NBA Scores: We probably need to talk about Kristaps Porzingis more

We’re past the quarter mark of the season for some teams, and the intensity across the board is ramping up. Boston looks like they’re ready for revenge after last year’s NBA Finals disappointment, and Zion Williamson looks like a number one option on a playoff contender. Monday also saw 40-point totals from Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Durant, and Devin Booker. So here’s everything you need to know:

Joel Embiid’s late heroics push Sixers past Hawks, 104-101

At this point, he has to be the favorite for MVP. Embiid, making his return from an ankle sprain, finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and two blocks, but inside the final minute alone, he tallied seven of his points (including the go-ahead bucket) and made the game-clinching deflection:

Kristaps Porzingis’s 40-piece helps Wizards outscore Wolves, 142-127

Karl-Anthony Towns went down in the second half with a calf strain, and his final line read eight points and four assists in nearly 22 minutes. Most of the damage, however, had already been done with the score reading 76-93 with 5:25 remaining in the third.

A good chunk of that damage came from Kristaps Porzingis, who scored 29 points in the first half alone before finishing with a season-high 41 on 12-18 shooting. Washington is currently top dog among East play-in teams, just a half game out of the top six.

Celtics continue hot start blowing out Hornets, 140-105

Nets squeak by Magic 109-102 behind 45 points from Kevin Durant

Pascal Siakam returns as Raptors beat Cavs, 100-88

After missing Toronto’s last 10 games with an injury, Siakam returned after an MVP-like start over his first nine games. On a minutes restriction, he played just over 30 minutes and finished with a double-double at 18 points (50% shooting) and 11 rebounds with five assists as well. The MVP race could certainly heat up if Siakam can return to his play from before the injury when he averaged 24.8 points (47.9% shooting), 9.3 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game.

Overall, it was an extremely poor shooting night for Cleveland, finishing just 7-38 (18.4%) from distance with only two players (Evan Mobley and Donovan Mitchell with 18 each) reaching double-digit scoring. The outcome signals some problems for the Cavs, who are now 5-7 on the road this season. They’re still top three in the loaded East, but they’re closer to #4 (half a game) than #2 (two full games) after the loss.

Pelicans win 105-101 after holding off OKC’s rally

Zion Williamson was HIM on Monday night, scoring 23 points, tying a career high of eight assists, and giving his team the lead with a tough finish through contact inside of a minute remaining. New Orleans needed every bit of Williamson’s big night too, since Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Naji Marshall were all inactive.

This was also Zion’s 100th career game, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, “his 2,524 points are the most by a player through 100 career games since Michael Jordan scored 2,721 points through his first 100 games.”

Denver uses strong third quarter to breeze by Houston, 129-113

Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray each reached the 30-plus mark in the game, and the Nuggets used a +13 third quarter to pull ahead. It was yet another game without Michael Porter Jr. (heel) and Bones Hyland (non-COVID illness), but it hasn’t held Denver down too much, as they’re in sole possession of #2 in the West.

Cornerstone combo guard Jalen Green scored 17 points and added in a team-high seven assists for the Rockets, a mark which he’s only reached two other times all season. Alperen Sengun led his team with 18 points along with his seven rebounds. Sengun was also the only Rocket to play 10+ minutes and finish with a positive number in the plus-minus column (+2).

Chicago beats Utah 114-107 behind balanced effort

Bulls received healthy scoring outputs from both DeMar DeRozan (26 points), Zach LaVine (20), and Nikola Vucevic (16), supplemented by a bench that outscored Utah’s bench 39-18. The Bulls have now won three of their last four while the Jazz have lost five in a row.

Suns rally to keep win streak alive, beat Kings 122-117

It’s another 40-plus point outing for Devin Booker as he has the Suns rolling on a five-game win streak while missing Chris Paul and Cam Johnson for well beyond those five. Booker’s total reached 44 points on 17-28 shooting, and he got solid supporting performances from his running mates, Deandre Ayton (17 points and 12 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double) and Mikal Bridges (13 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists).

The Kings, meanwhile, are headed the opposite direction and fast, having lost their last three after a seven-game win streak. But there’s still a lot to like about their performance against the top team in the West, from Malik Monk’s 30-point, eight-assist outing to a team assist-to-turnover ratio of 32-15. There’s hope for the beam team yet, as they’re still firmly in a play-in spot, knocking on the door of a coveted top six spot.

Pacers stun Lakers 116-115 behind Andrew Nembhard’s buzzer-beater

The Pacers have been one of the biggest pleasant surprises this season; they’re now sitting at fourth in the East at 12-8 after many thought they’d enter their names in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. The season is still young, and they may find themselves there down the road, but right now they’re just super exciting. In this game, that looked like overcoming a 17-point fourth quarter deficit with rookie Andrew Nembhard beating the buzzer to win the game:

Indiana point guard Tyrese Haliburton is now on a three-game stretch averaging 20.0 points, 13.3 assists, and 0.0 turnovers (plus three straight games of 14 assists before this stretch), prompting many to name him the heir to Chris Paul’s title of “Point God” (don’t ask Suns fans how they feel about that though, they’ll just lament over their team picking now-Pacer Jalen Smith two spots ahead of Haliburton).

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