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BBNBA: A GIANT MLK Day Recap

(NBA Getty Images)

(NBA Getty Images)

Good afternoon, folks. 28 of the NBA’s 30 teams played on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to honor the legendary civil rights activist. Let’s talk NBA.

Fan voting for the 2020 NBA All-Star is officially CLOSED! BUT, NBA League Pass is currently FREE through Jan. 26. So go ahead and get a closer look at some of your favorite former ‘Cats this week.

RECAP

Alright… Where to begin…

First of all, we need to talk about how the NBA does a FANTASTIC job of honoring Dr. King. It’s been an annual tradition for the Association as long as I can remember. They always pack the schedule full of fantastic games and have them run throughout the entire day. This year was no different, with a 14-game slate taking over the basketball world.

But it’s not just about the games – the NBA goes out of its way to acknowledge and praise all the works of the famous activist. In a league that is made up of mostly of athletes of color, MLK day receives the type of coverage and respect that no other calendar day in the long NBA season does. It’s not a fancy marketing trick or social media ploy, but genuine respect for everything Dr. King did to help change America for the better.

Players are constantly posting their favorite quotes or memories of Dr. King on social media. Shirts and memorabilia with his messages are being sported by every player, whether it’s in the tunnel well before tipoff, during the pregame shootaround, or in the postgame press conference. A lot about the NBA wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the efforts of Dr. King several decades ago. Hell, there probably wouldn’t even be an NBA right now if it weren’t for Dr. King’s efforts. It’s just a great day for the Association overall. Now let’s get into some basketball, shall we?

A total of 17 former Wildcats took the floor on Monday while another seven were sidelined with injuries.

Booker’s massive game comes up short

If Devin Booker doesn’t make the All-Star team this year, it’s a crime agaisnt all humanity. While he’s been excellent all season in a more comfortable role, he’s been special since right before the new year kicked in. On Monday, Book dropped 37 points on 13-23 shooting (4-6 from deep) to go along with seven rebounds and five assists. Phoenix was down double-digits heading into the fourth quarter and rallied to take their very first lead of the game with under three minutes left in regulation.

Bryn Forbes was hot for the San Antonio Spurs. He drilled seven triples in the first half (he previous high for most in one game was six) but it was his eighth and final triple that was the most important. Shortly after the Suns took its first lead of the game, Forbes pushed the Spurs back ahead with a dagger three-pointer. Trey Lyles received his 30th start of the season at center for the Spurs, contributing two points and five rebounds in 20 minutes.

If it wasn’t for Booker’s 22 third-quarter points, there wouldn’t have even been a game to get excited for in the first place. He had a shot to win the game with time running low, but forced up a bad shot a few feet behind the line that rimmed out. This was the seventh loss of the season for Phoenix that was decided by one possession. They are 18-25.

I think the whole world knew it was going to Booker,” Derrick White of the San Antonio Spurs said about the final shot from the Suns. ”He was killing it the whole night. Just tried to make it tough and contested.”

Since Dec. 27 of 2019, Booker has been on an absolute tear. He’s averaging 32.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.4 assists over 13 games on shooting splits of 53.2/32.3/92.9. The Suns are 7-6 in that stretch and barely hanging on to staying in contention for the Western Conference playoffs. Put Booker in the All-Star game.

Celtics blow out hobbled Lakers

Both Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo made their returns to the Los Angeles Lakers rotation on Monday after missing a few games apiece. Davis sat out five games following a scary fall that gave him what I have identified as a “bruised ass” while Rondo missed the previous three games with a minor finger injury. But both former ‘Cats were in action against the Celtics in Boston – and maybe they should have sat out another game.

The Celtics dominated the Lakers with our very own Jack Pilgrim in attendance for his first Boston game at TD Garden. Winning by a final score of 139-107, the Celtics ran L.A. out of the gym early. It was also the first time in Kemba Walker’s CAREER that he was able to finally beat LeBron James (0-29 prior to the win). He did so by handing the Lakers it’s worst loss of the season, too. At one point in the third quarter, Boston led 103-75.

Davis was set to a 28-minute restriction following his return from injury but appeared in just 22 minutes against the Lakers. The former No. 1 pick posted nine points, four rebounds, and two assists on just a 3-7 shooting clip in the blowout.

”I was just trying to get back into game shape and get back in rhythm,” Davis said. ”For the most part, I felt fine.”

Rondo played 20 minutes, registering 13 points and three assists. For the Celtics, Enes Kanter posted an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double, his seventh on the season.

Heat sneak past Kings in overtime

Our first of two overtime games on the day featured a “lucky” win for the Miami Heat, who did not lead one time in the fourth quarter but still beat the Sacramento Kings anyway.

Bam Adebayo went for 16 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists (but with five turnovers) as Miami remains undefeated in overtime this season (7-0). The Heat also improved its home record to a league-leading 19-1 in the process. They did so without Jimmy Butler, too. Tyler Hero put up six points, two assists, and three steals in his second game back after sitting out two in a row due to a sore knee.

”I keep saying it,” Adebayo said. ”We’ve got a lot of grit. We’ve got a lot of determination. That’s the kind of guys who you want in your locker room.”

Miami forced the Kings to shoot 13-51 from beyond the arc – the most misses by Sacramento in one game in franchise history. Miami busted out a zone defense they’ve been famous for this season and told the Kings to beat them from the perimeter. Even with 14 points, eight assists, and three steals from De’Aaron Fox, the Kings couldn’t seal the deal.

OKC rallies late to down Rockets

This might have been the most thrilling game of the entire day.

The Oklahoma City Thunder were down by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter before mounting an impressive comeback against James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the Houston Rockets. OKC outscored Houston 41-20 in the fourth quarter to pull off the win while Harden was 1-17 on the day from beyond the arc. Yes, one for seventeen. Yikes. He still finished with 29 points.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander recorded 13 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals while shooting 5-10 from the floor for the Thunder. The former ‘Cat ripped Harden and darted to the other end for a slow-motion dunk that put the Thunder ahead 108-105 with roughly one minute left. Hamidou Diallo added six points and three assists in 13 minutes for OKC while Nerlens Noel sat out with a bad ankle. Noel has played in just two of the Thunder’s last nine games due to minor injuries.

Two ‘Cats shine in blowout loss to Magic

The Charlotte Hornets were railed by the Orlando Magic, 106-83, but that doesn’t mean a few former Wildcats didn’t put on quality performances.

P.J. Washington posted 19 points and seven rebounds while shooting 9-17 from the floor and connecting on four of his eight attempts from deep. Malik Monk went for 20 points on an 8-13 shooting clip, his first double-digit scoring game since the end of 2019. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was held out for the fourth straight game.

The Magic shot 14-28 from beyond the arc as they handed the Hornets its seventh consecutive loss.

Other notes

  • Karl-Anthony Towns appeared in his third game back after sitting out 15 in a row due to a mysterious knee injury. He played 32 minutes, the most since coming back, and scored 28 points in the process. KAT shot 9-19 from the floor while corraling eight boards and dishing out five dimes. Unfortunately, his Minnesota Timberwolves fell to the Jamal Murray-less Denver Nuggets by a score of 107-100.
  • In Cleveland, the New York Knicks beat the Cavaliers 106-83 thanks to 19 points and nine rebounds from Julius Randle. Also for the Knicks, Kevin Knox dropped in five points and six rebounds in a mere 15 minutes. I still have no idea why he doesn’t play more.
  • The Golden State Warriors fell to the Portland Trail Blazers in overtime thanks to the superpowers of Damian Lillard, who poured in an MLK Day record of 61 points to down the Warriors. Willie Cauley-Stein posted 12 points, seven rebounds, and three assists for Golden State while Skal Labissiere sat out his 12 straight game with a knee injury. As for the recently traded Wenyen Gabriel, he was not with the Blazers for their game on Monday but should be with the team going forward.
  • Finally, Eric Bledsoe and the Milwaukee Bucks earned a 111-98 win over the Chicago Bulls. Bledsoe added seven points and four rebounds for the Bucks, who improved to a league-leading 39-6 overall record.

Check out the full stat sheet below.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Devin Booker (PHX)118-120 L vs. SAS3713-23 (4-6)75005+638
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)100-107 L vs. DEN289-19 (2-5)85110+235
Malik Monk (CHA)83-106 L vs. ORL208-13 (0-3)12011-2221
P.J. Washington Jr. (CHA)83-106 L vs. ORL197-12 (4-8)71004-1434
Julius Randle (NYK)106-86 W @ CLE197-17 (0-2)91101+827
Enes Kanter (BOS)139-107 W vs. LAL188-10 (0-0)110012+1124
Bam Adebayo (MIA)118-113 (OT) W vs. SAC166-9 (0-0)115115+1339
De'Aaron Fox (SAC)113-118 (OT) L @ MIA147-22 (0-7)28305-1637
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC)112-107 W @ HOU135-10 (0-1)101311+138
Rajon Rondo (LAL)107-139 L @ BOS135-9 (1-2)23002-1220
Willie Cauley-Stein (GSW)124-129 (OT) L @ POR126-10 (0-0)73130-832
Anthony Davis (LAL)107-139 L @ BOS93-7 (0-0)42122-2422
Eric Bledsoe (MIL)111-98 W vs. CHI73-6 (0-0)42001+1028
Tyler Herro (MIA)118-113 (OT) W vs. SAC62-6 (2-4)02302-117
Hamidou Diallo (OKC)112-107 W @ HOU63-6 (0-1)13001-513
Kevin Knox (NYK)106-86 W @ CLE51-4 (1-3)60001+1615
Trey Lyles (SAS)120-118 W @ PHX21-3 (0-1)52100+2120
Nerlens Noel (OKC)112-107 W @ HOUDNP-Ankle----------------
Jamal Murray (DEN)107-100 W @ MINDNP-Ankle----------------
Brandon Knight (CLE)86-106 L vs. NYKDNP-Knee----------------
Skal Labissiere (POR)129-124 (OT) W vs. GSWDNP-Knee----------------
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA)83-106 L vs. ORLDNP-CD----------------
Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)107-100 W @ MINDNP-CD----------------
Keldon Johnson (SAS)120-118 W @ PHXDNP-Inactive----------------
John Wall (WAS)106-100 W vs. DETDNP-Foot----------------
Darius Miller (NOP)126-116 W @ MEMDNP-Achilles----------------
Wenyen Gabriel (POR)129-124 (OT) W vs. GSWDNP-Traded----------------

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

8:30 (NBATV): Clippers (Patterson) @ Mavericks

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Covering all things NBA. Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan