Before I talk about a random Wednesday NBA night, I wanted to comment how enjoyable it was to have Devin Vassell and Tre Jones playing again for the Spurs. During the long losing streak, Spurs fans had to question how good this team would be even if the team “wins the draft” and makes a French Connection. Seeing Vassell and Jones back on the floor should help ease some of that despair — even good teams suffer when they are missing their only (for the Spurs) point guard and their best two-way player.
While their long absences certainly helped the Spurs’ race to the bottom, it certainly took a lot of the fun out of the season. In the long run, the Spurs may be thankful that their return came so late in the season, making it very unlikely that the Spurs will catch the Charlotte Hornets and rise out of the coveted Bottom Three (in French, Trois en Bas) spots in the standings.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the remarkably efficient shooting nights put up by some players on the first day of March 2023. The impetus for this post came from the LA Times article about the Lakers’ defeat of the Thunder Wednesday night. The article noted that Laker wing Austin Reaves missed only one shot all night, going 5 for 5 from the floor, including his only three-pointer, plus 8 for 9 from the line. Reaves accurately described his missed free throw as “trash” — he clearly knew it ruined his perfect night. It also ruined his chance for a stunning 20 points on 5 shots, which would have been a 4 to 1 ratio. Instead, he had “only” 19 points on his 5 shots from the floor.
But while Reaves had the most efficient shooting game of the night, others had amazing games of their own. Probably the best was the Knicks’ Jalen Brunson, who went 15 for 18 overall, 5 for 6 from three, and 4 for 4 on free throws. That resulted in 39 points on his18 shots, leading the Knicks over the KD/Irving/Harden-less Nets 142-118. The Nets’ Cameron Johnson almost matched Brunson, getting 33 points on 18 shots, including 7 for 11 from three.
The usual suspects from the best two teams in the East turned in great and efficient games. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 31 points on only 14 shots — 10 for 14 overall, 3 for 4 from three (!!), 8 for 10 from the line. The LA Times sports section got confused about what sport Giannis plays, as the box score read “Brewers 139, Magic 117”. That pitch clock must be helping baseball’s offenses. Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum scored 41 on 22 shots (13/21, 4/6 on threes), more efficient than Donovan Mitchell’s 17 for 32 (4/12 from three) for 44 points, as the Celtics beat the Cavs 117-113.
In the Pelicans’ win at Portland, Brandon Ingram scored 40 on 18 for 29 from the floor, overcoming another great game from Damian Lillard, 41 points on 12 for 22 from the floor, 15 for 16 on free throws. Desmond Bane was 12 for 17 overall, 6 for 9 from three, for his 30 points, leading the Grizzlies over the hapless Rockets. Finally, in the Bulls’ 117-115 win over the Pistons, Zack LaVine went 14 for 20 (6/9 from three) for 41 points, overcoming Bogdan Bogdanovic’s 34 points on 21 shots (11/21, 8/12 from three).
Finally, I should mention another remarkable shooting night from the free throw line. In the 76ers win over the Heat, the 76ers made all 22 of their free throws, while the Heat limped in with only 21 of 23, meaning the teams shot a combined 95%. That works.
And that all happened on a single Wednesday night. NBA players do some remarkable things.
Before we end, let’s also take a quick look at a few ex-Spurs who put up great numbers the next two nights. On Thursday, Jakob Poeltl matched young Mr. Reaves by missing only one shot, going 8 for 9 from the floor and 7 for 7 (!!!) on free throws to score 23 points on 9 shots for his new/old team, the Raptors. But Jakob’s former teammate Dejounte Murray did even better the next night, scoring a career high 41 points in the Hawks’ win over the Blazers with these amazing numbers: 17 for 22 overall, 5 for 5 from three, and 2 for 2 on this free throws. I really miss those guys!