LeBron, Tatum, and Morant each drop 50+, Jokic delivers an MVP performance, Durant returns, and more from Week 20 in the NBA.
1. LeBron scores season-high 56 points
LeBron James put on a show in Los Angeles on Saturday as he went for 56 points to lead the Lakers to a 124-116 win over the Golden State Warriors.
The 56 points not only marked a season-high for James, but it is the most points he’s ever had on the score sheet as a Laker in four seasons.
James shot 19-31 from the field, 6-11 from 3-point range, and 12-13 from the free-throw line as he amassed his 56 points, 10 boards, and three assists in just 39 minutes. In doing so, LeBron became the fourth player in league history to score 50 points or more over age 37 and is the oldest player in league history (37 years, 65 days) to post at 50-10 games, besting the record previously held by Michael Jordan (33 years, 19 days).
2. Tatum drops 54 points vs. Nets
We keep the 50-point train moving with a 54-point gem from Jayson Tatum to lead the Celtics to a 126-120 win over Kevin Durant and the Nets on Sunday. There have now been 11 50+ point games in the NBA this season; Tatum is the only player with more than one such game.
Since the calendar flipped to 2022, the Celtics have the third-best record in the NBA at 22-8 (0.733), trailing only Phoenix and Dallas. They have gone from 17-19 at the end of 2021 to 39-27 to close out Week 20 and currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, just 1.5 games back of the second.
3. Morant strikes again with 52 piece
Last week, we highlighted Ja Morant breaking the Grizzlies franchise record for most points in a game with a 46-point effort against Chicago. Well, that record lasted a total of two days before Morant topped his own mark with a 52-point performance against San Antonio last Monday.
It’s not just that Morant scored 52 points on 22-30 shooting from the field and a perfect 4-4 from 3-point range, it’s the spectacular fashion in which he scored those points that have made he and the Grizzlies have become must-see TV every time they take the court. Take a look at these three plays:
- A 3-pointer from 33-feet out
- A poster dunk on Jakob Poeltl
- A first-half buzzer beater falling out of bounds off a full-court pass from Steven Adams
4. Steven Adams QB1
Today is the final day of the NFL Combine, but if any team is still looking for a quarterback, may I present the highlight reel of one Steven Adams. His full-court pass to Ja Morant for a buzzer-beating jumper at the end of the first half against San Antonio was just the latest in a career marked by touchdown passes.
5. Jokic’s 46-point triple-double
You know it was an incredible week when a 46-point triple-double from the reigning MVP is fifth on the weekly rundown. Nikola Jokic was absolutely brilliant in the fourth quarter and over time to lead the Nuggets to a 138-130 win over the Pelicans. He scored 30 of his 46 points in the game’s final 17 minutes and finished 46 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks, and three steals.
Denver is unbeaten in three overtime games this season and has won 10 of its last 12 games. At 38-26 at the end of Week 20, the Nuggets are in sixth place in the West and Jokic remains among the favorites in the MVP race.
6. Cam called game
Cameron Johnson capped off his career night with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer off the glass to give the Suns a thrilling 115-114 win over the Knicks on Friday night in Phoenix.
With 7.1 seconds left and no timeouts, the Suns trailed by two points with the Knicks at the free-throw line for the second of two attempts. Alec Burks missed the free throw and the rebound deflected off two players before it was corralled by Mikal Bridges, who quickly got the ball to Cameron Payne, who pushed the ball upcourt looking to make a play.
As you watch the clip below, you’ll notice every player streaks past Cam Johnson, who waits just inside the half-court line and gives Payne a teammate to pass back to while the rest of the Knicks defense moving the other way. Johnson catches the pass, takes a dribble, and pulls up from 30-feet out to launch the game-winning three.
Johnson finished with 38 points on 11-for-16 shooting from the field, 9-for-12 from 3-point range, and 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in just 28 minutes off the bench. Johnson caught fire in the fourth quarter, knocking down six treys and scoring 21 points to match the entire Knicks team in the game’s final 12 minutes.
7. KD returns, reaches 25,000 career points
After missing more than six weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee, Kevin Durant made his return for the Nets as they hosted the East-leading Miami Heat in Brooklyn.
After being sidelined for 47 days, Durant looked like he never missed a minute as he scored 31 points against the Heat and followed it up with 37 points against the Celtics on Sunday. However, the Nets lost both games to push their current streak to four straight losses and finished Week 20 in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
In that loss to Boston, Durant became just the 23rd player in NBA history to reach 25,000 career points.
Perhaps my favorite part of Durant hitting the milestone is the difference in postgame reaction between Durant and teammate Kyrie Irving.
Irving told Durant “You’re a savant. You are an artist.” Durant simply said, “I should be at 30 right now, to be honest.”
8. Heat increase lead in East
Miami went 3-1 this week while facing some of the Eastern Conference’s top teams vs Chicago, at Milwaukee, at Brooklyn, vs. Philadelphia. Their only loss came to the defending champs in Milwaukee by a single point as the Heat closed Week 20 with a three-game lead on the rest of the field in the East.
Victor Oladipo is expected to make his season debut for the Heat on Monday, adding more depth to an already strong squad.
9. Week 19 stats leaders
For games played between Monday, Feb. 28 and Sunday, March 6, with a minimum of two games played.
- Points:The three players with a 50+ point game in Week 19 lead the way in scoring: Jayson Tatum (BOS 3-0) at 41.3 ppg, LeBron James (LAL 1-2) at 36.0 ppg, and Ja Morant (MEM 2-2) at 34.3 ppg.
- Rebounds:Giannis Antetokounmpo led all players at 15.5 rpg over four games (MIL 4-0), while Rudy Gobert (UTA 2-1) and Wendell Carter Jr. (ORL 1-1) tied for second at 15.0 rpg.
- Assists:Darius Garland led all players at 11.0 apg over three games (CLE 1-2), while Cameron Payne (10.7 apg, PHX 2-1) and James Harden (10.0 apg, PHI 2-0) also averaged double digit dimes.
- Steals:Mike Conley led all players at 3.5 spg over two games (UTA 1-1), while Minnesota’s Jordan McLaughlin nearly averaged as many steals (2.8 spg) as he did points (3.0 ppg) this week over four games (MIN 4-0).
- Blocks:Robert Williams III led all players at 3.33 bpg over three games (BOS 3-0), while teammate Al Horford finished second at 2.33 per game, narrowly edging out Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL 4-0) and Isaiah Jackson (IND 1-3) with 2.25 bpg.
- 3-Pointers Made:Cameron Johnson led all players with 6.5 3pg over two games (PHX 2-0), including his game-winning buzzer-beater discussed above; Anfernee Simons (6.0 3pg, POR 0-2) and Bojan Bodganovic (5.3 3pg, UTA 2-1) also averaged over five treys per game.
10. Plays of the Week