Recapping Week 20 in NBA: Clutch performances as playoff chase tightens

Take a look back at the week that was in the NBA with a collection of some of the best games, videos, photos, features and more from around the NBA world.

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Games of the Week

Pistons 113, Pacers 109 — Like every other team in the lower portion of the Eastern Conference playoff chase, the Detroit Pistons are scrapping for wins where they can get them. The victory they earned on Monday not only kept the Pistons perfect since the All-Star break, but was a win against a top-seeded squad they could face come the actual postseason.

Raptors 118, Celtics 95 — The Raptors entered Tuesday’s showdown needing a win to tie the season series with the Celtics. In the process, they sent a decided message to a fellow East favorite, too. Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry got the starters rolling, while Marc Gasol came through with some critical points off the bench to fuel a blowout victory.

Nuggets 121, Thunder 112 — This is the time of year when division matchups matter most. Thanks to Nikola Jokic, Denver once again proved its might in the Northwest Division chase. Denver improved to 3-0 against OKC to clinch the season series as well as build a four-game lead in the division chase.

Hawks 131, Wolves 123 — Atlanta, in the opinion of many, has little to no reason to aim for success this season. Don’t tell that to youngsters Trae Young and John Collins, though. They both put up 30-point games on Wednesday, serving to both spoil some of Minnesota’s playoff hopes and also provide a look at a potentially bright combination in the Hawks’ future.

Heat 126, Warriors 125 — It had been more than two months since Dwyane Wade went bananas from 3-point range in a win. Fittingly, he did so against the defending champions on Wednesday night, with 3-pointer No. 5 coming in the most astounding way possible. His one-legged, off-the-glass, straightaway 3-point heave dropped the Warriors in what might have been the best shot of 2018-19.

Bucks 141, Kings 140 (OT) — Milwaukee is a team that is much more than Kia MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, and it proved that in spades against Sacramento. With Antetokounmpo resting under a minutes restriction and fellow All-Star Khris Middleton hobbled, guards Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon saved the day in a thrilling win vs. the Kings.

Rockets 121, Heat 118 — Three days after his 30-point scoring streak ended, James Harden got his newest such streak to two in grand fashion. He dropped 58 points and 10 assists on the Heat in a comeback win, the seventh such game in his storied career. He nailed eight 3-pointers and overall was unstoppable no matter who guarded him on Thursday night.

Sixers 108, Thunder 104 — Before this one began on Thursday, it seemed like somewhat of an even game based on who wouldn’t be playing (Paul George and Joel Embiid). No one told that to Tobias Harris, who put the Sixers on his back with 32 points and several clutch buckets late in the fourth quarter to help Philly to its first-ever win in Oklahoma City.

Bulls 168, Hawks 161 (4 OT) — Don’t tell Atlanta and Chicago they’re only playing for Draft lottery positioning. Given the effort and scoring performances from both teams on Friday, it looked like much more was on the line for both squads. Trae Young set a Hawks rookie record with 49 points, making 17 of 33 shots (including six 3-pointers). Not to be outdone, the Bulls’ Zach LaVine had a career-high 47 on 17-for-35 shooting with six 3-pointers.

Raptors 119, Blazers 117 — Last week, Kawhi Leonard came up with a big steal and bucket, clinching a Raptors’ win against San Antonio (and on DeMar DeRozan’s return night). This week, Leonard was up to those tricks again, this time vanquishing Portland with a game-winning bucket with 1.5 seconds left on Friday night.

Warriors 120, Sixers 117 — Don’t ever sleep on Stephen Curry. That was a valuable lesson Philly learned on Saturday, as it watched its fourth-quarter lead fizzle and fade thanks to Curry’s exploits. After a mostly quiet game, the Warriors’ star scored 11 of his 28 points in the final frame — including a critical 3-pointer — that sank the Sixers’ hopes of scoring an upset win.

Jazz 115, Bucks 111 — A Kia MVP contender doing all he can to preserve a win. A young superstar (and, perhaps, future Kia MVP type) refusing to let up. And one of the best finishes of 2018-19, too. This Saturday night showdown had it all from Salt Lake City, with Giannis Antetokounmpo going for 43 points — only to be bested by the Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell dropping 46 points to lift the Jazz from a 17-point, fourth-quarter hole.

Pistons 112, Raptors 107 (OT) — Before this Sunday showdown, the last time Detroit was .500 or better was the day after Christmas. Although Leonard sat this one out for Toronto, give the Pistons plenty of props for clamping down on the Raptors to get back to the break-even mark.

Hawks 123, Bulls 118 — If you can figure out what got into the Hawks and Bulls this week, let us know. Two days after waging a four-overtime thriller in Atlanta, the teams met again in Chicago. While it wasn’t marked by that same back-and-forth goodness, this one gets a nod here for the odd circumstances that led to Young getting ejected. After he made a 3-pointer in the third quarter, he stared at the back of Bulls guard Kris Dunn — and was promptly ejected. Strange stuff, indeed.

Stat Lines of the Week

Nikola Jokic (36 points, 4-7 3pt FG, 9 reb, 10 ast in 34 minutes) — The Nuggets’ go-to guy was exactly that all night long in a critical win against the Thunder. Down the stretch Tuesday, Jokic came up with five free throws in the final moments and was looking to lead the way in crunch time for Denver. He scored a big layup with 1:36 left to give Denver a six-point lead and then nailed a bunch of clutch free throws to seal up the win. | Watch | Video box score

James Harden (58 points, 16-32 FG, 8-18 3pt FG, 7 reb, 10 ast, 4 stl in 43 minutes) — Another one of those stat lines from the reigning Kia MVP that makes you shake your head. Pick an aspect and wonder: the 50 percent shooting (despite being the defense’s No. 1 focal point), the 10 assists (that show off his extreme court vision) or the fact he put the Rockets on his back — again — to save them from a would-be defeat. | Watch | Video box score

Trae Young (36 points, 9-22 FG, 8 reb, 10 ast in 43 minutes) & John Collins (34 points, 13-21 FG, 8 reb in 33 minutes) — We can’t deny the Hawks’ young combo a spot this week, not after the combined work they put in against the Wolves on Wednesday. From tasty alley-oops to both players showing off their 3-point range (they were a combined 4-for-9 on 3-pointers), this no doubt whet Hawks fans’ appetites about the future. | Watch | Video box score

Rudy Gobert (20 points, 6-9 FG, 8-10 FT, 13 reb, 2 ast, 4 blk in 33 minutes) — This one gets a not simply because of the weight of the game. Utah had three playoff-caliber opponents this week and went 3-0 against the LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks. This line Gobert put up started things off on Wednesday against the Clippers and helped turn heads in Utah’s direction by week’s end. Watch | Video box score

Eric Bledsoe (26 points, 11-20 FG, 12 reb, 13 ast in 35 minutes) — Finals teams — as the Bucks hope to be come June — have a strength in numbers that shows up when things look bleak. Bledsoe personified that notion on Wednesday in Sacramento, as his huge triple-double staved off the Kings on a night when Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton played less than usual. | Watch | Video box score

Trae Young (49 points, 17-33 FG, 6-13 3pt FG, 8 reb, 16 ast in 56 minutes) — This effort ultimately came in a loss, but you can’t fault Young for much of it. In fact, this game on Friday would have ended a lot sooner were it not for Young’s step-back 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left that sent the game into its first of four overtimes. He also nailed a layup to send the game to OT No. 2 as well. Watch | Video box score

Zach LaVine (47 points, 17-35 FG, 6-14 3pt FG, 9 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl in 55 minutes) — When the Bulls look back on 2018-19, it likely won’t be filled with many pleasant memories. This Friday night classic, however, will resound if for no other reason than to help show LaVine might be ready to be the No. 1 guy in Chicago. | Watch | Video box score

Donovan Mitchell (46 points, 15-32 FG, 5-10 3pt FG, 3 reb, 6 ast, 2 stl in 39 minutes) — Allow us to recap this performance with just one number: 17. That’s the deficit the Jazz found themselves facing in the fourth quarter at home and the number of points Mitchell scored in that frame to power an amazing Utah comeback win. Which, for the record, gave Utah its 17th straight home win against Milwaukee. | Watch | Video box score

Best plays from Week 20

Quotes of the Week

“I’ve been in this position so many times and so many times you don’t make the shot. And the one I make is a one-legged flick from my chest. It’s crazy. Great to do it in front of fans.” — Heat guard Dwyane Wade, after making his wild, game-winning 3-pointer on Wednesday

”Even if I don’t score, I think I can bring something. I can make a good pass. I think the coaches are comfortable to call plays for me and I think the team trusts me.” — Nuggets center Nikola Jokic

We’ve got the best record in the league for a reason. Even though those are our two best players we still have a full, complete team out there playing.” — Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe, after they beat Sacramento with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton resting late

“Every single day he continues to grow and get better. His impact on the defensive end is special. The guy is blocking jumpers. He’s guarding guards.” — Knicks coach David Fizdale, on rookie center Mitchell Robinson

“I had about 60-100 people here. They spent a lot of money on tickets and drove in for the game, so I figured I had to give them something tonight.” — Blazers guard CJ McCollum, an Ohio native, after his big game in Cleveland

“Trae Young is an incredible talent. You can already see. He has the `it’ factor.” — Bulls guard Zach LaVine, on Trae Young

“It feels like we’re out. It feels like we were in prison.” — Suns guard Devin Booker, after Phoenix ended its 17-game losing streak

“This is a bad loss, man. We feel like we were too casual. We’ve got to grow. [Coach Steve] Cliff[ord] said a lot of stuff after the game. He said a lot of things.” — Magic guard Evan Fournier, after Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers

“We’ve had some good moments. But right now, unfortunately, we’re going through a really bad stretch. This is when our group needs to make sure that we stay together.” — Celtics center Al Horford

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