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The Rundown v122620 – Clippers Finally Make ‘Adjustments,’ Nets Have Them in Durant and Irving

The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Denver Nuggets last night - a few months too late, but Paul George and Kawhi Leonard seem to have made those 'adjustments.' For Brooklyn, the only adjustment is getting used to being in first place.

On Christmas Day, both L.A. teams held serve and – like last season – the Los Angeles Clippers are in first place in the West. And, while Milwaukee won, it’s the Brooklyn Nets with the best record in the East.

The Heat scorched the Pelicans behind six first half three pointers from Duncan Robinson, while Milwaukee and the Lakers both ran up 138 point totals in their wins.

The five games yesterday gives way to a slate of 10 games today.

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New Orleans Pelicans  98
Miami Heat 111

Zion Williamson is going to be a force to be reckoned with in this league, there’s no doubt about that. But when Duncan Robinson comes out firing – and hitting – six three pointers in the first half to give the Miami Heat a 66-53 halftime lead, it’s tough to come back from an assault like that.

It’s as if Robinson’s performance took the wind out of New Orleans’ sails, as the second half wasn’t any prettier. In fact, both teams evened out at 45-45, with the Pelicans registering a 19 point fourth quarter, so the Heat’s margin at the half carried them to the victory last night in Miami.

Robinson led Miami with 23 points, while Goran Dragic added 18 to go along with nine assists, and Bam Adebayo finished with 17 points and four rebounds. Avery Bradley ended up with 12 points on the night and Tyler Herro tapped out with 11 on the night. The Heat lost Jimmy Butler after just four points in 16 minutes. Butler left after the first half with right ankle stiffness after starting the day as questionable with a right ankle strain.

PELICANS (1-1) 7th in the WestHEAT (1-1) 9th in the East
Zion Williamson (.550)
32 points – 14 rebounds – one assist – one steal
Duncan Robinson (.571)
23 points – five rebounds
Brandon Ingram (.412)
28 points – two rebounds – three assists
Goran Dragic (.545)
18 points – two rebounds – nine assists – four steals
Josh Hart (.500)
12 points – nine rebounds – one steal
Bam Adebayo (.556)
17 points – four rebounds – two assists – two steals – one block 

Williamson led all scorers with a 32 point night to go along with 14 rebounds for the Pelicans, who drop to 1-1. Brandon Ingram poured in 28 points, and Josh Hart added a dozen off the bench. The other three starters for New Orleans combined for a meager 17 points, as Eric Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball shot poorly – .200 and .250, respectively. Steven Adams hit for 100 percent but only had six points.

NEXT UP
Spurs at Pelicans – Sunday, 7 p.m. EST – Fox Sports New Orleans, Fox Sports Southwest
Bucks at Heat – Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST – TNT, SunSports, Fox Sports Wisconsin

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Golden State Warriors  99
Milwaukee Bucks  138

It’s almost deja vu from the start of last season when, decimated by injury, the Golden State Warriors began with Stephen Curry and some also-rans, only to lose Curry to a broken left hand for the season.

Last night, it’s still no Klay Thompson yet again this season, so it’s Curry and the also-rans with one year of experience, but still without a win as Curry’s shot isn’t falling and the Warriors aren’t in rhythm with one another, save the rookie: James Wiseman.

Wiseman was about the only bright spot for Golden State as they were stampeded by a herd of Milwaukee Bucks that ran out to a 66-56 lead at the half, then turned it up a notch or two higher and cranked out a 72-43 second half that left no doubt that Milwaukee still has some excellence in their lineup.

Khris Middleton nearly doubled Curry’s shooting percentage, as he shot 66.7 percent en route to a game high 31 points to lead the dash, though I don’t recall seeing a red nose on Middleton. Giannis Antetokuonmpo came up with 15 and 13 on the night, Donte DiVencenzo added 13, while D.J. Augustin matched DiVincenzo’s 13. 

WARRIORS (0-2) 13th in the WestBUCKS (1-1) 8th in the East
Stephen Curry (.353)
19 points – four rebounds – six assists – one steal
Khris Middleton (.667)
31 points – four rebounds – five assists – two steals
James Wiseman (.455)
18 points – eight rebounds – three blocks
Giannis Antetokuonmpo (.286)
15 points – 13 rebounds – four assists
Andrew Wiggins (.333)
12 points – six assists – one steal
Donte DiVincenzo (.625)
13 points – four rebounds – two steals

Jrue Holiday finished with 12 points and six assists, while Bobby Portis ended up with 10 and 12 on the evening.

Wiseman, the rookie center from the University of Memphis, shot three of four from downtown and finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. The rest of the starting five shot a combined 29 percent from the field – Curry at .353 to net 19 points, Andrew Wiggins at .333 to get his 12, Eric Paschall hit for 37.5 and got seven points, and Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a horrible second game for Golden State, with three points on one of 10 shooting. Draymond Green did not play once again.

Brad Wanamaker and Jordan Poole both ended up with 11 points on the night in the loss.

NEXT UP
Bucks at Knicks – Sunday, 7:30 p.m. EST – MSG Network, Fox Sports Wisconsin
Warriors at Bulls – Sunday, 8 p.m. EST – NBC Bay Area, NBC Chicago

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Brooklyn Nets  123
Boston Celtics  95

Looks like there’s still some sage in effect at TD Garden.

The play of the Brooklyn Nets is making them look unbeatable in the Eastern Conference, despite the fact that it’s only been two games, and that they have played two teams without their key players. 

But yesterday’s beating of the Boston Celtics had the look of a contender’s chances left lying bloodstained on the mat. I had to turn the channel to watch the Rocky movies marathon to see some competition – this game didn’t have much at all as the Nets put together a 72-41 second half to bury the Celtics.

Kyrie Irving led all scorers with a 37 point night on 61.9 percent shooting. Kevin Durant followed up with 29 points – 16 points in the Nets’ 35-23 third quarter run –  as the duo outscored Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, 66-47, through the night.

NETS (2-0) 1st in the EastCELTICS (1-1) 7th in the East
Kyrie Irving (.619)
37 points – six rebounds – eight assists – one steal
Jaylen Brown (.440)
27 points – eight rebounds – three assists – one block
Kevin Durant (.563)
29 points – four rebounds – three assists – two steals
Jayson Tatum (.409)
20 points – eight rebounds – two assists – one steal – one block
Caris LeVert (.625)
10 points – one rebound – three assists – one block
Marcus Smart (.333)
13 points – three rebounds – six assists – two steals – one block

Caris LeVert added 10 points, but Durant and Irving didn’t need much help beyond that as it were. Tatum and Brown could have used all the help they could get.

Boston’s support (or lack thereof) came from Marcus Smart’s 13 points. Tristan Thompson, thought by many to be the missing piece for the Celtics, finished with eight and eight. Brad Wanamaker – who left Boston for Golden State – finished with more points (11) than Thompson.

NEXT UP
Nets at Charlotte – Sunday, 7 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Southeast, YES
Celtics at Pacers – Sunday, 8 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Indiana, NBC Boston

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Dallas Mavericks  115
Los Angeles Lakers  138

The Los Angeles Lakers made up for their Opening Night loss to the Los Angeles Clippers by manhandling the Dallas Mavericks on Christmas Night, with a 23 point win at the Staples Center.

And speaking of rebounding, that’s one of the keys to L.A.’s win last night, as the Lakers posted a 53-27 rebounding advantage to seal the win, with Marc Gasol leading the way with nine, Anthony Davis grabbing eight, and it was seven apiece for LeBron James, Montrezl Harrell, and Markieff Morris.

Luka Doncic did what he could to keep pace with the Lakers, scoring 27 points to lead the Mavericks, who are still without Kristaps Porzingis until at least next month. #VFL Josh Richardson hit for 17, as did Trey Burke, Dwight Powell finished with 11, and it was 10 points apiece for Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway, Jr. … but it wasn’t enough to avoid the goose egg instead of giving it to the Lakers for Christmas. 

MAVERICKS (0-2) 11th in the WestLAKERS (1-1) 8th in the West
Luka Doncic (.474)
27 points – four rebounds – seven assists – one block
Anthony Davis (.625)
28 points – eight rebounds – five assists – two steals
Josh Richardson (.500)
17 points – two rebounds – two assists – two steals
LeBron James (.444)
22 points – seven rebounds – 10 assists – one steal
Trey Burke (.500)
17 points – one rebound – two assists – one block
Montrezl Harrell (.769)
22 points – seven rebounds – two assists – one steal

For L.A., James became the second highest scorer on Christmas Day, a day – or at least a time period – when he usually tweaks his groin. (Yes, Ohio State is in the NCAA Football College Championship series once again, so it’s ‘Injury Watch’ for James once again).

Davis led all scorers with his 28 point effort, James and Harrell dropped 22 points apiece, while Dennis Schroder is giving the Lakers reasons to extend him by dropping 18 last night and looking like a smart addition after two games. Kyle Kuzma came off the bench for 13, and even though they scored 138 points, the Lakers are failing to take advantage of giving Talen Horton-Tucker more than six minutes of action.

When a major injury creeps up – and it will – they’ll need Hort-Tucker to be ready and 6-10 minutes a night isn’t going to cut it.

NEXT UP
Mavericks at Clippers – Sunday, 3:30 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Prime Ticket, Fox Sports Southwest
Timberwolves at Lakers – Sunday, 10 p.m. EST – NBATV, Fox Sports North, Spectrum SportsNet

********************

Los Angeles Clippers  121
Denver Nuggets  108

Kawhi Leonard took a little friendly fire from teammate Serge Ibaka, but it looks like he – and the Los Angeles Clippers – might be more than alright.

In echoes of last season, the Clippers went to 2-0 after last night’s win over the Denver Nuggets, a rematch of the Western Conference Semi-Finals in which the Clippers were up 3-1, only to fall victim to the second of Denver’s historic comebacks from being down 1-3 (they would not come back against the Lakers in the Conference Finals, however).

Leonard and Paul George both shot 57.1 percent last night in the Mile High City to notch 21 and 23 points, respectively. Serge Ibaka, whose elbow bloodied Leonard’s mouth (laceration) in the fourth quarter causing Leonard to leave the game and not return, added 15 points in a win that saw the Clippers run out to a 72-55 advantage after the first half on the Nuggets’ floor.

CLIPPERS (2-0) 1st in the WestNUGGETS (0-2) 12th in the West
Paul George (.571)
23 points – five rebounds – nine assists – one steal
Nikola Jokic (.538)
24 points – nine rebounds – 10 assists – one steal
Kawhi Leonard (.571)
21 points – five rebounds – seven assists – four steals – one block
Jamal Murray (.450)
23 points – five rebounds – three assists – one steal
Serge Ibaka (.667)
15 points – two rebounds – two assists – one block
Will Barton (.400)
15 points – five rebounds – three assists – one steal

Nicolas Batum finally got in on the action, finishing with 13 and 10 on the night, while Ivica Zubac had 12 points off the bench. Patrick Beverley finished with nine, and Lou Williams and Luke Kennard had eight apiece.

The Nuggets were led by Nikola Jokic’s near triple double, at 24 points, nine rebounds, and 10 assists. Jamal Murray managed to stay in the game last night, tallying up 23 points, while Will Barton finished with 15, five, and three.

Monte Morris added 13 and Michael Porter, Jr. finished with only 10 points on 44.4 percent shooting. The Clippers shot 55 percent on a night when the Nuggets only mustered 45 percent in their own crib. 

Seems that George and Leonard have been able to make the ‘adjustments’ that they failed to a few months ago in the bubble. Good enough for a 2-0 start. Let’s see if it lasts.

NEXT UP
Mavericks at Clippers – Sunday, 3:30 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Prime Ticket, Fox Sports Southwest
Rockets at Nuggets – Monday, 9 p.m. EST – NBA League Pass, Altitude, AT&T Southwest

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Tracy Graven is the Senior NBA Analyst for BackSportsPage.com.
He has written the NBA, and done NBA radio, for the last two-plus decades for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, and HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show and NBARadioShow.com, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be 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
  • Denver
  • Oklahoma City
  • Atlanta 

A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia

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