By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and Lakers All-Star big man Anthony Davis made his long-awaited return to the court on Thursday night. Sidelined for 30 games with a calf injury, Davis played 17 minutes, showed signs of evident rust (2-of-10 shooting), but escaped the game healthy. The Lakers will ease Davis back into his role, as evidenced by his sitting the entire second half of Thursday night’s eventual loss to the Mavericks. The Lakers will rematch with Dallas tomorrow night, with Davis likely again be on a strict minute restriction. Los Angeles has every intention of punting playoff positioning in favor of working to ensure Davis is fully healthy for a run at another championship.
Unlikely to be on the court in tomorrow night’s rematch between the Mavericks and Lakers is Dallas center Kristaps Porzingis. The inconsistent Porzingis had an excellent game going against Los Angeles (19 points on 11 shots, six boards) but was forced from action after rolling his ankle. While the injury looked terrible at the time, Dallas seems optimistic, labeling Porzingis as day-to-day following the game. Given his extensive injury history, the Mavericks would be fools to rush Porzingis back to the court. Following Saturday’s tilt against L.A., four of Dallas’s next five games are against a combination of the Kings, Pistons, and Wizards. It’s a nice soft spot in the schedule for Porzingis to get some rest if needed.
For arguably the first time all season, Celtics guard Kemba Walker had a game worthy of his reputation. Walker has been arguably basketball’s biggest disappointment this season, and his struggles have gone a long way to crafting Boston’s inconsistent season. However, on a night without Jaylen Brown (shoulder) and Jayson Tatum awful (3-of-17 shooting), Walker came up huge. In a match-up with the surging Phoenix Suns, Walker tied his season-high with 32 points. The Celtics have gone 9-2 over the last 11 games and are peaking at the right time. Tonight, Boston will look to keep up its winning ways in a road match-up against the Brooklyn Nets.
Memphis Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. made his season debut on Wednesday night, ending a nearly nine-month-long recovery from a torn meniscus. Jackson’s status has been a mystery all season, and there was plenty of reason to speculate Memphis would keep him out for the duration of the season. Instead, Jackson made his triumphant return in an eventual loss to the Clippers. Loss or not, however, it was a win for the Grizzlies to have its franchise center back on the court. In 18 minutes of action, Jackson scored 15, grabbed eight boards, and racked up four blocks while going 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. Already an exciting League Pass team, the Grizzlies are entering must-watch territory. Memphis will face the Blazers in a back-to-back this weekend, starting tonight.
Not only did the Hawks fall to the Knicks—New York’s NBA-best eighth straight win—but Atlanta also lost sharp-shooting play-maker Trae Young to a severe ankle injury. Initially, there was every reason to fear the worst with Young’s injury, but it appears it was not a season-ender. However, with less than 20 games remaining in the regular season, Young could be sidelined until the playoffs. Bogdan Bogdanovic will likely see a massive uptick in usage and a significant role as the team’s primary playmaker, which isn’t a terrible development given his track record and recent play. The Hawks enter Friday night’s showdown with the Heat a half-game behind the Knicks for the four-seed in the East and a single game ahead of Miami, the current seven-seed. Every game counts in the increasingly clustered Eastern Conference playoff field.