Led by Kawhi Leonard’s stardom and an absurd abundance of depth, the Raptors have climbed and camped out atop the league standings.
Their ceiling might be even higher if Leonard’s apparent New Year’s resolution to score more holds up. Less than two weeks after pouring 45 points on the Utah Jazz, the two-time All-Star dropped 41 in Toronto’s 140-138 double-overtime win at Washington. The victory was Toronto’s fifth straight and seventh in their last eight.
Leonard is averaging 30.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.4 steals in that stretch while shooting 54.3 percent from the field. When he attempts 22 shots or more, the Raptors are now 10-1.
As for the Wizards, going toe-to-toe against the best has to feel good after the depressing first two months of the season. Washington had won five of its last seven entering Sunday’s contest, thanks in large part to the dominant play of Bradley Beal.
Since John Wall’s absence (heel surgery) became permanent, Beal is averaging 30.2 points, 6.4 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals for a Wizards team that is only 2.5 games out of the playoffs. The seventh-year guard punctuated Sunday’s monstrous triple-double — 43 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds — with game-tying baskets at the end of regulation and overtime.
It doesn’t hurt that Beal looks pretty comfortable in that go-to role.
More 40-point burgers, please
Sunday saw a whopping four players clear the 40-point mark. Stephen Curry joined Leonard and Beal thanks to the shot he has made look easier than anyone in NBA history.
The two-time Kia MVP sank 11 3-pointers in Golden State’s 119-114 win at Dallas, marking the 12th time in Curry’s career he has made 10 or more in a game. That’s far and away the best, with Nos. 2 and 3 on that list (Klay Thompson and J.R. Smith) combining for seven such performances.
Curry’s 11th and final triple — the last field goal of his mammoth 48-point night — put the Warriors up for good.
Denver, meanwhile, saw its own MVP candidate go off for 40 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Nikola Jokic was just eight days removed from dropping 39 on Charlotte, and opposing defenses have even more to worry about if the 7-foot big man is moving like this:
Magic making noise?
Orlando appeared in danger of cratering out of the Eastern Conference playoffs race, but a most unlikely weekend kept them in the conversation. One night after fending off a healthy Celtics squad, the Magic scored a shocking 116-109 upset over the scorching Houston Rockets.
Nikola Vucevic (20.1 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 1.0 spg) will garner All-Star consideration, but Terrence Ross blossoming as one of the league’s best sixth men will be just as responsible for Orlando’s remaining relevance moving forward.
Kerr likes Luka
Count the Warriors coach among the Luka Doncic’s growing fan base. Steve Kerr holds a vote when it comes to All-Star selections, and it sounds like he’s open to applying it on the Mavericks rookie.
“Whether he makes it or not, he’s an All-Star,” Kerr said of Doncic on Sunday. “Certain guys just stand out. You see what they do, you see what they mean to the game. If he doesn’t make it this year, he’s going to make it soon enough.”
Steve Kerr on Luka’s All-Star chances: ” Whether he makes it or not, he’s an All-Star. Certain guys just stand out. You see what they do, you see what they mean to the game. If he doesn’t make it this year, he’s going to make it soon enough.” @dallasmavs@luka7doncic
— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) January 14, 2019
You a betting man?
Shout-out to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols for getting the scoops that really matter.
Yes, @JoshHart really did show up for tonight’s Cavs-Lakers game wearing a Browns onesie. 😂
He lost a bet to ex-teammate @Larrydn22 over whose football team would have a better season.
(Hart is from the DC area; Nance grew up in Ohio) pic.twitter.com/WvS0WiXJNy
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) January 14, 2019
Let this be a lesson, kids: don’t make bets based on a team with a dubious winning history.
Touch-pass of the year?
Bravo, Kevin Huerter. Bravo.