That’s it for the first half of the NBA season.  Last night’s lineup of nine games brought to a close the first chapter of basketball following the chaos caused by COVID-19, even though some problems still linger.  As it looks more likely that the whole season will be able to stay on course, for the most part, NBA teams can now use the All-Star break to recharge the batteries and get read for the second half.

The Wiz Bank On Beal

The Washington Wizards pulled off a close one last night as they edged out the LA Clippers, 119-117.  Bradley Beal had a lot to do with that, putting up 33 points as the Wiz rallied late in the game to capture the win.  Russell Westbrook wasn’t too far behind, adding 27 points and 11 assists, and Washington brought its two-game losing streak to a halt.  With that, and eight wins in their last 11 games, the Wizards are poised to be contenders in the Eastern Conference.

The Clippers were favored to win, so underdog bettors scored a victory on this one.  If they took the Over, they added a nice bonus, with Washington beating the Over/Under by two points.  After the break, the Wizards will take on the Memphis Grizzlies in an away game and the Clippers host the Golden State Warriors.

The Boston Celtics didn’t have too much trouble taking down a weakened Toronto Raptors team last night.  Jayson Tatum had 27 points and Jaylen Brown added 21 as the Celtics took their fourth straight with a 132-125 win.  The Raptors put up a great effort, nailing 21 3-pointers and taking an early lead before succumbing to the lack of front men to keep the momentum going.

The Celtics couldn’t cover the spread but the game, surprisingly, blew away the 218 Over/Under.  That is a testament to Toronto’s effort.  The Raptors will try to get on track when they play their first second-half game against the Atlanta Hawks on March 11, while the Celtics will take on the Brooklyn Nets the same day.

Nuggets Take Win Number Four

The Denver Nuggets have struggled a little this year, but are now finding their rhythm.  They outdid the Indiana Pacers last night, 113-103, to take their fourth straight, and Michael Porter, Jr. had a lot to do with that.  He had 24 points, outperforming Nikola Jokic by four.  Jamal Murray added 23 to give him 12 straight games with 22 points or more.

Denver came out swinging and controlled the pace of the game almost from the start, leading to a 66-54 advantage in the third.  However, the Pacers didn’t give up, bouncing back to tie the game at 68 before the Nuggets took control once again.  A 12-0 run in the fourth sealed the deal.  The Nuggets take on the Memphis Grizzlies and the Pacers face the LA Lakers on March 12.

The Thunder rolled in San Antonio last night, much to the surprise of everyone.  The Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off a stunner when they beat the San Antonio Spurs 107-102, thanks, in no small part, to the 33 points Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gave OKC.  Mike Muscala tacked on 18 and Luguentz Dort added another 15 to help the Thunder recover from a first-half deficit.

This game was a disaster all the way around for gamblers who took the Spurs.  They didn’t cover the spread, they didn’t cover the Over/Under and they didn’t show up for the second half.  They will take on the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, while the Thunder will play the Mavs the following day.

Bucks And Grizzlies Tangle In Memphis

The Milwaukee Bucks and the Memphis Grizzlies fought hard in Memphis last night and it would come down to the final seconds before a winner could be found.  With only seconds on the clock and with no timeouts, Milwaukee was trailing by a point.  Jrue Holiday saved the day, though, hitting an 11-footer to give the go-ahead score as the clock ran out, 112-111 on the scoreboard.

Giannis Antetokounmpo added 26 points for the Bucks and Khris Middleton had 22.  Holiday only put up 155, but his buzzer-beater was worth triple score.  Milwaukee didn’t cover the spread and the Over/Under missed by 11 points.  The Bucks will now face the New York Knicks next Thursday.

In other games, the Phoenix Suns didn’t have any trouble with a depleted Warriors squad, taking a 120-98 win.  The Portland Trail Blazers squeaked past the Sacramento Kings, 123-119, and the Knicks had fun with the Detroit Pistons, winning 114-104.  Although the New Orleans Pelicans recently beat the league-leading Utah Jazz, they have fallen backwards again and lost to the Miami Heat, 103-93.