All the need-to-know info from Monday’s slate.
The Return of Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings is back. (We found him, Paul Pierce!)
And not only is Jennings not lost wandering the streets somewhere in China, but the former 10th overall pick has returned to where it all started for him: Milwaukee. After a brief stint in the G League, Jennings signed a 10-day contract with his former squad and nearly put up a triple-double off the bench. He finished the Bucks’ 121-103 win with 16 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds in only 24 minutes and looked as smooth as he did back when he dropped his 55-point performance for the Bucks nearly 10 years ago.
Sure, playing against the Grizzlies could probably even make Stephon Marbury look pretty good for a game right now, but with Malcolm Brogdon still out with a partially torn left quad, the 28-year-old veteran could be a big help for the Bucks as they continue to make their push into the playoffs.
Fox With the Fancy Finish
De'Aaron Fox showin' off the moves pic.twitter.com/lJNdeEH1yl— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 13, 2018
Weird NBA Moment of the Night: Kosta Koufos Saves the Game (Sort Of)
In a Kings-Thunder game that featured some memorable highlights, there was one particular play that stood out above the rest. Early in the second quarter, the ball got stuck in a precarious position on top of the hoop, and a few great things followed:
1. The clean-up guy hopelessly made an attempt to knock the ball down with his mop, but he quickly realized he had absolutely no chance.
2. Frank Mason tried using the Force to retrieve the ball.
3. When there was no one else to turn to, Kosta Koufos rose from the bench, took away that poor clean-up guy’s mop, and put his long wingspan to use for perhaps his best play of the night.
These hoops obviously don't want to cooperate tonight pic.twitter.com/L1hXwKkuf4— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) March 13, 2018
Koufos walked back to the bench a hero, showered by cheers from the crowd.
The Kings ended up losing 106-101, but Koufos helped speed the game along as the tank rolls on.
Your Nightly Wild, Wild West Update: Always Feed Dame After Midnight
Just when it seemed the Blazers wouldn’t need to enter Dame Time in the fourth quarter, the Heat went on an 18-3 run to pull within three points with six minutes remaining.
So Terry Stotts had to break out the Bat-Signal yet again and cut Lillard’s rare rest on the bench short. Like a reverse basketball-gremlin, always feed this man after midnight (Eastern Time):
Dame drained two clutch 3s to help thwart the Heat comeback, and he finished the night with a team-best 32 points and 10 assists. Lillard is now averaging 34.5 points over the last 12 games, and Portland has only lost one of them.
It’s always easy to overlook Lillard and the Trail Blazers (especially around the All-Star break—just ask Dame), but this squad is starting to look scary down the stretch and continues to hold the third-place position in the wild, wild West.
The Spurs Need a Savior
Spurs fans, if you weren’t already concerned, it might be time to reach for the panic button.
San Antonio started the night shooting 2-for-18 from the field, causing Gregg Popovich to cycle through 11 players in the game’s first five minutes. Poor Bryn Forbes wasn’t even in for a minute before being yanked.
James Harden catches Bryn Forbes with his hands reaching out and draws a 3-PT foul.— Salman Ali (@RedNationHoops) March 13, 2018
Pop promptly takes him out of the game. pic.twitter.com/Ts0jCgDg7e
(Pop would have a sideline conversation with Forbes that resembled a child being reprimanded for acting out in class.)
The Spurs went down 19-4, but Tony Parker and Davis Bertans helped string together a run to pull the team within four entering the second quarter, with a nice Bertans buzzer-beater closing out the first:
But, man, the Rockets are just too good. Led by James Harden and Chris Paul’s combined 46 points and 15 assists (more on them below), Houston eventually pulled ahead by 26 points in the third quarter and went on cruise control for the rest of the night, winning 109-93.
The Spurs are in danger of producing fewer than 50 wins for the first time in 19 seasons (and that time, they were on a 61-win pace in a lockout-shortened season). An even scarier thought: They’re now in 10th place and on the brink of missing the playoffs for the first time since before Tim Duncan entered the league. Help them, Kawhi. You’re their only hope.
Dragic is Goran Places
Westbrook Doing Westbrook Things
The reigning MVP picked up his 20th triple-double of the season and the 99th of his career, inching closer to becoming just the fourth player in NBA history to reach 100. Westbrook had 17 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, and one vicious dunk that De’Aaron Fox wisely wanted nothing to do with:
Russell Westbrook puts down the baseline slam pic.twitter.com/mDxd2lMsRs— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 13, 2018
Vince Not Showing a Wrinkle in Time
(Sorry, I couldn’t resist—but seriously, Vince Carter might be ageless.)
Vince Carter is 41... but don't tell him pic.twitter.com/Ym33KpmxGu— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 13, 2018
Houston Breaks Out the Handles
In addition to being yet another assertion of the Rockets’ continued dominance, the San Antonio–Houston matchup proved to be a showcase for the ridiculous handles of the best backcourt in the league. Harden and CP3 were faking out everybody like George Springer faked enjoying his visit to the White House.
Chris Paul with a smooth dribble move before he hits Clint Capela for the slam pic.twitter.com/wlOWFNmz3m— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 13, 2018
San Antonio was short-handed with LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi all out, and Houston’s dynamic duo danced all over one of the best defenses in the league to pull two games ahead of the Warriors. The Spurs should consider themselves fortunate for leaving the arena with all of their ankles intact.