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5 NBA things to know for Feb. 26
Some key storylines and NBA tidbits to know for the day ahead
Jeff Case, NBA.com
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal is personifying what “in the zone” means these days. A look at his shot chart from his last two games shows he’s living in the paint and at the 3-point line, shooting a combined 27-for-43 from those zones. He’s put up back-to-back games of 53 and 55 points, respectively, and of the 114 total shots he’s taken in that span (field goals, 3-pointers and free throws), Beal has made 71 of them. The Nets are up next to try and slow him down (7 ET, League Pass) and that may be unlikely. Beal had 34 in the last Nets-Wizards game and has scored 30 or more in 11 of his last 14 games.
As we mentioned in this space yesterday, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is rolling since the All-Star break (35 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.7 bpg) and Boston is 2-1 in that span and has won 13 of its last 16 games. He had his way with the Blazers last night and a road game with struggling Utah is looming (10:30 ET, ESPN), but don’t praise him for all that’s going right. His youthful cohort, Jaylen Brown, has been on a surge in February (22 ppg) and has been just as crucial to Boston’s recent success.
The Philadelphia 76ers want All-Star guard Ben Simmons fully healthy for a playoff push. To get to that point, they’ll reportedly go two weeks without him as he heals up from a back injury. That long road starts with a road game in Cleveland (7 ET, League Pass) in what should have been a great big man matchup. While Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid will suit up, new Cleveland center Andre Drummond will miss the game with a left calf strain. Philly’s road woes are well documented, but it has a chance to change that: five of the Sixers’ next six games are on the road, a place they haven’t won since Jan. 20.
In seasons past, the Spurs’ annual “Rodeo Road Trip” was a place where bonds were forged and some runs to The Finals were born. That wasn’t the case in the 2020 edition, which saw San Antonio go 2-6 on the trek (after a 1-7 mark on it last season). Despite that face plant, San Antonio is 3 1/2 games behind No. 8 Memphis in the West standings as a home game against Dallas looms (8:30 ET, League Pass). The Spurs have made the playoffs 22 straight seasons, or to put it a different way: They’ve made the playoffs longer than Mavs star point guard Luka Doncic has been alive (he’ll turn 21 on Friday).
Houston went all-in on small ball and is thriving in it to the tune of four straight wins. Memphis made some small roster moves and chose to ride with its youngsters … and it is on a three-game slide as the schedule intensifies. The Rockets have won eight of their last 10 as they host the Grizzlies tonight (8 ET, ESPN), doing so while new addition Robert Covington (12.6 ppg, 39.2% on FGs, 33.9% on 3-pointers) gets his feet under himself. Memphis will be without Brandon Clarke (quadriceps) for the next two weeks and Houston won’t have Eric Gordon tonight (knee bruise), but we’ve got the inaugural Ja Morant vs. Russell Westbrook showdown to look forward to.