In last night’s eight games, the 76ers remain undefeated, Minnesota feasts on Wizard meat, Darius Bazley and Eric Paschall come of age, and Detroit’s ‘Check Engine’ light flickers off for now.
Thunder Go Small to Beat Pelicans
The Oklahoma City Thunder took advantage of the home confines of Chesapeake Energy Arena, arguably one of the loudest arenas in the NBA, and burst out to a seven point lead after one, and five at the half to down the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday afternoon.
- J.J. Redick: 17 points – three rebounds – one assist
- Jrue Holiday: 16 points – three rebounds – six assists
- Jahlil Okafor: 15 points – 12 rebounds – three assists
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 23 points – eight rebounds – four assists
- Dennis Schroder: 17 points – nine rebounds – two assists
- Darius Bazley: 17 points – five rebounds – 0 assists
The game was a coming out party of sorts for rookie Darius Bazley. While fans and pundits alike expect for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to be the new face of the franchise, there was a certain amount of expectation on the shoulders of Bazley and his athleticism.
Baz was selected 23rd by the Utah Jazz, but swapped in essence for Brandon Clarke (No. 21), who the Thunder selected and shipped to Memphis for the 2017-18 McDonald’s All-American from Sharonville, Ohio.
Originally headed to Ohio State, then Syracuse, Bazley utilized an internship at New Balance to blaze hi unique path to the NBA, something Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said, “I think it will not be proven it’s not the way to get to the NBA.”
Well, Jim, ya boy broke out last night, six games into the NBA.
Lost in the Thunder win was the fact that Pelicans guard Josh Hart had another spectacular night with 12 points and 15 rebounds, as the former Lakers’ core continues to gel for New Orleans. Lonzo Ball continues to be solid, having had 10 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Like another unnamed UCLA alumnus, Ball needs to work on his turnovers.
Zion Williamson is about another month away from joining his teammates – maybe by Christmas at the very latest, barring any setbacks.
- Steven Adams, still sidelined by a knee injury, is listed as day to day.
- Danilo Gallinari played center with Adams out and Nerlens Noel in foul trouble; when Gallinari was in the middle, no other Thunder player playing was above 6’6”.
- Brandon Ingram has been averaging 26.8 points a game; last night, he scored a quiet seven on 60 percent shooting.
Pelicans @ Nets – Monday
Magic @ Thunder – Tuesday
Nets Play Catch-Up, Run Out of Steam
Where have these Detroit Pistons been all season? If the team had played like this through their first five other games, they might be 6-1, or at least 5-2.
- Kyrie Irving: 20 points – 11 rebounds – 10 assists
- Taurean Prince: 20 points – one rebound – one assist
- Joe Harris: 18 points – two rebounds – two assists
- Andre Drummond: 25 points – 20 rebounds – six assists
- Luke Kennard: 24 points – three rebounds – four assists
- Bruce Brown, Jr.: 22 points – two rebounds – seven assists
For a team playing without their signature star, Blake Griffin, it was nice to see them find themselves, and find a way to notch a quality win without Griffin, so that when he comes back, they are the consideration in the East that they should be.
You’ve come to expect the high end double double from Andre Drummond, so it was nice to see Bruce Brown, Jr. break out last night. The 42nd overall pick from last year’s draft has been averaging 6.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in his seven games played this season, so last night – when the Pistons needed someone to step up their game – Detroit saw what Brown could do for them.
Markieff Morris added 13, Langston Galloway had a dozen, and Tony Snell chipped in 10 as Derrick Rose (hamstring) joined Griffin on the bench and DNP list.
Brooklyn’s numbers looked very similar to their previous game, when they grounded the Houston Rockets, yet lost last night.
Kyrie Irving and Taurean Prince nailed 20 points apiece, averaging 48.2 percent shooting between them. Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert combined for another 30, Joe Harris shot 70 percent, and the all-but-forgotten DeAndre Jordan double doubled at 10 and 10.
Jordan started because Jarrett Allen struggles against Drummond.
At 2-4, it looks like it’s more than Allen struggling.
- The 20-11-10 was Irving’s first triple double as a Brooklyn Net.
- It was Detroit’s third starting lineup in seven games thus far.
- Reggie Jackson is out another four weeks with a back injury.
Pelicans @ Nets – Monday
Pistons @ Wizards – Monday
Rocky Mountain High at 82’ Above Sea Level
Outshot, outassisted, outrebounded, and outblocked, the Denver Nuggets utilized 39 trips to the free throw line to steal a four point win over the Orlando Magic in Fantasia last night.
- Jamal Murray: 22 points – four rebounds – two assists
- Nikola Jokic: 20 points – seven rebounds – four assists
- Gary Harris: 13 points – four rebounds – four assists
- Nikola Vucevic: 24 points – seven rebounds – two assists
- Aaron Gordon: 21 points – nine rebounds – three assists
- Evan Fournier: 11 points – two rebounds – five assists
The Nuggets hit 28 of 39 for 71 percent at the line, compared to Orlando’s 11 trips there.
Between the Nuggets’ Big Three of Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic, they only missed one of their combined 17 trips to the charity stripe – Millsap was seven for seven, Murray six for six, and Jokic missed only one of four.
Murray’s fifth and sixth free throws loomed largest as he hit both with 5.1 seconds remaining to s(t)eal a win that they otherwise didn’t earn.
Orlando shot 43 percent (Nikola Vucevic hit 62.5) to Denver’s 37 percent, outrebounded the Nugs, 47-41 (Al-Farouq Aminu had 10, Aaron Gordon had nine), had seven more assists with 22 overall (Evan Fournier led with five), and had seven blocks to Denver’s three, matching Jonathan Issac’s three for Orlando.
But they did have 25 fouls, with Mason Plumlee sending Denver players to the line five times on his own, and that’s what cost Orlando a chance at it’s shot at a third win and a .500 record.
- Sixteen of Jokic’s 20 points came in the second half of the game.
- Orlando had a 12 point early lead as Vucevic hit his first five attempts.
- The Magic’s disappearing act came in the second and third quarters, where they only scored 19 and 18, respectively,
Heat @ Nuggets – Tuesday
Magic @ Thunder – Tuesday
Like Last Season, Bucks Own the Raptors
The top two teams in the league last season were the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors. The Bucks owned the Raptors last year, 4 wins to one loss. Last night was no different in Milwaukee, as the Bucks bested the NBA Champions by 10 points.
- Kyle Lowry: 36 points – four rebounds – six assists
- Pascal Siakam: 16 points – five rebounds – one assist
- Fred VanVleet: 12 points – six rebounds – seven assists
- Giannis Antetokuonmpo: 36 points – 15 rebounds – eight assists
- Eric Bledsoe: 14 points – nine rebounds – five assists
- Khris Middleton: 11 points – four rebounds – seven assists
The Bucks hosted Toronto in last year’s first meeting as well, beating the Raptors 124-109.
That game punctuated a 7-0 start for Milwaukee back then, with no Kawhi Leonard and no Giannis Antetokuonmpo, if you recall. It was a balanced attack of mid-teens scoring from four of the Bucks, while Toronto rode Serge Ibaka’s 30.
The Raptors would learn later to play more as a team, but last night was all Antetokuonmpo and all Kyle Lowry. A year ago, Lowry had nine points on 3-of-14 shooting; last night, he had four times that many, matching Antetokuonmpo’s scoring output.
Last night, Lowry shot 61.1 percent and Antetokuonmpo hit for 70 percent.
What a difference a year makes.
But, you say, same result. Bucks beat Raptors. They’ll meet a few more times this season.
Siakam has grown. Fred VanVleet has become more integral, and with championship experience under their waistbands, the 6-1 Raptors have a chance to hang with the Milwaukee Bucks all season long like they did a year ago – and we see how that worked out for them.
In the meantime, Milwaukee has to learn how to own them in the Eastern Conference Finals, or none of this matters.
Both teams are 4-2, which isn’t bad, especially for the Raptors, who no one expects to be in the championship talk again without Leonard. But here they are …
- After a 2-0 start in last season’s Easter Conference Finals, Toronto ripped off four straight wins over Milwaukee in their march to the team’s first championship ever.
- Echoes of losses to Boston and Miami this season, where the Bucks lost 19 and 21 point leads respectively (and lost both games), it was natural to tense up and hold your breath as Toronto came back to within four points from a 26 point Milwaukee lead.
- Milwaukee outscored the Raptors 14-0 in the paint in the first quarter to take a commanding 19 point lead after won, and took a 66-50 edge into the locker room at the half.
Bucks @ Timberwolves – Monday
Kings @ Raptors – Wednesday
Wizards Fail to Take Advantage of Towns’ Suspension
After a 1980s style NBA skirmish with Joel Embiid in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ game against the Philadelphia 76ers, the NBA handed down two-game suspensions for both Embiid and Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns.
With that in mind, you’d think Washington would be licking their chops like a Timber Wolf.
- Andrew Wiggins: 21 points – five rebounds – six assists
- Jarrett Culver: 20 points – five rebounds – one assist
- Robert Covington: 20 points – four rebounds – one assist
- Bradley Beal: 30 points – 0 rebounds – one assist
- Isaiah Thomas: 16 points – four rebounds – seven assists
- Admiral Schofield: 15 points – one rebound – 0 assists
Instead, the other Timberwolves came together and devoured the Wizards by 22 points, behind a 54 percent team shooting performance and an eight rebound edge, despite not having towns and the Wizards’ debut of former University of Tennessee star Admiral Schofield.
Robert Covington, Gorgui Dieng, Josh Okogie, Noah Vonleh, and Jordan Bell all scored above 66 percent from the field in the total team effort. Dieng, starting in place of Towns, grabbed a team high eight rebounds, and Jeff Teague dished out 13 assists to keep the team going at a breakneck pace.
The team jumped out to a 70-56 halftime lead, then added insult to injury with a 36-16 third quarter that sealed the Wizards’ fate.
#VFL Schofield debuted with 15 points on five-of-five from the field and three-of-three from the line. One hundred percent in your debut, not bad. Isaiah Thomas and Moe Wagner also tried to help fill the void (combining for 30 points) that was left from Rui Hachimura’s 18.2 percent, four point night.
The win puts Minnesota at 4-1, while Washington fell to 1-4.
- Andrew Wiggins hit a long distance three at the end of the third to punctuate the T’Wolves’ effort, and take a 106-72 lead into the fourth.
- Hachimura entered the game averaging 18 points; fellow rookie Schofield hit for 15.
- Minnesota is 4-1 for the first time since 2012-13.
Bucks @ Timberwolves – Monday
Pistons @ Wizards – Monday
Suns Are Playing Next-Level
The Phoenix Suns look like a completely different team from a year ago. At the start of the 2018-19 campaign, Phoenix was Devin Booker, et al. Booker and 11 other guys.
A year ago, they opened with a 121-100 win over the Dallas Mavericks, then went on a seven game losing streak.
This year, they’re 4-2, and their two losses were one-point losses to Denver (at Denver, in overtime) and against the Jazz in Phoenix. They are a much different team.
- Devin Booker: 21 points – one rebound – two assists
- Aron Baynes: 20 points – two rebounds – four assists
- Kelly Oubre, Jr.: 15 points – four rebounds – three assists
- Ja Morant: 24 points – four rebounds – seven assists
- Brandon Clarke: 16 points – 11 rebounds – 0 assists
- Dillon Brooks: 16 points – two rebounds – 1 assist
Kelly Oubre, Jr. – who they acquired last December in the Trevor Ariza trade – is living his best life in Phoenix, not going back and forth to those Wizards. He is hitting for more than double in points per game (17.0 vs. 8.2 in Washington), averaging 5.0 rebounds a night, and more than doubles his assist game as well. He hit for 15-4-3 last night.
Aron Baynes, who came over from Boston, has nearly tripled the ppg output he had in Boston, San Antonio, and Detroit. He was a beast in the middle last night at the FedEx Forum, going up against Jonas Valanciunas, who finished with 13-7-2.
And, let’s not forget the talents of Dario Saric, Ricky Rubio, and Frank Kaminsky.
Lastly, there’s Booker, who’s improved year after year after year, and can cool his heels a little bit in 2019-20 with all the help around him. Booker went from 13.8 ppg as a rookie drafted at No. 13 in 2015, to 22.1 his second, 24.9 the next, and 26.6 ppg last year. He’s comfortably at 23.8 through six games currently and the Suns are sixth in the Western Conference.
Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke looked impressive last night for a couple of rookies – but that organization has its work cut out for it this season and next. I feel sorry for Taylor Jenkins. Hopefully he can get more out of guys like Valanciunas, Jae Crowder, Marko Guduric, and Jaren Jackson, Jr.
Takes time to heal, though. Be patient, Grizzlies fans.
Suns fans were, and look where they are now.
- Baynes’ four three pointers last night were a career best.
- The Suns shot 50 percent, and were 14-of-34 from downtown.
- Grayson Allen left with an ankle injury; Jackson left with a knee problem.
Sixers @ Suns – Monday
Rockets @ Grizzlies – Monday
Big Stars’ Injuries Equal Experience for Warriors No-Names
Without Kevin Durant (free agency), Klay Thompson (injury), and Stephen Curry (broken hand) in any part of the lineup, it’s difficult to recognize the team that fell apart during the NBA Finals this past June.
- Dwayne Bacon: 25 points – six rebounds – two assists
- Terry Rozier: 20 points – five rebounds – seven assists
- P.J. Washington: 11 points – five rebounds – two assists
- Eric Paschall: 25 points – four rebounds – two assists
- Glenn Robinson III: 16 points – nine rebounds – three assists
- Ky Bowman: 16 points – seven rebounds – four assists
Factor in a torn ligament in Draymond Green’s index finger and an ankle injury for D’Angelo Russell, and you ended up with a roster that many G League coaches and executives might scratch their heads at naming draft positions and schools they came from without Google or Wikipedia.
But give the Golden State Warriors credit, they’re there. They’re in the fight. They’re not rolling over.
Even without Green’s intensity and Russell’s prowess, the Warriors hung in there until a fourth quarter swarm led to their fifth loss of the season, and third straight at their new arena in San Francisco. Golden State hasn’t won a game in the Chase Center yet this season.
The Hornets generated a 25-16 buzz in the final period to pull away from Golden State, who had promising 71-68 lead after three.
Dwayne Bacon sizzled with 25 points to match Eric Paschall’s efforts on the Golden State end. Scary Terry Rozier added 20, despite goose egging it from downtown, and duo was complemented by 11 apiece from P.J. Washington and Marvin Williams. Cody Zeller finished with a 10 and eight night.
It’s going to be a long haul for the Warriors, their coaching staff and their fans.
But along the way, adversity’s journey is never-ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, and adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.
- The Warriors have dealt with injuries by utilizing six different lineups in all six of their games.
- Paschall has scored 20+ in both games that he has started in this season.
- Charlotte was 1-of-11 from downtown in the first half.
Blazers @ Warriors – Monday
Pacers @ Hornets – Tuesday
Not the ‘77 Championship Series, but Just as Fun to Watch
I would be lying if I didn’t say I could watch these two teams play each other over and over again if each game was as competitive as last night’s.
- Al Horford: 25 points – five rebounds – seven assists
- #VFL Tobias Harris: 23 points – seven rebounds – three assists
- Ben Simmons: 18 points – 11 rebounds – eight assists
- Damian Lillard: 33 points – five rebounds – nine assists
- Rodney Hood: 25 points – two rebounds – one assist
- C.J. McCollum: 16 points – three rebounds – one assist
Any time you put Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in front of me, I’m ready for the underdog to overcome. Growing up in Portland, you had to learn to root for the underdog and not just jump on any bandwagon team that came along.
I learned that in the first grade when my dad took my brother and I to a game in Memorial Coliseum and he was upset with me for rooting for Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers. I learned my lesson. Never got to go to another game until I jumped in this business.
At my heart, I will be a Blazer fan for life – Lillard and McCollum just make it easier because of the character guys they are and how they are involved in the community. They are just a Pascal Siakam-like player away from another NBA Championship, albeit 42 lears later.
But this looks like it’s Philadelphia’s year to lose – I don’t mean to lose ball games, but the chance at a championship. In the East, they’re the odd-son favorite and they’re playing like it.
Without Joel Embiid (suspension), Al Horford stepped up bigger than his soft, squishy 6’10” frame suggests. He didn’t hit Lillard numbers, but he led his team to the win, alongside #VFL Tobias Harris and a near triple double from Ben Simmons.
Another #VFL jumped in the fray; Josh Richardson had 17-4-6 and Mike Scott added a dozen to the effort.
The Blazers countered with no Hassan Whiteside (left knee bone bruise), rather going with Anthony Tolliver in a small-ball lineup.
Portland jumped out to a 68-57 halftime lead as a result, but fell flat and watched the 76ers score 72 on them in the second half.
The Blazers had a 128-126 lead looking like a sure thing until ‘That Furkan Guy’ Korkmaz hit a three pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining and the Sixers waved bye bye to the Blazers and walked off with the win.
The teams meet again March 29, 2020 in Philly.
- Whiteside was averaging 12.8 points and 12.2 rebounds.
- Portland was the first of a four-game swing for the undefeated 76ers.
- Hood played with a swollen knee; no structural damage.
Sixers @ Suns – Monday
Blazers @ Warriors – Monday
Chicago Bulls @ Indiana Pacers – 5 p.m. EST – NBC Sports Chicago
***GAME OF THE NIGHT***
Houston Rockets @ Miami Heat – 6 p.m. EST – AT&T SportsNet Southwest
Sacramento Kings @ New York Knicks – 6 p.m. EST – NBC Sports California
Los Angeles Lakers @ San Antonio Spurs – 7 p.m. EST – Spectrum SportsNet
Dallas Mavericks @ Cleveland Cavaliers – 7:30 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Southwest
Utah Jazz @ Los Angeles Clippers – 9 p.m. EST – AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain
Every Sunday through the season, I will update the Conference standings 1-8; after All-Star, these will be updated daily.
|WESTERN CONFERENCE||EASTERN CONFERENCE|
|San Antonio Spurs (4-1) .800||Philadelphia 76ers (5-0) 1.000|
|Minnesota Timberwolves (4-1) .800||Miami Heat (4-1) .800|
|Los Angeles Lakers (4-1) .800||Boston Celtics (4-1) .800|
|Utah Jazz (4-2) .667||Milwaukee Bucks (4-2) .667|
|Denver Nuggets (4-2) .667||Toronto Raptors (4-2) .667|
|Phoenix Suns (4-2) .667||Charlotte Hornets (3-3) .500|
|Los Angeles Clippers (4-2) .667||Detroit Pistons (3-4) .429|
|Houston Rockets (3-2) .600||Cleveland Cavaliers (2-3) .400|
*** 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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