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Aidin Ebrahimi’s NBA Western Conference Update: Jan 21-27

Luka Doncic and Joel Embiid had 70-point outings, while Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony 60+

Posted on January 28, 2024


  By Aidin Ebrahimi, SuperWest Sports

The NBA world just keeps getting crazier and crazier.

Luka Doncic and Joel Embiid had 70+ point outings, while other stars like Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns had 60+ point nights as well.

As always, here is my update on the status of NBA Western Conference teams as well as a look at the previous week’s best team and MVP.


On Fire

Devin Booker

Don’t worry, we will talk about Luka Doncic at the end of this column. For now, though, let’s focus on the other two Western Conference stars who managed to score 60+ points last week.

We all remember Devin Booker’s infamous 70-point game as a sophomore in 2017, but I don’t think we expected such a talented scorer to have to wait this long for his next 60+ point outing.

Booker got close a bunch of times, like when he scored 59, 50, and 48 points in consecutive games during the tail end of the 2018-19 season.

Or during last season, when he scored 51 points in 31 minutes against the Bulls and then had a 58-point game against the Pelicans a few weeks later.

But it seemed like that missing 60-point game was haunting him.

He dropped 52 points against the Pelicans two weeks ago and got into a rhythm, as he scored 46 points three games later in a blowout win against his arch nemesis Luka Doncic.

Booker finally achieved what he was after for so long as he dropped 62 points against the Pacers while shooting 59.5% from the field and 6-12 from three.

Devin Booker vs Pacers | Darron Cummings/AP

However, it was a bittersweet night just like his 70-point game, as it ended in defeat. Booker missed multiple chances down the stretch to ice the game for good but missed and watched his team fall behind.

He also missed the potential game-winning three-pointer, which sealed the loss for Phoenix.

This must be pretty concerning for Suns fans. Yes, the Pacers are a good team, but their leader Tyrese Haliburton didn’t even play in that game.

The Suns have looked better since the start of the calendar year with Bradley Beal’s full-time return, however, they have failed to pose a threat against the other fully healthy contenders.

The Suns are 26-19 as of the time of writing, but they are just 12-13 against teams with a .500 or higher record.

Teams who can’t get things done against playoff teams rarely win championships.

The last team in recent memory to win a championship with a losing record against .500 or above teams was the 2006 Miami Heat, but the Suns are too injury-prone to have that kind of luck.

They need to find a way to get it done against the real contenders, or else Booker’s efforts will keep going to waste.

Karl-Anthony Towns

KAT scared many Timberwolves fans at the start of the season, as he averaged under 17 PPG on terrible shooting splits in his first five games of the campaign, but he came back to his usual efficient self after that slow start.

Towns

It was then made clear that Anthony Edwards would be the leader of the Timberwolves, but that narrative has been flipped on its head recently.

Towns has led the Wolves in scoring since the beginning of 2024, averaging 26.1 points a night. Of course, his best performance of the season so far was his 62-point explosion against the Hornets.

But he was on the losing end just like Booker, and his team could blame him for the loss even more as Towns played terribly in the fourth quarter and was almost unplayable at times in the clutch.

The Wolves are a defensive juggernaut this year, so if they want to go far in the postseason Towns needs to work on being more reliable in crunch time.


Hope in Dark Times

Jonathan Kuminga

Ever since being benched once again, Jonathan Kuminga has been on a mission to prove Steve Kerr wrong.

The Warriors are truly at their lowest point of the Steph Curry era, even in 2019-20 Warriors fans like myself had the eventual return of Steph and Klay to look forward to.

Now, it just seems like we’re looking forward to seeing our old guys get traded and for our new and younger guys to get the keys to the franchise.

Jonathan Kuminga has everything that it takes to be the Warriors’ franchise superstar moving forward.

Jonathan Kuminga scored 31 vs the Kings | Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group

I’ve talked a lot about his streak of consecutive games with at least 10 points, which is still ongoing, and now stands at 22 games, by the way.

But did you know that he has scored at least 20 points in each of his last five games ever since he was benched?

He is putting up 25.6 points a night while shooting 65.4% from the field and 56.3% from three despite playing just 28.4 minutes a night since his benching.

Sounds like a player who should have never gotten benched in the first place.


Won’t Stay Down

The Memphis Grizzlies (18-27, 3-1)

The Grizzlies are really trying their best to stay afloat, aren’t they? We all know that they’ll have to throw in the towel eventually, but their resilience so far has been quite admirable.

The reason for their three consecutive wins has been their stifling defense.

Memphis has held their opponents to 100, 96, and 106 points in their last three games respectively, and while the reigning defensive player of the year Jaren Jackson Jr. will get most of the credit, two other guys deserve their props too.

John Konchar vs the Knicks | Brandon Dill/AP

NBA fans became slightly more familiar with Grizzlies veteran John Konchar last season when he started 23 games for them, but now he’s turning heads with his shot-blocking ability.

Konchar has been a disruptive defender and is protecting the rim with 10 blocks over his last four games.

Sophomore Vince Williams Jr. has been good on defense as well, but his exploits on the offensive end during the absence of Ja Morant and Desmond Bane have been impressive.

Since Bane’s injury, Williams is averaging 17 points a night on 52.1% shooting from the floor and 45.2% from deep.


Best Team of the Previous Week

The Los Angeles Clippers (29-14, 3-0)

The Clippers are about to head to one of their biggest tests of the season against the Celtics which could be a preview of the NBA Finals this season.

Harden

Remember when the Clippers lost five games in a row after they traded for James Harden and everyone kept making fun of them? Well, they’ve now won 21 of their last 25 games.

Last week, it was James Harden’s turn to lead the team in scoring while also averaging 11 assists a night.

Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Norman Powell played well too, while Russell Westbrook has gotten his mojo back, scoring 10+ points in each of his last six games.

Terance Mann has also repaid Ty Lue’s faith in him, shooting 60% from the field and 52.8% from three over his last 12 contests.


MVPs of the Previous Week

Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

Speaking of James Harden, Luka Doncic’s current run this year reminds me of what Harden did in Houston in 2018-19.

Doncic

Luka is averaging a ridiculous 37.6 points, nine rebounds, and 10.2 assists a night over his last 22 games and is doing whatever he can to get the Mavs to the playoffs despite Kyrie Irving’s injuries.

Last week Luka went 1-2, but there’s no way that I can pass up on him as my player of the week after his legendary 73-point performance.

Doncic had lost his last four games up to that point, so he let out all of his frustrations on the team that drafted him, the Atlanta Hawks.

This was the second-most points scored by a player since Kobe’s 81-point game.

It was also the second-best game in NBA history according to the Game Score stat, just barely behind Michael Jordan’s legendary 69-point outing.




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