NFL POWER RANKINGS AND HOTTEST NBA NEWS AFTER CHRISTMAS
Get the lowdown on all the latest NBA scores and updates right here. From nail-biting finishes to surprising losses and worrisome injuries, we’ve got you covered. Discover the latest NFL Week 17 matchups and who is likely to grab much-needed wins to secure a playoff spot.
NBA Standings & News to Focus On
- Ayton, Draymond, Tatum, and Lonzo Ball latest to enter H&S protocols
- Morant scores 33 and hits last-second shot to seal win over Suns
- Paul George out 3-4 weeks with torn ligament in right elbow
- Chicago routs Atlanta in return for Bulls’ LaVine and Hawks’ Young
- Edwards, Reid, KAT, and D-Lo all out for Wolves, still get win over Celtics
- NBA reduces quarantine time for vaccinated players who tested positive
Ja Morant takes his superstardom to another level after victory against Phoenix
Proving that the Grizzlies do in fact still need him to win games, Ja Morant was crucial in Memphis’ huge 114-113 win over the Suns in Phoenix. In addition to 33 points, four assists, and two steals, Morant’s incredible game-winning circus shot helped push Memphis to a one-point lead with half a second remaining… and that’s the way it stayed despite a decent last-ditch effort from the Suns’ Bridges.
It’s true that the Suns were without Jay Crowder and Deandre Ayton due to coronavirus protocols, as the two are vital defensive pieces on the perimeter and interior, respectively, and these missing parts certainly help open the paint for attempts like Morant’s late in the game.
Phoenix must have thought they had a surefire win after Devin Booker’s three-pointer gave them the 113-112 lead with only five seconds left. What the Suns may have forgotten was just how lethal Morant can be in the paint, as the star guard drove into the lane and, seemingly against all odds, made a tough-as-nails lay-up over two defenders to get the victory. Morant was explosive from all over the court, but this is the type of shot that is raising the guard to new star heights and a lock for an All-Star spot this year.
There were, understandably, a lot of doubts of how the Grizzlies would fare without Morant after he was sidelined for 12 games with a knee injury. Despite the obvious setback when your unequivocal best player goes out, Memphis shocked the league (and probably themselves) when they went 10-2 in the Morant-less games, with one of those being the almighty 73-point demolition of OKC in early December.
During Morant’s absence, the Grizzlies hung their hat on a strong defense and perhaps lulled opposing team’s into a false sense of security without Ja on the court. Morant’s tenacity and scoring punch are hard to replicate 1:1, but a collective effort from players like Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, and Dillon Brooks helped to cement Memphis as a formidable threat and one that can handle a few bumps in the road.
The Grizzlies sit comfortably at 4th place in the West NBA standings and, despite two losses in a row after Morant’s return (one of those being against OKC, weirdly enough), reeled off two straight wins against Sacramento and now Phoenix.
With this recent massive victory over a Suns team that many believe could easily return to the Finals next year, proclamations of the Grizzlies team being better without Morant can finally be put to rest. Not that these ridiculous decrees should have ever been given any thought to begin with, mind you. Morant is a transcendent player only just getting started, and is averaging an incredibly valuable 23.7 points, 1.5 steals, 5.5 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game.
A resilient Memphis team with Morant back in full swing is most certainly a danger to the rest of the league.
Two Exciting NBA Games Coming Up
Spurs @ Grizzlies on Friday 31st December
San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray vs. Memphis’ Ja Morant would normally be quite the battle on the NBA schedule. Both are speedy, athletic guards on the rise who can score from all over the court but are most destructive in the paint, where they can dodge and twist around basically anyone to score at the hoop. However, Murray is out due to H&S protocols, so players like Keldon Johnson and Derrick White will have to pick up the slack.
The Spurs are hanging onto 10th place in the West NBA standings, but despite some solid performances in December, just won’t have enough to get past the Grizzlies’ stoic defense and diverse offensive onslaughts.
Warriors @ Jazz on Saturday 1st January
Like most NBA games this season, the outcome of this upcoming contest may well depend on which players are active and healthy on the court. The Warriors earned a big victory over the Suns on Christmas Day thanks to Steph Curry’s 33 points and late-game heroics from none other than Otto Porter Jr., with the latter coming up clutch in the 4th quarter to stave off a Suns comeback.
The Warriors will miss Draymond Green for a while due to H&S protocols, but will see the return of Andrew Wiggins from quarantine and most likely Andre Iguodala from knee soreness. These important additions to the roster are helpful, but still may not be enough against a fantastic Utah team that is currently 24-9 and third in the West NBA standings.
Donovan Mitchell continues to shine for the Jazz and his 25.4 PPG is propelling the team to the playoffs with hopes for more than a first-round exit this time. Mitchell will miss two games due to a lower back strain, but should return for the Warriors matchup. The Jazz will take this at home and keep on rolling.
NFL Power Rankings & News
- Dolphins demolish Saints 20-3, Miami’s win streak now at 7 games
- 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo suffers right thumb fracture, is day-to-day
- Eagles’ RB Sanders has broken hand, but not ruled out for season yet
- Rams’ RB Darrell Henderson Jr. out at least 3 weeks with right MCL sprain
Dolphins cruise to victory over Saints to potentially take last AFC playoff spot
It’s not often that a team can turn a seven-game losing streak into a seven-game win streak in the same season, but that’s exactly what the Dolphins achieved in their 20-3 victory over the Saints on Monday night. It wasn’t just the win that Miami fans could celebrate, as the team is now currently holding the final wild-card spot for the AFC playoff picture.
It was a smothering Dolphins defense against Saints’ QB, Ian Book, that helped a resurgent Miami team take the win, as the New Orleans rookie was intercepted twice and sacked eight times – a real “welcome to the NFL” moment if there ever was one. Book was filling in for starting QB Taysom Hill and backup Trevor Siemian, who were both out for H&S protocols. Book finished the game with 12 of 20 passes for 135 yards. In total, the Saints were missing 16 active players from their roster.
Miami was bolstered by the stellar play of their own rookie WR, Jaylen Waddle, who caught 10 passes for 92 yards and scored a huge touchdown in his reappearance from COVID-19 H&S protocols. Waddle is on-track to take over the record for the most catches by a rookie in a single season. The Dolphins rookie has 96 catches and needs to beat Anquan Boldin’s rookie record of 101 catches from 2003.
The Dolphins have got to feel great about their play on both sides of the field and, of course, turning things around in what appeared to be a rough start to the season. Miami is hovering around 16th in our NFL Power Rankings and is coming into form at exactly the right moment for the playoffs.
Two Exciting NFL Week 17 Games Coming Up
Buccaneers @ Jets on Sunday 2nd January
One of the most interesting games on the NFL schedule this week is Tampa Bay visiting the New York Jets. Well, interesting to see if the Bucs can create some positive momentum heading into the playoffs, and on the other side, if the Jets can end the season on a high note despite being eliminated from the post-season.
The Jets are typically way too generous with their defense, as it is prone to lapses and is allowing 141.3 yards per game. Brady’s excellent passing to Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski will crush their opponent, but if New York’s QB, Zach Wilson, can be in solid form like Week 16, the Jets can keep it close.
Chiefs @ Bengals on Sunday 2nd January
This is one of the games of the week, as the 11-4 Chiefs are rolling and currently top our NFL Power Rankings. The 9-6 Bengals are no one’s idea of an easy matchup and will come out firing to potentially clinch the AFC North. However, QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will have something to say about that, and are bound to exit Cincinnati with one of their toughest-fought wins of the season.
Author: Joe Garland