Take a look back at the week that was in the NBA with a collection of some of the best games, videos, photos, features and more from around the NBA world.
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Games of the Week
Rockets 107, Raptors 95 — Houston has turned up its defense rating since the All-Star break, boasting a respectable 109.6 (15th overall) compared to its 111.9 mark overall this season. This win Tuesday was a prime example of that defensive improvement, as the Rockets blanketed Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard (14-for-35 combined shooting) to power an important, late-season road victory.
Celtics 128, Warriors 95 — No team was more poised for a knockout punch to its playoff hopes than Boston was on Tuesday night. The Celtics entered this game with losses in five of their last six games — and then promptly got a 30-point game from beleaguered reserve Gordon Hayward. That gave the Warriors their worst loss of the season and an added measure of confidence to both Hayward and his team.
Pistons 131, Wolves 114 — Don’t look now, but Detroit is tied for the best record in the NBA since the All-Star break (x-x). This win showed the Pistons are more than Blake Griffin’s team, as Andre Drummond not only piled up numbers (31 points, 15 rebounds), but kept the ball moving, too, racking up 38 passes (third on the team that game behind Ish Smith and Griffin).
Bulls 108, Sixers 107 — Teams bound for the 2019 Draft lottery — like Chicago is — have one role to fill this time of the year: playoff spoiler. Although this loss on Wednesday knock Philadelphia out of the East chase by any means, it will be on the Sixers may regret dropping in the weeks to come. As for the Bulls, it’s another sign of life that, perhaps, Zach LaVine (39 points, game-winning layup) can be “the man.”
Celtics 111, Kings 109 — Two days after powering a rout in Oakland, Hayward was at it again — this time in Sacramento. He didn’t have the same type of gaudy scoring stats. What he did provide, though, was the game-winning fade-away shot from the left side of the key to propel Boston to a win. That hero moment was a godsend for Hayward, who moments earlier committed the foul that allowed the Kings to tie the game up at the line.
Nuggets 115, Lakers 99 — This Wednesday night affair was all about LeBron James, and rightfully so. He passed Michael Jordan for fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in a moment that will last for years to come. For Denver, though, this was a show of resolve from a true title contender. Lesser teams might have gotten caught up in the moment and lost, but the Nuggets closed the door on that option early on.
Thunder 129, Blazers 121 — Who says division rivalries are non-existent in today’s NBA? Oklahoma City and Portland showed on Thursday there’s no love lost between them as the Thunder swept the season series. However, this one came down to overtime and while Portland didn’t score a win against OKC all season, no doubt the Thunder know they’d get a tough series from them should they meet in the playoffs.
Warriors 122, Nuggets 105 — For as much progress as Denver has made this season — and it has made a lot — it cannot seem to figure out Golden State when the opportunity presents itself. Once again, the defending champions made sure the No. 2 team in the West knew its place behind a barrage of first half buckets from Klay Thompson.
Pistons 131, Bulls 108 — Is it time to attach the “team nobody wants to play in the first round” prefix to the Pistons yet? Dominating the Bulls is no banner moment, of course. Yet Sunday’s win showed Detroit is figuring things out as the season winds down — which can be the sign of a team ready to take a big leap once the playoff lights turn on.
Stat Lines of the Week
James Harden (35 points, 12-30 FG, 3 ast, 3 stl in 37 minutes) — The Rockets’ superstar was at his scoring best when his team needed him most. Harden delivered 19 of those 35 points in the second half, helping Houston squash several of Toronto’s attempts at a comeback in one of the Rockets’ key road wins of the season. | Watch | Video box score
Gordon Hayward (30 points, 12-16 FG, 4-6 3pt FG, 7 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl in 28 minutes) — Heading into this Tuesday night matchup with Golden State, the Celtics were at a decided low point. Thanks to Hayward, though, things perked up quickly. A blowout win of the defending champs gave both the Celtics and Hayward — who is still regaining his old, go-to guy form — a confidence boost. | Watch | Video box score
Mike Conley (40 pts, 12-18 FG, 6-7 3pt FG, 4 reb, 4 ast in 35 minutes) — Ruining the fun for playoff-bound teams is one of the orders of the day for Memphis, and Conley saw to that on Tuesday night. His 40-point performance was his highest scoring game since dropping 38 points on the Suns in January of 2017. | Watch | Video box score
Andre Drummond (31 points, 11-18 FG, 15 reb, 3 ast, 2 blk in 39 minutes) — Detroit’s powerful center had it all working on Wednesday night and did so while outplaying his Minnesota counterpart, Karl-Anthony Towns. Drummond notched his 16th straight double-double — the second-longest run in team history — and helped Detroit move over .500 for the first time since Dec. 19. | Watch | Video box score
Damian Lillard (51 points, 15-28 FG, 18-20 FT, 5 reb, 9 ast, 2 blk in 47 minutes) — In what was his first 50-point game in more than a year, Lillard did all he could to try and get Portland to a win vs. OKC on Thursday night. It didn’t work out, but you can’t blame the Blazers’ All-Star. He scored 15 in the fourth quarter to help force overtime and led the team with six points in the extra period. | Watch | Video box score
Klay Thompson (39 pts, 13-22 FG, 9-11 3pt FG, 3 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl in 35 minutes) — Still smarting from a blowout home loss to the Boston Celtics, Thompson and Co. took it out on the Nuggets on Friday. He returned from a two-game absence to score 27 of his total points in the first half, going 9-for-13 overall with a 6-for-7 showing on 3-pointers. | Watch | Video box score
Joel Embiid (33 points, 11-21 FG, 11-15 FT, 12 reb, 2 stl in 28 minutes) –In his first game in nearly a month, Embiid showed the Pacers on Sunday why he’s someone to fear come playoff time. This was a critical win for the Sixers, too, as they moved into a tie for the East’s No. 3 spot with Indiana, but own the tiebreaker after winning the season series 3-1 on Sunday. Watch | Video box score
Best plays from Week 21
Quotes of the Week
“For a kid from Akron, Ohio, that needed inspiration and needed some type of positive influence, M.J. was that guy for me. I watched him from afar, wanted to be like M.J., wanted to shoot fadeaways like M.J., wanted to stick my tongue out on dunks like M.J., wanted to wear my sneakers like M.J. I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like M.J., and it’s crazy, to be honest.” — Lakers forward LeBron James, on Michael Jordan
“I can’t even deal with roaches and ants. There’s no way with a bat. I don’t understand why the mascot is a coyote; it should be a bat.” — Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, after another bat was on the loose at AT&T Center on Sunday.
“Two desperados, fighting for crumbs on the table. That’s really what it is.” — Coach David Fizdale, sharing his pregame assessment of the Knicks-Suns showdown on Wednesday
“I feel for him. LeBron has always been a championship contender. Not to qualify for the playoffs is hard. I can only imagine.” — Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, on LeBron James and the Lakers
“He’s been a very dominant player for a long time and on your way out it’s easy to say, `I’m going to ride this out and enjoy it.’ But he’s doing it like most Hall of Famers would do it – go at it and leave my greatness on the floor every night until you don’t see it anymore.” — Hawks guard Vince Carter, on Dwyane Wade
“Right now, we don’t know plays, honestly. We’ll call a play, and we’re all looking like: ‘I don’t know where to go.’ We’re all trying to figure it out on the fly.” — Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, on the team’s changed roster
“We’ve got to find ways to win. I’d rather have less stats and have more wins than to do what I’ve been doing recently.” — Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns
“It looked to me like we were jogging up the floor. You can’t play basketball jogging. You’ve got to sprint. Your cuts have to be hard. You have to be going all out. We did not go all out and it was embarrassing.” — Warriors coach Steve Kerr, after Tuesday’s blowout loss to Boston
“This one might take the crown, because there was a lot of body-to-body contact. … I had to look at it. I haven’t jumped like that, probably, since high school.” — Wizards guard Bradley Beal, after watching a replay of his dunk Wednesday night on the Mavs’ Salah Mejri
“They’re a better team than we are. If it wasn’t for our bench we would have gotten completely blown out.” — Nuggets coach Michael Malone, after Friday’s loss to the Warriors
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VIDEOS FROM WEEK 21
GameTime: Defensive woes plaguing defending champs?
GameTime: Impact of season-ending injuries to Ball, Ingram for Lakers
GameTime: Can Kings make serious push for No. 8 seed?
GameTime: Shaq reflects on his 61-point game in 2000
GameTime: All-female officiating crew makes history
GameTime: Antetokounmpo develops devastating game in paint
Inside The NBA: Barkley’s playoff offer for LeBron
Inside The NBA: Who will finish atop West standings?
Inside The NBA: James Cordon pays the crew a visit
Perfect Player: Who has best court vision in NBA?
In Their Own Words: Rookies on NBA veteran’s game that surprised them most
Players Only: Would Sixers-Celtics be a good first-round matchup?
Players Only: Can Pacers maintain No. 3 spot in East?
* Shaqtin’ A Fool | Diesel’s Dunks of the Week | Smitty’s Top Plays
STORIES FROM WEEK 21
* Powell: Will G.O.A.T. debate ever be settled?
* Aschburner: Pritchard keeps consistent Pacers on track
* Schuhmann: Power Rankings, Week 21 edition
* Schuhmann: Blazers at their best with Lillard, McCollum
* Kia MVP Ladder: Future MVP-types to keep on your radar
* Kia Rookie Ladder: Young making his charge forward