The Skip Pass is your home on FanRag Sports for insights and nuggets on each game played in the NBA. This is different from your regular game recap or box score. We want to take you inside the game and call out things you might have missed.
Focus Games: Pistons at Celtics, Pacers at Trail Blazers
Other Games: Kings at 76ers (postponed), Grizzlies at Raptors, Lakers at Bulls, Knicks at Timberwolves, Wizards at Thunder, Spurs at Mavericks, Heat at Nuggets, Hawks at Suns
PISTONS 121 – CELTICS 114
The Pistons were on the second night of a back-to-back, traveling from Charlotte and playing on the road. Everything was ripe for a Celtics blowout, yet things went in a decidedly different direction. Outside of a four-minute period early in the fourth quarter, when Boston ripped off an 11-0 run, the Pistons did whatever they wanted offensively. Detroit shot over 55 percent and Ish Smith (19 points) was the only starter to not reach the 20-point mark.
Because both Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris are combo forwards in every way, they are a tough matchup for Boston. To start, the Celtics put Al Horford on Harris and Jae Crowder on Morris. Crowder, a combo forward himself, held his own. Horford, on the other hand, struggled a bit with Harris’ ability to put the ball on the floor and his more perimeter-based game. When the Celtics went small, they put Marcus Smart on Harris or Morris, and the bigger players went to work inside.
Detroit’s ability to take advantage of mismatches, and the willingness to push the pace, were both differences in the game. The Pistons got early offense on a regular basis and never let the Celtics set their defense. For as long as Reggie Jackson is out, Detroit should be taking advantage of creating any easy offense it can.
TRAIL BLAZERS 131 – PACERS 109
This was more like the Portland squad we’ve been expecting to see. Six players scored 13 or more points, and the defense was better despite allowing Indiana to shoot 50 percent. They competed well, took care of the glass and also forced 15 turnovers, mostly by staying attached to the Pacers better than they have against other opponents. Not having to face Paul George certainly helped, but it was still good to see.
But the story of the night for the Blazers was the offense. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum led the way, as per usual, but they made a concerted effort to make sure their teammates were involved. The starting guards combined for 15 assists and got good looks for Moe Harkless (23 points) and Mason Plumlee (16 points). When the Blazers are firing on all cylinders like this, they are very hard to beat.
The George absence was notable on both sides of the ball. Glenn Robinson III continues to fill in admirably, but he’s limited, especially on defense. Harkless took advantage of Robinson’s inexperience several times by throwing secondary actions at him. The Pacers need George’s two-way brilliance back to be consistently any good.
KINGS at 76ERS (PPD)
Due to condensation build-up on the floor, the Kings-76ers game was sadly postponed, robbing us of a matchup between Joel Embiid and DeMarcus Cousins. No makeup date has been announced as of yet. But it did give us this:
RAPTORS 120 – GRIZZLIES 105
Toronto looked every bit a contender, pulling away from an undermanned Memphis squad. Without Mike Conley and with Tony Allen somewhat limited, Raptors backcourt stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan attacked to the tune of 53 combined points on only 22 shots. The Grizzlies’ usually solid defense was nowhere to be found, and they will need to tread water as best they can until players return from injuries and personal situations.
LAKERS 96 – BULLS 90
Without D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young, the LA reserves took over and helped to score a surprising road win. Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams and Larry Nance Jr. combined for 48 off the bench, picking up a sluggish performance by the starters that featured a ton of sloppy turnovers. The Lakers also made up for it with a solid defensive game plan that featured a lot of double-teaming of Jimmy Butler, and he struggled to 4-of-18 shooting. The Bulls’
KNICKS 106 – TIMBERWOLVES 104
The Karl-Anthony Towns/Kristaps Porzingis showdown delivered, with Towns scoring 47 and Porzingis going for 29. The difference in the game, however, was the New York bench outscoring the Wolves reserves by a margin of 43-5. Courtney Lee left early with a sprained ankle and Brandon Jennings and Mindaugas Kuzminskas picked up the slack. They combined for 26 points, including 6-10 from distance. And in the end, a struggling Carmelo Anthony played hero with the game-winning jumper:
THUNDER 126 – WIZARDS 115 (OT)
Another night and another triple-double for Russell Westbrook, as he put up a line of 35/14/11. It will almost be more surprising at this point when he misses a triple-double. The difference in the win was Russ getting some help from his friends. Five other OKC players scored in double figures, led by 25 and the game-clinching three in overtime from Victor Oladipo, who also had a big three during a late Thunder comeback in regulation:
SPURS 94 – MAVERICKS 87
The Spurs took over in the fourth quarter, as they outscored Dallas 33-21 to score a victory over their instate rival. The Mavericks continue to struggle to find offense outside of Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews, and it showed down the stretch. Without being able to count on Dirk Nowitzki, Rick Carlisle is going to have to get creative to manufacture offense.
HEAT 106 – NUGGETS 98
In one of the more surprising results of the night, the banged-up Heat pulled off an upset in Denver. Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic were typically good, combining for 41 points. But the bench was the surprise. Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson and James Johnson combined to score 50 off the pine. Miami’s strong defense also contributed to the victory by holding Denver to 41 percent and forcing 19 turnovers.
SUNS 109 – HAWKS 107
The Suns’ veterans led the way over the slumping Hawks. Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker had 17 points apiece, Brandon Knight scored a team-high 23 off the bench and Leandro Barbosa hit some big shots late. Atlanta played without Paul Millsap and the defense wasn’t up to task, as the Hawks lost their fourth straight and seventh of eight.