If you expected Thanksgiving week to throw off the excitement and storylines constantly evolving in the NBA, you would be sadly mistaken. Luckily, with highly anticipated returns, streaking juggernauts and the Knicks finding unique ways to be the Knicks there was plenty of action to talk about.
Six weeks down in the Association, let’s jump into some of the high and low lights that took place over the last seven days.
Winner: Anthony Davis
It would appear Anthony Davis was serious when he wore the infamous “That’s All Folks” T-shirt as he entered his final game as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Lakers‘ new All-Star big man on Wednesday. This marked the most points ever by a player in his first visit against his previous team — served up by Davis in the Smoothie King Center where his career began.
By night’s end, it was Davis once again telling the Pelican faithful “that’s all folks” as they filed out one by one after New Orleans blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to its former superstar and his famous buddy, LeBron James, en route to a 114-110 Lakers win.
With everything that transpired with Davis over the course of last season, culminating with his blockbuster trade to Los Angeles in the summer, his return was viewed as an opportunity for the Pelicans to stick it to the star big man. A chance to show him that maybe the grass isn’t always greener on the other side (despite it very obviously being so thus far this season). A win for New Orleans would’ve been worth losing No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson for the start of the season, or the sluggish record (6-14) they’ve put up since opening night.
With the emergence of former Laker Brandon Ingram — who scored 23 points against his old team — or Davis’ old running mate Jrue Holiday lighting up the scoreboard for 29 points, the stage was set for an upset and an “I told ya so.”
Alas, it was Davis who emerged the night victorious. In more than just the win column.
He displayed every ounce of talent that made him the man in New Orleans on Wednesday night. It just so happens he did so as a visitor — wearing a Lakers jersey.
Winner: Milwaukee Bucks
When Kawhi Leonard left the Eastern Conference following a dominant postseason run that led to the Toronto Raptors winning their first championship, the prevailing question around the NBA was which player — and team — would step in and take their place as the new beasts of the East.
Through 20 games this season, the answer is very clear: Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
At 17-3, the Bucks are running through the Eastern Conference, thanks to their Greek Freak. This past week, Milwaukee experienced a 4-0 record that extended a larger winning streak to 11 games. The last time the Bucks lost a game was on Nov. 9, nearly a month ago. Over that span, Giannis has piloted his team behind an MVP-caliber stretch.
Just last week, Giannis averaged 34.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. That line resembles prime Shaq dominance mixed with court vision and an ability to set up teammates for success.
In other words, it’s absurd.
This is the year for Giannis and Milwaukee. Sure, he won last season’s MVP and, yes, the Bucks finished first in the East regular-season standings, but this is the season they collectively take the next step and head to the Finals ahead of a very important summer where Giannis is eligible for the supermax contract extension.
If this last week was any sort of microcosm for the rest of the Bucks’ season, they will be more than fine. Bucks faithful can rest easy about the future of their superstar so long as their team is riding along at this pace.
Loser: New York Knicks
In fairness, the Knicks could probably appear in this section every week. But this past week has been particularly unfortunate for the Knickerbockers.
Losers of six straight, New York lost games to Philadelphia and Boston this week in contests that could’ve easily resulted in victories.
On Friday, the Knicks held a 51-39 lead over the 76ers in surprising fashion. New York was hitting tough shots and connected on 40 percent of shots from 3 in the first half while disrupting Philadelphia’s offensive flow — allowing only Joel Embiid to reach double figures scoring.
Then the Knicks went full Knicks and coughed up consecutive 31-point quarters to ultimately fall to Philadelphia 101-95. Gut wrenching.
But no matter, New York had a shot a redemption on Sunday when it hosted the Boston Celtics — another division foe.
After tying the first half at 58, the Knicks managed to take an 85-81 lead into the game’s final frame. What seemed like a great opportunity for a struggling team to get a win against a good team turned into a combined 26 points from Boston’s trio of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker.
As you can imagine, the Knicks lost the game. This time 113-104.
New York isn’t expected to compete this season for anything more than lottery pick position. But there are young players on the team in need of experiencing these late-game situations and finding ways to come out on the winning end.
The Knicks had two of those opportunities this week and couldn’t close either. At least they’re consistent.
Winner: Spencer Dinwiddie
What a week it was for this Brooklyn Nets point guard. You know, the one who can score at an efficient rate, set his teammates up for buckets and collapse defenders with great handles and good decision-making?
Yeah, Spencer Dinwiddie.
In the absence of Kyrie Irving, Dinwiddie has once again shown his value to the Nets’ franchise that more than warranted the $34 million contract extension last season.
Through Brooklyn’s four games last week, Dinwiddie managed to put up 25 points and 8.8 assists per game while connecting on 43 percent of his shots from downtown. The Nets managed to only go 2-2, but the biggest winner wasn’t the team itself. It was Dinwiddie and his ability to cement his place in the franchise that has seen him go from an NBA castaway to a very good player.
With Irving’s return nearing, Dinwiddie’s role will most certainly change again. He will likely be relegated back to a super sixth man role as Irving retakes control of the offensive reins. As a result, his production will probably fall back closer to the 17 points per game he averaged playing with Irving, as opposed to the 25 per night he’s produced without the All-Star point guard.
That in itself is perfectly fine. Dinwiddie won the week by continuing to show his importance to a franchise that has rapidly reshaped its identity since he first arrived in Brooklyn.
Kevin Durant won’t play this season. Irving has been on the shelf. The Nets are just 10-10 in the first season of their new era. But Spencer Dinwiddie is playing like the star guard Brooklyn was promised this July when Irving announced he was “coming home.”
Regardless of who returns to the court and what Dinwiddie’s role looks like with Irving, the continued growth of Brooklyn’s guard — a former second-round pick — is a big win for him and Nets fans alike.
Loser: Chicago Bulls
That was the reality of the Chicago Bulls last week.
On top of that, they added in a third loss on the week — a second L in three games to the Trail Blazers — to wind up 0-3.
Last Monday, Anthony had his best game since returning to the NBA, leading all scorers in the game that night with 25 points while shooting 4 of 7 from three-point range. The Bulls had no answer for a player who one month ago couldn’t even find a job.
To make matters worse, Chicago wasted a 36-point performance from Zach LaVine in its next game by giving up 104 points to Golden State en route to just the Warriors’ fourth win of the season.
Chicago sits at 6-14 on the season, and while LaVine has played well this season — 22.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game — the Bulls are struggling to find an identity and develop the likes of Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter, and to an extent Coby White.
Despite young and talented players, most of whom are offensive minded, the Bulls are 29th in the NBA in offensive rating and appear on a crash course for another top 10 draft pick. Perhaps more infusion of young talent will benefit Chicago down the line, but as it stands today, head coach Jim Boylen doesn’t have the Bulls moving in any direction that can be considered promising.
This past week provided even more evidence to that fact.