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Oklahoma Sooners in the NBA: Your weekly update on Blake Griffin, Buddy Hield and Trae Young - April 2

Trae Young continues to push for ROY honors, while Buddy Hield still looks on track to win the league’s Most Improved Player of the Year award.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

After suffering an existential crisis accompanied by writer’s block and work obligations, I was unable to bring you our Blake, Buddy and Trae update last week. Luckily, I’ve since recovered and have made it here for it this week. We pick things up where we last left off for your current Oklahoma Sooners trio in the NBA — starting with Trae Young’s late push for NBA Rookie of the Year.

After hitting a thrilling game-winner to wrap up a 32-point, 11-assist outing against the Sixers, Trae sealed up NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors for the week of March 17-23. He followed that performance with a 33 points and 12 assists in a 13-120 win over the Pelicans last Tuesday.

Going 12-of-24 from the field, including 5-of-12 from 3-point range, Young turned the ball over just once in his 31 minutes on the road in New Orleans. Following the win, Hawks head coach had glowing words for his ever-maturing rookie star.

“Trae’s unbelievable with the basketball,” Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said. “He’s unbelievable with the pick-and-roll, he can get downhill and he’s making the right decisions. We’ve played 75 games together now, and our spacing is great. When we know where our outlets are, then it’s easy to make the right play. He’s obviously very efficient.”

In the next game, a blowout loss against Portland on Friday, Trae dropped 26 points, seven assists and nine rebounds while holding his own against one of the NBA’s best in Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard. In fact, the two dynamos wasted no time in engaging an entertaining point guard duel, with both the vet and rookie matching each other’s 18 points in the opening quarter. Though the playoff-bound Blazers eventually cruised to victory, this game hopefully foreshadows many more Trae-vs-Dame duels to come in the future.

The Hawks then battled it out against the holder’s of the league’s best record, the Milwaukee Bucks, on Sunday. Dropping a a game-high 16 assists in the thrilling overtime win for the Hawks, Trae capped the outing with another immaculate game-winner to further steam his late push for Rookie of the Year honors. After his baseline floater gave the Hawks what looked like the lead for good with six seconds to go, there was one more miracle needed for the home team to seal the win after the Bucks once again re-took the lead by one.

And their young hero delivered once again.

Leading all rookies in assists at eight per game, Trae looks to finish out the last five games of his historic rookie season in a big way, beginning with the Spurs on the road in San Antonio this evening.

Blake Griffin’s Pistons have won two of their last three and are currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Griffin began last week with a game-high 29 points and 15 rebounds, which unfortunately wasn’t enough to propel the Pistons to victory on the road in Denver.

Detroit rebounded with two straight wins following the road loss against the Nuggets, defeating the Magic and Blazers at home. Blake again led the team with 20 points against Orlando.

As the season wears down and playoff teams assess their stars’ statuses heading into the postseason, Pistons coach Dwayne Casey held Griffin out the last two games, the win in Portland and on Monday night at Indiana. Although listed as a knee injury, this appears to be more about addressing (and possibly preventing) any further soreness and fatigue for a star who has battled his share of heartbreaking playoff injury setbacks in his star-crossed career.

The Pistons are 39-38 on the season and are still on track to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Griffin has been an absolute monster all season, averaging 24.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from beyond the arc. The former Sooner star has also notched 21 double-doubles and two triple-doubles this season. Here’s hoping the best for Blake as we head into the playoffs.

Although Buddy Hield and the Kings have been eliminated from playoff contention, the team’s young core is still playing some exciting ball to close out a breakthrough season. Many fans and experts are enamored with the Hield-Fox backcourt — and rightfully so — while I feel there’s a great chance Buddy Buckets will have the league’s Most Improved Player award wrapped up by the time this season concludes in just less than two short weeks.

Hield’s numbers are fringe All-Star-worthy. The 2016 NCAA Player of the Year, counted out by many and not even considered a shoe-in starter entering his third NBA season, now boasts per-game averages of 21.0 points and 5.1 rebounds, while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and ranking among the league’s best in three-point and free-throw percentage at 42.6 and 88.6 percent, respectively.

He also recently set the Kings single-season three-point record, formerly held by franchise legend Peja Stojakavic, a couple of weeks ago in a win over the Suns. Pretty damn good for a guy many in the media labeled a bust following the trade from New Orleans during his rookie year. It’s pretty evident to everyone who won that trade now (no offense, Boogie).

Starting out last week with a quiet 17 points in a 125-121 win last Tuesday at Dallas, Hield led the Kings with 27 points on 11-of-21 shooting two nights later in a three-point loss at New Orleans. The long rebound and coast-to-coast bucket about 40 seconds into this highlight reel so perfectly exemplifies Buddy’s approach to the game and life — never give up, go get yours, hustle while everyone else is sleeping and good things will eventually happen.

Hield finished with a team-high 21 points in Saturday’s loss at Houston, the Kings 39th of the season. The next night down the road in San Antonio, Buddy Buckets led Sacramento to a huge 113-106 win. Finishing with 26 points and five boards, Hield’s connected on 4-of-6 from deep to fuel the late surge to give Sacramento its 38th win on the year.

This Kings team is young, charismatic, highly-skilled and is just getting started. A double-digit win improvement from a season ago and a promising future behind its dynamic core of Hield, D’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III only sets the stage for much bigger things to expect for years to come in Sacramento.

Blake Griffin

Season Stats: 24.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 5.5 APG, 0.4 BPG, 46.3% FG, 35.8% 3FG, 74.9% FT

Schedule: Wed. vs. Indiana, Fri. at Oklahoma City, Sun. vs. Charlotte

Buddy Hield

Season Stats: 21.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.4 BPG, 45.8% FG, 42.9% 3FG, 88.6% FT

Schedule: Tue. vs. Houston, Thu. vs. Cleveland, Fri. at Utah, Sun. vs. New Orleans

Trae Young

Season Stats: 18.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 8.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 41.7% FG, 33.6% 3FG, 82.1% FT

Schedule: Tue. at San Antonio, Wed. vs. Philadelphia, Fri. at Orlando, Sun. at Milwaukee

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