By: Rob Bishop
Back again, and after much speculation and anticipation, Warriors guard Stephen Curry made his return to the NBA court on Thursday night. In a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals, Curry returned, played 27 minutes, and scored 23 points while handing out seven dimes. His outside shot was rusty (3-of-12 from three), but it was a great simply to have him back in action. The Warriors sunk to the bottom of the NBA standings during his extended absence, and there is no hope for the team to salvage its season. However, Golden State’s plan is to assess the fit of Andrew Wiggins alongside Curry. Wiggins has been solid since joining the Warriors in early February, and Golden State is gearing up for another Finals run next season.
Damian Lillard made his return to the court following a six-game absence due to a groin injury. The All Star play-maker scored 22 points to lift Portland to a much-needed win over the Washington Wizards. A look at the schedule reveals Portland to be four games in the loss column behind the Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the West, but Memphis boasts a comically tough schedule to close out the season. With Lillard back, Portland has a legitimate chance of catching Memphis in the standings and returning to the postseason. To do so will not be an easy feat, however. Up next for the Blazers is a match-up against the Suns tonight before hosting Sacramento on Saturday night.
In a game that could represent the future of the NBA, the Luka Doncic-led Mavericks outlasted the Zion Williamson-led Pelicans in a regular season classic on Wednesday night. Doncic made history by notching his 22nd career triple-double in the win, giving him the most in franchise history. Taking the feat from impressive to incredible is the fact that Doncic only recently turned 21. Kristaps Porzingis also impressed in the win, going for 34 points and 12 boards. With Doncic an MVP candidate and Porzingis back to playing like a star, Dallas is going to be a nightmare first-round match-up for one of the West’s championship contenders in the playoffs.
Lost in the hoopla of Zion Williamson’s amazing nightly performances for the Pelicans has been the development of Lonzo Ball. Disregarded following an injury-hobbled stint with the Lakers to begin his career, Ball has been rejuvenated by the change of scenery, finally showing off his immense potential. Always a solid defender and passer, Ball has evolved into being an effective—and efficient—scorer. He’s shooting over 37% from three this year, a number dragged down by a slow start. In March, Ball is hitting over 50% from beyond the arc, relishing in Williamson proving to be a vacuum for defensive attention. Much has been made about New Orleans having a pair of long-term building blocks in Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Provided Ball remains on his current trajectory, that list will need to add a name.
Miami’s quest to be the NBA’s most inconsistent good team continued with a fourth-straight win on Wednesday night. In the game, the Heat hit a franchise-record 22 three-pointers, a showing that included Duncan Robinson scoring 27 while going 9-of-12 from deep. Prior to the team’s current winning streak, the Heat had lost seven of nine, with losses against the lowly Hawks, Cavaliers, and Timberwolves among the defeats. The Heat are heading to the playoffs and will potentially be hosting a first-round series. However, Miami needs to find something resembling consistency to have any hope of making it beyond the first round.
In a potential playoff preview, the Los Angeles Clippers made Houston’s small-ball lineup look like a fool’s errand. In only 20 minutes of action, Ivica Zubac decimated Houston, going for 17 points (6-of-6 shooting) and 12 boards. Kawhi Leonard had 25 points to lead the Clippers in scoring, and Montrezl Harrell had 19 and 10 against a non-existent Houston frontcourt. The Clippers are now 10-0 on the season in games with its full rotation healthy, and the team has done an excellent job at supplying its roster with depth during the regular season. The Clippers have now won six straight to surge into second place in the West, five games behind the leading Lakers.