42881fc38fee453284bbb1a088ae06c4-750.png

NBA highlights on Jan. 1: Nuggets win in conference leaders’ battle

Nikola Jokic (#15) of the Denver Nuggets shoots in the game against the Boston Celtics at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Nikola Jokic (#15) of the Denver Nuggets shoots in the game against the Boston Celtics at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Nikola Jokic (#15) of the Denver Nuggets shoots in the game against the Boston Celtics at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, January 1, 2023. /CFP

The Denver Nuggets beat the Boston Celtics 123-111 at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado on Sunday, to secure their second straight win and end the opponents’ four-game winning streak.

In the contest between the Western and Eastern Conference leaders which also have the league’s top two offensive rating, Nikola Jokic dropped a triple-double of 30 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists without committing any turnover. Having turned on his individual attack mode in the first quarter to score 14 points, Jokic forced the Celtics to double-team him against their will so he could pass to open teammates both inside and outside.

The Nuggets lead the NBA in 3-point rate (39.4 percent), which is why they can maintain league average production (11.8 triples made per game, 15th among 30 teams) from downtown despite the second-fewest attempts there (30 shots per game). The team shot no more than 30 3-pointers in Sunday’s game, but made 17 of them.

Nikola Jokic (#15) of the Denver Nuggets looks to pass in the game against thr Boston Celtics at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Nikola Jokic (#15) of the Denver Nuggets looks to pass in the game against thr Boston Celtics at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Nikola Jokic (#15) of the Denver Nuggets looks to pass in the game against thr Boston Celtics at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, January 1, 2023. /CFP

If the Nuggets’ performance behind the arc was not lethal enough, the team shot 28-for-49 within the 3-point line and 23-for-35 in the paint. Simply speaking, Jokic surgically dismantled the Celtics’ defense with his passing while scoring 30 points with only 13 field goal (FG) attempts.

Jokic’s orchestrating enabled four of his teammates to get more than 15 points at 50+percent of FG rate. Having extended his crazy performance from December, in which he averaged 29.2 points, 12.3 rebounds and 10.1 assists, Jokic again raised the discussions over his chances of winning the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award for the third time in a row.

By contrast, another likely MVP candidate Jayson Tatum of the Celtics, was a big disappointment on Sunday night. His stats of scoring 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists might be good enough for over 90 percent of the league’s players, but failed to reach his season average.

Jayson Tatum (#0) of the Boston Celtics drives toward the rim in the game against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Jayson Tatum (#0) of the Boston Celtics drives toward the rim in the game against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Jayson Tatum (#0) of the Boston Celtics drives toward the rim in the game against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Tatum and the Celtics shared the same problem on offense: the shooting slump at the 3-point line. Tatum missed all of his four attempts from the outside while the whole team went 9-for-33 there. Such poor shooting form from the Celtics encouraged the Nuggets to close in on the defensive end in a more and more determined way as the game went on. The Celtics were able to attack efficiently behind Jokic in the first quarter, but ceased to do so later because the Nuggets’ paint continued to grow more and more crowded.

Jaylen Brown and Derrick White were the only two Celtics who were in good offensive form in Sunday’s game. However, despite the 30 points Brown had, his role was no bigger than a scorer, which limited his influence on the court. As for White, his attack was more about efficiency (shooting 5-for-9 from the field) than production (13 points), not to mention that he was replaced by Grant Williams in the starting lineup in the second half to improve the Celtics’ size.

The Celtics still lead the East despite Sunday’s loss and they are unlikely to drop out of top three in the conference when the regular season ends. Nonetheless, neither do they seem much different from the franchise that lost in the NBA Finals last season judging by their performance so far.

Other games on Sunday (away teams come first):

Ja Morant (L) of the Memphis Grizzlies drives toward the rim in the game against the Sacramento Kings at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Ja Morant (L) of the Memphis Grizzlies drives toward the rim in the game against the Sacramento Kings at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Ja Morant (L) of the Memphis Grizzlies drives toward the rim in the game against the Sacramento Kings at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Sacramento Kings 108-118 Memphis Grizzlies

In the contest between two of the most explosive point guards in today’s NBA at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee on Sunday, Ja Morant outperformed De’Aaron Fox on almost every front and led the Grizzlies to achieve their third consecutive win. While most Grizzlies were struggling with cold touch from downtown, Morant created remarkable vertical spacing by going 11-for-17 in the paint. His team made five fewer triples than the Kings (10-15), but outscored the opponents 64-44 in the restricted area.

Steven Adams was one of the biggest beneficiaries from Morant’s influence as he grabbed 13 offensive rebounds for the Grizzlies on Sunday night. Not only did he set a new career high in rebounds (23), Adams also became the first player in franchise history to get 20+rebounds in two straight games.

Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards dunks in the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards dunks in the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards dunks in the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, January 1, 2023. /CFP

Washington Wizards 118-95 Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton all sat out the home game at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Sunday, making the Bucks’ loss not so surprising. Though the Wizards shot as poorly as 7-for-27 behind the arc, they scored 22 points via fast break and 72 points in the paint, almost removing the suspense from the competition after the first quarter in which they led 34-17.

Kyle Kuzma was not in his best shooting form on Sunday night, but he had a triple-double of 10 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for the Wizards. Rui Hachimura came off the bench for the visiting team, but dropped court-high 26 points. He has extended his double-digit-points streak to five games and the Wizards won all of them.


Source link

Tags: No tags

Leave A Comment