I’ll be fully transparent. I was looking forward to spending most of my time here talking about how the new pieces for the Wizards and Lakers looked in their respective debuts for their new teams.
I should’ve known better than to think a full slate of NBA games with two thirds of the league in action wouldn’t provide me with even more content to get all wide-eyed at and just marvel at the talent on display each night.
Three games gave us emotionally charged duels while two others featured All-Stars returning from injuries and another featured another 60-point game, the third of the season. We start with the top two rookies from the 2022 draft class:
Warriors come back to top rival Grizzlies 122-120 in exciting finish
The situation was never worse for Golden State than when they were down 10 with six minutes to play. Steph Curry was ejected for throwing his mouth guard with 1:14 remaining, but the Warriors were already up 116-114 and only trailed for 12 of the final 74 seconds. Curry also played plenty enough time to finish with 34 points (10-19 FG, 4-8 3P).
Maybe the true culprit of frustrating Curry to the point of throwing the mouth guard, Jordan Poole played a wild 31 minutes, which included five fouls, three turnovers, and one refusal to pass Curry the ball shortly before the ejection.
Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Brandon Clarke combined for 68 of Memphis’s 120 points, including Morant connecting with Clarke on an inside dump-off pass that Clarke dunked home to tie the game at 120 with just six seconds remaining before Poole took advantage of a poorly-defended inbounds play with a layup with just one second remaining.
Banchero, Magic outlast Mathurin, Pacers 126-120
In a matchup between the top two candidates for Rookie of the Year, each team’s young stud led their respective team in scoring — Paolo Banchero with 23 points (6-14 FG) in the win and Bennedict Mathurin with 26 (7-18).
Orlando led wire-to-wire, but that didn’t stop Indiana from making it at least a little interesting when they were within five points with 1:46 remaining. Markelle Fultz scored four of the Magic’s final seven points from that point on, finishing with 13 points and eight assists.
Embiid gets last laugh in first meeting with Simmons as Sixers beat Nets 137-133
Ben Simmons had already played the Sixers since his dishonorable discharge from the city of brotherly love, even at Wells Fargo Arena, where he’s all but assured expletives from fans. Simmons played just three minutes in the fourth following a brilliant third quarter (10 points and three assists). Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn had some bars for reporters postgame explaining the decision:
JV on Ben Simmons sitting late: “So if you're thinking about being aggressive, you will be aggressive. If you think about being a good teammate, you'll be a good teammate. If you think about competing and playing hard, you do those things. You become what you think about.” #nets— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) January 26, 2023
Joel Embiid got the last laugh by way of the win, but he struggled late in this one, going 0-3 from the field in the fourth. Instead it was James Harden and Tyrese Maxey closing it out and combining for 15 points in the fourth; Maxey led the team in scoring over the evening with 27.
Wizards pick up 108-103 win over Rockets in Kendrick Nunn’s debut
In his first game active since being traded from the Lakers, new Wizards guard Kendrick Nunn tallied 12 points (5-9 FG), four rebounds, and four assists in 22 minutes; each mark is roughly double his season average with LA. Deni Avdija, the other Wizard benefitting from the trade due to the unclogged positional logjam, finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, his seventh double double of the season.
Nuggets offense falters without Jokic in 107-99 loss to Bucks
Wolves spoil Ingram’s return with 111-102 win over Pelicans
After missing 29 games with a big toe injury, All-Star wing Brandon Ingram returned to the lineup for New Orleans and though he certainly got shots up, he had trouble finding his rhythm — 13 points on 4-18 FG, including 0-6 from downtown. CJ McCollum instead led the Pelicans in scoring with 25 on a much more efficient 9-17.
Just like in Adam Sandler’s Hustle, Anthony Edwards found himself playing spoiler and he did so efficiently, posting 37 points (12-25 FG) along with six rebounds and five assists. It’s his third straight game with at least 30 points, his longest such streak of the season.
Hawks top Thunder 137-132 behind 33 points and 11 assists from Trae Young
Dame dazzles in Portland’s 134-124 win over Utah
Damian Lillard is just on an otherworldly heater right now. After 60 points (21-29 FG, 9-15 3P) on Thursday, he’s scored at least 40 in four of his last eight games. The lights out performance has historical significance as well with Lillard now one of five players ever with at least four regular season games scoring 60+; the other four are Wilt Chamberlain (32 games), Kobe Bryant (6), James Harden (4), and Michael Jordan (4).
Toronto slows Sacramento down in 113-95 win
Featuring Davis and Hachimura, Lakers beat Spurs 113-104
After missing more than a month, Anthony Davis starred off the bench, finishing with 21 points (7-15 FG), 12 rebounds, and four blocks in 26 minutes. Rui Hachimura made a positive impact in his first game suiting up for the Lakers as well, matching the 12 point-mark set by trade partner Nunn, while also being a game-high +17 in his 22 minutes.