Breakfast Special: Revenge of the Scrubs

There were a few real head-scratcher losses by good teams in the NBA Wednesday night, and while we’ll save the recaps for the lightning round because they don’t merit a feature (with one exception for the top three that you’ll see when we get there), it is endlessly interesting every year when March and April roll around and for every team that provides a compelling storyline as they fight for a playoff spot (Pacers and West Coast road trip, anyone?), there are five more that are either bad teams winning as their garbage fire roster finally provides some hope for the future or good teams trying to get everyone healthy for the already-clinched playoffs.

But like I said, we’ll get to those actual games later. We begin this morning with…

The Celtics Make No Sense At All

Boston sometimes looks like the team that came a LeBron away from the NBA Finals in 2018, coming together, shooting the lights out, playing great defense, and generally looking like a team poised to make a deep playoff run.

And then there are nights when they run into better teams and don’t look like they’re getting out of a likely first round 4-5 tilt with the Pacers, having to play Game 7 on the road in the scenario where they bow out.

And other times the result is somewhere in between, like when the Celtics went to Philadelphia and lost to the 76ers 118-115 in a game that should have every Boston sports fan ready to punch anyone they see at the office wearing a gray shirt.

The referees gave this one to Philly. Boston shot 46.9 percent to Philly’s 37.8. Both sides had only eight turnovers. Philly won the rebounding battle 54-46, but…

Free throws, man. 13-of-16 for the Celtics, 20-of-21 just for Joel Embiid alone, 39-of-43 for the Sixers as a team.

If Bostonians start saying the games are rigged against them, the NBA’s ongoing image problem with officiating has nothing to reply.

Embiid ended up with 37 points and 22 rebounds in a game where the Sixers bench scored just eight points. The starters—and the referees—won this game.

Jimmy Butler went back to the Dark Ages to shake Kyrie Irving for the game-deciding jumper:

But Embiid is the man of the match:

Big Points. No Win.

James Harden continues to score like a demon, but it’s a funny thing about NBA basketball—when stars score 50, their teams lose a shockingly high percentage of the time.

Harden had 57 points. The Rockets, despite a fierce fourth-quarter comeback to erase what was a 17-point deficit with under seven minutes to go, fell just short in the extra frame, losing 126-125 in overtime to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Mike Conley had 35 and Jonas Valanciunas had 33 points for the Grizz, who let Houston shoot 21-of-48 (43.8 percent) from long range and still managed to pull off the win thanks to clobbering the Rockets on the boards 51-39 and getting 31-of-39 free throws to drop.

The Rockets, meanwhile, hit all 20 of their free throws, but another home team got all the calls. Hmmm…

Harden’s 57 included 9-of-17 from three and 12-of-12 from the line; too bad only winners get highlights.

Valanciunas, and his 33-point, 15-rebound night, take man of the match:

Another Fierce Comeback Scorned

Speaking of teams that came back from big deficits to force overtime and lost, the Oklahoma City Thunder were down by as many as 20 to the Raptors, trailed by double digits with 4:07 left, forced it to five extra minutes…and then lost the overtime 13-4 to lose the game 123-114.

Pascal Siakam had 33 points and 11 rebounds, Kawhi Leonard had 22 points and 10 boards, and Fred VanVleet added 23 points to the starter-heavy effort in this one.

Russell Westbrook, in a Harden sort of way, had 42 points on 16-of-29, hit half of his threes (5-of-10), made the game-tying shot in regulation…and took the L along with his team.

Siakam’s making a huge case for Most Improved Player:

Lightning Round!

We begin our head-scratcher tour mentioned at the top of the show in Cleveland, where the Cavs beat the Milwaukee Bucks 107-102.

The Bucks have been holding Giannis Antetokounmpo out of games due to right ankle soreness, and the strongest case for Greekazoid as MVP comes from just how shockingly mediocre the team looks without him.

Collin Sexton led the Cavs with 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting, as he’s looking a lot less like the guy who at one point this season was on pace to post the worst VORP by a rookie in NBA history.

But Jordan Clarkson‘s 23 points get the highlight reel:

Orlando played host to New Orleans and stomped them 119-96.

Only three Pelicans players, including just one starter, reached double figures, as Frank Jackson had 14.

Orlando, meanwhile, got 22 points from Evan Fournier, 20 from Aaron Gordon (along with a plus-32), and a 15-point, 17-rebound performance from Nikola Vucevic.

This game wasn’t even as close as the score; the Magic went on a late run in garbage time to chip a few flakes off a 35-point lead.

Team highlights:

Speaking of blowouts, not all the good teams lost to the bad ones.

Because there will always be the Knicks, who got crushed at home by Utah 137-116.

Rudy Gobert was a perfect 7-of-7 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line to get 18 points, Donovan Mitchell hit 12-of-20 to score 30, the Jazz overall shot 56.5 percent from the field and 20-of-42 from three, and that’s how you stomp an awful squad into the dust.

Zion National Park 1, Tanking For Zion 0:

Lauri Markkanen and the Chicago Bulls needed five extra minutes to beat the Wizards, but the third OT game of the night ended with a 126-120 Bulls win.

And once again, the team that came from behind to force OT—the Wizards were down eight with 3:36 to go in regulation—was the team that lost.

Markkanen had 32 points, Kris Dunn had 26, and both men had double-doubles as Markkanen had 13 rebounds and Dunn got 13 assists.

Dunn’s best game of the season deserves a man of the match reel:

Look out below, the Miami Heat are within a game of .500 at 35-36 after going to San Antonio and beating the Spurs 110-105.

All four Heat bench players scored in double figures in this one, led by Goran Dragic with 22, as the Slovenian has been on fire of late.

Miami hit 16-of-35 three-pointers against 14-of-34 for San Antonio, so you can’t blame Popovich’s attitude about the long ball for this one.

A little fun from D-Wade ultimately helped decide the contest:

And finally, the Portland Trail Blazers whipped up on the Mavericks 126-118 at Moda Center, the Mavs’ road woes on full display.

Damian Lillard led the way with 33 points, Seth Curry had 20 off the bench, and the Blazers held off a strong 24-point game from Luka Doncic (8-of-16 FG) for the win.

The Blazers shot 49.5 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three to power the big 126-point offensive outburst.

Dame Dollars was straight cash:

Is He Any Good later. Breakfast now. Reader appreciation always.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!