On the symbolic day of love, two NBA powerhouses are looking more and more like they’re headed for a reunion— or rematch, if you prefer. Milwaukee and Phoenix are the two hottest teams in the league right now, and it may be setting up a redemption arc for the Suns.
After starting the season a very respectable 29-17, Milwaukee has rattled off 11 straight wins and are only getting healthier as they go. Meanwhile on the Western front, Phoenix is 11-3 over their last 14 following an injury-riddled December/January, and Kevin Durant hasn’t even made his debut yet.
The season is still plenty wide open, but we’re starting to see real championship possibilities and the squads with the championship juice are starting to set themselves apart.
Poeltl wins center battle in Toronto’s 123-113 victory over Orlando
Jakob Poeltl came alive for the Raptors after scoring just 12 points combined over his first two games up north. In 37 minutes — the most he’s played since the trade from San Antonio — Poeltl finished with 30 points (15-17 FG), nine rebounds, and six (!!!) blocks. It was enough to outperform Orlando’s center, Wendell Carter Jr., who happened to lead the Magic in scoring with 26 (11-15).
Other highlight performances from the night include 15 assists from Fred VanVleet and 24 points (9-12) in 29 minutes off the bench from Jalen Suggs, 14 of which came during the second quarter when Orlando outscored Toronto 43-30. The Raptors were +15 in the second half to mitigate the poor second.
Milwaukee needs overtime to beat super shorthanded Celtics 131-125
The Celtics were without four of their six leading scorers (if you don’t count new addition Mike Muscala) — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford — but their offense still hummed for much of the contest, scoring 95 points over the first three quarters.
Derrick White topped Sunday’s 23-point, 11-assist performance with 27 points and 12 assists in the loss after being named last week’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week. In an ongoing story, White stayed in Milwaukee after the Celtics left to get his left ear checked by doctors.
It was always a long shot to beat this Bucks squad with that sort of injury report, especially when Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo (who flirted with a triple double) combine for 76 points on 25-47 shooting with 16 assists. Their 11-game win streak is four games better than the league’s next best (Cleveland).
Suns hit stride ahead of KD debut in 120-109 win over Kings
Durant won’t suit up for Phoenix until after the All-Star break, but the three established faces on the team showed Durant why he made the right choice in picking the Suns. Devin Booker finished with 32 points in 29 minutes without even attempting a three, Chris Paul dished out a season-high 19 assists, but Deandre Ayton was the best player on the floor with 29 points (13-17 FG), 11 rebounds, four steals, and two blocks.
De’Aaron Fox (35 points) and Domantas Sabonis (24/15/7) each did their thing for Sacramento, but when Phoenix is getting 19 points (8-13 FG, 3-4 3P) from Josh Okogie in addition to the stars clicking together, they’re tough to beat. They’ll only be tougher once KD joins the lineup.
Clippers use 44-28 third quarter in 134-124 win over Warriors
The Clippers are now 9-0 when Kawhi Leonard scores at least 30 after he finished with 33 (12-17 FG), flanked by Norm Powell and Paul George combining for 44 (16-29). The Clippers’ new faces — Mason Plumlee, Bones Hyland, and Eric Gordon — each played over 15 minutes and each made two shots, combining for 21 points.
Wizards go wire-to-wire over Blazers 126-101
Damian Lillard is a one-man band up in Portland this season as far as consistent high-quality performances go, and that’s sure to have mixed results. Despite a 39-point night with decent efficiency (14-30 FG), the Blazers just weren’t anywhere close at any point. Wizards led the whole way through, outshooting the Blazers 51.5% to 28.6% from three.