1. Celtics take over 1st place in East
Here we are after 23 weeks of play and the top four teams in the Eastern Conference all have 28 losses and are separated by just a half-game in the standings. Boston (47-28) holds the No. 1 spot by virtue of a tiebreaker with Miami (47-28), with Milwaukee (46-28) and Philadelphia (46-28) right behind them.
The Celtics have been the best team in the NBA since the All-Star break; they are 13-2 with a point differential of plus-12.7 since the festivities in Cleveland back in February. The Celtics’ turnaround actually dates back to the start of 2022 as they are 30-9 since Jan. 1 – the top mark in the East and only second to Phoenix (34-6) in that time.
34 for Jayson.
31 for Jaylen.
— NBA (@NBA) March 28, 2022
Boston took over first on Sunday after dispatching the Timberwolves 134-112 behind a combined 65 points from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
2. Kyrie eligible to play in Brooklyn
On Thursday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams lifted the city’s vaccine mandate for performers and athletes, which will now allow Nets guard Kyrie Irving to play home games in Brooklyn. The Nets have a tumultuous season, with Irving initially away from the team, then returning only for road games, an extended absence from Kevin Durant due to injury, and a blockbuster deal that sent James Harden to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons, who has yet to play for the Nets since the trade. The result of those ups and downs has the Nets currently the No. 9 seed in the East and likely needing the Play-In Tournament to secure a playoff berth.
But with Durant healthy and dropping nearly 30 a night once again, and Kyrie back to full-time status, the Nets are a seven or eight seed that none of the top-ranked teams in the East will want to face come playoff time.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 27, 2022
Brooklyn dropped Kyrie’s first home game of the season on Sunday as the Hornets clinched the season series (2-1) and moved ahead of the Nets in the Play-In standings. The Nets close the regular season with five of their final seven games at home and another at Madison Square Garden. A week ago, Kyrie would have missed all six of those games. Now he can play and allow the Nets a solid two weeks together ahead of the postseason.
3. CP3 returns as Suns clinch top record in NBA
The Suns entered the All-Star break with the top record in the league (48-10) and a seven-game cushion over all other teams in the loss column (Golden State was second at 42-17). That’s also when photos emerged of Chris Paul in a soft cast on his right hand and eventually the news that he suffered a broken thumb and would be sidelined for six-to-eight weeks.
Paul’s recovery ended up beating that original timeline as he returned to the lineup on Thursday as the Suns visited the Nuggets. In his first two games back, Paul hit double-doubles in each, averaging 18 points and 13.5 assists in a pair of wins.
— NBA (@NBA) March 25, 2022
In his first game back, the Suns clinched the top record in the NBA for the season. In his second game back – a matchup with East-leading Philadelphia – the Suns rallied back from a 15-point first-half deficit, outscored the Sixers 54-40 in the second half, and finished with a 10-point win.
— NBA (@NBA) March 28, 2022
It was Phoenix’s eighth straight win. The Suns already own two of the NBA’s three 10+ game win streaks this season. Can they do it a third time this week? It won’t be easy with road games against Golden State on Wednesday and Memphis on Friday.
4. Historically close scoring title race continues
Joel Embiid finished with 37 points in Philly’s loss to Phoenix on Sunday as he looked to make a move in the three-man race for the scoring title between LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. While Embiid’s performance did give his season scoring average a bump, he was unable to make up any ground on LeBron, who scored 39 points in Los Angeles’ loss to New Orleans later that night.
At the end of Week 23, LeBron leads the race at 30.13 points per game, followed by Embiid (29.90) and Giannis (29.72). LeBron has scored at least 36 points in four straight games; if he continues to extend that streak a few more games he may put this race out of reach. But Tuesday brings a head-to-head matchup between Embiid’s Sixers and Giannis’ Bucks in a game that will decide the head-to-head tiebreaker for the two teams that are currently tied in the standings at 46-28.
5. MVP race going down to the wire
There have been seasons in the past where the MVP race does not have much drama by this point in the season – a player has emerged from the pack and essentially locked up the award with time to spare. Think back to 2016 when Stephen Curry won the MVP with a unanimous vote.
That is clearly not what we are seeing this year as the MVP race remains tight with less than two weeks to go in the regular season. Will Nikola Jokic repeat? Will it be another big man in Joel Embiid? Can Giannis win it for a third time? What about some of the young guards like Jayson Tatum from the red-hot Celtics, Devin Booker from the league-leading Suns, or Luka Doncic from the Mavs?
https://t.co/Pqxh2EPubW – Kia MVP Ladder: Jayson Tatum enters mix as Joel Embiid returns to top
— NBA (@NBA) March 25, 2022
The drama will play out over the final 13 days of the season before voters finally have to cast their ballots.
6. Trae takes down NYC again
Trae Young became public enemy No. 1 in New York last year after his performance in Atlanta’s first-round win over the Knicks. Young fully embraced the role of the villain at Madison Square Garden during that series and even carried it over to a WWE appearance months later.
— NBA (@NBA) March 22, 2022
This past week, Young and the Hawks returned to the Garden, and once again came out victorious as Young dropped 45 points and eight assists in Atlanta’s 117-111 win.
Trae Young WENT OFF for 45 PTS in NYC! pic.twitter.com/enzhib1Un5
— NBA (@NBA) March 23, 2022
7. Shaq and Steph join Kobe as NBA Oscar winners
Shaquille O’Neal and Stephen Curry each added Academy Award winner to their list of accolades on Sunday as they served as executive producers on the “Queen of Basketball’ documentary, a 22-minute film that tells the story of women’s basketball pioneer Lusia Harris. The film won the award for short subject documentary.
After learning of Harris’ story, O’Neal and Curry stepped up not only as producers for the film, but as promoters to make sure that more people knew Harris’ story and the impact she had on the game. Harris scored the first basket in Olympic women’s basketball history and was the first woman officially drafted by an NBA team.
8. Jamal Crawford officially retires
Jamal Crawford – the three-time Sixth Man of the Year and owner of one of the best crossovers the game has ever seen – announced his official retirement from the game late last Sunday with this tweet.
“ Goodbye to the game, all the spoils the adrenaline rush.”
Thank you basketball, I owe you everything …..✌🏾 pic.twitter.com/PpKYjoqz9p
— 🏁 Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) March 21, 2022
Crawford received an outpouring of love from players, coaches, analysts and fans alike, who appreciated what he brought to the game for two decades.
— NBA (@NBA) March 26, 2022
Here’s three minutes of Jamal Crawford highlights to start your week off right.
The first 3x #KiaSixth winner.
20 years in the NBA.
Seattle hoops legend.
— NBA (@NBA) March 22, 2022
9. Week 23 stats leaders
For games played between Monday, March 21 and Sunday, March 27 with a minimum of two games played.
- Points: LeBron James (38.5 ppg over two games) and Devin Booker (37.3 ppg over three games) were the only two players to average over 35 points per game in Week 23.
- Rebounds: Jonas Valanciunas (15.0 rpg over four games) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (14.0 rpg over two games) were the only two players to average over 13 rebounds per game in Week 23.
- Assists: Chris Paul (13.5 apg over two games) and Tyrese Haliburton (11.7 apg over three games) were the only players to average over 11 assists per game in Week 23.
- Steals: Herbert Jones (3.0 spg over four games), Bogdan Bogdanovic (2.5 spg over two games), Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic (2.3 spg over three games each) were the only players to average over two steals per game in Week 23.
- Blocks: Jakob Poeltl (4.5 bpg over two games) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (3.5 bpg over two games) were the only players to average over three blocks per game in Week 23.
- 3-Pointers Made: De’Anthony Melton (5.7 3pm over three games) and Klay Thompson (5.3 3pm over three games) were the only players to average over five 3s per game in Week 23.