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Duke in the NBA: Tatum drops 51 points, Kennard completes Clippers' comeback

Kennard helped the Clippers to a historic comeback against the Wizards this week.
Kennard helped the Clippers to a historic comeback against the Wizards this week.

Duke men's basketball alums continue to impress in the NBA, and the Blue Zone's got you covered with all the most important updates this week:

Tatum’s 51-point game ends shooting slump

Anyone that doubts a Blue Devil’s abilities does so at their own peril. On Sunday, the Boston Celtics played the Washington Wizards in an anticipated matchup given the teams’ similar records. While the game was not as competitive as one may have hoped, basketball fans certainly got their money’s worth watching Jayson Tatum’s sensational performance. It was a statement game in light of Tatum’s struggles shooting the ball in the past couple weeks. In the three games before Sunday’s, Tatum made none of his 17 3-point attempts. However, this was certainly not going to continue and Tatum laid to rest any concerns from Celtics fans.

Tatum was aggressive from the start, scoring 31 by halftime. He finished with 48 by the end of the third quarter and rested during much of the fourth, as the game was virtually finished. Much of his point total came from, ironically, 3-pointers, hitting nine of them on 64.3% shooting from behind the arc. Tatum also contributed to his team’s win in other ways with 10 rebounds, seven assists and just one turnover. The Celtics are currently on the brink of the playoff picture ahead of the All-Star break. Tatum has contributed to their 7-3 record over the last ten games, and Duke faithful following along should hope this streak can carry to the postseason.

Kennard helps Clippers make history

The Blue Devils struck Capital One Arena again as the Clippers gave a resilient performance against the Wizards. The Wizards did get off to a great start against the Clippers through great offense and defense. By the end of the first half, they led by 30 points as they held the Clippers to just 30% shooting from the field. In fact, the Wizards led the Clippers by as much as 35 points, holding them to an opponent’s season low of 36 first-half points. With Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Marcus Morris all out, one would assume the Clippers would call it a day and get ready for the next one. However, the Clippers came out of halftime prepared to make it a competitive game. 

Kennard contributed 16 of his 25 points in the second half, helping the Clippers rally. Down six with 11.2 seconds remaining, a wild sequence turned this late January game into one that will go down in the record books. After a missed free throw by the Wizards’ Kyle Kuzma, the Clippers took a timeout to inbound the ball to Kennard, where he made a deep 32-foot 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game. The Clippers' defense subsequently forced a 5-second violation, leaving the Clippers an opportunity to tie the game at long last. It was clear the Clippers had faith in Kennard, and he rewarded them with a pull-up three pointer that went in plus the foul. Kennard hit the game-winning free throw with 1.9 seconds left to give the Clippers the miraculous 116-115 win. Kennard made a total of seven points in the span of nine seconds, showing his potential as a clutch 3-point shooter in the NBA. The Clippers have shown incredible resilience with three 24-plus-point comeback wins this month alone, the most double-digit comebacks this month, and Tuesday’s 35-point comeback tying for the second-largest in the NBA since the 1996-97 season. Even if they aren’t at full strength, the Clippers will have comfort in the fact that they have former Blue Devil Kennard.

Barrett wraps up a stellar January, Reddish makes Knicks debut

No one has started off the New Year quite like RJ Barrett. In January, he averaged 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds, while having an impressive shooting percentage of 43.7% from 3-point range. Barrett is not known for his efficiency, so these are signs that he is making strides in his game. Even when he’s not shooting particularly well, he is helping his team win with an all-around game against the Clippers last Sunday with 28 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. The highlight of Barrett’s January was no doubt the bank-shot buzzer beater over fellow Duke alum Tatum. New York fans can only hope that Barrett continues to be a reliable option for this Knicks team going forward.

Meanwhile, Reddish has been trying to adjust on this Knicks squad just as Barrett is coming along. Duke fans have been longing for Reddish to get more minutes as he had a diminished role on the young Atlanta Hawks squad. Unfortunately, the situation does not seem to be much different up north. After the trade went through earlier this month, Reddish did not play for five scheduled Knicks games. Finally, he made his debut against the Clippers during Barrett’s big night. However, he only got five minutes of playing time, managing just two points and two rebounds. The next game he did not play, and on Wednesday scored just six points in 10 minutes. He remains one of the league’s most interesting young prospects, but with maybe an even smaller role on the Knicks than on the Hawks, it remains to be seen what his NBA potential is.

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