About Last Night

About Last Night: Jimmy Buckets redux

Butler comes through again, Wade rewinds the clock and much more

Matt Petersen, NBA.com

Maybe it’s just mandatory for the Eastern Conference to have a No. 23 hitting game-winning shots.

Jimmy Butler is no Jordan or LeBron, but he has established himself as Philly’s go-to man when they 76ers need him most. Just eight days ago, the early-season acquisition hit a step-back 3-pointer to ruin Charlotte’s 30th anniversary night and give Philadelphia a 122-119 overtime win over the Hornets.

Either the Nets didn’t see the tape, or they were more confident in their own one-on-one defense with the game on the line. In an absurd sequence of deja vu, Butler teased his defender with a few dribbles, stepped back and nailed a right-wing 3-pointer that left just 0.4 seconds on the clock, giving the Sixers a 127-125 win despite trailing for roughly 46 out of 48 minutes.

Joel Embiid continues to be Philadelphia’s pillar of production, an early Kia MVP candidate for whom there has been no answer through the first quarter of the season. The former third overall pick amassed 32 points and 12 rebounds in the Sixers’ win, his 13th 30-10 performance already in 2018-19.

Yet it is Butler’s number that coach Brett Brown is calling in his team’s final possession, a fact that could be significant when he hits free agency next summer. More amazing is Butler’s ability to answer, something he did not do well with Minnesota. With his team trailing by one possession with 10 second or less remaining, the four-time All-Star shot just 1-for-12 for the Timberwolves last season.

Butler is already 2-for-3 in such scenarios with the 76ers, who have now won five of seven with their new crunch-time captain in tow.

Flashback

We won’t blame you for confusing Sunday’s Heat-Raptors highlights for a throwback telecast. Half a decade ago, it was routine to see Dwyane Wade scorch the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry for 30-plus.

But this was present-day Wade reminding us of that with his Hall of Fame bag of tracks. Step-back mid-range jumpers. Drives and dishes. Even his odds-defying post footwork was on display in his 35-point effort against Toronto.

Wade may be on his way out, but he’s still got plenty left to make the exit ramp a fun ride on its own.

Fizdale’s return

Their parting was far from smooth, but David Fizdale and the Grizzlies harbored no grudges against one another entering the former Memphis coach’s return to Tennessee. Nor should they. The Grizzlies were off to an encouraging 12-6 start, while Fizdale landed one of the most coveted and visible jobs the NBA has to offer.

The Knicks made their new coach’s new gig look even better, erasing a 13-point, second-half deficit to come away with an unlikely 103-98 win at Memphis. The victory was the perfect sample of what Fizdale has tried to mold while star big man Kristaps Porzingis (ACL) remains out. Enes Kanter bullied his way to 21 points and 26 rebounds. Tim Hardaway Jr. (22 points) continued one of the more underrated stars in the league. Surprise rookie Allonzo Trier provided another night of productive energy off the bench.

It’s a disappointing loss for Memphis, but they have their own reasons to be optimistic. Aside from the prolonged excellence of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, Jaren Jackson Jr. continues to look like another gem from the 2018 Draft class. The fourth overall pick blocked seven shots while shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from 3-point range.

Bridges’ homage to Vince

Remember when Hornets rookie Miles Bridges had the respectful audacity to imitate Vince Carter’s trademark motorcycle rev following a poster dunk against Atlanta earlier this month?

Heading into Sunday’s rematch between Charlotte and Atlanta, the two reflected on that moment, with Carter admitting he told the rookie, “You’ve got to ask for permission!”

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Good to have you back

After a rough start to the season, Trae Young and the Hawks must love having John Collins back. Last year’s surprising rookie performer missed the season’s first 15 games with ankle issues, preventing Young from establishing early chemistry with one of the team’s best finishers.

Collins has been back five games and is already averaging 13.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting 63.3 percent. The former 19th overall pick punctuated his return with the game-winning block against the Hornets, snapping the Hawks’ 10-game losing streak.

Efficient Ayton

Despite carrying a large role for a struggling Suns team, No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton is thriving as an offensive option and big-time rebounder. The former Arizona standout is averaging 16.9 points and 10.4 rebounds while shooting 62.4 percent from the field.

His most impressive production has come in the fourth quarter. After going 4-for-4 on Sunday against the Pistons, Ayton is now shooting 80.9 percent (38-for-47) in the fourth this season. That mark ranks first among all NBA players with at least 10 fourth-quarter shot attempts this season, with only seven others averaging 70 percent or better.

Leftover Links

  • Nikola Vucevic’s career year continues, this time at the Lakers’ expense
  • Utah snapped a three-game losing streak thanks to an offensive outburst from… Ricky Rubio?
  • The Raptors are creating some separation at the top of the East
  • Four-time Knicks All-Star and three-time Celtics champion Willie Naulls passed away at age 84

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