Game Highlights of the Week: By Chen Peng and Brenan Sri
Philadelphia 76ers vs Minnesota Timberwolves: 117-95 (Monday)
Quite possibly a strong candidate for Game of the Year, Monday’s matchup saw a brawl for the ages take place between superstar big men Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns. Not much has been said regarding the instigation of the fight but a factor that could have played into it would be the trash-talking personality and history of Embiid. The two big men took to social media and took jabs at each other after the game. All-Star forward Ben Simmons got into the scuffle himself as well, playing a controversial role as he was fighting while also separating the two. Luckily, he was able to avoid a suspension as the 76ers continued to roll over the Timberwolves, staying undefeated and atop the Eastern Conference. The Timberwolves could look for more efficient shooting, defensive tenacity and playmaking, apart from childish behaviour, to take their game to the next level. Players such as Towns and Andrew Wiggins, as well as youngsters Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie, could learn from established veterans such as Jeff Teague in order to make the extra jump to make the playoffs in a loaded Western Conference.
Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors: 121-110 (Wednesday)
Post-game, All-Star forward Draymond Green said “We’ve spent the bulk of 5 years beating up on pretty much everyone. Right now it’s our turn to get beat up on.” Things couldn’t have gone more south for the Warriors, who have gone a horrendous 1-5 to start the season—not only did they lose to the Suns and the Hornets in the same week, but they lost 2-time MVP Stephen Curry for 3 months due to a hand injury. The Warriors’ nightmares did not stop there, as by the end of the week, they lost Draymond Green to a finger injury and D’Angelo Russell to an ankle sprain. The most logical move for the Warriors would be to tank, to gain a high position in the draft next year and hope to contend in the years to come. The Warriors could also look to develop some of their young players, such as 3-point guard Jordan Poole and former lottery pick Marquese Chriss. As for the Suns, they seem to have hit their groove by finally finding a true point guard that can get the ball to Devin Booker in Ricky Rubio. The Suns have started off the season with a surprising 4-2 record, and could continue to play winning basketball if Booker, Rubio, and Kelly Oubre Jr (who has seen a massive scoring outbreak this season) sustain their level of play. Don’t count the Suns out of playoff contention, especially when big man Deandre Ayton returns from suspension.
Houston Rockets vs Washington Wizards: 159-158 (Wednesday)
Every NBA fan had expected this game to be an easy win for the Houston Rockets, but little did they know this game would become the 3rd-highest scoring regulation-time game in NBA history. Reigning scoring champ James Harden chipped in 59 points on 56% shooting, including 2 clutch free throws at the end of the game with 2 seconds left. He also added 9 assists in 37 minutes of playtime. Russell Westbrook notched his 2nd triple double of the season, with 17 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. On the other side, All-Star guard Bradley Beal, who must step up all year in the absence of John Wall, did just that, pouring in 48 points and leading a young Wizards squad. Rookie Rui Hachimura added 23 in his home debut, and big man sharpshooter Davis Bertans added 21. This was a well-played game from both teams, but both should look for more efficient scoring and tighter defense on the perimeter to secure games more easily. The Wizards could also use more scoring from other players such as Isaiah Thomas and Thomas Bryant to relieve some pressure off of Beal.
Miami Heat vs. Houston Rockets: 129-100 (Sunday)
When Jimmy Butler signed with the Miami Heat in the offseason, he threw everyone off guard with analysts stating that he was chasing a large sum of money over winning. Everyone expected the team to still be mediocre, maybe a sneaky playoff team that would be eliminated in the first round. However, the Heat have been proving all the haters wrong so far, getting off to a hot 5-1 start, capping off the week with a rout of the dominant Houston Rockets. The Heat never lost their lead in the game, even leading by 40 points at one point. Butler filled the stat sheet, contributing 17 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals. However, the more important part to the Heat’s success has been the surge and development from their young core. Undrafted rookie Kendrick Nunn has been off to an extremely hot start, and even has his name in the record books with the 2nd most points all-time by a rookie in his first 5 games with 112, and the highest ever by an undrafted player. 24-year-old Justise Winslow has proved himself to be a Ben Simmons-type player, being able to play positions 1-4 at a high level of efficiency. Lottery Rookie Tyler Herro has been shooting the lights out and showing signs of a Klay Thompson-esque player, and 3rd-year player Bam Adebayo is solidifying his position in the league as a top-tier rebounder and rim protector. The Heat could be able to secure a top seed in the East and make some noise in the playoffs if veterans such as Goran Dragic and James Johnson step up and contribute a bit more as well.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Dallas Mavericks: 119-110 OT (Friday)
In the matchup featuring Lakers’ superstars Anthony Davis and Lebron James against the Mavericks’ European duo Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, both teams fought tooth and nail before the Lakers’ finally managed to secure the win in overtime. Lakers’ rising star Kyle Kuzma had his season debut after healing from an ankle injury; he amassed 9, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist during his 19 minutes on the court. The Mavericks had a hot start, finishing the first half 58 – 48 but the Lakers finally pulled themselves together to overcome their previous deficit, with James and Davis leading the charge. With the seconds on the clock ticking to zero and Lakers down by 3, Danny Green sinks in a corner 3 to send things to overtime, leading to the Laker’s victory.
All-Star forward Anthony Davis put Kristaps on clamps during the game, limiting him to a meager 16 points during his 37 minutes on the court but Luka Doncic really covered up the gap, finishing off with a triple-double in the heartbreaking loss; 37-15-13. LBJ also really switched up his gears during the time of need, spearheading the Lakers’ offence with 39 points, 16 assists, and 12 rebounds. This being said, Luka Doncic and LeBron James made history by being the only duo opponents to record triple-double figures while achieving 15 assists!
At the end of the game, LeBron made sure to congratulate the sophomore player on his stellar performance, exclaiming, “You’re a bad [expletive]!” Real recognizes real!