Let’s dive in to the NBA’s most significant stories of the week including the Steph Curry vs. Luka Doncic battle, the Sixers taking over the East and how the Blazers and Magic coped with several injuries in key pieces.
Luka vs. Steph
The NBA is where amazing things can happen, even in a regular season game between two teams trying to find their footing in a tough season amidst a pandemic. However, Steph Curry and Luka Doncic ability to make things happen in the offensive end in incomparable. At Saturday’s night matchup between the Mavericks and the Warriors those two were in pure control of the game.
Doncic registered another all-around performance, while he scored a career-high 42 points. The Mavericks won the game thanks to Doncic ability in the offensive end being one of the worst defenses in the league this season(26th in Defrtg). During Saturday’s game, the Mavs were on a plus/minus +22 per 100 possessions, when the Slovenian wonderkid was on the floor, while they were on a gargantuan minus-66 when he was sitting on the bench
On the other hand, Steph Curry was also unstoppable as he came close to create a new career-high, after his 62-point performance against the Blazers on Jan. 4. Curry had also showed his full repertoire scoring from every position in the floor. He ended up with 57 points on 11-of-19 threes and 19-of-31 from the field. Curry sit out for just 11 minutes in the Saturday’s clash and the Warriors were sinking in the offensive side scoring just 73.9 points per 100 possessions.
At the same time, their defense was also not good enough as they were on a minus-44.3 in the 11 minutes Curry sat on the bench. The Warriors are still trying to find their balance, however their offensive production without their superstar is still lacking as they average 101.7 per 100 possessions this season. The most important part for the Warriors is to find their balance in both ends of the floor, until then, Curry will need to take over for the Warriors to remain afloat.
Embiid, Sixers prevail in the East
The Philadelphia 76ers are winning big in the East having the best record in their conference(17-7). Despite some real head scratchers(Pistons, undermanned Blazers), the Sixers are prevailing in the East thanks to Joel Embiid MVP performances. Embiid is taking over the paint scoring 9.2 in 8.2 possessions per game in post up situations being the league’s leader in that category. The center from Cameroon has a huge impact in winning for Doc Rivers’ team as his team are a minus-3.8 without Embiid on the floor.
On the other hand, the Sixers are on plus-11.3 with Embiid playing. They recorded just one win in games the 76ers’ superstar missed due to injury. Doc Rivers’ squad has a 16-3 record with Embiid available and a 1-4 record with the All-Star center out. The Sixers are yet to prove that are a plausible threat for the Los Angeles Lakers as they faced most of the NBA’s upper-echelon team with several players out (Nets, Celtics), however Embiid’s MVP form is a good start for a team that struggled last season in both the regular season and postseason.
Blazers, Magic playing undermanned
The Orlando Magic are one of the teams that were hit hard by long-term injuries in key players, while the same goes for the Portland Trail Blazers. Magic are listing three players as out indefinitely, while forward Aaron Gordon is targeting a return after the end of the first part of the season on mid-March. At the same time, Markelle Fultz is out for the remainder of the 2020/21 season and Jonathan Isaac is still out since his serious injury during the NBA restart in Orlando “bubble”. Since their 6-2 start, the Magic won just three of the next 16 games. They are mostly relying on Nikola Vucevic, who is filling the stat sheet averaging 23.1 points shooting a career-high 42.3% from deep.
The Blazers are in a better shape in comparison to Orlando, despite losing three key players early in the season. Jusuf Nurkic is still indefinitely out with a wrist injury and CJ McCollum has yet to return from a foot injury, which occurred last month. At the same time, Zach Collins is also out indefinitely out with a foot injury. McCollum was unstoppable during the first 13 games of the season making the Blazers a strong candidate to secure a Top-4 seed in the tough West, however his injury slowed down Portland with Lillard keeping his team afloat since his co-star’s injury. The Blazers are on a 4-5 record with McCollum out, and Lillard has taken over averaging 31.8 points on 47.8% from the field and 39.8% from deep.