Recapping Week 23 in NBA: Big moment for Nowitzki

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.

* * *

Games of the Week

Nuggets 114, Celtics 105 — For you Denver doubters out there, the ground on which you stand is evaporating quickly. The Nuggets scored another big, post-All-Star break win, this time taking down the Celtics on the road Monday night. The win was a two-fold moment for Denver, as it clinched a playoff spot for it (the Nuggets’ first since 2012-13) and, for the moment, moved them to No. 1 in the Western Conference.

Spurs 111, Warriors 105 — Death, taxes and winning seasons in San Antonio. These are all inevitable, it seems. The Spurs won their ninth straight game overall (and 11th straight game at home) on Monday, clinching their 22nd straight winning season. A little more than a month removed from their worst Rodeo Road Trip ever, San Antonio is looking sharp as the season winds down.

Pelicans 129, Mavericks 125 (OT) — Sorry, New Orleans, but being in this spot has nothing to do with your win. This battle of lottery-bound squads gets a nod for the historical impact. Dirk Nowitzki nailed his first two shots to open this game, the second of which pushed him past Wilt Chamberlain for sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. It was a game and moment worth watching again before 2018-19 disappears.

Rockets 121, Hawks 105 — It was not a stretch to say before this game that Houston was expected to win (which is precisely what happened Monday). But it might have been a stretch to say before the season that James Harden would log a 30-point game against every team in 2018-19 (which is also what happened Monday). Another milestone moment in a season of them for the Rockets’ superstar guard …

Nets 123, Kings 121 — Brooklyn had trailed Sacramento by as many as 28 points on Tuesday. Then, it used a monster fourth quarter from D’Angelo Russell (27 points in that frame) completed the fourth-largest fourth-quarter comeback since the advent of the shot clock. It couldn’t have come at a better time as the Nets were in the midst of a three-game slide and fading fast in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

Sixers 118, Celtics 115 — This one had all the traits of a playoff game, as Philadelphia got a much-needed win against their rivals from Boston. Although it did nothing to affect the season series — the Celtics won that, 3-1 — it did give Philadelphia some much needed confidence that it can beat Boston should the teams meet in the postseason.

Nets 111, Lakers 106 — Although D’Angelo Russell said he did not take any particular joy in Friday’s win against his former team, surely there was a small part of him that did. In powering Brooklyn past the Lakers, Russell and Co. gave LeBron James and the Lakers the loss that clinched them being left out of the 2019 postseason party.

Rockets 111, Spurs 105 — Add another chapter to this storied rivalry, thanks to the scoring exploits of James Harden. He dropped 61 on San Antonio, marking his eighth 50-point game of the season (compared with 10 such performances from the rest of the league combined). Not only that, but his barrage of late 3-pointers powered Houston to the win after it trailed much of Friday night’s game.

Thunder 116, Raptors 109 — With their fate as a top seed in the Western Conference fading, Oklahoma City got its groove back Friday behind Russell Westbrook. He came through with 18 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds to power a comeback win that snapped a four-game skid for the Thunder.

Hawks 129, Sixers 127 — Atlanta isn’t about to believe the idea that losing down the stretch of 2018-19 is in its best interests. After rallying to beat the Jazz on Thursday night, the Hawks worked their magic again on Saturday. Rookie Trae Young delivered the final blow to the Sixers, sinking a thrilling floater with :00.1 left that put away Philadelphia.

Hornets 115, Raptors 114 — Buzzer-beater of the season? We’ll leave that up to you to decide. However you categorize Jeremy Lamb’s shot Sunday against Toronto, know this: it was crucial in keeping Charlotte’s playoff hopes from fading further. And, fittingly, it came on a day when buzzer-beaters and wild shots regularly take the spotlight (albeit those come in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, not the NBA) …

Stat Lines of the Week

Nikola Jokic (21 points, 9-14 FG, 13 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl, 3 blk in 36 minutes) — In a game that had playoff-like moments and a playoff-like feel to it, Jokic came through like a playoff go-to guy should. His steadying hand on the offense and his always stellar court vision helped Denver fend off Boston’s many runs in a standout win for the Nuggets. | Watch | Video box score

Dirk Nowitzki (8 points, 3-6 FG, 1 reb, 2 ast in 12 minutes) — Never has a stat line in this space said so much with so few numbers. This one, though, isn’t about the big performance but rather, the big moment. Nowitzki was up for the task, passing Wilt Chamberlain with his second field goal — a trademark fadeaway jumper — that further cemented his place in NBA history. | Watch | Video box score

D’Angelo Russell (44 points, 17-33 FG, 4 reb, 12 ast, 4 stl in 38 minutes) — After scoring 17 points in the first half and going without a point in the third quarter, Russell shot 10 of 15 in the fourth quarter. In one stretch, scored 16 straight points. Overall, this was a case study as to why Russell was an All-Star and one of the league’s best scoring guards. | Watch | Video box score

James Harden (57 points, 18-39 FG, 9-17 3-pt FG, 7 reb, 8 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk in 45 minutes) — The Rockets are pretty much always in any game they play, and this Houston loss on Wednesday to Memphis proved that. Harden pushed the Rockets to overtime with his scoring exploits, all while logging his second 50-point game against Memphis this season. Although the Rockets ultimately lost, 126-125, you can’t help but give Harden a nod for his all-out effort. | Watch | Video box score

James Harden (61 points, 19-34 FG, 9-13 3-pt FG, 7 reb, 3 stl in 37 minutes) — Two nights after a 50-point effort went for naught, Harden wasn’t about to let that happen again. He had 15 of his 61 points in the fourth quarter and, as he’s done so many times this season, single-handedly put away a team with relentless scoring. | Watch | Video box score

Luka Doncic (23 points, 6-14 FG, 11 reb, 10 ast, 3 stl in 27 minutes) — The Mavericks have enjoyed a bevy of fantastic performances from their rookie guard all season, and Saturday was another one for that list. In a showdown with the defending NBA champs at Oracle Arena, Doncic had his way with the Stephen Curry-less Warriors. And, if he ends up coming back next season, Dirk Nowitzki showed he has something left in the tank (21 points on 8-for-14 shooting). | Watch | Video box score

LaMarcus Aldridge (48 points, 20-31 FG, 13 reb, 6 ast in 37 minutes) — Lovers of the jump shot, Aldridge is still here for you. In an era where big men are deemed useless if they can’t nail 3-pointers, Aldridge showed the Boston Celtics on Sunday that’s not true at all. While his shot chart reflected that of Karl Malone in 1996, the Celtics had nothing for him all game long. | Watch | Video box score

Best plays from Week 23

Quotes of the Week

“Once you get in that groove it’s hard to get you out of it. No matter what defense a team throws at you, you’re going to find a way to get it done. That’s kind of what it was.” — Nets guard D’Angelo Russell, after his epic fourth quarter barrage Tuesday vs. Sacramento

“He made a tough shot. I don’t know how I could have defended it better. Yeah, March Madness.” — Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, on Jeremy Lamb’s game-winning heave Sunday over him

“Yesss sir! We’re just going to take this. We’re going to take a moment to realize how far we’ve come. It’s good to look ahead and enjoy the moment at the same time.” — Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, after the team clinched a playoff spot on Monday night

“Our defensive disposition was nil. Nil.” — Pistons coach Dwane Casey, after a loss to the Cavs on Monday

“You can have fun in the summertime. Right now, we’re going for the highest seed we can get.” — Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, after a close win Friday vs. Cleveland

“I’m glad that I can be what I once was in moments and situations when the team needs it.” — Heat guard Dwyane Wade, after scoring 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win vs. Washington

“We don’t need to ride the emotional rollercoaster. We need to get a lot better.” — Celtics coach Brad Stevens, after Sunday’s loss to the Spurs

“Sounds good on paper, but at the end of the day, we’re not playing themd. We’re not competing against them for seeding, so the win is good enough.” — Nets guard D’Angelo Russell, after his team’s win on Friday eliminated the Lakers from playoff contention

“If I’m on the floor, I’ve got to try to play as hard as I can or do something to affect the game and not cheat the game. So if I’m out on the floor, if I’m in uniform, then I’ve got to try to make things happen.” — Lakers forward LeBron James

“He deserves everything good that happens to him. It’s amazing the things he has accomplished, but this one is really amazing for him.” — Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic, on Dirk Nowitzki passing Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list.

“If you play long enough, 10 rebounds will fall in your lap.” — Sixers guard JJ Redick, who on Tuesday got his first double-double after 826 career games

“We got back to our swag, how we play.” — Thunder guard Dennis Schroder, after Friday’s win vs. Toronto.

“We’re all heroes. We’re just each waiting for our moment and mine came tonight.” — Bucks center Brook Lopez, who saved a ball wedged between the top of the backboard and the shot clock with a long-handle broom

Hey, click on this stuff …

We’re all busy. But there’s lots of great content on NBA.com that you might have missed in the hubbub of your life. Take a moment, slow down and soak up some of our best stories, videos and more.


GameTime: Harden or Antetokounmpo the favorite in Kia MVP chase?

GameTime: Taking stock of Lakers’ future

Arena Link: Harden talks after 61-point barrage vs. Spurs

GameTime: George back to his old self again with OKC

GameTime: Who has edge in Kia Rookie of Year chase?

GameTime: Secret to a great alley-oop in today’s NBA

GameTime: Clippers making headway in West

GameTime: Three key storylines to watch in last 3 weeks

GameTime: Spurs making presence felt as playoffs near

GameTime: Who is the favorite for Coach of the Year honors?

Perfect Player: Who has best intangibles NBA today?

In Their Own Words: Rookies share which move they’d most like to steal


* Powell: No time like present for Lillard, Blazers

* Powell: What’s worst-case scenario for Lakers, LeBron now?

* Aschburner: John, Jacyn Goble strengthen their bond in NBA

* Schuhmann: Power Rankings, Week 23 edition

* Kia MVP Ladder: LeBron’s run of greatness coming to an end