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: Celtics at Raptors, Pistons at Kings
Games: Bulls at Wizards, Hawks at Nets, Hornets at Rockets, Bucks at Spurs, Cavaliers at Jazz, Trail Blazers at Lakers, Heat at Warriors
RAPTORS 114 – CELTICS 106
As the Celtics came to town to challenge them, the Raptors came back and reminded everyone who rules the North. Boston built a lead as large as 16 points in the third quarter, but DeMar DeRozan took over midway through the period and carried Toronto to the win. After a so-so first half during which he scored 10 points on 4-9 shooting, DeRozan exploded in the second half by scoring 31 points on 12-20 shooting after the break. He also grabbed nine of his career-high 13 rebounds after halftime.
In a league where teams increasingly prize layups and threes and not much in between, DeRozan is a refreshing throwback who does most of his work in the mid-range game. Sure, he gets in the paint plenty, but his bread and butter are jumpers off curls, isos and in the mid-post over smaller defenders. He had it all working last night:
DeRozan was joined in the comeback effort by Kyle Lowry, who made big plays down the stretch, including a huge four-point play to give Toronto its first lead in quite some time.
Jonas Valanciunas was also a monster inside. While the big man shot just 6-18 to get 18 points, he grabbed 23 rebounds, including 11 off the offensive glass. And he blocked two shots late in the game to help preserve the win.
Without Avery Bradley, who is nursing a strained Achilles, Marcus Smart came out firing. He had 14 first-half points and hit 5-8 shots. He was also getting after DeRozan on defense. But Smart seemed to wear down and hit just one shot in the second half, and he couldn’t contain DeRozan after his teammates let him out of the box.
Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 27 points, but he couldn’t carry them home in the fourth quarter as he usually does. In a departure from his normal late-game heroics, Thomas hit just 2-8 in the final frame as Boston was outscored by 12:
KINGS 100 – PISTONS 94
If DeMarcus Cousins really is looking to sign a huge contract extension with the Kings, he might have done a little early celebrating at home in a win over the Pistons. Cousins scored 24 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and handed out six assists. Most impressive was him drilling two triples late in the game to clinch the win for Sacramento. Cousins was even in a playful mood following the game about a potential contract extension:
Joining Cousins in a strong effort was his inside partner, Kosta Koufos. Koufos scored 12 points and snagged eight rebounds off the Sacramento bench. Anthony Tolliver and Omri Casspi kept the big-man fun going, as Tolliver scored 17 points and Casspi grabbed 10 rebounds. Going against a quality big rotation of Andre Drummond, Aron Baynes and Boban Marjanovic, this was an encouraging performance for a Kings group that can occasionally be underwhelming inside.
The Pistons got 21 points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is starting to settle in as a primary scorer. Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris added 19 and 18, respectively, but the Detroit bench was virtually non-existent with just 18 points on 7-23 shooting:
WIZARDS 101 – BULLS 99
John Wall didn’t appreciate Bulls rookie Denzel Valentine dancing on Washington’s home floor and told him so. Then he proceeded to show him. Wall scored 26 points, dished 14 assists and hit the game-winning jumper with under six seconds to play to lead the Wizards back over .500 on the season. Bradley Beal and Markieff Morris added 19 points apiece for Washington, and Marcin Gortat put up a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Without Jimmy Butler (flu) and Dwayne Wade (rest), the undermanned Bulls hung in all game long. Valentine, despite “waking up a monster,” led the way with a career-high 19 points, including five three-pointers. Rajon Rondo returned from his exile with a strong all-around game of 12 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals:
HAWKS 117 – NETS 97
Atlanta led wire-to-wire and by as much as 27 points in a dominating win in Brooklyn. Six Hawks scored in double figures, led by Dennis Schroder’s 19 points and 10 assists. Dwight Howard added 14 points and 16 rebounds for Atlanta, which has now won seven straight games.
ROCKETS 121 – HORNETS 114
James Harden continued to state his MVP case in the Rockets’ ninth straight win, as Houston held off the pesky Hornets at home. Harden had his second straight triple-double, his fifth in seven games and his 11th of the year. And he became just the fourth player in NBA history with at least 40/10/10 in consecutive games, as he finished with 40 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. With Eric Gordon out, Corey Brewer stepped up off the bench with 15 points for Houston.
Down two starters, Charlotte rallied behind 25 points from Kemba Walker and 22 from Frank Kaminsky off the bench, but they couldn’t quite get over the top against Harden:
BUCKS 109 – SPURS 107
The flu robbed us of Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Kawhi Leonard, as Antetokounmpo was under the weather and played just nine ineffective minutes, but the Bucks and Spurs tangled in a classic anyway. Jabari Parker scored well with 22 points, but Michael Beasley stepped up to replace his ill teammate. Beasley scored a season-high 28 points off the Milwaukee bench on 11-18 shooting from the floor. And rookie Malcolm Brogdon continued his run of strong play with 17 points, six rebounds and six assists, including a huge three to give the Bucks a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Leonard carried the Spurs with 30 points to help make up for the absence of the ill LaMarcus Aldridge. Jonathon Simmons and Davis Bertans both had strong games off the bench, combining for 25 points for the Spurs, but it wasn’t quite enough:
JAZZ 100 – CAVALIERS 92
One of the NBA’s odder stats continued as LeBron James dropped to 5-9 all-time in Utah thanks to this loss. Gordon Hayward went head-to-head with the King and scored 28 points on 10-12 shooting. Hayward’s effort led all five Jazz starters in double figures, including 18 points from Rodney Hood plus 11 points and 14 rebounds from Rudy Gobert.
James scored a game-high 29, but the Cavaliers struggled with the terrific Jazz defense, shooting just 36 percent on the night.
TRAIL BLAZERS 108 – LAKERS 87
Portland has quietly begun to play some solid defense over the last handful of games, and it paid off last night in Los Angeles. The Blazers held the Lakers to just 30 second-half points and cruised to a big road win. C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 45 points, but Portland’s much-maligned defense was the story. The Lakers shot just 29 percent after halftime as the Blazers rolled up leads as big as 23 points after the break.
WARRIORS 107 – HEAT 95
Unable to shake the scrappy Heat, the Warriors turned to their defense in the third quarter to seal a home win. Golden State held Miami to just 5-20 shooting and 14 points in the quarter to take control. With Klay Thompson resting, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry carried the Warriors with 28 and 24 points, respectively.
Miami was led by a 20/20 game from Hassan Whiteside, who dominated Golden State inside with 28 points, 20 rebounds and two blocks. Goran Dragic had 17 points and Tyler Johnson added 18 off the bench, but the Heat were unable to overcome the poor start to the second half in the loss.