I really love the sport of basketball. There’s nothing like seeing two teams fly around the court and pull off athletic feats most of us regular folks can’t even fathom.
One thing I don’t like about the NBA, in particular, is how often the officials seem to be the center of attention and more under the microscope than the play itself, and Wednesday is just the latest example.
It was a 10-game slate across the league, and in (at least) three of the games, we’re left talking more about the officials than the on-court product itself, and that’s really irritating to me on a personal level. Worst of all is that in a couple of the cases, it’s repeat offenders like Ben Taylor and Scott Foster.
In an effort to spend more time on basketball than whistles, here’s how the action went down:
Nikola Jokic finished with 31 points and 12 rebounds, and the Nuggets used a 21-4 run to pull away from Washington to end the third quarter. They’re now just one win away from becoming the first West team to 50 wins, still maintaining a sizable lead for the conference’s top seed.
You’ll win a lot of NBA games shooting 51.2% from the floor and 40% from deep, but maybe not so many when your opponent shoots 57.1% and 57.0%, which is exactly how it broke for the Knicks. Jimmy Butler finished with 35 points (11-19 FG), nine assists, and four steals to lead the way for Miami.
Andrew Nembhard finished with 25 points (11-17 FG) and 10 assists to lead his team in both as the Pacers built a double-digit lead in the first half. Raptors made up enough ground to take some small leads here and there, but once Indiana took the lead back about midway through the fourth, they never gave it back.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban is taking matters into his own hands after some weirdness led to free points for the Warriors. Dallas will now file a “formal protest” to the league offices, though its worth noting that no “formal protest” has succeeded since 2008, per Marc Stein. Dallas had 10 more free throw attempts (28-18) than Golden State, who won back-to-back road contests for just the second time this season.
Joel Embiid started his career 12-0 against Chicago before his first loss to them on Monday. He makes it 13 career wins on Wednesday, though this game was just light work for him. Embiid totaled 12 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists in 16 minutes before exiting with calf tightness. Head coach Doc Rivers said he’s “not at all” concerned and that holding Embiid out was just precaution.
After all, the Sixers, who were also playing without James Harden, started out with a 23-1 lead over the first 4:50 or so, and the Bulls were never able to come within single-digits to make it a game at all, down 28 by halftime.
Ja Morant returned to action after missing the last nine, coming off the bench and finishing with 17 points, four rebounds, five assists, and two steals while Jaren Jackson Jr. had a career-high scoring effort with 37 points to go with his 10 rebounds, one steal, and two blocks while shooting 13-15 from inside the arc.
Assigning credit where its due, Houston’s young core has started to figure some things out lately, and that was true on Wednesday too, with two players scoring 30+ each on 18 shots. That includes a career-high 31 points for KJ Martin, who also had six rebounds and two blocks.
Atlanta may want to hop on the Dallas train of formally protesting results, especially since this seems to be way more egregious. On an offensive rebound attempt in the final seconds, Taurean Prince backed his way into Saddiq Bey for what should’ve been a foul and free throws for the Hawks; crew chief Ben Taylor, who was reportedly demoted following the Fred VanVleet rant, admitted as much in the pool report after the game.
This game should’ve instead been about the much-awaited return of Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished with 22 points in his first 26 minutes back since November. The seventh-seeded Wolves pick up their second win in a row and expect Anthony Edwards back in the near future as well after he was a game-time scratch for this one.
Three Lakers scored at least 25, including Austin Reaves (12-13 FT), who added 11 assists. Kevin Durant and Deandre Ayton were both inactive for the Suns, but Devin Booker showed out with 33 points in 41 minutes on 11-16 shooting from the floor and 10-12 from the line. The odds were stacked against Chris Paul with Scott Foster on the crew, and the Lakers took notice.
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