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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From November 29th-December 5th

As everyone’s focus is to either improve or build upon what happened during the first quarter of this NBA season, the quote “iron sharpens iron” becomes a living reality. Whether it’s conference-leading teams going toe to toe or young stars taking on their idols, the season’s second quarter becomes a proving ground before the All-Star break. Below are my four takeaways from the NBA’s latest week in action!

The league’s past, present and future are having memorable battles
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It’s normal for the league to have its first heavy slate of important matchups when the calendar turns to December, but it doesn’t make it less exciting. Now on a nightly basis, there’s a matchup that pits any cominbation of the league’s past, present, and future stars against each other. Accordingly, on Sunday night, we watched an incredible duel between guards Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell.

Garland, the third-year Cleveland Cavalier who’s having a breakout year, had 31 points and five assists, and Mitchell, the Utah Jazz’s soon-to-be superstar, finished with 35 points and six assists in a 109-108 thrilling Jazz victory. As the game inched closer to its conclusion, both players weren’t shy to score and guard each other in the clutch while already being the two best players on the court.

The NY Knicks are struggling to build upon last season’s success
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After being one of the league’s biggest surprise stories last season, the Knicks have struggled to regain that spark as they’re currently 11-12 and sitting outside of the Eastern Conference playoff race due to their ongoing three-game losing streak. And while this season’s Knicks team is more talented, they certainly don’t have the determination and focus that powered last season’s team to a surprise playoff appearance.

“We gotta look ourselves in the mirror and decide what we want the season to be,” Julius Randle said after the team’s 113-99 loss against the Denver Nuggets last Saturday. “I know what I want it to be. I know what the guys want it to be. But we have to commit to it, and that’s just really what it is.”

CanWill Damian Lillard find his swagger before it’s too late?
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To say it’s been a crazy handful of months for Lillard is an understatement. In between readjusting to a new head coach, daily rumors surrounding his unhappiness with the Portland Trail Blazers, and him and the team’s constant struggles, Lillard now has one more problem: injuries.

The multi-time All-Star will be out of action for at least ten days due to an abdominal injury, and it couldn’t have happened at the worst time. Despite averaging his lowest points per game average since his third NBA season (2014-’15), Lillard was beginning to regain his previous form, as witnessed by his 39 and 32-point performances against the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings between November 20th-24th.

The Thunder are simply bad and there isn’t much to say about that
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While it’s already unfathomable that the Oklahoma City Thunder lost by 73 points last Friday, it’s crazier when you realize they lost by 57 points less than six months ago. And even though the NBA can’t do anything about the Thunder and their rare, historic losses, some say an eye should be kept on their performance moving forward.

In the spirit of competitiveness and further eliminating the thought of tanking, which at one point plagued the mind of sports fans, the Thunder must turn the corner in that department, even if it doesn’t produce a more wins.

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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From October 26th-31st

Are you not entertained? After witnessing a great opening week to the 2021-’22 NBA regular season, the league’s second week in action managed to raise the stakes even more. At one point, we had three undefeated teams. The defending champs dropped below .500. New York City, by way of midtown Manhattan, is witnessing high-level basketball again. And Jimmy Butler is getting early hype as league MVP! So down below are my four biggest takeaways from it!

How about those Knicks?

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Listen, we know most teams, including the NY Knicks, are only six or so games into their new season but can we acknowledge how great they looked? After having a surprising home loss against the Orlando Magic to conclude their opening week, the current No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference went 3-0 between last Tuesday-Sunday, with every win being a statement win.

Although Julius Randle has struggled to maintain his All-NBA form from last year, the Knicks have been buoyed by contributions from their lesser stars. Despite murmurs that the Knicks overpaid for him in free agency, Evan Fournier has emerged as a fearless wing scorer with his combination of on-ball chutzpah and off-ball craftiness. Even more promising, RJ Barrett has solidified the gains he made as a shooter last year while also emerging as an elite defender.

Lastly, Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose are providing the Knicks with the most stability, they have had in their backcourt in two decades.

Carmelo is making a run for Sixth Man of the Year

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While NBA fans have debated whether the Los Angeles Lakers can overcome their roster’s oldness and awkward construction, one undeniable truth has emerged: Carmelo Anthony still is a bucket. In his first season as a Laker, the future Hall of Famer is averaging 16 PPG and has made himself an early, viable candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Moreover, Anthony has scored with remarkable efficiency, shooting 50 percent from the field and 52% from long range.

Whether it’s as a shooter, scorer, or simply another body on the floor, Anthony’s presence has created the spacing and dynamism the Lakers’ offense often lacked last season.

Jimmy Butler for MVP?

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If any player was looking to bounce back from a lackluster season, it was Jimmy Butler. After leading the Heat to the NBA Finals one year ago, Butler and Co. came back to Earth with an inconsistent regular season performance (Their 40-32 record landed them the sixth seed) before getting swept in the first round. But now? It’s Butler’s time for payback.

As his Heat stands at 5-1 after winning four consecutive games, including a pair of impressive wins over the Nets and Hornets, Butler is arguably playing the best basketball of his career. The Marquette product is currently averaging career-highs in points (25), rebounds (7.0), and steals per game (2.8), and field-goal percentage (52.9%) while also having the league’s third-highest player efficiency rating (30.69).

And who are the two players in front of Butler? The last-two MVP winners, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Wizards may have figured something out!

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Amid the action during the NBA’s first two weeks, the Washington Wizards and their 5-1 record have flown under the radar. Even if it’s extremely unlikely that the Wizards will be able to sustain this pace, they deserve credit for what they’ve accomplished so far.

Bradley Beal has upped the ante as a complete player, bouncing back from a slow start to average 31 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists per game over his last two games. In addition, the Wizards’ trio of summer additions in Spencer Dinwiddle, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell have played the kind of basketball that provides a second wind in most players’ careers.

If you’re wondering who the Wizards have beaten this season, say hello to the Celtics (twice), Hawks, and Raptors, with two of those wins being on the road.