You know the deal so we’ll keep it brief. We’re not going to see the NBA back in action for a lot longer than we all really care to admit. NBA commissioner Adam Silver made that abundantly (and depressingly) clear in an interview with ESPN Wednesday. So if you want your basketball fix, you’re going to have to watch old games.
The league and Turner did us all a solid and announced they’ve made NBA League Pass free until April 22. You can even check out a bunch of classic games from the archives. But if you’re looking to keep things current or maybe now have a chance to finally catch a few of those must-see games you somehow missed, we outlined 10 contests from this past season we guarantee will be worth your while.
The league’s brightest stars and best teams are heavily featured on this list because, duh, who the hell wants to watch a replay of a Hawks-TimberWolves game? Unless you’re into that sort of thing. Expect the usual suspects of Lakers, Clippers, Celtics, and Zion Williamson because if you’re going to waste time, why waste it watching bad basketball?
Clippers 111, Lakers 106 — Dec. 25, 2019
The showdown on the NBA’s most celebrated day of the regular-season, the Lakers were looking to avenge their loss to the Clippers on opening night. And things were looking good for the purple and gold until the Clippers—led by Kawhi Leonard—flipped a switch in the second half. Leonard finished with 35 and led the way as the Clippers overcame a deficit that grew to 15 points in the third quarter. Kyle Kuzma (25) was actually the Lakers leading scorer on the day and the Lakers surprisingly out-scored the heralded Clippers bench, 49-36, but it was Leonard’s 11 points in the fourth that was the biggest difference. The Clippers took a 2-0 lead in the season series between the LA rivals that’s never been as intense as it is now.
Spurs 121, Pelicans 117 — Jan. 22, 2020
It took longer than expected, but the No. 1 pick in the 2019 Draft finally made his NBA debut and the basketball world watched in amazement as Zion Williamson exploded for 22 points in 18 minutes. Williamson hit all four of his 3s and helped the Pelicans erase a 12-point deficit in the fourth when he ripped off 17-straight points in a scintillating 3:08 stretch. Twitter, predictably, went berserk. The 19-year-old rookie’s incredible performance gave the league a massive jolt in the middle of a regular-season that had been boring and mundane up to that point. No one’s going to remember that the Spurs, led by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 32 points, won this game because Williamson’s run was easily the most captivating 3 minutes of game action we saw in the NBA this season. Teenagers aren’t supposed to do things like that against grown men, but we’ve quickly learned Williamson is unlike any player we’ve ever seen.
Lakers 120, Nuggets 116 — Feb. 12, 2020
This one felt like a playoff game. The intensity went above and beyond what you’d expect between two teams playing their last game before the All-Star break. "I know the break was coming, but I wasn't going to take this opportunity for granted,” LeBron James said afterward. He posted his 12th triple-double (34, 12, 14) of the season while Anthony Davis went for 33 points as the Lakers cooled down what had been a red-hot Denver squad that came into the showdown between the West’s top two teams having won six of its last seven games. Jamal Murray had 33 while Nikola Jokic added 22 and 11. But it was a few key mistakes from Jokic during the final 20 seconds of overtime that doomed Denver.
Clippers 122, Rockets 120 — Nov. 22, 2019
Los Angeles erased a 6-point deficit with 1:26 to go to steal one from the Rockets who were riding another big game from James Harden. The Beard went for 37, including hitting a career-high 11 3-pointers, but it was the combo of Lou Williams (26 points) and Kawhi Leonard (24) that put the Clippers over the top. Leonard hit the game-winner with 15.4 seconds to go to cap a crazy final few minutes. Staples Center was rocking during the fourth quarter that featured plenty of lead changes as Rockets fans came out in full force. But it was Leonard—whose defense on Harden helped the Clippers out-score the Rockets 10-2 down the stretch—that deserved hero status.
Lakers 114, Celtics 112 — Feb. 23, 2020
Jayson. Tatum. The third-year stud from Duke is on his way to earning All-NBA status when the league hands out its awards some time in the future and this was arguably his best game of the season. The Celtics needed all of 41 points—tied for a season-high—since Kemba Walker was out for this one. The only knock is that Tatum scored just six points over the final 18 minutes, but we have to give one of the NBA’s best defenses props for slowing him down. Meanwhile, LeBron James finished with 29 and sealed the deal with a sweet fadeaway, adding another dramatic chapter to the NBA’s most storied rivalry.
Bucks 111, Lakers 104 — Dec. 19, 2019
In the season’s first showdown between potential NBA Finals opponents, Giannis Antetokounmpo went for 35 points, including hitting a career-high 5 3-pointers, as the best team in the East held off the best team in the West’s second half comeback attempts. LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 57 points, but it was the Greek Freak’s night to shine in front of the home crowd as he knocked down threes with a level of rhythm, confidence, and proficiency we’ve never seen before.
Clippers 141, Celtics 130 — Feb. 13, 2020
The second-to-last game before the All-Star Break is arguably the game of the year. The double-OT thriller saw Jayson Tatum, a first-time All-Star this season, score 39 points and cement in front of a national audience that he’s the Celtics’ go-to player. Led by Lou Williams’ 35 points, the Clippers bench destroyed the Celtics, out-scoring Boston 65-19, but LA couldn’t seal the deal in the back-and-forth affair that was incredibly dramatic and a potential NBA Finals preview. This was the second OT game between the squads this season. The Clippers won the first matchup in Los Angeles back in November. The Celtics got their revenge winning their seventh in a row.
Nets 129, Celtics 120 OT — March 3, 2020
One of the season’s most stunning comebacks was authored by Brooklyn who overcame a 21-point third quarter deficit to the Celtics in Boston. Caris LeVert exploded for a career-high 51 points, including a ridiculous 37 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, to lead the way for the Nets. LeVert, who just missed setting the Nets’ franchise mark for most points scored in a game, had all 11 of Brooklyn’s points in OT. Sure, Jayson Tatum missed the game for the Celtics and Boston was brutal from the field in overtime, but this one’s worth watching for the fourth quarter alone when Brooklyn poured in an absurd 51 points.
Nets 113, Knicks 109 — Oct. 25, 2019
Welcome to the Knicks-Nets “rivalry,” Kyrie Irving. The Nets new point guard lit up the team he spurned across the East River during free agency a few months prior for 26 points, including the game-winner from beyond the arc that looked kind of similar to his iconic shot from Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. The Nets blew a 19-point lead in Brooklyn as Knicks fans swarmed Barclays Center to cheer on their squad. But ultimately the orange and blue faithful sauntered home on the subway disappointed the Knicks lost a game they could have easily won knowing Irving will likely torture them for years to come.
Blazers 129, Warriors 124 OT — Jan. 20, 2020
Damian Lillard set a bunch of records in this thriller. His 61 points were a Portland record for the most scored in a game and an NBA mark for most scored on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Lillard also became the first player in league history to pour in 60-plus and hit 10-or-more 3s in a game (he finished with 11 of ‘em). He also became the sixth player in league history with multiple 60-point games in yet another example of how he can score in bunches like few superstars. Lillard, who had 40 at halftime, helped orchestrate Portland’s comeback from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter. The signature moment came when he hit a step-back 3 with 14.9 seconds to go in regulation that sent the game to overtime. Dame Time at its finest.