Points are piling up in the NBA, but is it good for the league? The performance of two old heads suggests it’s not. Meanwhile, the Bucks and Lakers will be circling this period as the making of their season regardless of how it all turns out.
Points Piling Up In The NBA
For better or worse, scoring is out of control in the NBA right now.
Totals seem to be creeping up every week, and individuals are breaking records every other day.
Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns combined for 132 points on a single day this week. Embiid’s 70 points came on 24-for-41 shooting, along with 18 rebounds, five assists, and a block. Most importantly, the Philadelphia 76ers won the game and are 29-15 for 3rd in the Eastern Conference. Embiid has since firmed as the favourite to win the Most Valuable Player award at $2.40. However, it’s worth noting that the NBA requires a player to feature in 65 games to be in contention to win the MVP. After missing yet another game on the road against a good team in the Nuggets, Embiid already has 11 DNPs to his name.
Towns, on the other hand, wasn’t able to guide the Minnesota Timberwolves to victory. While 62 points shooting 21-for-35 with eight rebounds and two assists look nice on paper, his seven turnovers contributed to a 0 plus-minus for the game. Timberwolves coach Chris Finch didn’t shy away from Towns’ stat-chasing and the willingness of the team to aid him:
“It was an absolute disgusting performance on defense and immature basketball all the way through the game… this [losing] is what happens when you have this type of approach.”
While Embiid and Towns lit up their respective games in a week Devin Booker also dropped 62 points on the Pacers, Luke Doncic stole the show.
HISTORIC 73-POINT NIGHT FROM LUKA DONCIC 🤯
🔥 73 PTS
🔥 25/33 FGM (75.8%)
🔥 15/16 FTM
🔥 8 3PM
He becomes the 4th player in NBA history to score 73+ points and the first ever to score 70+ on 75% or higher from the field. pic.twitter.com/Afm9cyJung
— NBA (@NBA) January 27, 2024
On the anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death, Doncic looked likely to give his 81 points a shake. He could have cleared it had the Dallas Mavericks taken the same approach to Towns and the Timberwolves. Instead, he handed out seven assists and took advantage of the late double-teams the Atlanta Hawks sent his way. Unlike Towns and the Timberwolves, Doncic secured the win over a Hawks team forever tied with Doncic after they traded him away on draft night for the rights to Trae Young.
Luka has had every chance to do what others before him with 50+ have done by forcing every shot. Instead he is still playing pass first and playing selfless basketball. I don’t want to hear “Luka is selfish” again after these last few minutes
— Rich (@MavsDraft) January 27, 2024
Doncic is way out at $9 to win MVP. Averaging 34.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.4 assists per game, it’s only a matter of time before he’s amongst the favourites. He looks likely to play the required number of games. As the Mavericks navigate a Kyrie Irving-less period to be 25-21 for 8th in the Western Conference, they’re $1.34 to make the playoffs. The win column will look like that of a potential MVP soon, too.
Game Of The Season
Despite all of the points scored throughout the week and the individual moments of brilliance, an uglier, lower-scoring game between two players approaching 40 years old is the best game of the NBA season so far.
The Los Angeles Lakers 145-144 double overtime win over the Golden State Warriors is somewhat of a throwback given the direction the league is trending right now. ‘Points over everything’ is dominating NBA discourse. A final score of 145-144 is all too common in games ending in regulation.
In a week where plenty have debated the state of the NBA and the ‘points over everything’ direction we’re heading in right now, Warriors v Lakers, and all of its bad offensive periods, has been the best game of the bunch.
— Jason (@SportsJO13) January 28, 2024
However, this game featured the ugly periods, the adjustments, and the fight and fatigue that bring out the best in a game. There were moments to breathe while watching. It was more than trading threes and hoping to be the last team to run hot.
As expected, the Warriors relied on their shooting from beyond the arc to hoist 58 threes for the game. In contrast, the Lakers pounded the paint to earn 43 free throws. It was ugly at times. It took until the end for social media watchers to get their shareable clips. But it resulted in the best game of the year and, hopefully, a refocus on what makes the league so entertaining.
While it didn’t come as a surprise to those connected with the Milwaukee Bucks, Adrian Griffin being moved along shocked the wider NBA community.
The Bucks are contenters for the championship at $5.50. They’re routinely talked about as one of the best teams in the NBA. However, tensions within the group and the lack of clarity about the future led to the prompt sacking.
It all started in the preseason when Griffin got into a heated argument with an assistant coach who soon walked out. He adopted an aggressive defensive style that would not only replace the system that had the Bucks ranked 4th in defensive rating, but would also take time to implement. Unsurprisingly, making adjustments to a defence that Mike Budenholzer had humming for five seasons didn’t pay off. At the time of his dismissal, the Bucks ranked a lowly 22nd in defensive rating.
The offence ran well enough for the Bucks to win games. There appeared to be a risk of this team becoming regular season wonders, though. While Griffin had the Bucks playing as one of the most efficient teams in the league with the ball, it didn’t pass the eye test. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard didn’t look right playing together. The front office ultimately saw things the same way as the players and quickly moved to make a new hire.
Sources: Doc Rivers is signing a contract through the 2026-27 season worth in the range of $40 million to be the Bucks’ head coach. Milwaukee is paying out former coaches Mike Budenholzer and Adrian Griffin, and now Rivers for next 3.5 years. pic.twitter.com/TJNafNFms9
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 25, 2024
Doc Rivers doesn’t arrive in Milwaukee with a resume that inspires confidence. He’s done relatively little with a lot of talent and walks into a team halfway through a season that is struggling for an identity and chemistry.
Nonetheless, the Bucks are all but certain to make the playoffs ($17 to miss). Rivers can spend the regular season working towards when games matter. They’re on the third line of betting to put it all together and win the championship at $5.50 – out from $5 last week.
Now Or Never For Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have failed to live up to expectations.
As usual, those expectations were inflated in the preseason. Their acquisitions were set up to fail, with their potential impact being grossly overstated. Still, to be 24-23 for 9th in the West and $2.02 to make the playoffs, the Lakers have disappointed.
It’s time to click into gear.
The Lakers played out an incredible double-overtime win over the Warriors to kick off a six-game road trip. Darvin Ham reverted back to the lineup that had previously worked. It came as little surprise that the Lakers looked better for it.
Here’s the only takeaway from that game that matters: Ham played all that overtime with last year’s starters and they pulled the game out. Feels like a turning point in the season.
— Anthony F. Irwin (@AnthonyIrwinLA) January 28, 2024
If Ham can find the winning rotation and the Lakers can build some momentum on the road before playing 14 of 19 games at home through to the end of March, there might just be hope for this group yet.
LeBron James is a freak. At 39 years old, he finished the win over the Warriors with 36 points, 20 rebounds, and 12 assists in 47 minutes. He is, somehow, still good enough to lead a team to a championship if the right pieces form around him. A lot needs to go right over the next two months, but there looks to be some value in their $23 to win it right now.
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