This article is part of our NBA Daily Recap series.
Welcome back to another edition of Around the Association!
Wednesday's eight-game slate brought us non-stop action including sucker punches, unbelievable comebacks and scoring outbursts. With the new year rapidly approaching, there is no better way to recap the madness that occurred than doing it in the holiday spirit. In fact, Wednesday's action-packed slate was able to help me generate my five New Year's Resolutions for 2023.
Without further ado, let's dive in:
New Year's Resolutions
Resolution #1: No Fighting!
- There was a little bit of malice in Detroit last night when things got chippy between Moritz Wagner and Killian Hayes. An unnecessary shove from Wagner led to Hayes appearing to knock the Michigan product out from behind. Wagner, Hayes and Hamidou Diallo were all ejected from the contest. Suspensions are bound to be awarded to both sides.
- The actual basketball game itself was a completely one-sided affair with Detroit winning 121-101. Alec Burks couldn't miss, finishing with a season-best 32 points (10-11 FG, 6-7 3Pt, 6-6 FT), two rebounds, four assists, one block and two steals over 30 minutes. This marked the veteran guard's first game seeing 30 minutes as a member of the Pistons.
- Saddiq Bey also saw more usage amidst the ejections, ending with 28 points (8-16 FG, 6-11 3Pt, 6-8 FT), eight rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal over 35 minutes. With both Hayes and Diallo potentially in line to receive suspensions, Burks and Bey may continue to provide additional value in Detroit's next few games.
Resolution #2: Don't Be Afraid to Call a Timeout
- Sometimes it's okay to call a timeout and take a breath. The short-handed Hawks probably should have done just that during Wednesday's tightly-contested battle against Brooklyn. Atlanta had a chance to take the lead in the final seconds, but chose to not call a timeout on the final possession, leading to a forced missed three-pointer from Dejounte Murray. The Nets ended with a 108-107 to mark their 10th straight victory.
- Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving put on an absolute shot-making clinic down the stretch of the contest. Durant even impressed in the rebounding department, finishing with 26 points (8-17 FG, 1-4 3Pt, 9-9 FT), a season-best 16 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks across 36 minutes. The two All-Stars combined for 54 out of Brooklyn's 108 total points in the win.
- T.J. Warren ended with two points (1-5 FG, 0-1 3Pt), two rebounds, one assist and two blocks across a reserve-best 26 minutes of play. While the veteran forward failed to impress in the box score, it is encouraging to see him lead Brooklyn's bench in playing time. Over his last four outings, Warren is averaging 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals across 24.0 minutes per game.
- With Trae Young (ankle), Clint Capela (calf) and De'Andre Hunter (calf) all sidelined, this loss wasn't all that bad for Atlanta. Onyeka Okongwu shined again acting as the team's starting center, finishing with 18 points (6-12 FG, 6-9 FT), 13 rebounds, one assist and three blocks in 37 minutes.
- Okongwu has started in seven games this season, averaging 9.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks across 30.9 minutes. Okongwu has proved to be a great start whenever Capela is forced to the sidelines.
Resolution #3a: Never Give Up
- The Bulls were in deep trouble against the Bucks, down by 11 points with two minutes remaining in the contest. However, after some clutch shooting from Zach LaVine, the Bulls were able to send the game into overtime behind a game-tying dunk from Ayo Dosunmu off a DeMar DeRozan inbound steal. Chicago was able to walk away in overtime with a 119-113 victory.
- DeRozan ended with 42 points (15-25 FG, 12-14 FT), 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals across 44 minutes. The veteran All-Star scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. This marked DeRozan's third 40-point outing of the season,
- The Bucks' late collapse marked the team's fourth straight loss, however, Giannis Antetokounmpo was nothing short of spectacular against Chicago. The Greek Freak finished the game with 45 points (17-39 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 11-17 FT), 22 rebounds, seven assists and one steal over 42 minutes. Antetokounmpo has now scored at least 40 points in three out of his last five showings, averaging 37.0 points, 13.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists over that span. Ridiculous stuff.
- After a few sluggish games, Bobby Portis got back on track against the team that drafted him in 2015. The veteran forward recorded 20 points (7-18 FG, 3-7 3Pt, 3-4 FT), 11 rebounds and one assist in 28 minutes. This marked Portis' first time scoring above 10 points out of his last five showings.
Resolution #3b: No, Seriously, Never Give Up
- Chicago was not the only team to rally back Wednesday, with the Kings also winning in comeback fashion. The Nuggets ended the first quarter ahead 40-24, but Sacramento was able to storm back to make it a tightly contested battle. With the game all-tied 126-126 in the final seconds, Malik Monk was fouled on a go-ahead layup attempt. Monk missed the first free throw, only to drill the second and win the game for the Kings. This win ended a short two-game skid for Sacramento.
- On top of drilling the go-ahead free throw, Monk had one of the best outings of his career in the win Wednesday. The Kentucky product recorded a season-high 33 points (12-21 FG, 4-8 3Pt, 5-6 FT), two rebounds, three assists and one steal across 30 minutes. While Monk is a bit too inconsistent to trust on a game-to-game basis, the 24-year-old is currently averaging a new career-high in scoring at 14.6 points per game thus far.
- Despite the loss, Nikola Jokic thoroughly impressed once again, finishing with 40 points (15-24 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 10-10 FT), seven rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block across 32 minutes of action. The Joker now has four 40-point performances in his last eight appearances as he continues to provide in the scoring department this month.
- Aaron Gordon (shoulder) missed his second straight contest, leading to another start for Zeke Nnaji. The third-year forward failed to impress in his first start, but finished with a solid 14 points (7-9 FG, 0-1 3Pt), three rebounds, one steal and one block across 30 minutes during Wednesday's loss. Nnaji is a name to watch out for if Gordon continues to remain on the sidelines.
Resolution #4: Battle Through Adversity
- The short-handed Warriors were without the likes of Stephen Curry (shoulder), Klay Thompson (Achilles), and Andrew Wiggins (illness), but were still able to defeat the Jazz 112-107. Jordan Poole led the way, finishing with a team-high 26 points (7-22 FG, 2-10 3Pt, 10-12 FT), three rebounds and one assist in 36 minutes. The Michigan product has now started 13 games in a row for the Warriors, averaging 25.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists over that span.
- Donte DiVincenzo is another Warriors player that has taken advantage of his increased opportunities. The 25-year-old ended with 19 points (5-11 FG, 5-9 3Pt, 4-4 FT), four rebounds, two assists and two steals over 39 minutes. DiVincenzo has started in each of his past six appearances, averaging 12.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.3 steals across those contests. On a per-game basis, DiVincezno ranks as the 39th-best nine-category option since entering the team's starting lineup in the short term.
- Lauri Markkanen shined in the defeat, ending with 29 points (10-22 FG, 7-13 3Pt, 2-3 FT), 16 rebounds, one assist and one steal across 36 minutes. The 25-year-old is in a groove as of recently, averaging 30.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists over Utah's past four contests. Markkanen ranks as the No. 7 overall nine-category option over his recent hot stretch. One has to wonder if Markkanen's improved play will land him a spot in the All-Star game come February.
Resolution #5: Set New Personal Bests
- After missing the team's past three games due to COVID protocols, Zion Williamson returned with a bang -- literally and figuratively. Williamson finished with a new career-high 43 points (14-21 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 14-19 FT) to go with three rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal over 34 minutes during New Orleans 119-118 win over Minnesota. The All-Star forward was able to seal the deal for the Pelicans after a steal and slam to take the lead in the final minute. The Pelicans now sit at 22-12, tied with the Nuggets atop the Western Conference.
- Wednesday's loss marked yet another uninspiring performance out of Rudy Gobert, finishing with 10 points (4-5 FG, 2-2 3Pt), eight rebounds, two assists and four blocks while fouling out across 28 minutes. Across his last three outings, Gobert is averaging 9.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.3 blocks per game.
- To make matters even stickier, Naz Reid continues to outplay Gobert over this span, averaging 16.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.7 blocks across his last three performances. With Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) still on the sidelines, it is unfair to completely ridicule the trade, however, it is safe to say that the blockbuster acquisition of Gobert is not off to the start that Minnesota was hoping for.
- Rui Hachimura erupted off the bench for Washington to lead the team to a 127-102 win over a Devin Booker-less Suns team. Hachimura tied a career-high in scoring with 30 points (11-13 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 7-8 FT) while recording five rebounds, one assist and one block in 28 minutes during the win. In his first four games since returning from his ankle injury, Hachimura is averaging 18.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists across 25.0 minutes per game.
- Deandre Ayton ended the loss to the Wizards with a season-best 31 points (14-22 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 2-2 FT), seven rebounds, three assists and two steals over 36 minutes. The Arizona product has put together a strong month of December, averaging 19.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks over 28.7 minutes per game across 13 showings thus far.
- Jimmy Butler returned from a brief one-game absence and turned in an impressive two-way performance during Miami's 112-98 win over the Lakers. Butler finished with 27 points (11-18 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 5-5 FT), five rebounds, four assists and six steals in 35 minutes. Miami now sits at 18-17 on the season.
- In what has become a recent trend, LeBron James once again defied his age while the Lakers took the loss. James finished Wednesday's defeat with 27 points (10-18 FG, 2-5 3Pt, 5-5 FT), nine rebounds and six assists in 34 minutes. While the Lakers have won just one game out of their past five showings, James is still averaging 31.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists over that span.
Best and Worst of the Night
- Best of the Night: Zion Williamson - 43 points (14-21 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 14-19 FT) to go with three rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal over 34 minutes.
- Worst of the Night: Lonnie Walker - zero points (0-4 FG, 0-4 3Pt), two rebounds and one assist across 20 minutes.
- Rookie of the Night: Patrick Baldwin - 11points (4-7 FG, 3-5 3Pt), three rebounds and one steal across 12 minutes.
A Look Ahead to Thursday Night
- The Thunder and Hornets square off in what should be a high-scoring affair.
- The Grizzlies look to get back on track when they travel to Toronto to face the Raptors.
- The Clippers and Celtics meet in Boston.
- Luka Doncic is playing which means that anything is possible tonight.