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NBA ICYMI: LeBron Regresses the Hawks to the Mean

Everything you need to know about Thursday in the NBA

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

All the need-to-know info from Thursday’s slate.


LeBron Used Atlanta for a Highlight Reel

The Hawks hung with the Cavaliers on Wednesday night, posting 67 points in one half and 114 points overall on Cleveland’s eternally porous defense. But of course, when a team that has won nine in a row faces one of the worst teams in the league, regression to the mean happens quickly.

Or, in other words, LeBron happens.

In 38 minutes, LeBron posted 24 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, two blocks, and two steals while transforming the Hawks’ arena into a personal combine to show off his athleticism.

If the dunks were too casual or customary, LeBron got up on defense, too. Literally. Not once—

—but twice:

Finger wag and all. That’s 10 in a row for the Cavs.

Back to the Future in the East

It was messy, low-scoring (until the fourth), and anticlimactic. In other words, it was a ’90s-style game between the two teams set up to own the East for the next 10 years.

In the Celtics’ 108-97 win over the Sixers, Kyrie Irving trudged his way along for a seemingly quiet 36 points, while Al Horford and Jayson Tatum added 21 and 15, respectively. But without Joel Embiid, the Sixers couldn’t counter with a high-scoring star of their own. Four starters scored in double digits, but none for more than 20 points. Philly’s bench kept the team in it, adding 30 points.

It was a valiant effort on a back-to-back for the Sixers, but it wasn’t enough to grind out a win over their Atlantic Division counterparts.

The game perfectly embodied why the Celtics got Kyrie: Sometimes a contest will get tangled up like the headphones inside your pocket and the only remedy to unravel the mess is a go-to scorer.

“He gets to where he wants to go,” Marcus Smart said postgame. “He doesn’t stop until he gets there.”

The Donovan Mitchell Show

The Louisville rookie seems to have been engineered in a basketball lab to simply produce highlights. On Thursday, the Jazz took it to the Clippers, beating them 126-107 without Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, and Joe Johnson. Mitchell tallied 24 points of his own, but earned his pay in dunks:

And ridiculous passes:

A Putback for the Outback

Taste the Rainbow Pass

A few plays after this pass, Nikola Jokic left the game after injuring his ankle when he landed awkwardly. Head coach Mike Malone called it a left ankle sprain postgame and said they hoped Jokic would play Saturday against the Lakers.

Thrill Barton

When Will Barton, noted sixth man, is the go-to option for your offense in crunch time, you’re not at an ideal place. But that’s where the Nuggets found themselves Thursday night, down a point to the abysmal 3-16 Bulls and looking to escape (at home) with a bad win.

With just under 10 seconds left, Barton was other-side-of-the-pillow cool as he needled his way through the terrible Chicago defense and finished with an up-and-under layup that was inches from rattling out.

“I was telling my teammates the last few possessions, ‘Give me the ball, and get out the way,’” Barton said in the postgame interview, a nearly breathless testament to the power of irrational confidence.

The Bulls stood their ground for 48 minutes, even going up by 18 at one point on the struggling Nuggets. Barton entered the game off the bench and exploded for a very timely, and very needed 37 points, a career-high. Barton drained six of his nine 3s and shot a preposterous 68.4 percent from the field.

Just two days after Mason Plumlee called out the team for not having a leader, Barton delivered something more imminently important: a winner.

Iman Shumpert Out

Shumpert is averaging 4.8 points and 3.1 rebounds on 20.8 minutes a game.

Drivers Beware: Giannis Is Always Looming

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Good Pass, Bad Pass, Really Bad Pass

We go live now to Doc Rivers.

Down 19, the younger Rivers also decided to share some choice words with a courtside fan. This is just about rock bottom for the Clippers.