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BBNBA: Western Conference tightens ahead of playoffs

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

As we get close to the NBA playoffs, things just keep getting more interesting, folks. Though Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns took the No. 1 spot in the West on Friday, the Jazz has since reclaimed it. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving for playoff spots happening across the league right now. Let’s talk about it.

RECAP:

NUGGETS MOVE INTO NO.3 IN WEST

When Jamal Murray tore his ACL and ended his season last month, things did not look great for his Denver Nuggets. Murray was having a pretty good season, averaging 21.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 47.7% from the field before his injury.

But Denver was not so ready to throw the season away. Behind Nikola Jokic’s leadership, the Nuggets have won nine of their last 10 games and just moved into the third spot in the Western Conference.

In last night’s game, Jokic ended the game with 30 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in Denver’s 110-104 win over the Clippers. Not only that, but the big man didn’t turn the ball over even once. Michael Porter Jr. added 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

For the Clippers, Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins had decent showings. Rondo put up 18 points, with Cousins adding 16 in only 14 minutes of playing time – including this ‘Cat to ‘Cat lob. Love to see it.

ZION LEADS PELICANS PAST TIMBERWOLVES IN OT

Zion is back doing Zion things. Last night, the former Duke (ew) standout netted 37 in the Pelicans’ win over the Timberwolves along with nine rebounds and eight assists. More impressively, the big man finished 14-0f-17.  Lonzo Ball added a career-high 33-point showing, tying a career-best with eight 3-pointers. He also snagged 11 rebounds and dished out eight assists, leaving him just shy of a triple-double. Williamson scored seven of his 37 points in OT, pushing the Pelicans to a 140-136 win.

Former Wildcat Eric Bledsoe added 16 points for the Pelicans, along with three rebounds, three assists and one block. Bledsoe hit a mid-season slump but has been working to find his groove. Over his last 10 games, Bledsoe is averaging 12.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

The dangerous Anthony Edwards/Karl-Anthony Towns duo put up numbers last night for the Timberwolves. Edwards led the Timberwolves with 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Towns added a double-double effort of 29 points and 14 rebounds.

Though the Timberwolves have already been eliminated from the playoffs, they were on a four-game win streak prior to last night’s loss. This was their longest streak since 2018.

HORNETS BEAT PISTONS WITH HELP FROM LAMELO

Lonzo Ball wasn’t the only one getting it done last night. After sitting out the last 21 games, LaMelo finally returned to the court. Ball, who is a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, had surgery to repair a broken wrist and has been out since. In last night’s action, LaMelo ended with 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in his 28 minutes on the court.

Former Louisville Cardinal (ew) Terry Rozier led the Hornets with 29 points in their 107-94 victory. Miles Bridges added 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists. P.J. Washington ended just shy of a double-double with 16 points and eight rebounds. Malik Monk also returned from a month-long ankle injury, recording 11 points and going 2-3 from three in his 22 minutes on the court.

The return of both Ball and Monk is a timely one for Charlotte, who is 4-8 in their last 12 games. The Hornets currently sit at No. 8 in the Eastern Conference at 31-32, just a few games behind the Miami Heat. If things go well in the remainder of the season, this will be Charlotte’s first playoff appearance in five years.

While you’re here, check out this insane under-handed pass from LaMelo to Bridges. Wow.

Another angle just because I like it that much…

Here are the full stats from yesterday’s games:

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Karl Anthony-Towns (MIN)140-136 L to Pelicans (OT)288-19 (4-9)143304-637
Rajon Rondo (LAC)110-104 L to Nuggets188-12 (2-5)55212-930
Mychal Mulder (GS)113-87 W over Rockets176-9 (5-7)50001+823
PJ Washington (CHA)107-94 W over Pistons167-17 (2-8)82032+2237
Eric Bledsoe (NO)140-136 W over Timberwolves (OT)166-10 (2-6)33012+435
Demarcus Cousins (LAC)110-104 L to Nuggets166-9 (2-3)31110+514
Bam Adebayo (MIA)124-107 W over Cavaliers136-13106400+2333
Malik Monk (CHA)107-94 W over Pistons114-8 (2-3)22101-322
Jarred Vanderbilt (MIN)140-136 L to Pelicans (OT)94-481120-918
Willie Cauley-Stein (DAL)125-124 W over Wizards63-5 (0-1)120221-327
Wenyen Gabriel (NO)140-136 W over Timberwolves (OT)00-000000-93
Patrick Patterson (LAC)110-104 L to Nuggets00-2 (0-2)10000-117

TODAY IN THE NBA:

3:30 p.m. – Nets at Bucks

7:30 p.m. – Trail Blazers (Kanter) at Celtics

8:00 p.m. – Heat (Adebayo, Herro) at Hornets (Monk, Richards, Washington)

8:00 p.m. – Kings (Fox) at Mavericks (Cauley-Stein)

8:00 p.m. – Knicks (Knox, Noel, Quickley, Randle) at Rockets (Wall)

8:00 p.m. – Suns (Booker) at Thunder (Gilgeous-Alexander)

8:00 p.m. – 76ers (Maxey) at Spurs (Johnson)

10:00 p.m. – Raptors at Lakers (Davis)

Article written by Kassidy Stumbo

Follow me on Twitter @kass_stumbo