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Returning Players Boost Raptors and Jazz, LA Teams Win Despite Absentees, and More NBA News

| January 20, 2020 11:30 am PDT
Lebon James, James Harden, Luka Doncic, Mike Conely, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo NBA Weekly Recap

The past week of NBA action saw a few important players get back from injury, while some of the top teams were looking to navigate a tough schedule without their superstars.

I will look into how these franchises fared in that situation and will also provide a detailed look at the fortunes of the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, and Milwaukee Bucks.

Afterward, I’ll look at a couple of interesting trades that went down and provide the latest injury news from around the league.

We’ll kick things off with a familiar face who was back to his best in the past seven days.

Doncic Steers the Mavs to the Right Path Again

Coming into last week, the Dallas Mavericks weren’t exactly in a good place. They had lost three out of their four contests and were quickly slipping down the charts.

Last week, they managed to put things right, and it was Luka Doncic who provided the edge once again.

The Slovenian looked to be back to his best as he took control of all three games he suited up for. Admittedly, these weren’t the toughest tests that the league could throw at them, but it was still good for the Mavs to get back to winning ways and kick on from there.

The week started with a game against the Golden State Warriors. Last time these two teams met, Doncic completely destroyed Steve Kerr’s roster, but he was a bit more lenient this time. Luka finished the game with 20 points and 8 rebounds. This was achieved in just 27 minutes of play, which gave Rick Carlisle the chance to give Doncic a bit of a breather.

The Mavs always looked in control, and there was an interesting showing from cult big man Boban Marjanovic. He dropped 13 points and racked up 11 rebounds in 20 minutes, which showed that he can still be a valuable piece in short stretches.

Dwight Powell was another player who impressed. He took advantage of some slack Warriors defending and dominated proceedings around the rim. Even though this wasn’t Doncic’s best playmaker performance, Powell managed to create some good opportunities for himself, which will be a big positive for the team going forward.

After easily dispatching Golden State, Dallas took on the struggling Sacramento Kings, and that’s where Luka really flexed his muscles.

The game was a bit tighter than the Mavs probably expected, but things unraveled for the Kings in the third quarter. And despite some late heroics from the backcourt duo of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, Sacramento ended up losing the tie 127-123.

It was a battling performance with a lot of positives for Luke Walton and his team, but it wasn’t enough to stop the inspired Luka Doncic. The Slovenian posted a monster triple-double that read 25 points, 17 assists, and 15 rebounds.

The player has been so consistently impressive that such a stat line doesn’t even raise eyebrows anymore. But we have to remember that this guy is still only 20 years old, and what he is doing in this league is nothing short of phenomenal.

The numbers against the Kings made Luka the youngest player in NBA history to drop 20 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists in a single game. It’s yet another crazy record to go with all the other ones he has broken during the course of this season.

The Mavs wrapped up the week with a cool 120-112 win against the Portland Trail Blazers, and it was another Doncic show. 35 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists were simply too much for the Blazers to contend with.

Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony, and Hassan Whiteside all put up good performances, but Dallas’ superstar and the superior bench options perfectly showcased the gap between these two teams at the moment.

Another positive from the win was Tim Hardaway Jr. The swingman posted one of his best shooting games in a while, finishing with 29 points on a 9-16 shooting from the floor and 5-8 from deep.

As I said, these weren’t the toughest opponents, but Doncic’s form and some good performances from a few of the other players bode well for the future. And don’t forget, they managed all that without Kristaps Porzingis.

Full-Strength Raptors Rise in the East

The reigning NBA champions finally got all their pieces back, and it immediately showed. The team performed admirably even without some of their best players, but I’m sure coach Nurse will be glad to see the back of that stretch.

Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell had already returned toward the end of the previous week, and the Raptors welcomed Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet back for a crunch match against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

Toronto narrowly lost their previous encounter with the Thunder, but bringing back the full strength of their roster gave them the necessary means to exact revenge.

Despite the best efforts of Chris Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander, Schroder, and Gallinari, the Thunder were quickly put under pressure after allowing 73 points in the first two quarters.

Toronto’s starting lineup was relentless. Every player managed at least 15 points, with Siakam and Anunoby dropping 21 each. The returning Powell provided the ammo from the bench, sinking 9 of his 11 field goals and hitting 3 of his 4 attempts from deep.

The game ended with a 130-121 Toronto win, and the champions jetted home to welcome the struggling Washington Wizards. It was a game that the Raptors were expected to breeze through, and they didn’t disappoint.

Powell had another great night with 28 points in 30 minutes, but it was the starters who provided the foundation once again. Siakam, Gasol, Lowry, Anunoby, and Ibaka all interacted brilliantly throughout the first three quarters, after which the game was practically over.

The main pieces all got a breather towards the end, but the win was never in doubt as the Raptors sealed an impressive 140-111 scoreline.

A trip to Minnesota followed next, and it was Fred VanVleet who turned on the style. He finished as the team’s highest scorer with 29, while Lowry and Powell added a combined 48.

The Wolves had Karl-Anthony Tows back to the fold, and Andre Wiggins had one of his better games this season as he posted an 18-point triple-double. The team’s rookie Jarett Culver dropped a career-high 26 points, but all this proved insufficient as the Raptors overturned an early deficit to expertly close out the game in the latter stages.

Overall, it was a very positive week for the team. They got all of their players back and racked up three consecutive wins. But most of all, they will be pleased that the injuries didn’t derail the team’s chemistry, and they immediately started producing again.

This saw them rise to the 3rd seed in the East and will serve as a reminder that the Raptors have no intention of relinquishing their title without a fight.

Harden’s Cold Streak Freezes the Rockets

Just as we thought that the Rockets had figured things out, they go on and produce one of the franchise’s worst weeks in recent memory.

Houston was well beaten in all three of their games last week and once again showcased their huge reliance on James Harden.

It started off with a highly inefficient performance away to the Memphis Grizzlies. D’Antoni’s team didn’t look up for it in defense, and despite racking up 41 points, Harden had one of his worst shooting performances of the season.

On the flip side, the Grizzlies once again showed they are no pushovers and buried their opponents in the final stages of the game. Rookie Ja Morant was the best player on the court, but practically every young player on the roster was simply immense.

And if losing to the Grizzlies was bad, going down to the Blazers at home should be considered a catastrophe. This time, Harden had only 13 points in 36 minutes. The defense was non-existent again, and Lillard, McCollum, and Carmelo Anthony absolutely torched their opponents.

Against the Lakers, Harden went 8 from 20 from the field and just 2 from 9 from deep. LeBron and his team were patiently waiting for their moment and took full advantage in the third quarter. They eventually won the game by a 9-point margin even though the Rockets scored more than 30 points in three of the four quarters.

It was a kind of win that showed why the Lakers are a top team on both ends of the floor. And it was also a kind of win that showed why the Rockets’ overreliance on James Harden can easily backfire.

It might sound crazy to say that a player has had a bad week after a return of 68 points in three games, but not in the case of Harden. The amount of shots he takes completely limits his team, and if he has an off night, no one can compensate for it.

If you look at Russell Westbrook’s numbers from last week, you’ll see what I mean. He actually posted monster stats in all three games. Russ’ points average was 32.5, and he shot 53.2% while also contributing 7.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game.

This is a great overall performance, and it’s troubling for the Rockets to see that it did nothing to stop them from losing all three games.

Of course, this is not the end of the world, and we know that Harden can pick it up at any given time. However, it does remain a concern for the development of this team and its championship aspirations.

Mike Conley Returns, the Jazz Stays Hot

Utah entered the week as one of the hottest teams in the NBA. They stretched their winning streak to 10 games after crushing Kyrie Irving and the Nets in Brooklyn, but Brandon Ingram’s career-high 49 points ended the run in New Orleans.

Despite the loss against the Pelicans, the team bounced back immediately by handing a 123-101 beating to the Sacramento Kings. The highlight of the game was the long-awaited return of Mike Conley.

The playmaker was given 15 minutes of play, and coach Snyder will probably continue to gradually ease him into the team and not risk any further setbacks.

The Jazz clicked tremendously without Conley, and it will be interesting to see how they will look with him back in the fold. Donovan Mitchell excelled at point guard and has more or less booked his spot on the All-Star game during that stretch.

Rudy Gobert was back to his defensive best, and sharpshooters Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles were torching opponents left, right, and center.

Royce O’Neale, who saw an extended role in the absence of Conley, showed he is quite adept at spacing the floor and can be a very reliable defender. That won him a recent contract extension with the team.

Conley is a terrific point guard and a good scorer, but he still hasn’t quite adapted to the Utah system. Still, I believe he will return to the starting lineup once he’s fully fit, and it will be up to him to show he’s an asset rather than a liability.

Kawhi Leonard Provides the Fuel for the Clippers

The Clippers have been missing Paul Goerge for a while but have been able to stay on course because of Kawhi Leonard’s heroics.

The Klaw carried his recent scoring form into last week and led his team to three consecutive wins. He scored over 30 points in all three contests, and his average shooting percentage from the field was 55.8%. What was more impressive, though, was his shooting from deep.

Kawhi is not the best 3-point shooter in the league, and he is clearly more comfortable in and around the paint. However, last week, he shot 42.9% from 3.

Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell were the other standout performers once again as the team reminded the league they have the strength in depth to cope with almost any challenge.

The Bucks Strengthen Their Championship Credentials

The Milwaukee Bucks had yet another perfect week and remain as the top team in the NBA. They had no problem rolling over both New York teams and were as equally dominant in their toughest matchup against the Boston Celtics.

Giannis continues to wreak havoc on every team he faces regardless of status. The Greek Freak ended the week with averages of 32.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists. Does anyone think he is not the frontrunner for MVP once again?

It wasn’t all about Giannis, though. We have to give credit to his teammates, who have been providing great support. Khris Middleton is playing like the perfect sidekick and will probably earn a spot in the All-Star game as well.

Donte DiVincenzo posted a career-high 19 points against the Boston Celtics, while Brook Lopez has consistently been one of the best defensive centers in the league.

Plus, the team has George Hill and Kyle Korver, who remain two of the most efficient 3-point shooters out there.

The Bucks are looking healthy, stacked, and confident, and there are no indications that they’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

LeBron Threads the Needle in the Absence of Davis

Although the team got sucker-punched by the Orlando Magic, there are many positives to take away from the Lakers’ last three games.

In the absence of Anthony Davis, players like Kyle Kuzma and Dwight Howard have impressed in extended roles. Howard’s performances are especially notable as the center seems to have turned back the clock.

I haven’t seen him play like that since his days in Orlando, so credit to both him and the organization for unlocking that form. It will be interesting to see whether he can keep it up, but we really can’t fault his attitude up to this point.

Kuzma has mostly had a positive influence, although he is still prone to the odd cold streak. Nevertheless, I believe this stretch has helped him acquire the confidence that he can be the third shooting option on this team.

But the main man was once again LeBron James. After a career-high 19 assists against the Magic, the King followed that up with 31 points and 12 assists against the Houston Rockets.

This made LeBron the first player since legendary Laker Magic Johnson to put up 8 games with at least 30 points and 10 assists.

It’s becoming increasingly hard to stay away from the LeBron-Magic comparisons as James has basically become the league’s best creator.

It just goes to show that there are simply no limits to what LeBron can do on a basketball court, and it bodes well for the Lakers that he looks to have found the formula to win even without AD by his side.

NBA Trade Report

The trade window hasn’t generated a lot of buzz this year, but last week saw two trades get done.

The Minnesota Timberwolves shipped their point guard Jeff Teague to the Atlanta Hawks along with Treveon Graham. Guard Alan Crabbe moved the other way.

Teague will be a good backup option for Trae Young as Atlanta was definitely thin in that department. For the T-Wolves, it was an opportunity to free up space on the roster and part ways with two players who weren’t happy with the amount of playing time available.

The other deal saw Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver move from the Portland Trail Blazers to the Sacramento Kings. Portland will receive Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel, and Caleb Swanigan but will also give away two second-round picks to the Kings.

I don’t expect any major impact for the teams. Bazemore will probably not feature prominently in the Sacramento rotation. Ariza’s 3-and-D credentials will probably be tested in Portland, but the player seems to be nearing the end of his career and will only get limited time on the court.

NBA Injury Report

After a host of high-profile injuries since the beginning of the year, last week didn’t produce too many health problems for the players.

The only notable contusions were those of DJ Augustin and CJ McCollum.

Augustin’s situation is more serious, and MRI scans have revealed that the Magic’s point guard will miss at least three weeks of action before being assessed.

McCollum missed his team’s game against the Heat and will not feature in Monday’s matchup against the Golden State Warriors. However, his ankle sprain is not severe, and he is expected to return to action soon.

Final Words

This brings us to the end of my weekly NBA recap. I feel like I’ve gone through the most important developments, but do let me know if you have other talking points in my mind.

Be sure to check back next Monday to see if the top teams are still bossing the league or the underdogs have managed to spring a few surprises.

And if you’re planning on betting the NBA games, give yourself an edge by visiting our NBA Betting Headquarters page. It’s our dedicated page for NBA betting, and you will find all the latest betting odds and a ton of predictions by our team of experts.

Elias Wagner

Elias Wagner has been a soccer fan since he was a young boy. He still has a huge passion for the sport itself as well as betting on it and writing about it.

Outside of soccer, Elias also enjoys other sports including basketball, tennis, and snooker. He's been writing for GamblingSites.com since 2018.

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