With March Madness approaching and the NFL season wrapped up, the NBA blessed us with a slew of entertaining performances. This week featured gems from both the NBA’s elite and a breakout performance from one of the league’s brightest young players.
So without further adieu, here are TSFJ’s top five NBA performances of the week.
5. D’Angelo Russell: 39 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 107-101 win vs. Brooklyn
D’Angelo Russell’s rookie season in L.A. has had more twists and turns than the Batman ride at Magic Mountain. Over the past five months, he’s seen his playing time dwindle, his starting spot taken and his coach questioning his ability to lead, all while playing under the microscope that comes with being the potential heir apparent to Kobe’s Kingdom. Over the last week, though, Russell’s been on tear, averaging almost 24 points on 53 percent shooting.
It all came together Tuesday against the Nets, as D’Angelo hit eight threes, carrying the Lakers down the stretch, scoring the most points by a Lakers rookie since Elgin Baylor. Lakers fans may be reeling at the thought of an absence of Kobe next year, but if Russell keeps playing like this, Staples Center looks to be in good hands.
4. John Wall: 37 points (13-26), 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 116-108 win vs. Philadelphia
With Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving getting most of the shine in the Eastern Conference, one could mistakenly forget the beast that is John Wall. On Monday night, the underappreciated Wall reminded us just how cold he is, willing his Wizards past the lowly Sixers.
Down four late in the third quarter, Wall showed the people the entire repertoire, going through, around and shooting over helpless Philly defenders. With Washington currently on the outside looking in, seeded ninth in the Eastern Conference, the Wiz need Wall’s exploits more than ever.
3. Kevin Durant: 37 points (13-26), 7 threes, 12 rebounds, 121-118 loss vs. Golden State
The Golden State Warriors seem to bring the best out of the Slim Reaper, and Saturday night in OKC was no different. He gave the Warriors all they could handle and more, utilizing the Dirk fade-away, Iverson crossover and all-around MVP presence. His exploits nearly knocked the Warriors off their historic run at the ’96 Bulls, hitting a dagger three late in the fourth, before all hell ensued. Despite the loss, Durant still reminded the people that as long as he’s in OKC, the Thunder will remain a force.
2. Chris Paul: 40 points (13-20), 13 assists, 8 rebounds, 117-107 win vs. Sacramento
Chris Paul, like the rest of the Clippers, has a reputation for getting under opponents’ skin. Whether it’s an elbow when no one’s looking, a flop for the world to see or just overall annoyance, L.A.’s other team continues to be the rulers of rubbing you the wrong way.
On Friday night, Paul did his part in Sacramento, leading the Clippers on 20-0 run midway through the third quarter. His exploits were so annoying, apparently, that a TSFJ favorite Boogie Cousins threw a ball at Paul late in the second half. With Blake Griffin out with an injured hand for the next few weeks, Paul will look to continue his brilliance.
1. Stephen Curry: 46 points (14-24), 12 threes, 6 assists, 121-118 win vs. OKC
The Golden State Warriors were dead in the water. Down at halftime on the road, with KD and Russ both cooking and Draymond fuming, Golden State’s run at 72 looked to be in serious jeopardy. Things looked downright bleak when Westbrook stepped on Curry’s ankle to start the second half.
What happened over the next two quarters was straight-up legendary. Curry tied an NBA record for three-pointers in a game (12), while breaking his own record for three-pointers in a season. Then his ridiculous game-winning 40-footer happened, not only sealing OKC’s doom, but further solidifying Curry’s position as the baddest dude on the plant.
A Bay Area resident rooting for all things Los Angeles.