In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I feel it’s only fitting that I take a moment to give thanks, NBA style. And though I could go on and on for 1,000-plus words on why this league makes my heart sing, I’ll keep it to one all-encompassing note: I’m thankful that the NBA has never been in as good a place as it is today.
In other words, I’m thankful that, on the same night, we can watch Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland combine for 58 in a blowout win over the Blazers; Trae Young torch the Sacramento Kings for 35; Kyle Kuzma drop 33 in a loss; DeMar DeRozan and Giannis Antetokounmpo go back and forth in what is quietly an early contender for game of the year; Nikola Jokic return to two-time MVP form as he torches the Thunder all the way through overtime; Zion Williamson flex on the Spurs in a big way; the shorthanded Pistons continue to play their hearts out as they beat their second-straight Western Conference opponent; and where we’ll begin the recap of Wednesday’s action, Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic go head-to-head in a battle of top-five talents.
As you’re passing the sweet potatoes in exchange for green bean casserole later today, I implore you to think about how thankful you are that the NBA is where it is today in terms of talent. It’s a beautiful thing. Now, onto Wednesday’s scores.
Celtics hold off Mavs in MVP contender face-off, 125-112
I teased in the open (and the headline) but there aren’t enough words in the English language to describe last night’s epic duel between Luka Doncic (42 points, eight rebounds, nine assists) and Jayson Tatum (37-13-5). Tatum would prevail as Boston’s big first half — it led 70-49 through two — was enough for the C’s to hang on despite a late comeback bid from Doncic and co.
Trae Young, Hawks snap Kings seven-game win streak in 115-106 win
On Tuesday, I wrote that nothing good can last, referencing the Celtics nine game win streak coming to an end against the Chicago Bulls. The second longest win streak so far? That belonged to the Kings, who had their seven-game win streak snapped at the hands of Trae Young (35 points, seven assists) and the Hawks. Malik Monk (27 on 12-of-18 shooting) was Sacramento’s best offensive threat, while De’Aaron Fox’s struggles (18 points on 7-of-20 shooting and a -11 differential for the game) ultimately gave Atlanta the advantage. For now, the beam dims.
Nets ground shorthanded Raptors, win 112-98
Impressively, Toronto — playing without Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa, Fred VanVleet, Otto Porter Jr., and Pascal Siakam — held Kevin Durant in check, as he managed just 12 points. But it was K*rie I*ving who led the way for the Nets with 29 as Brooklyn rolled past the Raptors in Toronto. Ben Simmons, who is starting to look like himself again, added 14 points, six assists, three steals, and two blocks in the win.
Cavs clobber Blazers, 114-96
Timberwolves snap Pacers win streak, win 115-101
Hornets upset Sixers, 107-101
Prior to Wednesday, the Hornets had lost 11 of their last 12, and looked comfortably like the NBA’s worst team. So I think it’s far to call this win over the 76ers an upset, despite the fact that Philly was without Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey.
Bulls stave off Bucks with big third quarter, win 118-113
DeMar DeRozan’s 36-4-8 night was enough for Chicago to overpower Giannis (36 of his own, to go with 11 boards and seven dimes) and the Bucks, who are 5-5 in their last 10 games after the hottest start to the season. Remember, they remain without Khris Middleton — who was just assigned a G-League stint with the Wisconsin Herd (eye-ball emoji) — and still have yet to see Joe Ingles in a Milwaukee uniform. But they’ve gotten colder of late, while Chicago finally seems to be putting the pieces together for a team that could cause trouble as the season goes on.
Warriors stay white hot at home, down Clippers, 124-107
Kuzma goes off, but Wiz fall to Heat, 113-105
Jokic wins MVP-contender battle with SGA, Nuggets beat Thunder 131-126
It’s fair to say that Nikola Jokic has taken his foot off the gas this season. Just make sure to note that now, he’s driving 85 mph instead of 120. He’s still averaging close to a triple-double (22.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, nine assists) and over his last two games, he’s been almost nuclear. Though his Nuggets lost on Tuesday despite his 31-9-10 effort, they outlasted Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 31-7-11 outing in overtime; Jokic went off for 39 points, 10 boards, and nine dimes. He could feasibly be in the MVP race if he wanted to be — or if we wanted to include him in the conversation.
Jazz fall out of first, fall to Pistons, 125-116
The Jazz might officially be mid. They’ve lost two in a row, and five of their last seven games. Perhaps we’re overreacting because of their incredibly hot start. Perhaps we overreacted to said incredibly hot start. Either way, Utah has come crashing back down to Earth — and into the paltry fourth-place position in the West at 12-8.
Bojan Bogdanovic (23 points), Kevin Knox II (21), Marvin Bagley (19 points), Alec Burks (18), and Jaden Ivey (16) all finished in double figures for the victorious Pistons, who have won two in a row.
Zion, Pelicans handle Spurs, 129-110
32 points on 14-of-18 and 11 rebounds for the kid, as Zion Williamson and the Pelicans flexed their way to a fourth win in five games. What’s more? He’s smart as a whip.
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