The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration was not lacking for games and storylines driven by some NBA’s biggest and brightest stars.
When the day turned into night and the results were finalized, there was a chestnut-out-of-the-fire victory in Georgia by the Hawks against defending Champions, Milwaukee Bucks, a comemback from injury in Miami for one of the players, an uplifting Memphis win against the Bulls spurred by Ja Morant, a thrilling finish in Ohio, where the Cavaliers had one budding star too many for the Nets, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ commanding triumph over the Utah Jazz.
CLUTCH YOUNG SHINES THROUGH FOR THE HAWKS
What a night in Atlanta. The Hawks won their first home game since November 22, 2021, and ended their five-game losing streak. Even better, it came against the reigning NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks.
Trae Young led the Hawks — without Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanovic — with 30 points and 11 assists while De’Andre Hunter added 20 points for the hosts. For the Bucks — without Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez — Khris Middleton scored a game-high 34 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 27 points.
The Hawks, still looking to get their season back on track, fell behind by double digits at multiple stages during this game: in the second quarter, the third quarter and the fourth quarter but in each of those instances the Hawks were able to reduce that deficit to under five points, highlighting that the fight has not left this side.
THE RETURN OF BAM HELPED MIAMI BEAT RAPTORS
Monday’s game marked the 16th time the Miami Heat played on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the fifth consecutive season they will play on the holiday. They defeated Toronto Raptors in the process, 104 – 99
Through a rash of injuries and COVID-related absences this season, the Miami Heat kept finding a way to win. It has been a tribute to their culture and player development that guys deep on the bench, such as Max Strus and Omer Yurtseven, have contributed to wins.
Now Ayobami “Bam” Adebayo is back.
The All-Star center had missed 22 games following thumb surgery, but he returned against the Raptors and, while he looked a bit rusty, still had 14 points and nine rebounds in the game.
Jimmy Butler had a triple-double of 19/10/10, and Tyler Herro continued his Sixth Man of the Year campaign with 23 off the bench.
JA DOES A 360 TO CRUSH BULLS
Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies crushed the Chicago Bulls 119-106 in Tennessee on Monday afternoon, but one of the highlights of the game was a jaw dropping 360 spin. We could just rename this the “Ja Morant Highlight of the Night”, because every time he steps on a court something impressive happens
Currently, the Grizzlies are the third seed in the Western Conference with a 31-15 record in 46 games.
They were a solid young team on the rise last season that made the playoffs, but this season they have taken the next steps as one of the best teams in the entire NBA, and look like they will be a team who gets home-court advantage.
Morant finished the game on Monday with 25 points, four rebounds and three assists.
LAKERS RETURN TO WINNING WAYS
The Lakers have underwhelmed for most part of the season and their recent loss to the Grizzlies led to Lebron James apologizing to fans on Twitter, but Monday night they were better, at least LeBron and the bench players were.
LeBron finished with 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, 10-day contract player Stanley Johnson had 15 on 7-of-9 shooting, Malik Monk added 14, and Russell Westbrook added 15 points, rebounding after an ugly 37-point loss to the Denver Nuggets two days earlier.
Johnson, who was just re-signed to another 10-day contract earlier in the day, scored six consecutive points in the fourth quarter. He tied the game at 83 with a 15-foot pull-up jumper. He scored a layup with a nice move around Rudy Gobert to give the Lakers a 89-87 lead.
Mike Conley had 20 points and Rudy Gobert had a double double with 19 points and 16 rebounds for the Jazz.
The Lakers are unbeaten since LeBron’s apology and promise. pic.twitter.com/0yzNv6lBDP— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 18, 2022
CAVALIERS BEAT DURANT-LESS NETS AND UN-VAXXED IRVING
Kevin Durant was not there to make the big shot, snatch the key rebound or take over like he has done countless times.
The Brooklyn Nets knew life would be challenging without their superstar.
On Monday, that became reality – and their foreseeable future.
Darius Garland strengthened his All-Star case with 22 points and 12 assists, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 114-107 win Monday over the Nets, who lost their first game since Durant injured his left knee.
”You can’t replace Kev,” said Kyrie Irving, who led the Nets with 27 points in just his fourth game since coming back despite being unvaccinated and only playing road games. ”It’s impossible. We just faced that reality right now.”
Isaac Okoro added 15 points and Jarrett Allen had 14 and 10 rebounds for the Cavs, who followed up a 5-1 road trip with the fifth straight win.
BOOKER IS STILL COOKING
After back-to-back 30-point games in winning Western Conference player of the week honors, Booker went for a season-high 48 in leading Phoenix past San Antonio, 121-107, Monday night AT&T Center in the second of a back-to-back.
The Spurs (16-28) battled the Suns (34-9) tough again after losing their previous two games to them by four points each.
Booker scored 41 of his 48 points in the first three quarters and the Suns really needed it, especially in the third period. The Suns had mostly put in a manageable shift at halftime before losing their rhythm on both ends of the floor, giving up a 35-28 edge in the third quarter and trailing by as many as 10. Booker contributed 16 of those 28 points and played all 12 minutes to keep Phoenix within range.