NFL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS & THE LATEST NBA SCORES
Madness in the NFL! What thrilling games we had to digest in the NFL divisional round, with the Rams, Bengals, 49ers, and Chiefs all moving on to the next stage. Plus, there’s a lot of exciting NBA news to check out, so make sure you read it all here.
NBA Standings & News to Focus On
- Nets lose to T-wolves, Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards hurts knee in win
- Both Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso out for 6-8 weeks due to injuries
- Doncic scores 37 and Morant gets 35, but Mavs defeat Grizzlies
- DeRozan’s 41 points not enough to stop Magic from demolishing Bulls
- Butler’s 20 points, 10 boards, and 12 assists help Miami over Lakers
- Tatum explodes for 51 points as Celtics get huge win over Wizards
Butler & the Heat cling on to close win over LeBron’s Lakers
The saying often goes that no lead is ever safe in an NBA game, but clearly, the Miami Heat wanted nothing to do with that proverb. With a 23-point lead heading into the final quarter, the Lakers very nearly pulled off a massive comeback, scoring 37 points compared to the Heat’s 24 in the last 12 minutes, but it just wasn’t quite enough in the end. Miami held on to grab the 113-107 victory and sits comfortably at the top of the East NBA standings at 30-17.
After the Heat jumped out to an early lead with a big 39-25 first-quarter lead, and with things fairly balanced in the second the third quarters, you’d feel pretty confident to close out the game. However, that 23-point lead evaporated quickly thanks largely to – who else – LeBron James. The King played 40 minutes (seems mad for a 37-year-old but that’s the Lakers’ choice) and totaled 33 points and 11 rebounds, but L.A.’s pretty miserable January kept going in another crushing loss.
On the back of Jimmy Butler’s crucial 20/10/12 triple-double, as well as Duncan Robinson’s 25 points from six three-pointers, Miami again displayed the form that helped them reach the 2020 NBA Finals. If nothing else, this was a statement win over the Lakers, who earned the 2020 NBA championship by beating the Heat 4-2 just two years ago. There was even some extra spice to the victory, as Butler overtook LeBron’s record for triple-doubles playing for Miami.
With both Chicago and Brooklyn reeling from injuries and health and safety protocols, Miami has snuck into the top spot in the East through excellent team play and the ability to power through roster adversity. Without Tyler Herro (H&S) and veteran guard Kyle Lowry playing due to personal reasons, the Heat have been bolstered with the return of center Bam Adebayo, who missed several weeks due to injury.
Adebayo, with 14 points and eight rebounds (but five turnovers too) in the game, gives Miami such a key presence inside the key and helps ease the pressure from Butler having to dominate the game, even though we know we can, but not every single night.
On the other side of things, LeBron is having an incredible season that defies his age and expectations. Not only is he leading the team in minutes with 36.7 because Anthony Davis is still rehabbing from a knee injury (NBA rumors suggest Davis could return any game now), but LeBron is scoring a team-high 29.0 PPG, while also chipping in with a very helpful 7.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists.
The Los Angeles Lakers are currently sitting in eighth place in the West NBA standings, and have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games. While it doesn’t feel like the sky is falling in La La Land just yet, there are some worryingly large reverberations in the air. It’s hard to call the Russell Westbrook trade a complete disaster, but it certainly doesn’t appear to have the desired outcome. Like winning more games and taking the offensive load off LeBron, for example.
Furthermore, Lakers coach, Frank Vogel, has been on the hot seat for several weeks now, despite bringing the team its 17th championship only two seasons ago. Whether getting Davis back and switching the coach can help an older team like the Lakers feel reinvigorated still remains to be seen, but perhaps it’s better than nothing. L.A. also has very little to work with at the trade deadline, apart from third-year shooting guard, Talen Horton-Tucker, who is performing well enough to be a trade piece.
Two Exciting NBA Games Coming Up
Celtics @ Hawks on Friday 28th January
The Celtics and the Hawks are perhaps two teams in the East that are performing well below expectations. Both are full of star talent and the ability to surprise us at unexpected moments, but aren’t playing like we know they can. Of course, the health and safety protocols have greatly interrupted the momentum, and other squads like the Cavs and Bulls have been the darling teams of the East.
Jayson Tatum’s 51 points against the Wizards has got to boost his confidence, but Atlanta’s Trae Young has also been lighting up the league recently, and is never a player to lose trust in. On the back of Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s solid performances, the Celtics should get the road win and silence at least a few critics.
Nuggets @ Bucks on Sunday 30th January
Denver’s Jokic is arguably the best passing big man in the league and is dragging his injury-riddled Nuggets to a respectable 6th place in the West NBA standings. The Bucks’ Antetokounmpo, of course, can spin and dodge around defenders with nimble moves and practically dunk from the free throw line if he wants.
With the Bucks playing at home, one has to assume they’ll grab the victory, but it’s going to be a tough-fought win that will make everyone still be a little scared of how good the Nuggets are this season.
NFL Scores & News
- 49ers, Bengals, and Rams all win on last-second field goal
- Chiefs get the victory over Bills in wild overtime game
- Packers’ Rodgers and Bucs’ Brady to contemplate future in NFL
- San Francisco to take on L.A. Rams, Chiefs face Bengals in NFL conference championships
Mahomes lifts Chiefs to wild divisional round victory over the Bills
For the Bills, it was the one that got away, but for the Chiefs, it was a spirited win that displayed all the hallmarks of athletes never giving up on themselves in the jaws of defeat.
Buffalo’s Josh Allen against Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes was the quarterback dual we’ve been waiting to see for a long time, and boy, did they deliver a fight. In the end, it was Mahomes who performed that little bit better, finding Travis Kelce in the end zone corner from eight yards to push the Chiefs toward a 42-36 win at the completion of overtime.
Mahomes ended the grueling NFL playoff game by passing for 378 yards and three touchdowns with 33 of 44 completions, as well as one rushing TD. Allen had some noteworthy stats, too, with 27 of 37 completions, passing for 329 yards and four touchdowns.
If you’ve ever watched a game through your fingers, then this would be it, as the lead changed a staggering three times in the last two minutes of regulation. 25 points occurred over that spell of time. A lot of praise has to be for Chiefs kicker, Harrison Butker, who knocked down a 49-yard field goal attempt to tie the game and force overtime. It was then, of course, Mahomes and the Chiefs all the way to the final throw for the Kelce touchdown to end the NFL divisional round game.
Two Exciting NFL Conference Championship Games Coming Up
Bengals @ Chiefs on Sunday 30th January
Neither team is afraid of the big moment, that’s for sure. The Bengals have been solid at halftime adjustments and QB Joe Burrow has been connecting incredibly well with WR, Ja’Marr Chase. The last time these two teams met, Chase ended with 11 catches for 266 yards and three big touchdowns. Cincinnati will hope he can provide even more value this time around against Kansas City.
Yet… the Chiefs have Mahomes, who is playing out of his skin and has all the reason to smile by being at home again in this AFC divisional round decider. This is going to be close, but the Chiefs can make huge plays when it matters and will have just the right amount of confidence and experience for the win.
49ers @ Rams on Sunday 30th January
While it’s true that the 49ers have two regular-season wins over the Rams, L.A. wasn’t playing anywhere near as well as they are now. Rams’ QB, Matthew Stafford, has been finding WRs Kupp and Beckham Jr. at exactly the right moments, and the team has such a buzz around them that is hard to ignore. 49ers’ QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, has been an iron man of late, playing through an assortment of injuries and managed to end a Packers team that many thought would reach the Super Bowl.
This NFL game feels like a coin flip, but somehow the cruising L.A. Rams will have just enough to get the victory and book tickets to the Super Bowl.
Author: Joe Garland