If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in covering the NBA more widely this season than I ever have, it’s that the late games are almost always worth staying up for. Late-night Thursday viewers were treated to two of our best MVP candidates showing why they’re on top of the conversation.
Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo are both two-time MVP’s and both are 7-foot offensive hubs, though both operate in completely different manners. It’s a testament to the NBA’s evolution that two guys can succeed at such high levels with such different approaches.
We’re also continuing to monitor the situation with the Lakers as LeBron moves ever-closer to the all-time scoring record, and he finds himself just a couple games away following Thursday’s showing:
Lakers split season series with Pacers after escaping with a 112-111 win
LeBron James had a hand in seven of the Lakers’ final 11 points, including scoring five of the final seven. He scored 26 points on the night, bringing the countdown to his all-time scoring record to just 63 more points, well within reach over the next couple games. Anthony Davis contributed a 31-point, 14-rebound double double, the game’s leader in each category.
The Pacers had a chance to pull ahead late — just like they did in the first meeting when Andrew Nembhard hit a three in the Nov. 28 meeting to beat the buzzer and the Lakers. Buddy Hield couldn’t cash from the deep corner on a double-covered circus shot. LA came through for the win after being down as much as 14 in the fourth.
LAKERS WIN!— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 3, 2023
Buddy Hield misses the potential game-winner to seal the win for the Lakers over the Pacers. pic.twitter.com/iDGWZF748S
Cavs win 128-113 as Grizzlies’ struggles continue
Darius Garland scored 32 points and dished out 11 assists, both of which were game-highs, as Cleveland improved to 22-6 at home on the year. Memphis, who was without Jaren Jackson Jr., has now lost seven of their last eight, and are closer to #3 than #1 in the West standings now.
Knicks hang on for 106-104 win over Heat
Miami never led in the fourth despite a late push that included six straight Miami points accounted for by Tyler Herro to pull within three with just 71 seconds remaining. Quentin Grimes responded with back-to-back assists to ice the game.
Julius Randle and RJ Barrett combined for 53 points, 18 rebounds, and 10 assists while Bam Adebayo and Herro totaled 57 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists. Jimmy Butler, seen by many as an All-Star snub, finished with just 10 points on 3-13 FG.
Bulls beat Hornets 114-98 behind 32-21 third quarter
Dallas withstands late New Orleans surge in 111-106 win
The Mavericks won the first half 70-43, giving them a little bit of room to cruise in the second half. and cruise they did. In the second half, New Orleans out-shot Dallas 55.8% to 30.2% while out-rebounding them 28-18 for an overall score of 63-41. Most teams win after winning the second half by 20+, but most teams don’t give up 70 in the first half.
Brandon Ingram and Luka Doncic each scored 31 points in the game, though Ingram scored most of his (18) in the second half while Doncic shined brighter in the first half (26). Spencer Dinwiddie was the only Maverick to score double-digit points in the second half, though he did so on rough efficiency — 13 points on 2-11 FG.
Nuggets beat Warriors 134-117 behind another Jokic triple double
Nikola Jokic had 22 points (9-13 FG), 14 rebounds, and 16 assists for his 17th triple double of the season and eighth over his last 10 games. Following up Tuesday’s 32-point game, Jamal Murray scored a game-high 33 to earn his first time this season with back-to-back 30’s.
Denver’s win was fueled by a 35-22 third quarter in which Murray scored 17 of his 33. Jordan Poole scored 10 in the frame for the Warriors and was the only member of Golden State with more than five in the subpar offensive period.
Giannis, Bucks complete comeback over Clippers 106-105
With just under 20 minutes to play, Milwaukee trailed by 21 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a hand in the next eight Bucks points as part of a huge MVP statement-type of game. For the game, the Greek Freak finished with 54 points (21-39 FG) and 19 rebounds with 20 of his points coming in a fourth quarter that Milwaukee won 28-18.