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The Rundown v122820 – Charlotte Stings the Nets; Cavaliers, Magic, Hawks, Pacers, Thunder Undefeated

Last night, Gordon Hayward and the Charlotte Hornets unseated the quickly anointed Brooklyn Nets, while Cleveland, Indiana, Atlanta, Orlando, and Oklahoma City remain as the NBA's undefeated. (So far).

The Oklahoma City Thunder remain as the only undefeated team in the Western Conference, while the Cleveland Cavaliers remain perfect in the East, along with the Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, and Atlanta Hawks.

Yep, that’s right, the mighty Brooklyn Nets have been stung by the Charlotte Hornets for their first loss of the season.

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Dallas Mavericks  124
Los Angeles Clippers  73

Is there not a mercy rule in basketball? Shouldn’t there be?

After the Dallas Mavericks posted a 50 point advantage on the Los Angeles Clippers before halftime in L.A., you’d think that the refs would have stopped the game. If he were still alive, the late Tony Burton would be at the end of the Clippers’ bench screaming, ‘Throw the towel … throw the damn towel!’

(That was your job, Clipper Darrell)

The only quarter that the Clippers looked even halfway alive in was a 30 point third, but they fell back asleep again in the fourth, scoring in the teens for the third time in the game at 16 points. The Clippers shot 34 percent on their own floor to Dallas’ 49, and just 12 percent from downtown. They also got embarrassed on the glass, 54-36.

MAVERICKS (1-2) 11th in the WestCLIPPERS (2-1) 4th in the West
Luka Doncic (.444)
24 points – nine rebounds – eight assists – one steal
Paul George (.308)
15 points – two rebounds – four assists
Josh Richardson (.615)
21 points – three rebounds – two assists – one steal
Serge Ibaka (.545)
13 points – nine rebounds – one assist – one block
Tim Hardaway, Jr. (.500)
18 points – five rebounds – two assists – two steals
Ivica Zubac (.750)
10 points – two rebounds

Luka Doncic led all scorers with 24 points, but that’s easy to do when L.A.’s top three only  combines for only 38 points, and Kawhi Leonard isn’t among them, due to eight stitches from taking Serge Ibaka’s elbow to the mouth in their last game.

#VFL Josh Richardson is fitting into the Mavericks lineup nicely. Whether by plan or necessity, the young man from the University of Tennessee by way of Miami and Philadelphia, racked up 21 points and is averaging, in Dallas, better numbers than his career averages. Tim Hardaway, Jr. added 18, while Jalen Brunson pitched in 11 points. Dallas played 13 people due to the large lead that they never relinquished.

Paul George finished with 15 points, shooting barely over 30 percent, while Ibaka added 13 and Ivica Zubac had 10. Marcus Morris and Jay Scrubb sat the game out with Leonard, as head coach Tyronn Lue played 13 as well. 

NEXT UP
Timberwolves at Clippers – Tonight, 10 p.m. EST – Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Prime Ticket
Hornets at Mavericks – Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports Southwest

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Brooklyn Nets  104
Charlotte Hornets  106

The Charlotte Hornets got their first win of the season against the most unlikely of opponents – the Brooklyn Nets.

A 34-27 third quarter advantage seemed to be all the Hornets needed to crack the Nets and squeak out the victory. Then a seven point mini-run from Gordon Hayward in the opening moments of the fourth quarter got the momentum Charlotte needed to maintain their edge and pull off the surprise win.

Hayward would end the night with one less than Kevin Durant in the scoring battle at 28 points, but better numbers in the rebounds and assist categories. The Hornets also outrebounded Brooklyn, and committed seven fewer turnovers. Terry Rozier added 19 points including a posterizing of Durant on a dunk, P.J. Washington had 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Devonte’ Graham added 13, Bismack Biyombo went for 12 and six, and Miles Bridges finished with 10 points. LaMelo Ball underwhelmed again with a rookie-like six points, five rebounds, and five assists.

NETS (2-1) 6th in the EastHORNETS (1-2) 11th in the East
Kevin Durant (.600)
29 points – three rebounds – four assists – one block
Gordon Hayward (.600)
28 points – six rebounds – seven assists – one block
Kyrie Irving (.588)
25 points – three rebounds – six assists – one steal
Terry Rozier (.500)
19 points – four rebounds – five assists
Joe Harris (.417)
13 points – two rebounds – one assist
P.J. Washington (.375)
14 points – 12 rebounds – five assists – two steals

For Brooklyn, they had to taste loss to learn from it, despite Durant finishing with a game high 29 points. Kyrie Irving had 25 points and six assists, Joe Harris added 13 points, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had 11, and Caris LeVert contributed 10 points in the loss.

The Nets have a six game home stand that begins tonight as they host the Memphis Grizzlies.

NEXT UP
Grizzlies at Nets – Tonight, 7:30 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Southeast, YES
Hornets at Mavericks – Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports Southwest

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San Antonio Spurs  95
New Orleans Pelicans  98

The New Orleans Pelicans knocked the San Antonio Spurs out of the undefeated ranks last night with a three point win on their home floor in The Big Easy, and once again, won on the shoulders of Brandon Ingram, despite shooting 38 percent as a team.

A 63-53 run over the second and third quarter provided just enough breathing room for the Pelicans to take the win, and San Antonio’s place in the Western Conference ranking from 24 hours earlier.

Ingram led all scorers with 28 points and 11 rebounds, Zion Williamson added 18 and 11, and Lonzo Ball seems to be maturing into a solid contributor, finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and five steals on the night. Josh Hart finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds in head coach Stan Van Gundy’s eight man rotation.

SPURS (2-1) 6th in the WestPELICANS (2-1) 2nd in the West
Rudy Gay (.450)
22 points – six rebounds – two assists – two steals – two blocks
Brandon Ingram (.391)
28 points – 11 rebounds – six assists – one block
Lonnie Walker IV (.429)
16 points – two rebounds – one assist – one block
Zion Williamson (.318)
18 points – 11 rebounds – five steals – one block
Keldon Johnson (.500)
14 points – 11 rebounds – five assists – one steal – two blocks
Lonzo Ball (.500)
16 points – eight rebounds – five assists – five steals

The Spurs tried to creep back in the second half, but it wasn’t quite enough, as they were outscored, 51-50. Rudy Gay hit for 22 points on the night, while Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson combined for 30 points. DeMar DeRozan finished with just eight points while LaMarcus Aldridge ended with half of that.

The Spurs’ interior was ineffective at best, as Williamson scored about half of his points on his signature dunks. Things don’t look much better for San Antonio, as they face the Los Angeles Lakers next.

NEXT UP
Pelicans at Suns – Tuesday, 10 p.m. EST – TNT, Fox Sports New Orleans
Lakers at Spurs – Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Southwest, Spectrum SportsNet

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Orlando Magic  122
Washington Wizards  113

Markelle Fultz’ maturation and career evolution in Orlando continues, and he’s becoming the player and leader that the Philadelphia 76ers envisioned him being when they drafted him No. 1 in 2017 out of the University of Washington.

But the Sixers gave up on Fultz, shipping him to Orlando, where he has slowly but surely flourished on his own timeline, up to and including last night, where Fultz’ led the Orlando Magic to a nine point win over the Washington Wizards and a perfect 3-0 mark in the Eastern Conference.

Fultz shot 52.4 percent en route to a team high 26 point performance. Terrence Ross added another 26 points, and Evan Fournier ended the night with 19 points. Nikola Vucevic dropped 15 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, while Cole Anthony came off the bench to chip in a 12 and seven performance.

Orlando won despite shooting 43 percent to Washington’s 48.

MAGIC (3-0) 2nd in the EastWIZARDS (0-3) 14th in the East
Markelle Fultz (.524)
26 points – two rebounds – two assists – one steal
Bradley Beal (.345)
29 points – five rebounds – seven assists – one block
Terrence Ross (.467)
26 points – one rebound – one steal
Raul Neto (.588)
22 points – four rebounds – five assists – three steals
Evan Fournier (.400)
19 points – one rebound – two assists
Thomas Bryant ()
16 points – seven rebounds – five assists – one steal – one block

Washington was without Russell Westbrook (rest), leaving Bradley Beal to lead all scorers with a 29 point evening. Raul Neto filled in nicely for Westbrook, adding 22 points, while Thomas Bryant went for 16 and seven, and Troy Brown got 12 points in 23 minutes. Rookie Deni Avdija finished with nine points and nine rebounds in the loss.

It’s the first time the Magic have begun the season 3-0 since 2009-10. They are at Oklahoma City tomorrow night.

NEXT UP
Bulls at Wizards – Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST – NBC Chicago, NBC Washington
Magic at Thunder – Tuesday, 8 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Florida, Fox Sports Oklahoma

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Philadelphia 76ers  94
Cleveland Cavaliers  118

The Cleveland Cavaliers are on a roll … just call them butter.

Last night, with a Herculean effort by Andre Drummond, they knocked the Philadelphia 76ers from the undefeated ranks with a throttling that began at the opening tip and didn’t end until the final horn.

The Cavs outscored the Sixers in every quarter – by five in the first, another nine in the second, seven in this third, and by three in the fourth – and just like that, the Cavaliers are the first place team in the Eastern Conference, not the Brooklyn Nets.

Drummond led all scorers with a 24 point, 14 rebound night, while Collin Sexton wasn’t far behind with 22 points. Cedi Osman and Darius Garland ended the evening with 14 points apiece, while Larry Nance, Jr. kicked in 13 points, four rebounds, and five assists. The Cavaliers shot 52 percent in the friendly confines of Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

SIXERS (2-1) 5th in the EastCAVALIERS (3-0) 1st in the East
Tobias Harris (.500)
16 points – nine rebounds – five assists – three steals
Andre Drummond (.611)
24 points – 14 rebounds – three assists – three steals – two blocks
Ben Simmons (.625)
15 points – six rebounds – four assists – two steals – two blocks
Collin Sexton (.533)
22 points – three rebounds – three assists – one steal
Mike Scott (.500)
12 points – three rebounds – one steal
Cedi Osman (.625)
14 points – two rebounds – two assists – one steal – one block

Philadelphia had a rough night, hitting only 33 of 79 on the road, led by #VFL Tobias Harris and his 16 points. Ben Simmons finished with 15 points and six rebounds, while Mike Scott – who we don’t hear from often enough – added 12 on the night. 

Everyone else on the Sixers’ roster only scored in single digits, as Joel Embiid sat this one out due to back tightness. Embiid was averaging 28 points and 12 rebounds through the Sixers’ first two games.

NEXT UP
Knicks at Cavaliers – Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Ohio, MSG Network
Raptors at 76ers – Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST – NBC Philadelphia, SportsNet

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Milwaukee Bucks  110
New York Knicks  130

The New York Knicks notched their first regular season win in the Tom Thibodeau Era with a resounding 20 point win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks last night, shooting 54 percent on their home floor versus Milwaukee’s 43 percent.

While it was the consistency of Julius Randle that topped all scorers with 29 points and 14 rebounds, it was the resurrection of New York’s backcourt from their previous game against the Philadelphia 76ers 24 hours earlier. Elfrid Payton went from a goose egg to 75 percent shooting and 27 points and seven assists, while R.J. Barrett went from being locked down by Ben Simmons to 17 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.

Alec Burks came off the bench for 18 points, while Frank Ntilikina also resurrected his game, showing signs of life for the first time this season with a 12 point contribution in a reserve role.

BUCKS (1-2) 10th in the EastKNICKS (1-2) 8th in the East
Giannis Antetokuonmpo (.600)
27 points – 13 rebounds – five assists – three steals
Julius Randle (.471)
29 points – 14 rebounds – seven assists – one block
Khris Middleton (.444)
22 points – four rebounds – five assists
Elfrid Payton (.750)
27 points – three rebounds – seven assists – one steal
Bobby Portis (.583)
17 points – seven rebounds – two assists – one steal – one block
Alec Burks (.714)
18 points – two rebounds – five assists

Giannis Antetokuonmpo and Khris Middleton combined for 49 points in the loss, also 17 rebounds and 10 assists between the two all stars. Bobby Portis kicked in 17 and seven on the night, while Donte DiVincenzo added another 10.

The Bucks were coming off a very convincing 39 point win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. Now it’s back to square one for the inconsistent Bucks.

NEXT UP
Knicks at Cavaliers – Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Ohio, MSG Network
Bucks at Heat – Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST – TNT, Fox Sports Wisconsin, SunSports

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Boston Celtics  107
Indiana Pacers  108

The Indiana Pacers continue their undefeated ways, parked just behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference at 3-0, as they beat the Boston Celtics by a smidge last night in Indianapolis.

The Celtics are out of sync without Kemba Walker, who brings a 19.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, and 5.4 apg career average to the lineup. Walker will return in January, but the Celtics are looking to put a footprint in the East and struggling to do so without their floor general.

As is the usual, the Celtics were and are led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Last night, the duo combined for 43 points in the loss, despite the Celtics jumping out to an early 23-19 edge in the first quarter. University of Oregon rookie Payton Pritchard added 13, Robert Williams had 12, and Marcus Smart finished with 11 as the Celtics came up one short.

Tristan Thompson finished with seven points and eight rebounds.

CELTICS (1-2) 9th in the EastPACERS (3-0) 3rd in the East
Jayson Tatum (.429)
25 points – 11 rebounds – five assists – one block
Malcolm Brogdon (.500)
25 points – five rebounds – five assists – two steals
Jaylen Brown (.615)
18 points – two rebounds – four assists – two steals – one block
Domantas Sabonis (.444)
19 points – 10 rebounds – five assists – one block
Payton Pritchard (100.0)
13 points – two assists – two steals
T.J. Warren (.571)
17 points – five rebounds – one assist – one steal

The Pacers took control when they shifted it into high gear in the second half, blowing past Boston with a 59-52 second half performance.

Malcolm Brogdon matched Tatum’s 25 point output, while Domantas Sabonis hit for 19, T.J. Warren had 17, and Doug McDermott finished with 16. Justin Holiday came off the bench for 13 points, while Myles Turner – who many thought would be a Boston Celtic before the season began – had 10 points and seven rebounds.

Last night was Sabonis’ 100th career double double.

NEXT UP
Celtics at Pacers – Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Indiana, NBC Boston

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Golden State Warriors  129
Chicago Bulls  128

Before last night’s game, Stephen Curry put up some warm up shots, hitting 105 consecutive three pointers at the United Center. It seems to have paid off, as Curry shot well enough to hit for 36 points and lead the Golden State Warriors to their first win of the season and keep the talented Chicago Bulls winless.

Andrew Wiggins added 19 points and nine rebounds to the win, while Eric Paschall added 15 points, Damion Lee had 12, and Jordan Poole finished with 10. 

The Warriors, as a team, shot a horrid 40 percent to Chicago’s 51 percent on their home floor, yet won the game as they outperformed the Bulls at the line, where they went 27 of 30, got more offensive rebounds despite losing the rebounding battle overall, and controlled their turnovers by only recording half of Chicago’s 24.

WARRIORS (1-2) 12th in the WestBULLS (0-3) 15th in the East
Stephen Curry (.440)
36 points – two rebounds – six assists – two steals – two blocks
Zach LaVine (.478)
33 points – seven rebounds – three assists – two steals – two blocks
Andrew Wiggins (.400)
19 points – nine rebounds – four assists – one block
Lauri Markkanen (.538)
23 points – seven rebounds – one assist – one steal – one block
Eric Paschall (.500)
15 points – two rebounds – two assists – two steals
Wendell Carter, Jr. (.889)
22 points – 13 rebounds – four assists

It wasn’t that the 0-3 Bulls weren’t impressive. Zach LaVine led the team with 33 points and seven rebounds. Lauri Markkanen was solid with 23 points and seven rebounds, and Wendell Carter, Jr. shot an astounding 88.9 percent en route to his 22 point contribution.

Coby White’s 20 point night went for naught, and Otto Porter, Jr. finished with 12 and six off the bench in vain. Building blocks, they say.

For all Curry’s warmups and shooting, it was Lee’s three pointer that was the dagger in the hearts of the Bulls. Call him ‘El Toreador.’

NEXT UP
Warriors at Pistons – Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Detroit, NBC Bay Area
Bulls at Wizards – Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST – NBC Chicago, NBC Washington

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Phoenix Suns  116
Sacramento Kings 100

The Sacramento Kings lost their undefeated status last night on their home floor, as the Phoenix Suns blew into town and got their second win of the season with a 16 point scorching that was a little late to rise and shine.

After being down 33-28 after the first quarter, the Suns would go on to blister the Kings 88-67 the remainder of the game behind Mikal Bridges’ 22 points, Cam Johnson’s 21 points, and 20 from Devin Booker, who usually puts the Suns shine on his shoulder, (makes me happy … ).

Phoenix also got 11 apiece from Frank Kaminsky and DeAndre Ayton. Ayton also had 15 rebounds. Chris Paul had eight points and four rebounds, but dished 12 assists.

SUNS (2-1) 3rd in the WestKINGS (2-1) 5th in the West
Mikal Bridges (.600)
22 points – seven rebounds – one assist – one block
Buddy Hield (.375)
17 points – three assists – one steal – one block
Cameron Johnson (.778)
21 points – one rebound – one assist – one steal
Tyrese Haliburton (.714)
15 points – one rebound – six assists
Devin Booker (.421)
20 points – five rebounds – five assists – two steals – one block
De’Aaron Fox (.333)
12 points – four assists

Sacramento was led by Buddy Hield, who had 17 points, but shot only 37.5 percent on his home floor. More impressive was rookie Tyrese Haliburton, who finished with 15 points but shot over 70 percent. De’Aaron Fox added 12, Marvin Bagley III finished with 11 and eight, while Harrison Barnes added 10 and seven.

Had the Kings been able to pull out the win, it would have meant the first time since 2002-03 that Sacramento had begun the season 3-0.

NEXT UP
Pelicans at Suns – Tuesday, 10 p.m. EST – TNT, Fox Sports New Orleans
Nuggets at Kings – Tuesday, 10 p.m. EST – Altitude, NBC California

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

Minnesota Timberwolves  91
Los Angeles Lakers  127

The marquee matchup we were all dying to see – between two former University of Kentucky centers – never happened; unless you were dying to see who sat in their courtside chair better.

But even that was more exciting than the University of Kentucky’s one-win season thus far. Hell, the New York Jets have twice as many wins as the Wildcats. For once, the NBA had more intrigue than college basketball.

That’s because the Minnesota Timberwolves came to town boasting an undefeated record and the Lakers had shook off their opening night loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and trying to make their mark as Best in the West.

The 36 point loss for Minnesota was embarrassing to say the least, when your No. 1 pick – Anthony Edwards – is your leading scorer shoots on 28.6 percent to ‘lead’ the team, and Naz Reid and Jake Layman were nearly outscored by Kyle Kuzma alone.

TIMBERWOLVES (2-1) 7th in the WestLAKERS (2-1) 8th in the West
Anthony Edwards (.286)
15 points – four rebounds – two assists – one steal
Kyle Kuzma (.667)
20 points – three rebounds – three assists – three blocks
Naz Reid (.385)
11 points – five rebounds – four assists – two steals
LeBron James (.462)
18 points – nine rebounds – five assists – one steal
Jake Layman (.500)
10 points – three assists
Marc Gasol (100.0)
12 points – seven rebounds – eight assists – four blocks

The Lakers also had LeBron James drop 18 points and nine rebounds, and got solid contributions from Marc Gasol, imported from Canada earlier in the year, at 12 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. Talen Horton-Tucker and Montrezl Harrell each notched a dozen to go along with Gasol’s on the scoreboard, while Dennis Schroder continued to impress, last night with 11 points. 

Karl-Anthony Towns sat out with a dislocated left wrist, while Anthony Davis has a bruised calf. Kuzma scored all 20 of his points in the first half, which L.A. won handily, 67-45.

NEXT UP
Blazers at Lakers – Tonight, 10 p.m. EST – NBC Northwest, Spectrum SportsNet
Timberwolves at Clippers – Tuesday, 10 p.m. EST – Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Prime Ticket

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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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