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The Rundown – 11/21/19: George, Leonard Still Keeping Us in Suspense + 11 Game Night

Still awaiting the explosive duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic notches another triple double, Lauri Markkanen is back, and Rockford Illinois' own Fred VanVleet is relishing his role in Toronto.

When will we get to see the explosive, dynamic duo in L.A.?

It wasn’t last night.

Since holding America’s attention span hostage last July, we’ve been dying to see Paul George and Kawhi Leonard take the court simultaneously and lay waste to anyone and everyone in their path.

Seems the duo like to keep people in suspense. I guess that’s an L.A. thing – cliffhangers.

Last night I expected them to rock the Boston Celtics like a hurricane – instead, they were barely a whiff of cleanly passed gas. The deferred to players like Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, and JaMychal Green to get things done and combined for 42 – a single game total for someone like James Harden, Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard when his back isn’t in spasms.

PG-13 has only played four games as an L.A. Clipper so far, averaging 29.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists – all above his career marks; but, again, it’s been four games. In the running for MVP consideration last season while with the Oklahoma City Thunder, George rested from off-season shoulder surgery and came back with 33 in his opener on the road against the Pelicans, and 37 and 18 points, respectively, in his two games back in front of fans and family in L.A. against the Hawks and the Thunder. He finished with a respectable 25 last night.

Leonard is well ahead of his career averages with 26.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists average through nine games this season. That’s nine … out of 15, including three of the four that George has been active on the roster. Load management has been utilized for 40 percent of Leonard’s games in L.A. already. At that rate, does that mean Leonard is missing 32 regular season games and up to six in the playoffs?

I thought he wanted George on his team for the talent, not the chance to rest. Word on the street is that George wanted to go to San Antonio with Leonard back in 2017, but was this really all a ruse so Leonard could rehabilitate his knee, leg injury, or ego? If this is a superhero situation, George has donned the mask and cape of Batman and Leonard is sliding slowly toward the role of the villainous Two-Face – a coin flip determines which Leonard we get.

In the end, I hope it’s all a rope-a-dope. Because in the locker room across the way, you have an L.A. team that’s damn serious about winning. About being the best, not just in L.A., but in the Western Conference, maybe even in the entire NBA. I thought that was going to finally be the Clippers this year. So did Steve Ballmer.

Clippers need that dynamic duo to step up – together – healthy – explosive. Load management has the Clippers sitting at 10-5, fourth in the West. They should be first, tied with the Lakers. Once a stepchild, always a stepchild. They’re not going to shatter that reputation or image with Leonard taking 40 percent of their games off. Not now, not ever.

Stop keeping us in suspense. The time is now.

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Simmons Gets His First Ever NBA Three Pointer

New York Knicks (4-11)104
Philadelphia 76ers (9-5)109

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Outshooting the Philadelphia 76ers in their own house wasn’t enough for the New York Knicks last night, who got wiped on the offensive glass and were outclassed in the assist department by the Sixers to net their 11th loss of the season. It also doesn’t help that Marcus Morris led in all the major categories – the best wins come from team play. Julius Randle and Frank Ntilikina each chipped in 17 points, Randle with eight rebounds and three steals. Dennis Smith, Jr. is back and scored 11 off the bench, and Taj Gibson finished with 11 and four. The Knicks led by 17 at one point after a strong third quarter showing, but fell after a 35-25 fourth quarter by the Sixers.

Philadelphia countered Morris with Joel Embiid, who led all scorers with 23 points. He also had 12 rebounds and five assists. Ben Simmons finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and 13 assists, and hit his first-ever NBA three point shot, getting that monkey off his back after 172 career outings. #VFL Tobias Harris added 14, Mike Scott had 12, and James Ennis III finished with 11 points on the night.

Knicks
PTS: Marcus Morris – 22
REB: Marcus Morris – 13
AST: Marcus Morris – 6

Sixers
PTS: Joel Embiid – 23
REB: Joel Embiid – 12
AST: Ben Simmons – 13

NEXT UP
Spurs at Sixers – Friday
Spurs at Knicks – Saturday

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Seven Straight for San Antonio

San Antonio Spurs (5-10)132
Washington Wizards (4-8)138

Washington, D.C. – They started 4-0 this season, the only undefeated team in the West, while Philly was 5-0 and the only undefeated team in the East. San Antonio assistant coach Tim Duncan has seen a 4-0 start before; he’s never seen the Spurs suffer a seven game skidmark because the last time it happened, he wasn’t a part of the Spurs’ organization, hadn’t been drafted yet. But here they are after dropping another heartbreaking loss, this time to the Washington Wizards who, after last night, now have one more in the win column than the Spurs. 

Bradley Beal, who’s been on a bit of a scoring tear of late – 30.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists through 11 games with scoring performances in the 30s and 40s – dropped 33 last night against the Spurs and their legendary coach. In his last four games, Beal has dropped 33, 34, 44 and 44. Former Spur Davis Bertans and journeyman Ish Smith both dropped 21 points apiece for the Wizards, rookie Rui Hachimura had 15 and seven, Moritz Wagner added 13 and six, and it was 11 points and six assists for both Isaiah Thomas and Thomas Bryant. Washington shot a blistering 58 percent from the field.

The Spurs had eight players in double figures with DeMar DeRozan leading the way with 31 points on 69.2 percent shooting. Bryn Forbes added 19 along with seven assists, Rudy Gay had 18, and Patty Mills finished with 16 points and six assists. Dejounte Murray added 15 and five to the mix, LaMarcus Aldridge double doubled with a modest 12 and 10, Jacob Poeltl had 11 and five, and Marco Belinelli’s 10 rounded out the top eight for San Antonio. The Spurs led 69-63 at the half and stretched that lead to 10, before the Wizards went on their run, outscoring San Antonio 75-63 in the second half.

Spurs
PTS: DeMar DeRozan – 31
REB: LaMarcus Aldridge – 10
AST: Bryn Forbes – 7

Wizards
PTS: Bradley Beal – 33
REB: Rui Hachimura – 7
AST: Isaiah Thomas – 6, Thomas Bryant – 6

NEXT UP
Spurs at Sixers – Friday
Hornets at Wizards – Friday

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Hawks Get Shot Down in Mess That State Farm Can’t Clean Up

Milwaukee Bucks (11-3)135
Atlanta Hawks (4-10)127

Atlanta, Georgia – The Atlanta Hawks’ shooting percentage has always been in the mid-40s for at least the last, oh say, 60 years. The last time they shot below 40 percent for a season was in 1957-58. Since the evolution of the three point shot in 1979, their best seasons have been in the 36 to 38 percent range. Add Trae Young, and Atlanta’s was 35.2 percent last season, just a shade under the 36 percent the season prior and let’s not even talk about how successful Mike Budenholzer was at getting the Hawks to shoot threes – a few good years. I’ll take them.

But 29.7 percent thus far this season isn’t going to cut it for the Atlanta Hawks and is a huge reason why they’re 4-10 after such a quick start to the season. Rookie De’Andre Hunter led his team in scoring last night with 27 points on 66.7 percent shooting, eight of nine from the line and a perfect three of three from downtown. Young? He shot 20 percent from the arc last night, though he did manage to score 25 points, dish eight dimes and had three steals. Cam Reddish added 17, Jabari Parker had 14, and it was 13 points and 10 points from Vince Carter and Allen Crabbe, respectively.

The Bucks simply have it going on with the MVP Giannis Antetokuonmpo handling business while Khris Middleton is out for another 2-3 weeks. The Greek Freak led all scorers with 33 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Eric Bledsoe went for 27 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Brook Lopez added 12, Donte DiVincenzo had 11, and Wesley Matthews finished up with 10 in the Bucks’ 11th win of the season.

Bucks
PTS: Giannis Antetokuonmpo – 33
REB: Giannis Antetokuonmpo – 11
AST: Eric Bledsoe – 5

Hawks
PTS: De’Andre Hunter – 27
REB: De’Andre Hunter – 11
AST: Trae Young – 8

NEXT UP
Blazers at Bucks – Thursday
Hawks at Pistons – Friday

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Mavericks Blast Warriors by Nearly 50

Golden State Warriors (3-13)94
Dallas Mavericks (9-5)142

Dallas, Texas – Even without the 35 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists from Luka Doncic, the Golden State Warriors would have lost by 13 points. So does that mean the Dallas point forward’s league-leading sixth triple double of the season was superfluous? Heck no, give the man the credit he deserves. He might win Rookie of the Year all over again (jk) … at the very least, he’s a top candidate for MVP.

Doncic led all scorers with his 35 point performance, shooting 61.1 percent and helping the Mavericks to a blistering 57 percent night from the field. Tim Hardaway, Jr. added 20, Jalen Brunson went 15, five and five, and Kristaps Porzingis finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Boban Marjanovic came off the bench for 10 points, six rebounds.

It was all Golden State could do to hang on, like watching everything slip away during a tornadic fury. Eric Paschall finished with a team high 22 points, Ky Bowman added 16, and it was 11 points apiece for Alec Burks, Jordan Poole, Omari Spellman, and Marquese Chriss. Spellman had six rebounds, Chriss had five. Paschall led the Warriors in rebounding as well with seven.

Warriors
PTS: Eric Paschall – 22
REB: Eric Paschall – 7
AST: Jordan Poole – 7

Mavericks
PTS: Luka Doncic – 35
REB: Luka Doncic – 10, Kristaps Porzingis – 10
AST: Luka Doncic – 11

NEXT UP
Warriors at Jazz – Friday
Cavaliers at Mavericks – Friday

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Heat Blister the Cavs

Cleveland Cavaliers (4-10)100
Miami Heat (10-3)124

Miami, FloridaDuncan Robinson knows a little bit about how John Beilein coaches and he took full advantage last night in Miami as the Heat took down the ice cold Cavaliers by a couple dozen. Once a student under Beilein’s tutelage in Ann Arbor, Robinson has evolved into a go-to guy in Miami, leading the team with 60 percent shooting last night for a game high 29 point performance. Tyler Herro added 22, Jimmy Butler did it with 21 points, Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo had 13 apiece, and it was 11 for Kendrick Nunn and 10 for Kelly Olynyk. Former South Carolina Gamecock Chris Silva led the Heat with nine rebounds to go along with his deuce. Robinson had a team record seven three pointers in the second quarter.

Cleveland was led by Kevin Love (who I think still needs to be a Portland Trailblazer), who finished the night with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Collin Sexton had 19 points, Larry Nance, Jr. rebounded from a tweaked digit to net 16 and nine, Jordan Clarkson finished with a dozen, and Darius Garland continues to hang around that 10 point average. Cleveland has lost 17 straight games in Miami, their last win coming on January 25, 2010 – LeBron James would announce later in 2010 that he was heading to Miami to take his talents to South Beach.

Cavaliers
PTS: Kevin Love – 25
REB: Kevin Love – 13
AST: Matthew Dellavedova – 5

Heat
PTS: Duncan Robinson – 29
REB: Chris Silva – 9
AST: Kendrick Nunn – 6, Goran Dragic – 6

NEXT UP
Cavaliers at Mavericks – Friday
Heat at Bulls – Friday

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No Kyrie, No Problem

Charlotte Hornets (6-9)91
Brooklyn Nets (6-8)101

Brooklyn, New York – The Brooklyn Nets have played the last three games without Uncle Drew, Kyrie Irving, thanks to an injured right shoulder. Not a problem, says the Nets, who have been in this position before, just with D’Angelo Russell. Jarrett Allen stood tall in his stead with a game high 22 points and 17 rebounds as the Brooklyn Nets got back on track and pushed themselves into the Eastern Conference top eight, while smoking the Charlotte Hornets out, dropping them to ninth. Spencer Dinwiddie and Taurean Prince each dropped a 20 piece for Brooklyn, while DeAndre Jordan came off the bench for 14 points and seven rebounds.

Charlotte countered with 18 from Terry Rozier. Scary Terry also had six rebounds and two assists, but only shot 35.7 percent on the night. Devonte’ Graham added 17 points and six assists, Malik Monk had 13, Miles Bridges added 12, and Bismack Biyombo finished up with 10 and seven. Charlotte held the Nets to two points in the first five minutes of the final period, but still allowed the Nets to outscore them by five in the lackluster second half like they did in the first half to lose their ninth game of the season.

Hornets
PTS: Terry Rozier – 18
REB: Cody Zeller – 7, Bismack Biyombo – 7
AST: Devonte’ Graham – 6

Nets
PTS: Jarrett Allen – 22
REB: Jarrett Allen – 17
AST: Spencer Dinwiddie – 8

NEXT UP
Hornets at Wizards – Friday
Kings at Nets – Friday

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Raptors Ride VanVleet to 10th Win

Orlando Magic (6-8)97
Toronto Raptors (10-4)113

Toronto, Ontario – It appears that Raptors guard Fred VanVleet is relishing his starting role, created by the vacuum left when Kawhi Leonard ditched the Raptors for his hometown of L.A. VanVleet has nearly doubled his career line with 2019-20 averages of 17.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 7.6 assists through the team’s 14 games. Last night, he led the game with 24 points and seven assists. Terence Davis was 19, eight and five, Pascal Siakam finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, Norman Powell added 15, and Chris Boucher came off the bench for 14 and 11. The Raptors are fourth in the Eastern Conference currently.

Orlando manages to stay under .500 through their 14 games, with a low key performance in which they scored only 19 points in the second quarter and 17 in the third, before getting shown the door after a 34-29 fourth. Evan Fournier lead the Magic with 21, Jonathan Isaac finished with 16 and 13, and it was a dozen apiece for Markelle Fultz and Khem Birch. Both Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic went down in the second quarter with ankle injuries. 

Magic
PTS: Evan Fournier – 21
REB: Jonathan Isaac – 13
AST: Nikola Vucevic – 5, D.J. Augustin – 5

Raptors
PTS: Fred VanVleet – 24
REB: Pascal Siakam – 11, Chris Boucher – 11
AST: Fred VanVleet – 7

NEXT UP
Magic at Pacers – Saturday
Raptors at Hawks – Saturday

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Bulls Throttle Pistons by 20

Detroit Pistons (4-10)89
Chicago Bulls (5-10)109

Chicago, IllinoisDerrick Rose said if load management were a possibility when he was an oft-injured member of the Chicago Bulls, he might not have been oft injured and likely would have remained a Chicago Bull. And I might have been more popular if I’d been born with money instead of opting for good looks and a glittering personality.

Instead, Rose and his Detroit teammates were getting red-lined by the otherwise inconsistent Chicago Bulls last night at the United Center. Lauri Markkanen finally joins us in the NBA this season, leading the Bulls with 24 points, six rebounds. It was nice to see Markkanen get out of the weight room and onto the hardwood. It was Markkanen’s first 20+ game since he nailed down 35 on Opening Night. Shaquille Harrison and Tomas Satoransky added 15 points apiece, and Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White each had a dozen. Carter finished with a team high 15 rebounds, 10 on the defensive glass. 

Rose blossomed for Detroit (as well as a Rose can blossom in frigid Chicago) with 18 points, Blake Griffin had 16 and eight, and is it me or do the Pistons seem worse for the wear with those two back in the fold? Luke Kennard has taken a back seat with 14 points, Langston Galloway added 13, and it was a 12 and 10 night for Christian Wood. The Pistons have now dropped five straight games thanks to a lackluster third quarter (16 points) and fourth (18).

Pistons
PTS: Derrick Rose – 18
REB: Andre Drummond – 14
AST: Bruce Brown, Jr. – 6

Bulls
PTS: Lauri Markkanen – 24
REB: Wendell Carter, Jr. – 15
AST: Tomas Satoransky – 7

NEXT UP
Hawks at Pistons – Friday
Heat at Bulls – Friday

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Jazz Pay Back the T’Wolves

Utah Jazz (9-5)103
Minnesota Timberwolves (8-7)95

Minneapolis, Minnesota – In a home and home, back to back series between the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves, it was the visiting team winning on their opponents’ floor this week. The Jazz avenged a 112-102 loss from Monday night in Salt Lake City with an eight point win over the Wolves in their own den. Utah shot 36 percent in Salt Lake but shot 40 percent in Minny last night. While that doesn’t sound overly impressive, Minny shot 46 percent in Utah, but were held to 36 percent on their own floor last night. Defense was the story for the Jazz.

Also, having Bojan Bogdanovic drop 30 didn’t hurt the Jazz’s chances. The brilliant offseason acquisition hit for 50 percent on the night. It allowed Donovan Mitchell to go for 26 and seven on the night, and Mike Conley finished with 16, six and eight. Add in 12 points and 15 boards for Rudy Gobert and 10 points off the bench from veteran Jeff Green and you have the sweet sounds of a win on the road.

Andrew Wiggins returned for the Timberwolves, hitting for a team high 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 14 and 12 on the night, Jeff Teague had 12-4-6, Robert Covington chipped in 11 points, and it was 10 points apiece for both Kelan Martin and Jarrett Culver. Martin also had seven rebounds. The Wolves, who assaulted the Jazz with three point shooting on Monday night, only went 14 of 45 last night.

Jazz
PTS: Bojan Bogdanovic – 30
REB: Rudy Gobert – 15
AST: Mike Conley – 8

Timberwolves
PTS: Andrew Wiggins – 22
REB: Karl-Anthony Towns – 12
AST: Jeff Teague – 6

NEXT UP
Warriors at Jazz – Friday
Suns at Timberwolves – Saturday

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Nuggets Ground Rockets

Houston Rockets (11-4)95
Denver Nuggets (10-3)105

Denver, Colorado – Sometimes the best of the best need a little humbling. Last night, that was the Houston Rockets, who tumbled out of their second place orbit to third behind the team that knocked them out in the Mile High atmosphere, the Denver Nuggets. Last time I checked, infinity and beyond was a little further up than 5,690 feet.

Nikola Jokic shot 63.2 percent to finish with 27 and 12 on the night to spoil the Rocket’s recent run of success. Will Barton added 15 points and seven rebounds, Paul Millsap had 11 and six, and it was 10 points apiece for Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. Murray had nine dimes, as well.

James Harden came down to earth, tying Jokic’s 27 for co-game high honors. Harden also had seven assists. Russell Westbrook had 25 points, two rebounds and five assists. The only other help came from another stellar night from Clint Capela – 12 points and 21 rebounds, 17 on the defensive glass. Before last night, Harden had eight consecutive games of 36+ points.

Rockets
PTS: James Harden – 27
REB: Clint Capela – 21
AST: James Harden – 7

Nuggets
PTS: Nikola Jokic – 27
REB: Nikola Jokic – 12
AST: Jamal Murray – 9

NEXT UP
Rockets at Clippers – Friday
Celtics at Nuggets – Friday

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Celtics Go to Overtime, Still the Best in the East

Boston Celtics (11-3)104
Los Angeles Clippers (10-5)107 (OT)

Los Angeles, California – The build up was almost unbearable, getting to watch Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the floor at the same time. The letdown had me rooting for the Boston Celtics, who might have pulled it off if it weren’t for that pesky Leonard blocking Kemba Walker’s three point attempt, we might still be watching this game.

George still seems to have issues defending the three as Jayson Tatum hit the tying score in regulation to force the extra period. But Leonard and the scrappiness of Patrick Beverley bailed George out this time … and Damian Lillard doesn’t play for the Celtics. Lou Williams came off the bench to lead the Clippers with 27 points, George had 25, Leonard had a mere 17, and Beverley added 14 points along with a career-high 16 rebounds.

Boston was led by Tatum’s career high 30 points, Marcus Smart added 15 points and eight dimes, Brad Wanamaker chipped in 14 points, and Walker finished with 13 and nine on the night. At 11-3, the Celtics are still the top team in the Eastern Conference and the second best record in the NBA.

Celtics
PTS: Jayson Tatum – 30
REB: Daniel Thies – 14
AST: Marcus Smart – 8

Clippers

PTS: Lou Williams – 27
REB: Patrick Beverley – 16
AST: Paul George – 8

NEXT UP
Celtics at Nuggets – Friday
Rockets at Clippers – Friday

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TONIGHT’S LINEUP/MY PICK ‘EMS
Portland Trailblazers at Milwaukee Bucks – 8 p.m. EST – TNT
New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns – 10:30 p.m. EST – TNT

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The Rundown w/T-Money is a daily column “all things NBA” that will run through the entirety of the season, and the playoffs through the NBA Finals
Tracy Graven is a Senior Analyst for BackSportsPage.com.
He has written the NBA for the last two decades and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 20 years in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, and Oklahoma City.
He currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife and five children.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia

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