest of the way, and held on for the win. Kendrick Nunn scored 27, and Jimmy Butler added 24 in the victory.

For the Lakers (22-9), Kyle Kuzma scored 23 to go with four rebounds and zero assists. LeBron James scored 19, grabbed nine boards, and registered nine assists in 37 minutes against a team that is four games under .500—and tenth in the Eastern Conference standings.

The loss was LA’s second in a row…and they are clearly in trouble without Anthony Davis.

***

(Feb.19)
Utah at Clippers: Clippers win—16-112
(The Olden Polynice Trophy)
This game’s ending was longer than a Lord of The Rings movie…Two good teams, two deep teams, and the two teams that should be playing each other in the Western Conference finals in a few months.

The Clippers (22-9) led most of the night, fell behind briefly in the third, and then made critical shots and free-throws to hold off a Jazz (24-6) comeback in the fourth. The win snapped Utah’s nine-game winning streak. 

Kawhi Leonard, back from missing three games, led the victors with 29-points. Lou Williams scored 19, Marcus Morris 17, Patrick Beverley 17, and Paul George, in his first game back after missing seven consecutive games, added 15.

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 35. 

***

(Feb.18)
Brooklyn at Lakers: Nets win—109-98
(The Eddie Jordan Trophy)
This game’s beginning was all about Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis not playing for their respective teams.

(I don’t know if anyone got worked about Dennis Schröder being thrust into COVID-protocol)

The Nets (19-12) got on top early, built a 20 point lead, and cruised to a comfortable victory. The difference being their newly minted renaissance man, James Harden (23/11/5). Joe Harris added 21 and Kyrie Irving 16.

For the Lakers (22-8), in their royal blue unis, they got a glimpse of what life will look like for the next month without Davis. LeBron James scored a game-high 32-pts and passed 35,000 in career scoring. Translation: James comes to work every day.

With all components playing, Brooklyn is not a team the Lakers will want to see at the start of summer. Right now, LA needs to sacrifice wins for fewer minutes. Keep James minutes at 32-33 per-game, take a few losses, and have him ready for the playoffs.

The Lakers shouldn’t have to be told, but don’t count on Davis.

***

(Feb.17)
Houston at Philadelphia: 76ers win—118-113
(The Moses Malone Trophy)
The 76ers (19-10), playing without Ben Simmons, took control early and built a 29 point lead before holding on for the win. The Rockets (11-17), sporting a more traditional “Rocket Red,” rallied behind John Wall’s 28-pts to close the contest to 110-106 & 117-113 in the final seconds before falling.

Philly center Joel Embid led all scorers with 31. Seth Curry added 25 and Tobias Harris 24. The loss for injury depleted Houston was its seventh in a row. 

(Feb.16)

New Orleans at Memphis: Pelicans win—144-113
“The Bucs-Tams Trophy”
Watching the Pelicans (12-15) is like watching the NBA All-Star Game. Lots of offense, much of it entertaining, and very little defense—which hurts eyes familiar with how basketball should be played.

New Orleans forward Zion Williamson banged his way to an old school 31-pts to lead all scorers. The kid is among the best things going in basketball these days. The Grizzlies (11-12) were led by Ja Morant’s 28-pts.

Former Duke guard Grayson Allen added 8-pts, and my question is, is he as hated in the NBA as he was in the NCAA?

(Feb.15)
Houston at Washington: Wizards win—131-119
“The Elvin Hayes Trophy”
The Wizards (8-17) Bradley Beal scored 37-pts and spoiled the return of John Wall to the nation’s capitol. Wall led the visiting Rockets (11-17) with 29-pts.

Not great, but I was entertained. Wall is growing on me, but Beal is like going to a French restaurant. The food is always good, the atmosphere is always nice, and I always look forward to going back.

***

(Feb. 14)
Portland at Dallas: Trail Blazers win—121-118
“The Robert Pack Trophy”
It wasn’t a great basketball game, but I have to say I was entertained.

The injury diminished Trail Blazers (16-10) took control with a 45-point third quarter and were led by Damian Lillard’s 34. The victory was Portland’s fourth in a row.
The Mavs (13-15) were led—as always—by Luka Dončić with 44-pts.

Not a fan of all the uniform combos in the NBA but I did like the “Oregon” across the jerseys of the Trail Blazers. I’m also not a fan of 7-3 centers (Kristnaps Porzingis) launching threes with zero ability to score in the paint. Until that gets better, Dallas doesn’t get out of the West.

***

(Feb. 13)
Philadelphia at Phoenix: Suns win—120-11
In a league that lacks literate basketball play, the 76ers (18-9), and the Suns (16-9) are outliers. Both are good teams, enjoyable to watch. They come as close as any to doing things the right way. 

The Phoenix defense shut down the Philly offense in the second half for its fifth straight win. Its bench outscored Philadelphia, 45-17. Suns’ guard Devin Booker led all scorers with 36. Joel Embid led the Sixers with 35.

***
Brooklyn at Golden State: Nets win—134-117
“The Bernard King Trophy”
The Nets (16-12) took a 66-51 lead at the break, and led by 26 at the end of three. The Warriors (14-13) had one consistent threat, Steph Curry. Brooklyn had James Harden, who’s suddenly become the most dangerous point guard in the NBA. Harden’s numbers last night: 19-pts, 16-assists.

Biggest concern for the Nets will be there defense. Golden State plays hard, but doesn’t have enough to advance very far in the Western Conference. Steph Curry led all scorers with 27.

(Feb. 12)
New Orleans at Dallas: Mavericks win—143-130
Defense was an elective in this one. In the first half, the Pelicans (11-14) Zion Williamson was 10-for-10 from the floor for 23-pts. The Mavericks (13-14) Kristnaps Porzingis was 7-of-11 from beyond the arc. This contest was like a giant game of Around The World. Open shots, zero defense, and non-existent basketball.

The Mavs Luka Dončić led all scorers with 46-pts. Prozingis finished with 36 as Dallas won its fourth in a row. Williamson led New Orleans with 35

***

Memphis at Lakers: Lakers win—115-105
Grizzlies (10-11) begin contest with 22-2 run and led 31-16 after one and 59-46 at the break. Lakers (21-6) rallied with an 11-0 run to take an 87-82 lead headed into the fourth. 

Lakers take control in the fourth and take the win. Anthony Davis leads all scorers with 35-pts.

Takeaways. 
The Lakers are the best defensive team in the league. 
The most rigged outcome in professional sports? LeBron James driving to the lane. Whether he’s hacked (never) or breathed upon (usually the case), the official’s whistle will blow and send him to the line.
Memphis melted in the second half.

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