Some unlikely events yesterday as the Atlanta Hawks fell from their lofty aerie and suffered their first loss in a shootout in Brooklyn, the Charlotte Hornets – led by their No. 3 draft pick rookie – took out the Dallas Mavericks, and I lost my first crush as former Gilligan’s Island cutie Dawn Wells (MaryAnn) passed away from complication of COVID-19.
Damn you, 2020. Who are you killing today, on the last day of one of the worst years ever?
The Orlando Magic are the last undefeated team standing in the NBA – and they face the 3-1 Philadelphia 76ers tonight in Orlando.
Atlanta Hawks 141
Brooklyn Nets 145
Yeah, it took 145 points and a combined 33 point rally from the Brooklyn Nets’ biggest stars to drop the Atlanta Hawks from the undefeated ranks last night on Brooklyn’s home turf.
In this unexpectedly hot shooting affair, both teams had 100 points by the end of the third quarter, and the fourth quarter was a classic shootout – or the trailer for ‘Uncle Drew 2.’
Down 104-102 headed into the final period, Kyrie Irving scored 17 of his points in the fourth, including three three-pointers in the Brooklyn Nets’ 43-37 frantic finish to take the Atlanta Hawks down and set the tone for what could become an unexpected, yet exciting rivalry in the Eastern Conference.
Kevin Durant led the way with 33 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists. But it was Irving’s flurry that saved the day for the Nets, who face this same Atlanta Hawks team tomorrow night to kick off the new year. Irving ended up with 25 on the night, while Joe Harris added 23 points on 72.7 percent shooting.
Seven Nets ended up in double digits for the well-rounded and well-deserved win. Off the bench, it was Jarrett Allen with 15 points and 13 rebounds, Landry Shamet shot 100 percent for his 14 points, Taurean Prince added 12, and Caris LeVert ended up with 10 points and eight assists.
|HAWKS (3-1) 5th in the East||NETS (3-2) 6th in the East|
|John Collins (.600)|
30 points – 10 rebounds – one assist – one steal
|Kevin Durant (.500)|
33 points – 11 rebounds – eight assists – one steal – one block
|Trae Young (.444)|
30 points – six rebounds – 11 assists
|Kyrie Irving (.370)|
25 points – two rebounds – six assists – two steals
|Bogdan Bogdanovic (.500)|
22 points – four rebounds – one assist – one steal
|Joe Harris (.727)|
23 points – two rebounds – two assists – one block
Atlanta’s stat line between the old guard of Trae Young and John Collins sounded like an ESPN documentary at 30 and 30. Collins had 10 rebounds, Young had 11 assists. Bogdan Bogdanovic added 22 points, while Cam Reddish tallied 20 points, and De’Andre Hunter finished the night with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Danilo Gallinari went from nursing a bruised left foot and left with a right sprained ankle. He scored five points in three minutes of play. Prior to the loss, the Hawks had won their first three games of the season, first time doing so since 2016.
Hawks at Nets – Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Southeast, YES
Memphis Grizzlies 107
Boston Celtics 126
Without Ja Morant, the Memphis Grizzlies knew it was going to be a tough row to hoe, and after a 31-19 first quarter deficit, they could have thrown their high tops over the telephone wire and called it a night; but they hung in there valiantly regardless, and tried to make it a game against the Boston Celtics.
But Jaylen Brown was on a mission last night, to right the ship in Boston, scoring a career high 42 points and giving the Celtics their own version of a stimulus to push the needle above .500 and back into the thick of things in the Eastern Conference.
As if the 12 point margin wasn’t enough to put the Grizzlies on their heels after one, Brown mercilessly toppled Memphis in the second, scoring 18 points in a 35-21 Boston blitz that sent the Grizzlies to the locker room down 66-40 halfway through the game. The rest was downhill.
Brown was really about all Boston needed from an inspirational, leadership, and points standpoint, but he got support from Jayson Tatum’s 16 points, got 14 points from Marcus Smart, and 12 points and five rebounds from Daniel Thies. Payton Pritchard finished with eight points, and Tristan Thompson sat this one out.
|GRIZZLIES (1-3) 14th in the West||CELTICS (3-2) 7th in the East|
|Jonas Valanciunas (.636)|
20 points – 11 rebounds – one assist
|Jaylen Brown (.714)|
42 points – five rebounds – four assists – one steal
|Gorgui Dieng (.600)|
17 points – six rebounds – two assists – one steal
|Jayson Tatum (.500)|
16 points – four rebounds – three assists – one steal
|Dillon Brooks (.333)|
16 points – five rebounds – two assists – one steal
|Marcus Smart (.455)|
14 points – two rebounds – four assists – three steals – one block
Memphis’ bigs lead this one in Morant’s absence. Jonas Valanciunas finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Gorgui Dieng finished with 17 and six. Dillon Brooks added 16 points, as did rookie Desmond Bane – who I said has the opportunity to step up while Morant’s out – who shot 54.5 percent off the bench, and Brandon Clarke had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Kyle Anderson had a rough night, with nine points and zero three pointers after scoring 48 collectively over the last two games. The Grizzlies haven’t won in Boston in seven-plus years.
Celtics at Pistons – Friday, 7 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Detroit, NBC Boston
Grizzlies at Hornets – Friday, 7 p.m. – Fox Sports Southeast
Milwaukee Bucks 108
Miami Heat 119
A night after setting the NBA record for three pointers in a game at 29, and dropping 144 points – the highest this season until Brooklyn’s 145 last night – the Milwaukee Bucks settled back into their standard rhythm last night and lost to the Miami Heat in the second game of the back-to-back in Miami.
Giannis Antetokuonmpo was back in his groove with a triple double of 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists, while it was Khris Middleton who took the back seat last night and the Bucks paid for it with their third loss in five games in this young season. Middleton had just eight points a night after leading Milwaukee to a 47 point win over these same Heat players just 24 hours before.
Donte DiVincenzo added 15 last night, but Jrue Holiday had a terrible night from the field, shooting 26.7 percent for 13 points a night after hitting for 24 points on 60 percent shooting. Pat Connaughton added 12 points and Bobby Portis finished with 11 in the Bucks’ loss.
|BUCKS (2-3) 11th in the East||HEAT (2-2) 10th in the East|
|Giannis Antetokuonmpo (.556)|
26 points – 13 rebounds – 10 assists – three steals – one block
|Goran Dragic (.529)|
26 points – five rebounds – two assists
|Donte DiVincenzo (.357)|
15 points – five rebounds – one assist – three steals – one block
|Bam Adebayo (.538)|
22 points – eight rebounds – 10 assists – one steal – two blocks
|Jrue Holiday (.267)|
13 points – four rebounds – five assists – two steals – one block
|Tyler Herro (.615)|
21 points – 15 rebounds – four assists
Goran Dragic, who only played nine minutes on Tuesday night and only scored a deuce, led the Heat last night with 26 points. Bam Adebayo also had a much better night last night, scoring 22 points and just missing a triple double with eight rebounds and 10 assists. Tyler Herro dropped down to third on the team last night with 21 points and 15 rebounds.
Avery Bradley finished with 16 points in the win, while Kelly Olynyk had 15 points and eight rebounds. Of course, the Bucks are going to lose the game when they let a skinny 198 lb. kid get more rebounds than the reigning MVP.
Heat at Mavericks – Friday, 7 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Southwest, SunSports
Bulls at Bucks – Friday, 8 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Wisconsin, NBC Chicago
Los Angeles Lakers 121
San Antonio Spurs 107
With the way that the Los Angeles Lakers have played this young season, there was never any doubt how LeBron James and the team would celebrate his 36th birthday – take down the San Antonio Spurs in the heart of Texas.
James went for 26 points and eight assists as he and the Lakers blew out San Antonio’s candles and sent them to a 2-2 ranking. Dennis Schroder’s play is screaming for a contract extension as he is showing that his current situation is bringing out his best play in his career, averaging 17.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists through his five games in L.A. as he starts season No. 8.
Anthony Davis added 20 points and eight rebounds, while Wesley Matthews finally made his presence known in L.A.’s lineup with an 18 point night. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell scored 10 points apiece, while Harrell added nine rebounds to help the Lakers to an eight-rebound edge over the Spurs.
|LAKERS (3-2) 5th in the West||SPURS (2-2) 9th in the West|
|LeBron James (.478)|
26 points – five rebounds – eight assists – one steal – one block
|Dejounte Murray (.632)|
29 points – seven rebounds – seven assists – one steal
|Dennis Schroder (.600)|
21 points – four rebounds – four assists – one steal
|DeMar DeRozan (.583)|
23 points – five rebounds – six assists – one steal – one block
|Anthony Davis (.600)|
20 points – eight rebounds – three assists – two steals
|Patty Mills (.429)|
12 points – three rebounds – four assists – two steals
That edge came about because LaMarcus Aldridge did not play, and Jakob Poeltl was barely there with only eight and seven on the night. Dejounte Murray led the Spurs – and all scorers – with a 29 points night, while DeMar DeRozan added 23 points, five rebounds, and six assists in vain. Patty Mills had 12 and Lonnie Walker IV was the only other San Antonio player in double digits with 11 points.
Gregg Popovich was ejected in the second quarter, leaving Becky Hammon to coach the Spurs the rest of the night.
These two teams meet again on Friday night, but ‘LeBron Watch’ has been initiated by this writer, simply because this is the time of year he goes ‘AWOL’ – usually because of his birthday and because Ohio State is in the BCS Championship series.
Ohio State plays Clemson tomorrow night in New Orleans (just a short flight east) in the Sugar Bowl and Monday night in Atlanta if they beat Clemson.
Lakers at Spurs – Friday, 8 p.m. EST – NBATV, Fox Sports Southwest, Spectrum SportsNet
Charlotte Hornets 118
Dallas Mavericks 99
The Charlotte Hornets did the unthinkable last night, swarming the Dallas Mavericks with a 19 point road win, with the most unlikely of team leaders: No. 3 draft pick LaMelo Ball.
The young talent finally emerged from his hive with a team leading 22 points, eight rebounds, and five assists going from baby pest to murder hornet in four short games. Following Ball’s lead, the Hornets swarmed the Mavericks with a 98-69 attack through three quarters.
Miles Bridges followed suit with 20 points and 16 rebounds, while Terry Rozier added 18 points. Gordon Hayward and P.J. Washington dropped 11 points apiece and Jalen McDaniels (not McDonald’s – the buckets are Jalen’s but the burgers are Ronald’s) had 10 points as Charlotte shot 51 percent from the field to the home team’s 39 percent.
|HORNETS (2-2) 8th in the East||MAVERICKS (1-3) 12th in the West|
|LaMelo Ball (.700)|
22 points – eight rebounds – five assists – one steal – one block
|Tim Hardaway, Jr. (.700)|
18 points – two rebounds – one assist – one steal
|Miles Bridges (.667)|
20 points – 16 rebounds – two assists – two blocks
|Jalen Brunson (.385)|
16 points – four rebounds – four assists – one steal
|Terry Rozier (.471)|
18 points – five rebounds – three assists – one block
|Maxi Kleber (.800)|
12 points – six rebounds – one assist – two blocks
Not only is it a bad night when the Hornets are unswattable, but when Luka Doncic is your fourth best scorer? Yeah, it’s a rough night.
Doncic matched Maxi Kleber’s 12 point night, while Tim Hardaway, Jr. led the Mavericks with 18 points and Jalen Brunson had 16. #VFL Josh Richardson only had four points. The rest of the Dallas lineup only scored 39 points collectively – head coach Rick Carlisle played 14 players.
The Mavericks are still without Kristaps Porzingis. Ball, in his best NBA game to date, finished shooting 70 percent from the field, was four of five from downtown, and made all four free throws to best his previous high of 13 points.
Grizzlies at Hornets – Friday, 7 p.m. – Fox Sports Southeast
Heat at Mavericks – Friday, 7 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Southwest, SunSports
Portland Trailblazers 105
Los Angeles Clippers 128
Looks like Carmelo Anthony made the trip to L.A. after all. Unfortunately, it didn’t help.
Kawhi Leonard came back from a lacerated lip and went Phantom of the Opera/Richard Hamilton mode to put the hurt on the Portland Trailblazers with a 23 point win for the first place Los Angeles Clippers. Leonard dropped 28 points and added seven assists in his return, while Paul George’s 23 points last night was the margin in the game. George also had a solid 10 rebounds and seven assists, just three dimes short of a triple double.
Lou Williams came off the bench for 15 points, while Nicolas Batum, Reggie Jackson, and Serge Ibaka all finished up with 11 points apiece. Ibaka also had eight rebounds, Batum had five.
|TRAILBLAZERS (2-2) 7th in the West||CLIPPERS (4-1) 1st in the West|
|C.J. McCollum (.471)|
25 points – four rebounds – three assists – one steal
|Kawhi Leonard (.529)|
28 points – three rebounds – seven assists – three steals – one block
|Damian Lillard (.214)|
20 points – five rebounds – four assists – one steal
|Paul George (.533)|
23 points – 10 rebounds – seven assists – two steals
|Carmelo Anthony (.600)|
15 points – five rebounds – two assists
|Lou Williams (.538)|
15 points – five rebounds – two assists – one steal
C.J. McCollum hit for 25 points and seven three pointers for Portland, but the real reason the Blazers lost the game was Damian Lillard, who shot a horrid 21.4 percent from the field, unable to throw the ball in the Pacific Ocean last night, 11 of his 14 attempts from the field and nothing for eight from downtown. Had he connected on at least half of his attempts, the Blazers are in this thing.
Anthony joined the Blazers after the Lakers game and hit for 15 points on 60 percent shooting. Enes Kanter went for 10 points and 10 rebounds, but no other Blazer hit double digits – on anything. Harry Giles has all but disappeared since the pre-season and Gary Trent, Jr. (right calf strain) did not play last night after throwing out 28 on the Lakers on Monday night. Could have used him, too.
After back to back games in L.A. (against the Lakers and Clippers), the Trailblazers now have back to back games in San Francisco as they face the Golden State Warriors twice to kick off 2021 on January 1st and 3rd.
Clippers at Jazz – Friday, 9 p.m. EST – AT&T Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports Prime Ticket
Blazers at Warriors – Friday, 10:30 p.m. EST – , NBATV, NBC Bay Area, NBC Northwest
Tracy Graven is the Senior NBA Analyst for BackSportsPage.com.
He has written the NBA, and done NBA radio, for the last two-plus decades for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, and HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show and NBARadioShow.com, 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
- Boise (G League)
- San Antonio
- Oklahoma City
A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia