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Roundball Round-Up: The week that was for Ohio State alums in the NBA

There are currently five former Ohio State basketball players in the NBA, and we update you weekly on how they are doing.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Even though some former Buckeyes have found some success on the hardwood lately, the majority of the NBA teams of the Ohio State alums have found wins hard to come by. In the case of Mike Conley and the Utah Jazz, as well as Duane Washington Jr. and the Indiana Pacers, COVID-19 protocols and injuries have partly been to blame for the recent struggles of their teams.

Then when it comes to Jae’Sean Tate of the Houston Rockets and Keita Bates-Diop of the San Antonio Spurs, it is quite obvious that both teams are rebuilding. Houston has actually been playing better basketball of late, but the same can’t be said for the San Antonio Spurs. The only former Buckeye that has seen his team find consistent success in 2022 is D’Angelo Russell’s Minnesota Timberwolves. The latest run by the Timberwolves has propelled them into contention for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. There is still a lot of basketball to played this season though, so Russell and company will have to be at the top of their game if they want to hold on to Minnesota’s first playoff berth in a number of years.

Jae’Sean Tate, Small Forward | Houston Rockets

There was just one game that saw former Ohio State players square off recently. Last Wednesday Tate and the Rockets made the trip to San Antonio to take on Keita Bates-Diop and the San Antonio Spurs. While the game didn’t mean much when it came to the standings, the players certainly played like it did. The Rockets ended up squeezing out a 128-124 victory on the road, with Tate making all six of his field goal attempts and finishing with 13 points. The second-year NBA player also added seven assists, six rebounds, and three blocks in the victory.

Tate’s best game of the week actually came in a loss a couple days later, when the Rockets fell at Sacramento 126-114 on Friday night. The forward nearly had a triple double, scoring 17 points, puling down 10 rebounds, and dishing out eight assists. The double-double was Tate’s second of the month and sixth of the season. The Rockets closed out action in this period by getting a little revenge, beating the Kings 118-112 on Sunday, as Tate scored 10 points in the victory.

Houston isn’t going to make a run at the playoffs, but the Rockets haven’t totally given up on the season yet. After an eight-game losing streak, Houston has at least put a few wins on the board lately, going 3-4 in their last seven games. With 12.5 points per game, Tate is Houston’s fifth-leading scorer this year, and his 5.8 rebounds per game ranks second on the team.

D’Angelo Russell, Point Guard | Minnesota Timberwolves

Last Thursday the Minnesota Timberwolves had the task of taking on the Memphis Grizzlies, who were the hottest team in the NBA at the time. Even though Russell put up 29 points, the Timberwolves fell just short of snapping Memphis’ win streak. It would be the only loss the Timberwolves would suffer by the time Tuesday’s action wrapped up.

While Russell poured in the points in a loss on Thursday, the point guard struggled from the floor on Sunday at home against Golden State, shooting just 2-9 and finishing with seven points. The poor shooting performance wouldn’t matter, since Russell found other ways to contribute on offense, dishing out 12 assists in the 119-99 win over the Warriors. Russell would get back on track scoring on Tuesday night, recording 17 points in a 112-110 win against the Knicks.

Heading into Wednesday night’s action, Minnesota had a 22-22 record, which put them seventh in the Western Conference. With the play of Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Anthony Edwards, Minnesota is trending towards making the playoffs for the first time since the 2017-18 season, and just the second time since the 2003-04 season. The Timberwolves are 6-2 in their last eight games, and it’s no coincidence that Russell has at least 10 assists in six of his last nine games.

Keita Bates-Diop, Small Forward | San Antonio Spurs

Things have been pretty brutal in San Antonio lately. At least a little bit of a bright spot has been the play of Keita Bates-Diop. While the former Buckeye forward isn’t putting up huge numbers, he is at least showing some production. One of San Antonio’s rare wins of late came on Saturday when they beat the Los Angeles Clippers 101-94. Bates-Diop had a solid game in the victory, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

The other game of note during our review period came at the beginning, when Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate battled. As mentioned earlier, Tate and the Rockets earned a hard-fought victory over Bates-Diop and the Spurs. In a losing effort, Bates-Diop scored 11 points and was credited with six rebounds in 24 minutes last Wednesday. So far this month, Bates-Diop is averaging 8.0 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game, both of which are high marks for the forward in any month this year. Despite his uptick in play, San Antonio has been dreadful lately, losing 10 of the last 12 games.

Mike Conley, Point Guard | Utah Jazz

Luckily Utah had a strong start to the season, or else their recent poor play would be more of a concern Not only are the Jazz just 3-6 so far this month, Mike Conley has struggled to find his scoring touch, as the 13.3 points per game he is averaging is his lowest total of any month so far this season. Oddly enough though, Conley is shooting 45.5% from three-point range, which is his highest total in any month. In three games over the last week, Conley was 9-18 from three, including going 5-9 from behind the arc in a 101-95 loss to the Lakers on Monday.

In the game against Los Angeles, Conley finished with 20 points in the loss, which was his first game with at least 20 points since he scored 22 points against New Orleans on January 3rd. Despite the recent struggles from Conley and the Jazz, Utah still has plenty of cushion in the Northwest Division, as they lead Denver by six games. With the Jazz getting closer to full strength since players are returning from health and safety protocols, expect to see a better Jazz team as we head towards the All-Star break.

Duane Washington Jr., Point Guard | Indiana Pacers

As we mentioned last week, Duane Washington Jr.’s, minutes have started to decrease with the Pacers getting players back from injury and COVID-19 protocols. Over a three-game stretch, Washington played 44 total minutes, with most of those coming on Monday night when the former Buckeye played 27 minutes in a 139-133 loss to the Clippers. That contest would be the only game in which Washington would reach double figures in scoring, finishing with 10 points.

The Pacers have really fallen on hard times lately, losing 10 of their 11 games. The losing streak could be a good thing for Washington later on in the season, though. If Indiana is totally out of the playoff hunt, they could opt to give Washington more playing time to see what they have with him and if he is going to fit in their future plans. If Washington does see more playing time, he’ll have to tighten up his shot, which he has struggled with so far in his time in the NBA.