Monday, 24 Jun 2024

Starting 5, March 1: Wemby vs. Chet, round 3 + LeBron watch is on

Starting 5

“He obviously is not afraid to put himself out there. He will take shots and he is not afraid.

“He is not worried if he misses it or what the consequences are or anything like that.

“He likes those moments.”

  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Victor Wembanyama

THE LINEUP 🏀

  1. ⚔️ Wemby outduels Chet in Spurs W
  2. 9️⃣ LeBron now 9 points from 40K
  3. 🧑‍🍳 Roundup: Curry stays hot at MSG
  4. 🔗 Celtics, Mavs find perfect pairs
  5. 🦌 Bucks on post All-Star streak

An ESPN doubleheader highlights a nine-game Friday, beginning with the Celtics looking to be the first team to post a double-digit win streak this season when they host the Mavs (7:30 ET).

Later, the Bucks look to stay perfect since the All-Star break when they visit the Bulls (10 ET). The last two meetings between these teams went to OT – will this one come down to the clutch?

This date in history: It’s the fifth anniversary of the fourth-highest scoring game ever (& last 4OT game in NBA) when Zach LaVine (47 pts) and Chicago outlasted Trae Young (49 pts) and Atlanta, 168-161 in 2019.

1. WEMBY OUTDUELS CHET AS ROOKIE PHENOMS CLASH

Welcome back: Victor Wembanyama just experienced his first Rodeo Road Trip as San Antonio played nine straight road games over three weeks (Feb. 7-27). In their first home game since Feb. 3, Wemby and the Spurs put together one of their best wins of the season, closing the game on a 16-5 run to earn a 132-118 win over OKC. Recap | 5 Takeaways

Third time’s a charm: The first two matchups between rookie sensations Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren decisively went to Chet’s Thunder with OKC winning by 36 and 26 points. The third meeting on Thursday was a different story as Wemby put together a historic masterpiece, finishing with 28 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, five blocks, and five 3-pointers. Wemby-Chet duel highlights

  • Wemby became the first player in NBA history with 25+ pts, 10+ reb, 5+ ast, 5+ blk, and 5+ 3pm in a game
  • Wemby passed Spurs legends Tim Duncan and David Robinson for the most games with 25+ pts, 10+ reb, 5+ ast, 5+ blk by a rookie with his third such game
  • Decisive sequence: With 2:10 to play, Wemby knocked down his fifth 3 to put the Spurs up nine, then followed it with his fifth rejection of the game, stuffing Holmgren’s step-back jumper
  • Postgame celebration: Wemby was happy to be back in front of the San Antonio fans, leading the crowd in a “Go Spurs Go” chant during his postgame interview

Wemby Reax

Devin Vassell matched Wemby’s 28 points for the Spurs, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put up his 11th 31-point game of the season – hitting his season average on the dot — with two coming on this throwdown.

Streak Snappers: The Spurs snapped three streaks with Thursday’s win — their five-game losing streak overall and five-game losing streak to OKC, while also ending the Thunder’s six-game win streak.

2. LEBRON WATCH: NINE POINTS FROM 40K AFTER LAKERS WIN

LeBron

Just 24 hours removed from overcoming a 21-point deficit for the largest fourth-quarter comeback in his 21-year career, LeBron James and the Lakers had enough left in the tank for a 134-131 overtime encore against the Wizards. Recap

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While Anthony Davis (40 pts, 15 reb, 3 blk) dominated most of the game, and Austin Reaves hit the clutch jumper to force overtime, LeBron took over in the extra five minutes. And it all began with one of his signature plays — the chasedown block.

LeBron Chasedown

With the Wizards up three 80 seconds into OT, LeBron turned the ball over, leading to a Jordan Poole fast break. As Poole rose up for the one-handed dunk, LeBron tracked him down and swatted it away to avoid a five-point deficit.

On the next Lakers possession, LeBron drilled a 3 to tie the game with 3:12 left. After a Wizards turnover, LeBron went backdoor on his defender, got the pass from D’Angelo Russell, drew the defense to him, and found a cutting AD for a dunk to put the Lakers up for good.

Same score two possessions later, LeBron capped off this game-changing sequence by taking a charge from Deni Avdija.

LBJ 16x9

The road to 40K: LeBron scored the final points of the night, a free throw to give him 31 for the game and move him just nine points away from 40,000 for his career. He can reach the milestone Saturday when the Lakers host the Nuggets (8:30 ET, ABC). LeBron Tracker

3. ROUNDUP: STEPH STILL HOT AT THE GARDEN

Warriors race past Knicks at MSG: The Warriors exploded out of the gates, scoring the game’s first 14 points and never looked back as they went wire-to-wire in a 110-99 win over the Knicks. Recap

  • Steph keeps cookin’: In his first game back at Madison Square Garden since breaking the all-time 3-point record in December 2021, Steph Curry splashed eight 3s on his way to 31 points
  • Mic’d-up moment: After Steph opened the game 3-for-3 from deep, Donte DiVincenzo had something to say about it
  • Coach Dray: After getting some tips from Draymond Green, Jonathan Kuminga posted 25 points, eight boards, and two blocks

Giannis Pass

Bucks unbeaten after All-Star break: Milwaukee improved to 4-0 coming out of the All-Star break as they never trailed in a 111-99 win over Charlotte. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 24 points, 10 boards, and five assists – including this volleyball tip pass to Damian Lillard for one of his three 3s. Recap

Banchero returns as Magic win: Paolo Banchero was back in the lineup after missing the last two games (illness) and dropped a game-high 29 points to lead the Magic to a 115-107 over the Jazz for their 10th win in their last 13 games. Jalen Suggs made three 3-pointers in the final three minutes to help Orlando pull away. Recap | Magic version of Showtime

Nets take Round 1: In the first of a two-game set in Brooklyn, the Nets never trailed as they defeated the Hawks 124-97. Cam Johnson scored a season-high 29 points and hit seven of Brooklyn’s 22 treys, while Dennis Schroder added 23 and five triples. Recap

Suns halt Rockets: Devin Booker (35 pts, 7 reb, 6 3s) and Kevin Durant (24 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast) combined for 59 points to lead Phoenix to a 110-105 win over Houston. Jalen Green had 34 points and seven 3s for the Rockets, who made a late 18-8 run but came up short. Recap

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Nuggets win Finals rematch: In their first meeting since June, the Nuggets held off a late Heat run to secure a 103-97 win to extend their win streak to five, while also ending Miami’s five-game win streak. Michael Porter Jr. (30), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (18), and Nikola Jokic (18) combined for 66 points, while Jamal Murray had six (including a first-quarter buzzer-beater) before leaving with an ankle injury in the first half. Recap

  • Late ring night: Thomas Bryant received his championship ring and was mobbed by his former Nuggets teammates pregame

4. CELTICS, MAVS FIND PERFECT PAIRS

Kyrie and Porzingis

When the Celtics host the Mavs tonight (7:30 ET, ESPN), two key reunions will happen: Kyrie Irving will be back in Boston (where he played 2 seasons from 2017-19) and Kristaps Porzingis will face Dallas (a team he played 2+ seasons with from 2019-2022).

Stars On Surging Squads: Both are playing central roles on two of the hottest teams in the NBA — the East-leading Celtics at 9-1 and the Mavs (7th in the West, 1 game out of 5th) at 8-2

The Celtics enter tonight’s game with the league’s top-ranked offense at 121.2 points per 100 possessions, up nearly four points from last year (117.3). The additions of Porzingis and Jrue Holiday in the offseason played a key role in the improvement.

The proof can be seen in the standings as Boston became the first team to clinch a postseason berth at 46-12 entering Friday.

  • Tatum on Porzingis’ impact: “He just makes us really hard to guard. Somebody his size, he obviously can shoot, take advantage of mismatches. You got to make a decision [as a defense]. Are you gonna switch and you put a small on him, then we throw it to him or are you gonna be in drop and he drags a big out and we throw it to him and he shoots the three. Just having him out there just presents so many challenges for other teams.”
  • Porzingis on Tatum: “JT could say ‘I want to score 30 every night, I wanna get the MVP,’ but he’s not doing that and people are overlooking that. And you have to give him credit because when he does that, it makes everybody else do that, and then we’re winning games because everybody’s feeling good, everybody’s scoring. We’re all dangerous.”

When Dallas acquired Irving at the 2023 trade deadline, it did not lead to immediate success. But after re-signing Irving in the offseason, the Luka-Kyre combination has thrived in their first full season as teammates.

Kyrie’s impact: Dallas’ 8-2 run ensued after Irving came back from a thumb injury on Feb. 5. With Kyrie on the court this year, the Mavs are 8.3 pts better per 100 possessions.

Kyrie on the combo: “What gets overshadowed for me and Luka specifically is how good of teammates we are on and off the floor. We are very selfless. Obviously, I have a ton of respect for him, he has a ton of respect for me. But we know we’re not going anywhere without galvanizing this group together and holding each other to that high standard.”

5. BUCKS TRY TO KEEP POST ALL-STAR RUN GOING IN CHICAGO

Giannis and Dame

The All-Star break could not have come at a better time for the Milwaukee Bucks.

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After making an in-season coaching change, the team endured its toughest road trip of the season and stumbled into the break, dropping seven of their last 10 games before Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, and new coach Doc Rivers, and his staff headed to Indianapolis.

The Bucks are 4-0 since the All-Star break. They just swept a home-and-home series with Charlotte after getting road wins against West-leading Minnesota and Philadelphia.

  • Giannis: “We work on this stuff. We don’t do it all the time, but we work on this stuff, and when we’re at our best, like tonight, I think we were physical. People felt us today. So we gotta keep on doing that. We gotta keep ourselves to that standard.”

It’s been Milwaukee’s defense — and increased physicality — that has been the biggest difference before and after All-Star. The Bucks went from 17th in defense (115.9) before the break to first (101). And they couple that with the league’s third-ranked offense so far in the stretch run.

The Bucks will be tested tonight in Chicago (10 ET, ESPN) as the first three games between them this season have all been decided by single digits, including the past two needing overtime.

  • Clutch teams: The Bucks and Bulls are tied with the Nuggets for the most clutch wins in the NBA this season with 19 each, with the Bulls averaging the second-most clutch points (11.1) in 34 games
  • Clutch players: The Bulls and Bucks have two of the top four clutch scorers in the league this season – DeMar DeRozan ranks second with 127 points in 31 games (trailing only Steph Curry, 165 pts in 33 games). Meanwhile, Damian Lillard ranks fourth with 102 Dame Time points in 28 games

FAQs

FAQs

  1. How did Wemby perform in the recent Spurs game?
    Victor Wembanyama had an outstanding performance in the recent Spurs game against OKC. He finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, five blocks, and five 3-pointers. It was a historic masterpiece by the rookie sensation.

  2. What is LeBron’s current point total and how many points does he need to reach 40,000?
    LeBron James scored 31 points in the Lakers’ recent overtime win against the Wizards. He is now just nine points away from reaching the milestone of 40,000 points for his career.

  3. How has the Milwaukee Bucks performed after the All-Star break?
    The Milwaukee Bucks have been on a winning streak since the All-Star break. They are currently 4-0 and have shown significant improvements in their defense and physicality.

  4. Who are the key players to watch in the Celtics vs. Mavs game?
    The Celtics vs. Mavs game will feature two key reunions. Kyrie Irving will be back in Boston, where he played for two seasons from 2017-2019. Kristaps Porzingis will face Dallas, a team he played with for two and a half seasons. Both players are playing central roles on their respective teams and have been instrumental in their recent success.

  5. What can we expect from the Bucks vs. Bulls game?
    The Bucks vs. Bulls game is expected to be a closely contested match, as their previous three meetings this season have all been decided by single digits. Both teams have shown their clutch abilities, and it will be an exciting matchup to watch.