The New York Knicks were without two starters on Sunday night, and Nikola Vucevic is too good to let that opportunity slip by.
Nikola Vucevic – 34 points, 12 rebounds, three assists
Remember at the beginning of the year when Nikola Vucevic was an MVP candidate? Things have changed (Vuc was averaging 12.3 points over the six games heading into last night), but he had an exceptional performance against New York that was reminiscent of his super-hot stretch to open the year. The Knicks were without Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway, and the lack of size came back to bite them. Vucevic was feasting in the paint and didn’t have to settle for many outside jumpers; outside of Enes Kanter, there wasn’t anyone to match up with him.
James Harden – 36 points, nine assists, four rebounds
At this point, everything’s too easy for James Harden. He’s been throwing up 30-point performances in his sleep, but they’ve been loaded with dimes and came by way of incredible shooting. The Los Angeles Lakers were his latest victim. On the shoulders of an array of dribble moves and stepback threes, Harden finished 13-of-22 from the floor in Houston’s 118-95 victory. It was the Rockets’ seventh-straight dub, and the Beard’s been unstoppable over that stretch. The assists are down a bit (8.6 a night), but he’s scoring 33.9 points a night while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 44.2 percent from three. In recent years, Harden’s struggled to maintain a shooting clip that exceeds 45 percent. He’s doing it this year, and there’s no one in front to steal the MVP from him.
Jimmy Butler – 33 points, eight rebounds, four assists
Sunday night was the highest-scoring effort for Jimmy Butler in his new threads. After spending the first couple of weeks on a milk carton, the newest Timberwolf has gotten his act together and looks like the guy we saw in Chicago. Butler’s been fantastic in isolation and has maintained the aggressiveness that’s built his game. Moreover, his hustle and tenacity on the defensive end are refreshing for Tom Thibadeau to see because of all of the issues Minnesota has on that end. Minnesota has been inconsistent as of late, going 4-3 over their last seven. Butler, however, has kept them from floundering even worse. After his showing on Sunday, his averages for that stretch jumped to 22.9 points, 5.1 assists and 5.0 rebounds with a clip of 48.3 from the field.
- Stephen Curry – 30 points, three assists, two steals
- Austin Rivers – 30 points, five assists, five rebounds
- Lou Williams – 23 points, 10 assists, five rebounds
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