The Philadelphia 76ers have pushed back into third place in the Eastern Conference, and during the toughest stretch of their schedule, they have a chance to consolidate the position and make a real run at hosting a second-round Game 1 if they can close the gap with the Bucks and Raptors (more on them later).
Beating the Warriors 113-104 on national television, including beating the Warriors in the third quarter 42-26, will go a long way toward that goal.
Joel Embiid went bonkers on the big stage, scoring 26 points (admittedly on a horrendous 8-of-24 shooting) and hauling in 20 rebounds, while Ben Simmons scored 26 on 0-of-0 from three-point land in the Sixers’ big win.
Earlier in the day, Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports pointed out that Simmons was minus-11 against teams over .600 this season, wondering aloud if the Sixers’ Dollar Store Magic Johnson had the chops to hang with the very best in the league.
Simmons was plus-9, joining Jimmy Butler as the top plus-minus guys among Philadelphia’s starters.
That’s how you make a statement.
Meanwhile, Stephen Curry had 41 points and hit 10 three-pointers for Golden State, while Kevin Durant added 25 points of his own, but between the lack of Klay Thompson and the Warriors’ usual woes in getting any kind of scoring depth, Steph is going to have to keep putting up James Harden-like usage rates, and whether his knees and ankles explode hangs in the balance of Golden State’s bench depth.
The first Aussie All-Star is your man of the match. Good on ya, mate:
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) February 1, 2019
The Bucks Have Toronto’s Number
The Milwaukee Bucks just grabbed the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and possibly, considering how adept the West has been at cannibalizing itself, hosting a potential Game 7 in the NBA Finals.
That’s how much the 105-92 win over the Raptors on TNT meant to a team that hasn’t been to the Finals since 1974.
Giannis Antetokounmpo paced a Total Team Effort for the Bucks, who got seven guys into double figures and Greekazoid up to 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting despite being limited to just 28 minutes by foul trouble.
Much like Philadelphia did, the Bucks weathered a star performance by a guy on the other team—28 points for Pascal Siakam—but Siakam did just about nothing else, notching just three rebounds and three assists while posting a minus-15 on the court.
The Bucks controlled three-point range (14-of-38 for them; 7-of-27 for Toronto) and rode the extra points and a 50-39 rebounding advantage to the big win.
But how about some love for D.J. Wilson, a guy you’ve probably never heard of:
💥 @Lanky_Smoove brought the spark off the bench:
16 PTS (career-high) | 5 REB | 60% FG pic.twitter.com/XGig43ncls
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 1, 2019
LeBron James Is Back. This Is Not A Drill.
The GOAT returned to the lineup for the Lakers in a “road” game at Staples Center, whereupon the King’s squad beat the Clippers 123-120 in overtime.
LeBron had 24 points, 14 rebounds, and nine assists, Brandon Ingram added 19 points in the trade-me-for-Anthony Davis contest, and Rajon Rondo had 14 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists in a star-driven Lakers win.
Meanwhile, HERO OF SERBIA came back for the Clippers! Boban Marjanovic had 11 points in 13 minutes off the bench, his role as a super sub simply spectacular.
Highlights (including one heck of a moving screen from Ivica Zubac early in the clip; the Rams could use his tackling in the Super Bowl) ahoy:
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 1, 2019
I am done talking about the Pacers for now. These are the times that try men’s souls.
The Orlando Magic snapped a four-game losing streak with a win at home, handing Indiana their fourth straight loss of their own, 107-100, despite a fantastic 27 points from Myles Turner on 10-of-16 shooting and a perfect 6-of-6 from the line (see a theme developing about opposing teams having great individual nights?)
Terrence Ross came off the bench and annihilated the Pacers’ defense to the tune of 30 points, making him man of the match:
— NBA TV (@NBATV) February 1, 2019
Luka Doncic got snubbed by the coaches and media, so one of the biggest fan vote guys will not be in the All-Star Game as a rookie.
And if the Dallas Mavericks were hoping to get a little revenge on their guy’s behalf at the Hot N’ Ready, they seemed to have forgotten that they’re a garbage fire on the road.
So Detroit beat them 93-89 in an ugly game in which Blake Griffin (24 points) and Andre Drummond (also 24 points) showed off a little star power of their own.
Drummond added 20 rebounds, and we’ll let the Pistons’ social media team provide the highlights here:
Blake and Dre led the way.
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) February 1, 2019
And finally, a bat was spotted flying around AT&T Center, but there was no Manu Ginobili around to swat it.
In fact, the Spurs weren’t swatting much of anything, recording just three blocks as a team, but it didn’t matter as San Antonio rode a turnover (14-9) battle advantage and a big win at the free throw line (25-of-29 compared to 19-of-29 for Brooklyn) to a 117-114 win over the Nets.
Fundamentals, folks. If there’s one thing a Gregg Popovich-coached team is guaranteed to bring, it’s fundamentals.
Derrick White had 26 to lead the Spurs, and that means he gets some love in the highlights:
— NBA (@NBA) February 1, 2019
Have you had a chance to read some of the features we’ve tossed up here at Pace and Space this week? Take some time out of your workday to enjoy a piece about the Mavs’ cracker bakery, the Pacers’ imminent demise, and a week’s worth of highlights, and thanks for reading!