The NBA schedule featured a full slate of games last night as we’re approaching the midway point of the season. Dwight Howard continues to prove that the rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated with his 18-point, 12-rebound performance in only 29 minutes in the Hornets’ 133-109 thrashing of the Wizards, Kent Bazemore hit a game-winning jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining as the Hawks rallied from 19 points down to cool off Anthony Davis and beat the New Orleans Pelicans 94-93 and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 34 points as the Spurs responded to the latest absence of Kawhi Leonard by beating the Nets 100-95.
Klay Thompson poured in 38 points, Steph Curry added 30 and the Warriors beat the Bulls 119-112 in Chicago for their franchise record-tying 14th straight road win, while up-and-coming point guard Kris Dunn gave new meaning to the classic Sadat X lyric on the Brand Nubian cut Slow Down– “You was fly once now you’re losing all your fronts.”
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Speaking of Brand Nubian, Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down might be the league’s theme song right now as things are becoming increasingly chippy as we approach the All-Star break, exemplified by Aaron Afflalo’s roundhouse haymaker, Ben Simmons, Kyle Lowry, Trevor Ariza and Blake Griffin being ejected for fake fighting, and the Houston Rockets post-game attempt to bum-rush the Clippers locker room to see if Austin Rivers’ hands could cash a check that his mouth wrote while on the bench dressed in civilian clothes during the heated Clips-Rockets game.
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Back to Wednesday night’s action, Hassan Whiteside had a season-high 27 points, snagged 13 rebounds and blocked six shots to lead Miami to a 106-101 victory over Milwaukee, Tyreke Evans scored 23 points to compliment his 10 assists to lift the Grizzlies over the Knicks 105-99, Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points as OKC smacked the Lakers 114-90, rookie extraordinaire Donovan Mitchell made 14 of his 19 shots and poured in 34 points Utah’s 120-105 over Sacramento and Blake Griffin had 20 points and 12 rebounds in the Clippers 109-104 win over the Nuggets.
Check out the top 10 plays of the night, featuring Jrue Holiday, LaMarcus Aldridge, John Henson, Blake Griffin, Donovan Mitchell, Russell Westbrook, Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez, and Kent Bazemore! Top 10 The Top 10 of the night in the NBA, tailored down to the very best plays.
But perhaps the most significant NBA action last night took place in Toronto, and not because Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 16 rebounds, C.J. Miles scored 21, Kyle Lowry scored 18 and DeMar DeRozan chipped in with 17 as the Raptors beat the Pistons 96-91 to avoid their first three game losing streak of the season.
The franchise hosted their inaugural You Can Play Night at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday in tandem with the You Can Play Project, which was founded to combat homophobia in sports and to ensure safety and inclusion in sports for LGBTQ athletes, coaches, and fans.
The event was the first of its kind in NBA history. The Raptors are one of the NBA’s most progressive franchises when it comes to hiring women and people of color, and they’ve demonstrated a strong emphasis on equality and diversity in recent years.
“I think it’s a reflection of MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the real estate and sports company whose assets include the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, the Raptors, the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer, as well as their minor league farm teams – the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, Raptors 905 of the NBA G League and Toronto FC II of the United Soccer League) and the Raptors’ values, which are clear that the inclusion of everybody is what we all value,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster told VICE Sports. “And specifically as it relates to sports, I think we’ve all been positively affected by sports and basketball in general, so opening that up to as wide a range as possible is good.”
Toronto Raptors vs Detroit Pistons full game highlights. Wednesday January 17, 2018. 2017-2018 NBA Regular Season Basketball. – Raptors HQ – Home for Everything Toronto Raptors
As VICE pointed out, “A 2016 study called Out on the Fields, the largest of its kind to date on homophobia in sports, polled both straight and gay, lesbian, and bisexual respondents, revealing that 81 percent of Canadians witnessed or experienced homophobia in sports. A shocking 70 percent believed sports were not safe for or welcoming of gay, lesbian, or bisexual people at the youth level. And 66 percent believed an openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual person may not be safe simply as a spectator at a sporting event.”
We’ve long seen how sports can advance issues and discussions around the larger societal inclusiveness that is needed for us to maintain a healthy interaction among those who are different from one another. It’s important that folks feel comfortable in their own skins and feel safe enough to be their true selves while coming out to enjoy and participate in athletics, in addition to attending pro sporting events without fear.
Teams have hosted PRIDE nights in the past, but the Raptors took it a step further, not in an abbreviated effort to shift attitudes overnight, but to advance a continuing discussion about why all diversity and inclusiveness matters.