Are you not entertained?
The Celtics are the best team in the NBA, the Lakers are close behind, and it’s a good thing the Golden State Warriors are so soft, and that Pelicans have so much down and feather, or the Portland Trailblazers might not know they’ve about hit rock bottom.
Without Embiid, Sixers Vanish
|Philadelphia 76ers (7-4)||97|
|Orlando Magic (4-7)||112|
Think that Joel Embiid isn’t an MVP candidate? Ask the Philadelphia 76ers, who were without their big man last night in Orlando … same results as when he was out when the 76ers went out west to Phoenix during Embiid’s two game suspension.
- #VFL Josh Richardson: 19 points – six rebounds – five assists
- Ben Simmons: 18 points – eight rebounds – five assists
- Al Horford: 14 points – eight rebounds – two assists
- Nikola Vucevic: 25 points – 12 rebounds – two assists
- Aaron Gordon: 18 points – 13 rebounds – seven assists
- Terrance Ross: 13 points – three rebounds – one assist
With no one to patrol the paint, Nikola Vucevic had a field day, scoring a game high 25 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, while Aaron Gordon flourished in the paint with 13 rebounds in the vacuum left behind by Embiid’s absence (sore left knee).
Seven Magic players scored in double digits, with Evan Fournier and Terrance Ross hitting for 13 each, 12 apiece for Jonathan Issac and D.J. Augustin (eight assists), and an 11 piece for Michael Carter-Williams.
Philadelphia tried to keep it competitive with James Ennis III finishing with 10 points and #VFL Tobias Harris going eight and 10. Both teams shot 44 percent from the field, but Orlando finished with more rebounds, more assists, more steals, and fewer fouls.
- The Magic outscored the Sixers 32-15 in the fourth quarter to take the win.
- It was only the Magic’s second win in their last seven games.
- Embiid has now missed four of Philadelphia’s 11 games this season.
Sixers at Thunder – Friday
Spurs at Magic – Friday
Winnie the Pooh 1, Bees 0
|Memphis Grizzlies (4-7)||119|
|Charlotte Hornets (4-7)||117|
Oh bother. Can only think of Winnie the Pooh when you see the persistence as the Memphis Grizzlies chase their honey pot, which equates to wins. But even with a horde of Charlotte Hornets in the way, Memphis got the sweetness of their fourth win of the season while sending the Hornets to the same, sticky 4-7 mark.
- Ja Morant: 23 points – one rebound – 11 assists
- Jonas Valanciunas: 18 points – 13 rebounds – two assists
- Marko Guduric: 17 points – two rebounds – 0 assists
- Terry Rozier: 33 points – five rebounds – six assists
- Malik Monk: 20 points – eight rebounds – five assists
- Devonte’ Graham: 19 points – one rebound – four assists
The game was a breakout for rookie Ja Morant, who 66.7 percent to lead his team in scoring and to victory. Marko Guduric and Brandon Clarke matched his 66.7 percent clip off the bench; Guduric added 17 points and Clarke finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
Jaren Jackson, Jr. had 16 points and six rebounds on the night, while Dillon Brooks got in the books with 15 points.
Five Hornets got into the act, with Terry Rozier finally having his night, leading not only the Hornets, but all scorers with 33 in the loss. It was a career high for Rozier. Cody Zeller ended up at 16 and eight, while Miles Bridges contributed 14 points, four rebounds, and seven assists.
- It was Morant’s first double double and game winner of the season.
- Devonte’ Graham tied the game with 22.7 seconds remaining.
- Graham and Rozier combined for 10 of Charlotte’s 22 turnovers.
Grizzlies at Jazz – Friday
Pistons at Hornets – Friday
Celtics Show Why They’re No. 1
|Washington Wizards (2-7)||133|
|Boston Celtics (9-1)||140|
No disrespect to Gordon Hayward, but the Boston Celtics showed they can move on from almost anything, whether it’s Hayward’s broken hand or that 107-93 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers back on Opening Night, which seems like an eternity ago already.
- Bradley Beal: 44 points – five rebounds – six assists
- Rui Hachimura: 21 points – four rebounds – two assists
- Isaiah Thomas: 18 points – one rebound – seven assists
- Kemba Walker: 25 points – five rebounds – five assists
- Jayson Tatum: 23 points – three rebounds – four assists
- Jaylen Brown: 22 points – five rebounds – four assists
That’s how impressive the Celtics are playing, as the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and Los Angeles Clippers try and keep pace in the Western Conference.
It’s not like they’re playing a soft schedule like Alabama’s football team does. I mean, yes, they got the Washington Wizards last night, but by comparison, the Lakers played Golden State last night, too. But the Celtics stood in the face of Bradley Beal’s 44 points while L.A. only really had to contain D’Angelo Russell.
Speaking of those Warriors, that’s Boston’s next opponent as they sojourn out West for five games, with cupcakes like Golden State and Sacramento up first, but with the Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets to test Boston’s mettle.
With their big three combining for 70 points last night, and any one of them capable of a breakout 30+ night, it’s possible the C’s go 5-0 out West; I’m betting they underestimate the Suns or Clippers and come back to Boston 4-1.
Rookie Carsen Edwards finished with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists, Marcus Smart had a solid game with 17 points, four rebounds and five assists, Enes Kanter returned to full strength and the starting lineup with 13 and nine, and Brad Wanamaker added a 10 point contribution.
All of this without Hayward. May have been a blessing in disguise.
- Tatum was 1 of 18 in the Celtics’ last game, versus Dallas; he was 9 of 20 last night.
- It was Washington’s third straight loss, and their sixth in their last seven games.
- Hayward is expected to miss six weeks.
Wizards at Timberwolves – Friday
Celtics at Warriors – Friday
Rockets Make Their Move, Put a Dent in the Clippers
|Los Angeles Clippers (7-4)||93|
|Houston Rockets (8-3)||102|
Looking back to Los Angeles’ nationally televised game with the Milwaukee Bucks, where Kawhi Leonard took the game off for load management, one wonders if that messed with his rhythm – should he have taken the Portland game off instead?
- Kawhi Leonard: 26 points – 12 rebounds – seven assists
- Lou Williams: 20 points – seven rebounds – four assists
- JaMychael Green: 14 points – 14 rebounds – 0 assists
- James Harden: 47 points – six rebounds – seven assists
- Russell Westbrook: 17 points – two rebounds – two assists
- Clint Capela: 12 points – 20 rebounds – 0 assists
He may have been less listless against his former teammates in the game against the Raptors, which seemed like an entire 48 minutes of load management for both teams.
He may have been better tuned and prepared for this two game jaunt through the Gulf of Mexico and for the more important game against the Houston Rockets, who have two juggernaut type players in James ‘Light Em Up’ Harden and Russell ‘Get Buckets’ Westbrook.
The duo combined for 64 points last night to keep Leonard and the Clippers at bay, and launch themselves ahead of the Clippers in the Western Conference.
While both teams shot only 38 percent, the Rockets took off from launch, going for 31 points in the first quarter to L.A.’s 15. The Clippers would outscore Houston 53-43 in the middle two quarters, but Houston stamped the Clippers out in the fourth to take the critical win.
Clint Capela hit 85.7 percent as no one impeded his dominance of the paint, despite the Clippers’ roster having a beast like Montrezl Harrell (four and nine off the bench). Ivica Zubac was no match, either.
Houston is now second in the West, behind that other L.A. team, while the Clippers stay moored at fifth place.
- L.A. head coach Doc Rivers was given two technical fouls and ejected as his son, Austin Rivers, laughed and egged the officials on.
- Patrick Beverley only scored six points against his former teammates and shot 30 percent.
- It was Houston’s fifth straight win.
Clippers at Pelicans – Tonight
Pacers at Rockets – Friday
Spurs Drop Below .500
|San Antonio Spurs (5-6)||114|
|Minnesota Timberwolves (7-4)||129|
The San Antonio Spurs have dropped their third consecutive game and fallen a game below .500 in their wacky season, which began with them starting 4-0 and being the second to last team to fall from the undefeated ranks. And by fallen, I mean fallen.
- DeMar DeRozan: 27 points – five rebounds – four assists
- LaMarcus Aldridge: 23 points – four rebounds – two assists
- Bryn Forbes: 13 points – two rebounds – one assist
- Andrew Wiggins: 30 points – eight rebounds – seven assists
- Karl-Anthony Towns: 28 points – 11 rebounds – four assists
- Jeff Teague: 18 points – two rebounds – six assists
San Antonio’s last win came a week ago when the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder came to town. Since then, they have registered losses to Boston, Memphis and Minnesota – two of those games coming at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
Last night, the Spurs traveled to the Twin Cities with the burden of a .500 record in their luggage. The Minnesota Timberwolves showed no empathy for the legendary coach and organization, instead sicing Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns on them while wounded.
Jeff Teague also returned for Minny, scoring 18 and dropping six dimes to help the Timberwolves to their seventh win of the season and sixth place in the Western Conference. Jake Layman added 16 points, Jarrett Culver notched 12, and Robert Covington finished with 10 and five on the night.
Other than the Spurs’ top three, contributions were moderate at best. Dejounte Murray finished with 11 points, and it was 10 apiece from Rudy Gay and Patty Mills.
San Antonio has Orlando (away) and Portland (home) in the short term before they set out for a four game trip. The Magic and Blazers have been Jekyll and Hyde at best through the first 11 games of the season … just like San Antonio.
- Wiggins and Towns are the only teammates in the NBA averaging over 25 points per game.
- It was the third time this season that the Spurs have given up 120+ points.
- The Wolves scored 40 points in the second quarter and 40 points in the third last night; it was the first time in franchise history that the Wolves have had consecutive 40 point quarters.
- Wiggins has had 30+ four times in the last five games.
Spurs at Magic – Friday
Wizards at Timberwolves – Friday
Kuz is Back, Davis Rests in Lakers Win
|Golden State Warriors (2-10)||94|
|Los Angeles Lakers (9-2)||120|
Yeah, LeBron James had to step back into his leading scorer role last night, but he got Kyle Kuzma off and rolling, and the Los Angeles Lakers cruised past the wounded Warriors by 26 to net their ninth win of the season and try and keep pace with the NBA-leading Boston Celtics.
- D’Angelo Russell: 21 points – two rebounds – eight assists
- Eric Paschall: 15 points – three rebounds – 0 assists
- Jordan Poole: 11 points – one rebound – 0 assists
- LeBron James: 23 points – six rebounds – 12 assists
- Kyle Kuzma: 22 points – five rebounds – two assists
- JaVale McGee: 18 points – 17 rebounds – two assists
It wasn’t going to take much to push past the Warriors, with D’Angelo Russell putting up much of a fight. The fact that the Warriors only shot 40 percent from the field, 25 percent from downtown and 76 percent from the free throw stripe shows that the adversities are wearing on the team mentally.
Draymond Green and Willie Cauley-Stein contributed only 10 points apiece and combined for a mere six rebounds in the paint where Anthony Davis was absent (sore right shoulder) and former ring-bearing teammate JaVale McGee finished with 17 rebounds, 12 on the defensive end.
The Lakers got another nice kick from (former Lakers center) Dwight Howard; he had 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists in his continued Laker resurrection. Quinn Cook added 10 points off the bench.
- The Lakers had 31 assists in the second game of a back to back; they also had 31 against Toronto, and 39 against Phoenix.
- L.A. shot 70 percent in the first quarter and made five three pointers en route to a 38-26 showing; they also outscored Golden State 53-39 in the second half to break the Warriors’ will.
- The Warriors lost their fifth in a row and are now at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Celtics at Warriors – Friday
Kings at Lakers – Friday
Blazers Keep Tumbling, Hit .333
|Toronto Raptors (8-3)||114|
|Portland Trailblazers (4-8)||106|
It’s a good thing the Golden State Warriors are so soft, and that Pelicans have so much down and feather, or the Portland Trailblazers might not know they’ve about hit rock bottom.
- Pascal Siakam: 36 points – six rebounds – three assists
- Fred VanVleet: 30 points – four rebounds – seven assists
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: 16 points – 11 rebounds – one assist
- Rodney Hood: 25 points – two rebounds – one assist
- C.J. McCollum: 19 points – six rebounds – four assists
- Anfernee Simons: 17 points – one rebound – one assist
After having visions of playing this Toronto Raptors team in a 4-7 game series last spring, the Trailblazers were bounced without a win against the Warriors and haven’t bounced back since.
They are a strong ‘four’ away from being a valid contender in the West and I’ve often said they need a player like Toronto’s Pascal Siakam on their roster. While Siakam is a fantasy, an impossibility, the Blazers could work a deal to get Draymond Green in a Blazers uniform. His competitive fire is what the Blazers lack.
It was no more evident than last night, when the Raptors outscored the Blazers 64-48 in quarters two and three to steal a game in the Rose City. Rockford, Illinois’ Fred VanVleet is relishing his role as a starter with the departure of Kawhi Leonard. He’s averaging 17.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 7.6 assists as the starting two guard (running the point with the injury to Kyle Lowry) and dropped a 30 piece on the Blazers last night.
Rodney Hood returned for Portland to lead the Blazers with 25, as the Blazers only got nine points from a guy who’d scored 10x that amount in his last two games – Damian Lillard (30 in his last game and 60 in the game before that). Mario Hezonja came off the bench for 10 in the loss, Portland’s second in a row and sixth in their last seven games.
- It was Lillard’s worst game this season. He went 2 for 12 from the field and was 2 of 7 from beyond the arc.
- The Blazers are now headed out on the road for six games in 10 days – San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Chicago. I expect them to come back home 3-3; anything better will be a plus.
- Siakam scored over a third (13) of his 36 points in the fourth quarter.
Raptors at Mavericks – Saturday
Blazers at Spurs – Saturday
Miami Heat at Cleveland Cavaliers – 6 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Ohio
Los Angeles Clippers at New Orleans Pelicans – 8 p.m. EST – FSN Prime Ticket
Chicago Bulls at Milwaukee Bucks – 8 p.m. EST – NBC Sports Chicago
Dallas Mavericks at New York Knicks – 8 p.m. EST – TNT
*** GAME OF THE NIGHT ***
Atlanta Hawks at Phoenix Suns – 9 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Arizona
Brooklyn Nets at Denver Nuggets – 10:30 p.m. EST – TNT
*** 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