Monday, 22 Jul 2024

Starting 5, Feb. 29: Lakers Stage Incredible Comeback in 4th Quarter

Starting 5

In honor of Leap Day, we have a special trivia question to start the extra day of the year: Name the two active players with the highest vertical leaps as measured at the NBA Draft Combine. Hint: They both play in New York City. And they both wear No. 45. See Section 5 for the answer and more players making leaps.

THE LINEUP 🏀

  1. 💥 LeBron leads 21-point comeback
  2. 🌪️ Roundup: Luka’s birthday magic
  3. 🗽 Curry returns to the Garden
  4. 🏆 Finals rematch in Denver
  5. 🐸 12 players making leaps

A TNT doubleheader highlights an eight-game Thursday, beginning with Steph Curry’s first game at Madison Square Garden since breaking the all-time 3-point record at the Mecca in 2021 as the Knicks host the Warriors (7:30 ET, TNT).

The second game features the first meeting between the Heat and Nuggets since the two squared off in the 2023 NBA Finals, won by Denver in five games. The champs host the runner-ups tonight (10 ET, TNT), with a rematch in Miami in two weeks.

Chet vs. Wemby: In the middle of two historic rookie seasons, the two leaders in Steve Aschburner’s Kia Rookie Ladder meet at 8:30 ET (NBA App). Chet just became the first rookie with 100+ 3-pointers and 150 blocks in a season and Wemby, who leads all rooks in PTS, REB and the entire NBA in BLK, just became the 15th player ever with a 5×5 game.

Boston First To Secure Postseason Berth: At 46-12, the Celtics will finish no worse than a berth in the Play-In Tournament.

LeBron, Lakers Close Out Hallway Series With Epic Comeback

The final chapter of the Lakers and Clippers’ 25-year history in Staples Center/Crypto.com Arena delivered a thrilling finish befitting a city that is home to Hollywood endings.

Down by 21 points just 15 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Lakers came storming back, using a 34-8 run over the next 9:19 of game action to turn that 21-point deficit into a five-point lead.

The star of the show: LeBron James, who single-handedly outscored the Clippers 19-16 in the fourth quarter, hitting five 3-pointers to fuel the Lakers comeback before closing it out with a defensive stop on Kawhi Leonard’s potential game-tying shot.

Cam Reddish provided the exclamation point with a last-second dunk before the director yelled cut …aka the scoreboard reached 0.0. The Lakers won 116-112 to take the season series over the Clippers (3-1) for the first time since 2011-12.

4th Quarter Comebacks: Tonight’s 21-point comeback marked the biggest fourth-quarter comeback of LeBron’s career, and the second largest in the NBA this season (22, Phoenix over Sacramento, Jan. 16).

LeBron, who finished with 34 points, six rebounds, eight assists and seven 3s in 37 minutes, broke down the win for us on his walk back to the locker room: “Work. Work. Work. That’s all it is. Put the work in, live with the results.”

Anthony Davis (20 pts, 12 reb, 3 blk) and D’Angelo Russell (18 pts, 6 ast, huge 3 with 1:12 left to make it a six-point lead) starred in supporting roles for the Lakers. Leonard (26 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast) and James Harden (23 pts, 9 ast) combined for 49 for the Clippers, who were without Paul George.

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Final tally: The Clippers still finish with a 50-47 edge in head-to-head games played inside Staples Center/Crypto.com Arena since the two became co-tenants in 1999. The Lakers won the only neutral site game on the NBA campus during the 2020 season restart in Orlando.

Encore? Hollywood loves a sequel, so perhaps the Hallway Series could get a revival come playoff time. The two teams have never met in the postseason.

Roundup: Luka Celebrates 25th Birthday in Style

Birthday Magic: Luka Doncic celebrated his 25th birthday by posting his 39th career 30+ point triple-double – the third most such games in NBA history – to lead the Mavs to a 136-125 win over the Raptors. Luka (30 pts, 11 reb and 16 ast) and Kyrie Irving (29) combined for 59 points to help Dallas avoid a three-game slide following their season-long seven-game win streak.

Birthday triple-doubles: Luka is the ninth player to post a triple-double on their birthday, but the first to do it with 30+ points.

Birthday pushups: Luka celebrated his birthday pregame by hitting a half-court shot to force his coaches to do birthday pushups.

A must-see no-look: That may be an oxymoron, but you have to see this no-look Luka dime.

Wolves win 3rd straight: On Anthony Edwards bobblehead night, AntMan dropped a game-high 34 points to lead the Wolves to a 110-101 win over Memphis. Jaren Jackson Jr. (33 pts, 13 reb) and the Grizzlies led by 11 with 4:30 left in the third before Edwards (19) and the Wolves outscored them 43-23 the rest of the way.

Nuggets win 4th straight: Down 15 with eight minutes left in the half, Denver closed the half on a 33-8 run to take a 10-point lead. And they didn’t let up, building a 32-point lead in the third and cruising to a 117-96 win over the Kings. Nikola Jokic (14 pts, 14 reb, 11 ast) posted his fourth straight triple-double, while Jamal Murray scored a game-high 32.

Pacers dominate: Pascal Siakam (24 pts, 11 reb) and Tyrese Haliburton (17 pts, 13 ast) combined for 41 to lead the Pacers to a wire-to-wire 123-114 win over the Pelicans. A few must-see plays from this one? Haliburton goes off the glass to Obi Toppin for the slam, followed by dueling alley-oops from Zion and Toppin.

DeRozan takes over late: DeMar DeRozan forced the second overtime by sinking three clutch free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt with 12 seconds left. He scored 11 of his game-high 35 points in 2OT, as the Bulls won the period 17-8 and the game 132-123 to avoid a season-series sweep by the Cavs.

3-Point King Curry Returns to MSG

Shooters

It’s been 807 days since Steph Curry last played at Madison Square Garden.

But the last time he was there, he made history. On Dec. 14, 2021, Curry made the 2,974th 3-pointer of his career, passing Ray Allen to become the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made.

Curry made five 3s on that night to lead the Warriors to a 105-96 win as he officially became the greatest 3-point shooter in NBA history.

Allen was in attendance, while Reggie Miller (then 3rd on the all-time list, now 4th) was calling the game for TNT. The three shooting legends shared a moment of mutual respect and a photo to commemorate the night.

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In the two-plus years since that record-breaking night, Curry has continued to push the 3-point record higher and higher for current and future players to chase.

He’s already blown past the 3,000 and 3,500 milestones and enters Thursday with 3,656 career 3s made. Curry averages a league-best 4.9 3s per game – 1.0 more than second-ranked Luka Doncic (3.9). To put that lead in perspective, the gap between Steph and Luka for first and second place is the same as the gap between second and 21st place in the current league standings.

What will Steph have in store for his MSG encore? In addition to his record-breaking performance in 2021, Steph also posted a 54-point game at the Garden on Feb. 27, 2013. That performance was Curry’s career-high for nearly eight years and remains the fourth-best scoring game of his career.

Curry is part of a legendary group of stars to show out at The World’s Most Famous Arena. We dug into the video vault to spotlight a few.

  • LeBron James scored 50 (Mar. 5, 2008) and 52 (Feb. 2, 2009) at MSG with the Cavs. Fun fact: 11 of LeBron’s 14 career 50+ point games have come on the road.
  • Kobe Bryant scored a then MSG-record 61 points on Feb. 2, 2009. That remains the most points scored by an opponent at the current MSG (it was tied but not broken) and the most points Kobe scored on the road.
  • Michael Jordan scored 55 points at MSG on March 29, 1995 in his fifth game back from his first retirement. Wearing the No. 45, the double nickel game was a statement that MJ was back.
  • James Harden scored a career-high 61 points at MSG on Jan. 23, 2019, matching Kobe’s mark for the most points by an opposing player at the current arena.
  • Carmelo Anthony made sure that a Knick held the MSG record for points with a career-best 62 points on Jan. 24, 2014.
  • Jeremy Lin never scored 50 or 60 like the other legends on this list, but his 38-point performance against the Lakers on Feb. 10, 2012, was the peak of Linsanity.

Nuggets Host Heat in Finals Rematch

Jokic vs Bam

On June 12, 2023, the Nuggets defeated the Heat 94-89 to clinch their first NBA championship with a 4-1 series win.

The confetti fell to the floor, the champagne sprayed throughout the locker room, and Finals MVP Nikola Jokic gave us this famous quote: “The job is done. We can go home now.”

More than seven months later, the Nuggets and Heat meet tonight at Ball Arena in Denver (10 ET, TNT) for their first matchup since that series.

Then vs. now (lineups): The Nuggets returned much of their championship lineup and have had a consistent rotation for much of the season. It’s been a different story for the Heat.

  • Miami has used a franchise-record 31 different starting lineups in 57 games this season, tied with Dallas for the second-most in the NBA this season.
  • Denver has used the fifth-fewest different starting lineups with 10, while the standard starting five of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Aaron Gordon, Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. has played the most minutes together (700) of any five-man lineup in the league.

Then vs. now (records): Last season, the Nuggets rode the No. 1 seed in the West to the NBA Finals, while Miami had to earn the No. 7 seed through the Play-In Tournament. Entering Thursday, the Heat are ahead of last year’s pace (with four fewer losses) while Denver is below last year’s pace (with four fewer wins).

  • Feb. 29, 2024: Denver (40-19, 3rd in West), Miami (33-25, 5th in East)
  • Feb. 28, 2023: Denver (44-19, 1st in West), Miami (33-29, 7th in East)
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Win Streaks: One thing that Miami and Denver have in common is that both enter this Finals rematch on a hot streak. The Heat have won five straight and seven of their last eight games, while the Nuggets have won four in a row. Which streak will continue tonight?

Leap Day: Players on the Rise

Haliburton

We begin by wishing Tyrese Haliburton a Happy 6th Birthday as the two-time All-Star is one of four NBA players all-time to be born on Feb. 29. The others: Chucky Brown, John Chaney, and Vonteego Cummings.

Haliburton is also one of many players to make a leap this season. He went from All-Star reserve to All-Star starter and leads the NBA in assists (11.6 apg) with the highest average in nearly a decade (Rajon Rondo, 11.7 apg in 2015-16).

The league’s general managers predicted Anthony Edwards would have the biggest breakthrough season in 2023-24 and AntMan has made that prediction look good. He went from All-Star injury replacement to All-Star reserve while posting career highs of 26.6 ppg and 5.2 apg to lead the Wolves to the top of the West.

So, who are the biggest leapers of the 2023-24 season? We’ve charted some based on three categories.

  1. Players earning more minutes:
    Extra Minutes
  2. Second- and third-year players:
    2nd 3rd Year
  3. All-Stars in 4th season or later:
    All-Star Leaps

An example: Last season, Haliburton was one of 14 players to ever average 20+ points and 10+ assists for a season. This season, he’s on pace to be one of four to average 21.5+ points and 11.5+ assists.

Trivia answer: Keon Johnson (Nets, 48 inches) and Jericho Sims (Knicks, 44.5 inches).

FAQs

Q: Who made the biggest comeback in the fourth quarter?
A: The Los Angeles Lakers staged an incredible 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers. Led by LeBron James, the Lakers outscored the Clippers 34-8 and turned the deficit into a five-point lead.

Q: When is Steph Curry returning to Madison Square Garden?
A: Steph Curry will be making his return to Madison Square Garden after 807 days. The last time he played there, Curry broke the all-time 3-point record, becoming the greatest 3-point shooter in NBA history.

Q: Are the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat meeting again after being in the NBA Finals?
A: Yes, the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat are meeting for the first time since the 2023 NBA Finals. The Nuggets won the championship in that series, and now they face each other again in a rematch.

Summary

In today’s NBA action, the Los Angeles Lakers made an incredible comeback to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers. Led by LeBron James, the Lakers erased a 21-point deficit and secured a victory. Meanwhile, Luka Doncic celebrated his 25th birthday with a stellar performance, and the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets continued their winning streaks. In a highly anticipated game, Steph Curry returned to Madison Square Garden, where he previously broke the all-time 3-point record. Lastly, the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat faced each other for the first time since their NBA Finals matchup.