Breakfast Special: Lance, Make ‘Em Dance

The NBA featured one game with direct playoff implications, one potential Finals preview, and eight games that ultimately meant just about nothing in the grand scheme of how things shake out three weeks from now—even though one of them was a legit thriller that we’ll get to in the third featured spot, so stick around for that.

The thing about all this frivolity is it leaves room for the ultimate frivolous player, Lance Stephenson of the Los Angeles Lakers, a walking ball of highlights and cognitive fan dissonance.

And that was all an elaborate setup for Lance shaking Jeff Green for a midrange bucket to put the Lakers up five on the Wizards in a game Los Angeles won 124-106, winning every quarter in the process.

Lance finished with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers with 29 points on 10-of-17, LeBron James added 23 to go with 14 assists and seven rebounds, and JaVale McGee ended up with 20 points and 15 boards on 9-of-11 shooting like a discount Rudy Gobert.

The Lakers shot 53.9 percent from the field and assisted on 37 of their 48 made shots.

Kneel before the King, who is man of the match:

A Finals Preview in Milwaukee?

The Houston Rockets, the likeliest candidate for the 3 seed in the West now that Jusuf Nurkic is out in Portland, traveled to Milwaukee for echoes of the Hakeem OlajuwonMarques Johnson matchup that we never got in the 1980s because Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had other ideas.

Students of old-school NBA greatness can probably go digging through the league’s archives to find those old games—looking at you, NBA TV!

And in the MVP race this year, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks beat James Harden and the Rockets 108-94.

Greekazoid had 19 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, a steal, and a block while going 7-of-15 from the field and posting a plus-7.

Harden had 23 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks while going 9-of-26 from the field and posting a minus-14.

What’s more, Harden had the same kind of game he always has when the refs aren’t enabling his trash style of play out there; he shot 4-of-5 from the free throw line, plenty of missed shots the results of failed attempts to draw fouls. Surprisingly, he only had four turnovers.

Meanwhile, Houston shot 36.4 percent as a team and hit 16 three-pointers, but on 51 attempts for a 30.8 percent clip; their overall eFG% was just .444.

This is what Giannis thinks of your MVP candidacy, James:

The MVP is man of the match:

Kemba’s Clutch Surprise

Kemba Walker has earned a reputation for disappearing in the clutch.

So how do you explain his mammoth performance against the San Antonio Spurs in Charlotte’s 125-116 overtime win?

Walker had 38 points, and down the stretch in the fourth, he went 3-of-5 when shooting to tie or take the lead. He also hit the go-ahead bucket early in OT that gave the Hornets the lead they would never relinquish.

This from a guy with a sub-.400 eFG% in such situations in his career.

But on the other hand, baseball players who hit .333 go 3-of-5 from the plate sometimes.

Still, props where they’re due. Kemba Walker showed up in the final five minutes and got work done when it mattered most for his team.

Giving credit where it’s due:

Lightning Round!

The Orlando Magic and Miami Heat played what’s going to look an awful lot like a play-in game if the race for the 8 seed in the East continues to stay as hot as it’s been.

And when Orlando won 104-99 on Miami’s floor for their sixth straight win, the landscape changed.

Orlando is now half a game up on Miami (37-38 for the Magic, 36-38 for the Heat) for the 8 spot. They’re just half a game behind 37-37 Detroit for seventh and a full game behind 38-37 Brooklyn for sixth.

What a wild world.

Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 16 rebounds to spoil Chris Bosh‘s jersey retirement; the Heat dropped to 17-21 at home, and not having a winning season on your own floor is a good way to miss the playoffs even if you’re great on the road.

Boston beat Cleveland 116-106 in a workmanlike road game for the Celtics, the kind of game that a team with designs on the 3 or 4 seed absolutely needed to win.

Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart had 21 points apiece, Al Horford had 19, and Gordon Hayward added 15 off the bench to power the Celtics’ attack.

The C’s have officially clinched a playoff spot:

Speaking of workmanlike basketball, the Toronto Raptors dispatched the Chicago Bulls at home 112-103.

Six Raptors scored in double figures even as only Serge Ibaka (7-of-13) attempted more than ten shots.

Norman Powell led the Raps off the bench with 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and in another interesting case of load management, nobody on the Raptors played more than 26 minutes.

Oh, and the Raptors hit all 16 of their free throws. Nice.

You want a bench supercut? Because that’s what you’re getting:

Clippers went to T-Wolves Town, doodah, doodah

Gave the squad a road beatdown, oh doodah day.

LA was up 42-23 after the first quarter and cruised to a 122-111 win behind 25 points from Danilo Gallinari as the starter and 20 from Lou Williams off the bench.

Andrew Wiggins, who is having the worst advanced-stats season of his career, had 22 points on 9-of-21 shooting and had just three rebounds and three assists in 35 minutes. What are you even doing out there?

Celebrate, Doc and the boys. You’ve earned the accolades. See you in the playoffs.

And give it up for the bench mob:

Trae Young had 33 points of 12-of-24 shooting, deciding since the All-Star break that recency bias is a helluva drug as he tries for Rookie of the Year.

The Hawks beat the Pelicans in New Orleans in a wildly entertaining 130-120 shootout.

And because why should the Rockets have all the fun, Atlanta shot 19-of-51 from beyond the arc (37.3 percent, for an eFG% of .560.)

Shall we ball?

Sacramento may be all but eliminated from playoff contention, their 37-37 record ensuring that even if they win out, it probably won’t be enough with the Spurs in eighth at 43-32.

But they can still go into Dallas and beat the Mavericks because everyone’s been doing that lately.

Luka Doncic had a triple-double (28 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists on 9-of-20) but De’Aaron Fox‘s 23 points and the Kings’ 11-7 win in the turnover battle swung a skin-tight 125-121 ballgame.

What was I just saying about Rookie of the Year considerations? Luka is the only choice. If only Trae had been this good all year.

Here’s to the Namesake:

And finally, the Nuggets and Pistons played an ugly game in Denver, with the home team winning 95-92.

Blake Griffin had 29 points for Detroit…on 12-of-32 from the field. Ouch.

Meanwhile, Jamal Murray had 33 points on 12-of-19, Nikola Jokic had 23 points and 15 rebounds, and the Pistons, despite winning the turnover battle 14-6, squandered the game by shooting a horrific 35.3 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from three.

Extra possessions do you no good if you don’t score on them.

Murray’s the man of the match:

Coming later: Pacers “Tuesday” (stop looking at me like that) and then a short feature piece on the Wiggins Regression. Because I like dunking on guys once they’ve landed on this site’s s— list.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!