Thursday’s NBA talking points

By Daniel Oriyasin

Lakers beat Minnesota despite a D Rose explosion

The LA Lakers held on to a narrow 114-110 victory over the Timberwolves at Staples Center last night, LeBron James was one assist shy of a triple double.

New addition, Tyson Chandler, was vital in the Lakers win. The defensive-minded Center played great in defence on Karl Anthony Towns and secured several offensive rebounds in the clutch to kill the game. Chandler was recently bought out by the Phoenix Suns, allowing him to join the Lakers as a free agent.

The Lakers had four players score at least 20 points with James, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram all breaking through the Minnesota defence.

Ingram had his best game of the season after being suspended for his part in the brawl against the Houston Rockets in October. He struggled to get going with his different role in the team this season but things were starting to click for the former number two pick. He had 20 points, five rebounds and six assists.

Derrick Rose had a valiant display to try and bring the Timberwolves back, nailing a pair of threes to cut the lead to one with a minute remaining, but ultimately in vain.

Kawhi returns for Toronto

Kawhi Leonard looked not to miss a beat after sitting out the last two games, scoring 25 in a 114-105 win at the Sacramento Kings.

The two-time Defensive Player of the Year also grabbed 11 rebounds to secure a double-double. Leonard had been out with left knee soreness but was back as the Toronto Raptors downed a gritty Kings team.

Pascal Siakam scored 21 points, Serge Ibaka had a 14 point, 14 rebound double-double, Kyle Lowry chipped in with 16 points and 8 rebounds. Toronto’s balanced offence is showcased with their bench also having two players to score in double digits: Fred VanVleet and Jonas Valanciunas.

Willy Cauley-Stein and Buddy Hield both notched up 24 points for the Kings, with De’Aaron Fox also scoring 20.

The Raptors have still only lost one game all season and sit comfortably atop the Eastern Conference with an 11-1 record, the best in the league.

Vintage Gasol and Grizzlies end Nuggets run

The Memphis Grizzlies pulled out a performance of old when they defeated the Denver Nuggets 89-87 in the FedEx Forum.

Denver had not failed to score 100 points in a game so far this season so a vintage performance from Marc Gasol on both sides of the floor was vital.

The former Defensive Player of the Year held Nikola Jokic to just a solitary shot attempt, a game-winning effort that failed at the buzzer. Jokic has been held up as one of the league’s premier-passing players and has surpassed Gasol in the debate.

Gasol had 20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals to show he is still one of the best big men in the league. Rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. also scored 20 points and was impressive overall grabbing seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals. The Michigan-State alum also put Paul Milsap on a poster with an impressive put-back dunk.

The win moved Memphis into the fifth seed in the Western Conference, tied with the Spurs in fourth.

Thunder miss Russ despite winning in Cleveland

Dennis Schroeder deputised for Russell Westbrook when Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 95-86 at Quicken Loans Arena. Westbrook went down with an ankle injury against the New Orleans Pelicans in Oklahoma City’s last outing.

Schroeder bagged 28 points to lead the Thunder in scoring and also grabbed seven rebounds. The guard was acquired in a trade featuring Carmelo Anthony in the off-season. The 25-year-old German failed to get a single assist in the win.

The Thunder only had 10 assists as a team, less than half of their 2018 average. Oklahoma were already 26th in the league for amount of assists per game and Westbrook’s absence only exacerbates their issues passing the ball.

The win brings the Thunder into a playoff seeding but they will need Westbrook back in order to overcome more challenging opposition.

Anthony Davis continues MVP push

Anthony Davis’ incredible start to the season continued in the Pelicans 107-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Davis registered 32 points, 15 boards, seven assists, four blocks and a steal in a dominating performance. The power-forward’s scoring is slightly down from last season (28.1 points per game to 24.4 points per game) but is grabbing more rebounds and blocking more shots than ever. His assists have doubled from last year, going from 2.3 assists per game to 4.6.

The Brow is handling the ball more and has shown an improved willingness to pass the ball when his teammates have a better shot. Davis has improved every season since entering the league and has already been named in the All-NBA first team on three occasions despite being only 25 years old.

Davis won the National Player of the Year award in his solitary season with Kentucky and has spoken out about his desire to win the MVP. He has finished in the top three on two occasions and his fantastic run at the end of last season almost saw him usurp James Harden as the award winner.

The Pelicans were devastated when DeMarcus Cousins tore his achilles against the Rockets when grabbing an offensive rebound from a free-throw. Davis vowed to have the best stretch of his career, saying: “If I have to be Westbrook, I will be Westbrook.”

Davis will certainly need to play like Westbrook again this year, with the Pelicans currently sitting outside the playoffs with a 5-6 record.

Edited by Ben Knapton

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