Remember those old NBA commercials that would show slow-motion highlights in black-and-white coloring with Kanye West’s “Amazing” gently playing in the background? At the end of those commercials, the screen would read, ‘The NBA, where amazing happens.’
Well, this season, it should be, ‘The NBA, where strange things happen.’
On Friday night, the Toronto Raptors played a game without six members of their coaching staff, including head coach Nick Nurse, due to health and safety protocols. Twitter was calling for Kyle Lowry to be the team’s player-coach and he was asked about not receiving the opportunity after the game.
Lowry finished with a triple-double and the Raptors beat the Rockets 122-111 and moved up to fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Pacers lost to the Celtics but Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis was named the All-Star Game replacement for Nets superstar Kevin Durant (hamstring) who will remain sidelined through the break.
And over on the West Coast, the No. 2 and No. 3 respective picks in the 2020 draft faced off for the first time in their individual careers. James Wiseman scored 16 points with four rebounds while LaMelo Ball tallied 22/7/6/1 and three 3-pointers. Ball had the better performance but it was Wiseman and the Dubs who picked up a win over the Hornets.
Here’s the best and the worst from the association on Feb. 26.
Draymond Green – Dray’s shooting percentages might not be the sexiest but he does all the things that other players hate doing and he might be the best at it. The Warriors forward finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds and dished out career-high 19 assists in their 130-121 win over the Hornets. He picked up his first triple-double of the season and the 25th of his career, too, making him the first player in franchise history to record 25 career regular-season triple-doubles, per the Warriors. By the time Green had handed out his 17th assists, which was his previous career-high, it was the most by a Warrior since Baron Davis dished out 19 assists in 2008, according to the Dubs. But wait, there’s more! After he notched his 15th dime, Draymond became the first Warriors player with four 15-assist games in a calendar month since Tim Hardaway in April 1990, as reported by ESPN Stats and Info. It’s just incredible what the former Michigan State Spartan has done in February, having tallied assist totals of 11, 11, 11, 12, 15, 15, 16 and now 19 since the month began. He’s a future Hall of Famer and that’s indisputable.
Kemba Walker – The Celtics point guard finally looked like the former All-NBA player that he is on Friday night vs. the Pacers when he tallied his first 30-point game of the year. Walker knocked down 10-of-19 shots, 4-of-10 triples and all eight of his freebies en route to a season-high 32 points. He tacked on three rebounds, six assists and a steal, too, and after the win, he spoke with ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth. “…I’ve been working my butt off to make those shots and it was a good night,” Walker said. “I just wanted to stay aggressive. I knew I kind of had it going.” Kemba has now scored 32, 21, 14 and 28 over his last four with 19 assists compared to just six turnovers and ranks 46th in 9-cat leagues over the last two weeks.
Jimmy Butler – Like Kemba, Jimmy Butler had his highest-scoring game of the season on Friday when he dropped 33 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal in Miami’s 124-116 win over Utah. Butler didn’t make any threes, but he went 12-of-22 from the floor and 9-of-11 at the charity stripe and is connecting on 85% of his free throws on nine attempts per night in February. Many NBA fans are surprised he wasn’t chosen to be an All-Star, and they have a right to be upset. The second-year Heat member is boasting career-highs in rebounds (7.7) and assists (7.8) this season and since the month began, he’s averaging 20.4 points, 8.7 boards, 8.8 assists and 1.9 steals in 35 minutes per game. Are those not All-Star-caliber numbers?
Richaun Holmes – Don’t look now but Richaun Holmes has been playing quality basketball since Feb. 1. On Friday night against the Pistons, he scored 19 points and hauled in a season-high 17 rebounds with an assist and two blocks. He shot 6-of-8 from the floor and a season-best 7-of-7 from the line in 33 minutes in the Kings’ 110-107 victory. It was also Holmes’ third double-double in his last four games and his fifth this month. The center did recently miss three straight contests, which is probably why he only ranks in the top-60 in 9-cat over the past two weeks, but he’s been producing top-40 numbers throughout the season. He’s been the team’s most consistent big man despite Marvin Bagley III averaging more points (13.6) than him as Holmes is posting 12.8 points, 7.9 boards and 1.5 swats a night.
Buddy Hield – I haven’t heard or read much about Buddy Hield’s brutal stretch of February basketball and it’s probably because he plays for a mid-market team. It could also be because rookie Tyrese Haliburton has outplayed him recently, but that’s a story for another day. Hield shot less than 29% from the floor on Friday vs. Pistons, scoring 14 points on 3-of-9 shooting from distance with two rebounds and three assists in 38 minutes. Haliburton didn’t play in that game, for the record. But it gets worse for the Kings’ shooting guard. He’s only hitting 34% of his field goals and 30% of his 3-pointers this month, more so, he’s only had one game in which he made more than half of his looks and just three games in which he’s shot over 46%. It’s a major shooting slump for one of the league’s best shooters who I think could be on the trade market within the coming weeks.
Jayson Tatum – On the day he was announced as Kevin Durant’s replacement starter for the All-Star Game, the Celtics wing awfully quiet. He shot 4-of-18 on field goals, 1-of-4 from deep and failed to get to the free-throw line, scoring just nine points with nine rebounds, four assists and a block. But this wasn’t just a one-off. Over his last two games, Tatum is shooting a horrendous 21% from the field and 16% from 3-point range and since Feb. 1, he’s only shot over 50% once in a game and is hitting less than 40% of his shots and only 32% of his triples. Now, in his defense, Tatum did have COVID-19 in January and he recently admitted that he’s still feeling some lingering effects such as fatigue. He’ll look to break out of this mini-slump over the Celtics’ next three contests which are against the Wizards, Clippers and Raptors and are all home games.