In almost 24 hours, the complete rosters for the March 7 NBA All-Star Game will be announced. It was an uncertain road that brought us here, as the game was originally not expected to happen–and when it was announced that it was, the league and commissioner Adam Silver faced criticism from media and players alike, including strong remarks from LeBron James and De’Aaron Fox. But it’s happening nonetheless, and for certain young players trying to make their mark in the league, getting that first All-Star nod matters.
So who’s in? The good news is, that’s still TBD.
On today’s BBNBA, we’re recapping Sunday’s action and looking ahead with an eye on which former ‘Cats are making the most of their final impressions for All-Star voters.
SGA, Thunder right ship vs. Cavs
The month of February has not been kind to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had lost eight of their last 11 games before Sunday’s win over the hapless Cavaliers. It’s no coincidence this skid coincided with star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missing six games with a nagging knee sprain. In his third game back yesterday, SGA looked as good as ever, contributing 31 points, nine assists and four rebounds on 3-3 shooting from deep in the 16-point win. Hamidou Diallo did his part in bringing energy off the bench, with 15 points on a perfect 5-5 from the field.
For Gilgeous-Alexander, it was his fifth 30+ point game this season, and he is averaging career-highs in points (22.6) assists (6.5), 3P% (.400) and PER (21.5). In order to earn his first All-Star appearance, he’ll have to beat out the likes of Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, John Wall and De’Aaron Fox; it’s a long shot, but certainly not impossible. SGA has been that good.
OKC’s recent swoon could hurt his chances, as OKC has dropped from a fringe-playoff team to near the bottom of the West in the last month. But either way, there’s no doubt SGA is a rising star in the league.
Randle outduels Towns in Knicks-Wolves clash
From the “Cat on Cat crime” department, last night’s matchup between Julius Randle’s Knicks and Karl-Anthony Towns’ Timberwolves lived up to… well, as much hype as there can be between two sub-.500 teams. Randle had another dominant outing, pouring in 25 points and 14 rebounds, but Towns matched him step-for-step with 27 and 15 of his own, as well as three blocks. Ultimately it was two free throws from Randle with 30 seconds left that put the Knicks up for good in a 103-99 win. Nerlens Noel and Immanuel Quickley combined for 15 points for New York, while Jarred Vanderbilt had just two points in 16 minutes off the bench for Minnesota.
Statistically, Towns has had another All-Star-caliber season, averaging 22 and 11 with a career-best 42% from beyond the arc; but considering he’s missed nearly two-thirds of his team’s games while battling COVID-19 and minor injuries, he can’t really be considered. Randle, on the other hand, has caused considerable buzz with his performance of late. Take a look at these game logs from the past two weeks:
25 pts, 14 reb, 4 ast, W
25 pts, 7 reb, 3 ast, L
44 pts, 9 reb, 5 ast, W
22 pts, 9 reb, 2 ast, W
24 pts, 18 reb, 4 ast, W
His career-high averages have now risen to 23.2 ppg (10th in the East), 11.0 rpg (7th) and .410 3P% (5th among all EC post players). With four spots remaining on the Eastern Conference “bench,” he’ll have to finish in the top half of a group of players that includes Jayson Tatum (26.0 ppg), Nikola Vucevic (24.1), Jerami Grant (23.5), Khris Middleton (20.5), Domantas Sabonis (21.5), Jimmy Butler (19.3) and Gordon Hayward (21.9); of these, only Middleton is on a team with a record more than one game above .500. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
Jamal Murray stayed scorching hot, dropping a light 30, 4 and 4 line in a loss to the Hawks on Sunday. It was the third straight outing of 30+ points for Murray (and his sixth consecutive with 22 or more), who has overtaken Nikola Jokic as the Nuggets’ no. 1 option on offense in the last week. It’s probably too little, too late for Murray to receive All-Star consideration, but man, is “Bubble Murray” fun or what?
De’Aaron Fox put together a 13-point, 10-assist double-double in Sacramento’s loss to Milwaukee, leading a late comeback attempt that ultimately fell short. He’s averaging career highs in points and minutes played, but the Kings’ current seven-game losing streak has lessened the likeliness of Fox earning his first All-Star bid.
Eric Bledsoe managed just eight points and three assists in New Orleans’ dramatic overtime win against the Celtics, but he played excellent defense, holding Kemba Walker to 14 points on awful 5-21 shooting (1-12 from three). He continues to contribute in more ways than meet the eye.
|Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC)||117-101 W vs. CLE||31||9-15 (3-3)||4||9||1||0||3||+10||36|
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||115-123 L vs. ATL||30||11-20 (3-8)||4||4||2||0||2||-15||35|
|Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)||99-103 L vs. NYK||27||9-18 (3-7)||15||4||1||3||3||+1||31|
|Julius Randle (NYK)||103-99 W vs. MIN||25||8-16 (2-4)||14||4||0||0||4||+11||39|
|Hamidou Diallo (OKC)||117-101 W vs. CLE||15||5-5 (0-0)||2||2||1||1||2||+20||26|
|De'Aaron Fox (SAC)||115-128 L vs. MIL||13||5-17 (2-5)||1||10||2||0||4||-16||34|
|Nerlens Noel (NYK)||103-99 W vs. MIN||10||2-4 (0-0)||9||0||0||2||3||-4||29|
|Eric Bledsoe (NOP)||120-115 W vs. BOS||8||3-6 (0-1)||1||3||0||1||1||+0||25|
|Immanuel Quickley (NYK)||103-99 W vs. MIN||5||1-5 (1-2)||1||0||0||0||1||-10||9|
|Jarred Vanderbilt (MIN)||99-103 L vs. NYK||2||1-2 (0-0)||2||1||1||0||2||-10||16|
|Rajon Rondo (ATL)||123-115 W vs. DEN||DNP - back soreness||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Tyrese Maxey (PHI)||103-110 L vs. TOR||DNP - Coach's decision||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Darius Miller (OKC)||117-101 W vs. CLE||DNP - Coach's decision||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Kevin Knox (NYK)||103-99 W vs. MIN||DNP - Coach's decision||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Patrick Patterson (LAC)||108-112 L vs. BKN||DNP - Coach's decision||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Wenyen Gabriel (NOP)||120-115 W vs. BOS||DNP - Coach's decision||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TODAY IN THE NBA
8:00: Bulls @ Rockets (Wall)
8:30: Grizzlies @ Mavericks (Cauley-Stein)
9:00: Heat (Adebayo, Herro) @ Thunder (SGA, Diallo, Miller)
9:00: Blazers (Kanter) @ Suns (Booker)
9:00: Hornets (Washington, Monk) @ Jazz
10:00: Wizards @ Lakers (Davis*)
* – inactive