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The Rundown w/T-Money

Rundown v01.15.20 – Utah, OKC, Memphis Making West Wilder; Clippers Sink the Cavs, Bucks Drop Knicks

Trae Young and the Hawks bounce back, Giannis Antetokuonmpo and Kawhi Leonard only have to play three quarters in blowout wins, and Ja Morant and the Grizzlies have a grizzly grip on the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

If you haven’t been keeping an eye on this column this season, or the Western Conference because the Golden State Warriors’ injuries have kept them out of the conversation, then you’ve missed quite a bit since Christmas Day and the onset of 2020.

In the beginning, I picked the Utah Jazz as my dark horse candidate in the Western Conference race, even going so far as saying they could be the West’s representative in the NBA Finals this season, if no other. 

Naturally, I didn’t expect the Los Angeles Lakers to gel as quickly as they did, and really, the Lakers haven’t reached their full potential yet either – which is scary. They may be a February 6th deadline trade away from adding a third piece, or they may pick up someone off the waiver wire late in the season to add to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

But the Jazz have five viable anytime scorers in Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, and Rudy Gobert. Not to mention Gobert is a defensive nightmare for opponents.

Though it’s tough to imagine the Memphis Grizzlies making it tough for the top seed Lakers in a projected first round matchup, the young cubs on the team are making their mark in what has been a six game run. Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson, Jr. have come together and are gaining experience and mentorship from veteran center Jonas Valanciunas.

Then there’s the Oklahoma City Thunder, who with 17 picks accumulated from last summer’s moves of Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Jerami Grant among others, weren’t expected to do anything other than figure out who to trade Steven Adams to and at some point unload Chris Paul’s magnanimous contract, acquired in the Westbrook trade. 

Paul has earned his monies due to the fact that young guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder have emerged on the scene and become great mentees under CP3, coming together and thundering like the great cumulus clouds that gather over Oklahoma’s plains. No one expected them to be where they are at this time of the season.

Three teams in the West, shaking up the West … or as I see it, shaking down the West for wins.

Utah is second in the West. Oklahoma City is seventh. Memphis is eighth.

Who’s excited for the second half of the season?

Hit me in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter here.


Phoenix Suns  110
Atlanta Hawks  123

A 39-27 fourth quarter busted it wide open for the Atlanta Hawks for a much needed win in Atlanta last night. Trae Young finished with 36 points to lead the Hawks, 21 of those in the hot fourth quarter. He hit four of seven three in the final period, one in which the Hawks went five of eight from downtown, and 12 of 19 overall from the field. The win puts the brakes on what was a four game losing streak for Atlanta.

SUNS (16-24) 11th in the WestHAWKS (9-32) 15th in the East
Devin Booker
39 points – seven rebounds – three assists – two steals
Trae Young
36 points – four rebounds – 10 assists – two steals – one block
Deandre Ayton
20 points – 10 rebounds – one assist – two blocks
Kevin Huerter
23 points – 15 rebounds – eight assists – one steal
Mikal Bridges
15 points – three rebounds – four assists – four steals – one block
John Collins
22 points – 10 rebounds – three blocks

Suns at Knicks – Thursday
Hawks at Spurs – Friday


Utah Jazz  118
Brooklyn Nets  107

The reason that Donovan Mitchell is suddenly being mentioned in MVP consideration isn’t because he’s one of the most prolific scorers in today’s NBA – it’s because he doesn’t have to be. Taking a look at last night’s win as a microcosm, it was Joe Ingles who led the Utah Jazz to the win in Brooklyn, but Mitchell as a leader and facilitator. The Jazz now have five viable weapons on their team – Mitchell, Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert, and Jordan Clarkson off the bench, though I feel Clarkson has earned the right to be a starter and give the Jazz one of the best starting fives in the league. The win pushed the Jazz to second in the Western Conference, behind only the Los Angeles Lakers … and this push has been without the services of Mike Conley.

JAZZ (28-12) 2nd in the WestNETS (18-21) 8th in the East
Joe Ingles
27 points – three rebounds – four assists – one steal
Kyrie Irving
32 points – five rebounds – 11 assists – two steals – one block
Donovan Mitchell
25 points – four assists – one steal
Spencer Dinwiddie
17 points – four rebounds – five assists
Rudy Gobert
22 points – 18 rebounds – four assists – one steal – two blocks
Joe Harris
13 points – one rebound – one assist – one steal

Nets at Sixers – Tonight
Jazz at Pelicans – Thursday


New York Knicks  102
Milwaukee Bucks  128

Nearly 80 points over the second and third quarters propelled the Milwaukee Bucks to the home win over the New York Knicks last night at FiServ Forum. That put the Bucks up by 32 heading into the final period, meaning that Giannis Antetokuonmpo could rest in the fourth, scoring his 37 points in only 22 minutes of action. Now that’s how you do load management. The Knicks were without Marcus Morris, Frank Ntilikina, and Dennis Smith, Jr. The Bucks have now won four straight and nine of their last 10 games, still No. 1 in the NBA’s standings.

KNICKS (11-30) 14th in the EastBUCKS (36-6) 1st in the East, NBA
Julius Randle
25 points – 15 rebounds – three assists
Giannis Antetokuonmpo
37 points – nine rebounds – four assists – one block
R.J. Barrett
22 points – eight rebounds – three assists – one steal – one block
Khris Middleton
17 points – three rebounds – three assists – one steal
Bobby Portis
20 points – eight rebounds – one assist – one steal
Ersan Ilyasova
14 points – seven rebounds – one assist – one steal – one block

Suns at Knicks – Thursday
Celtics at Bucks – Thursday


Houston Rockets  110
Memphis Grizzlies  121

Grizzlies are lovely creatures that often hibernate and are, for the most part, non-violent. However, when poked, bears can become quite angry. The saying “don’t poke the bear” is to do something that might provoke someone into becoming angry or causing problems. People often use this in the negative statement don’t poke the bear. Well, in Memphis, it’s safe to say someone poked the bear. Bears. Grizzlies, as in the Memphis Grizzlies, who have now won six straight games and eight of their last 10, after last night’s defeat of the Houston Rockets.

Memphis seems to have a lockjaw grip on the eighth spot in the Western Conference and aren’t willing to relinquish it without a fight. Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks combined for 50 points and run up a 36-27 fourth quarter on a night when the Rockets could have used Russell Westbrook, who sat out (load management) the first night of Houston’s back-to-back – they play the Blazers at home tonight.

ROCKETS (26-13) 5th in the WestGRIZZLIES (19-22) 8th in the West
James Harden
41 points – six rebounds – six assists – one block
Ja Morant
26 points – five rebounds – eight assists – one steal – one block
Eric Gordon
23 points – four rebounds – one assist – one steal
Dillon Brooks
24 points – four rebounds – three assists – one steal – two blocks
Clint Capela
16 points – 16 rebounds – two assists
Jonas Valanciunas
19 points – six rebounds – two assists – one block

Blazers at Rockets – Tonight
Cavaliers at Grizzlies – Friday


Dallas Mavericks  124
Golden State Warriors  97

You knew the game was over when the Dallas Mavericks opened the first half outscoring the Golden State Warriors, 65-47. Okay, you knew the game was over when you saw the opponent was the Golden State Warriors, who reclaimed the honor of NBA’s worst record with their loss to Dallas and Atlanta’s win over Phoenix. The fact that the Mavs were playing Golden State meant the workload wasn’t squarely on Luka Doncic’s shoulders. That honor went to Dwight Powell as the game’s high scorer, but also to four others besides Doncic and Powell. Six players scored in double digits for the Mavericks, including J.J. Barea off the deep end of the bench with 11, and Boban Marjanovic got in 13 points and 11 rebounds in 20 minutes of action.

MAVERICKS (25-15) 6th in the WestWARRIORS (9-33) 15th in the West
Dwight Powell
21 points – six rebounds – two assists – one steal
Jordan Poole
17 points – two rebounds – five assists
Luka Doncic
20 points – eight rebounds – two assists – one steal
Eric Paschall
16 points – three rebounds
Boban Marjanovic
13 points – 11 rebounds – one steal
Glenn Robinson III
13 points – seven rebounds – two assists – one steal

Mavericks at Kings – Tonight
Nuggets at Warriors – Thursday


Cleveland Cavaliers  103
Los Angeles Clippers  128

The Cleveland Cavaliers tried to get back in the game against another L.A. team last night with a 32-22 fourth quarter performance, but it was way too little way too late for the wine and gold. The Los Angeles Clippers got the right wind in their sails and tore past the Cavs by five points in the first quarter, by 11 in the second, and then sailed to a 19 point margin in the third quarter alone to take a commanding 35 point lead into the fourth and let the sun set on Cleveland’s two game visit to the Staples Center. With a game high 43, Kawhi Leonard is the captain now, scoring his point total in three quarters. The Cavs, poor things, never had a chance, even with Paul George sitting this one out.

CAVALIERS (12-29) 13th in the EastCLIPPERS (28-13) 4th in the West
Collin Sexton
25 points – one rebound – one assist – two steals
Kawhi Leonard
43 points – three rebounds – 10 assists – two steals – one block
Cedi Osman
21 points – three rebounds – one assist
Lou Williams
24 points – one rebound – four assists
Darius Garland
14 points – 10 assists – one steal
Ivica Zubac
12 points – 10 rebounds – two assists – four blocks

Magic at Clippers – Thursday
Cavaliers at Grizzlies – Friday


(All Times Eastern)

7 p.m.
Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics
NBC Sports Boston
7 p.m.
Brooklyn Nets
Philadelphia 76ers
7:30 p.m.
San Antonio Spurs
Miami Heat
Fox Sports Southwest
8 p.m.
Washington Wizards
Chicago Bulls
NBC Sports Chicago
8 p.m.
Indiana Pacers
Minnesota Timberwolves
Fox Sports Midwest – Indiana
8 p.m.
Toronto Raptors
Oklahoma City Thunder
Fox SportsNet Oklahoma
9 p.m.
Charlotte Hornets
Denver Nuggets
9:30 p.m.
Portland Trailblazers
Houston Rockets
10 p.m.
Dallas Mavericks
Sacramento Kings
NBC Sports California
10:30 p.m.
Orlando Magic
Los Angeles Lakers
Spectrum SportsNet


Tracy Graven is a Senior NBA Analyst for
He has written the NBA, and done NBA radio, for the last two decades for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, and HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show and, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 20 years in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, and Oklahoma City.
A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia 

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