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Sports Corner

By:Rob Bishop

Back again, and the Los Angeles Lakers notched a hard-earned road win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night. LeBron James led the way with a brilliant 34-point, 13-dime, 12-rebound triple-double. However, the story of the game was Zion Williamson, who put up a career-high 35 points (12-of-16 shooting) in defeat. Williamson has now scored 20+ in 11 straight games, and he is putting on a clinic when it comes to bullying his way to the basket. The New Orleans Pelicans pushed the Lakers for 48 minutes on Sunday night, and basketball fans have to be clamoring for an encore in the first-round of the playoffs. The Pelicans are currently three games behind the Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the West.

               In an intense contest with a legitimate playoff atmosphere, the Houston Rockets outlasted the Boston Celtics in overtime on Saturday night. Once again sparked by a resurgent Russell Westbrook, the Rockets steamrolled Boston in overtime. Westbrook’s amazing February run ended with an exclamation point, as the All Star went for 41 points, eight boards, and five dimes. After being laughably inefficient to start the season, Westbrook shot 55% during February, including an improbable 40% from three. Don’t look now, but the Rockets are making a charge in the West.

               Boston’s loss on Saturday night was far from ideal, but the Celtics have been impressive in recent weeks. Most impressive is the team’s success despite the absence of All-Star guard Kemba Walker (knee). On Tuesday, Walker, who has missed five straight games, is expected to return to Boston’s lineup for a match-up with the Brooklyn Nets. The Celtics are among the few teams in the East with a chance to challenge Milwaukee in the playoffs, and it will take Walker not only returning to full health but proving capable of playing alongside a mid-breakout Jaysom Tatum.

               With Luka Doncic sidelined due to a sprained thumb, Kristaps Porzingis stepped into the lead role on offense for Dallas, and the versatile big man dominated to the tune of 38 points in a win over the Timberwolves. Porzingis also added 13 boards, six made-threes, and five blocks to his stat sheet. With the effort, Porzingis became the only player in NBA history with multiple games of 35+ points, 5+ blocks, and 5+ made three-pointers. It hasn’t been an easy first season back from injury—and he’s been overshadowed by Doncic’s evolution into an MVP candidate—but Porzingis remains on the trajectory to be a true superstar.

               Rookie Ja Morant led Memphis to an upset win over the Los Angeles Lakers, going for 27 points while matching his career best with 14 dimes. The Grizzlies were short-handed without its two injured big men (Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke), but Morant proved to be more than capable against the West-leading Lakers. There’s growing clamor for Zion Williamson to garner the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award for his recent brilliance. However, Morant has been incredible for 54 games and counting for the contending Grizzlies. It should—emphasis on should—be borderline impossible for Williamson to close that gap given his extensive time spent on the sidelines.

      Philadelphia, already short-handed without Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, suffered a loss within a loss on Sunday. Guard Josh Richardson suffered a concussion during a defeat against the Los Angeles Clippers, and the underrated wing is likely to miss at least a few of Philadelphia’s upcoming slate of games. Thankfully, following a Tuesday night showdown against the Lakers, the 76ers have a pair of favorable match-ups, though games at Sacramento and Golden State are hardly easy wins given Philadelphia’s struggles on the road. The 76ers are in serious danger of being passed by the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference standing, holding a one-game lead entering Monday.