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The Rundown w/T-Money … for November 6, 2019

Tomas Satoransky and Dillon Brooks took off for the Bulls and Grizzlies last night, and does David Fizdale have any answers for all the question marks in New York?

Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid return and both teams lose their games in their returns, the Bulls learned something from their ‘almost’ against the Lakers, and answer me honestly – is it time we ask if David Fizdale can coach at all?

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Pistons Leave Skidmarks on Knicks

New York Knicks (1-7)102
Detroit Pistons (4-5)122


The New York Knicks are having issues getting out of the gate. With all the ‘success’ they felt they had over the summer, despite not landing any big name free agents, it’s starting to come to a very disturbing realization:

Maybe David Fizdale really can’t coach.

Knicks
Julius Randle: 20 points – three rebounds – two assists
Marcus Morris: 18 points – four rebounds – one assist
R.J. Barrett: 15 points – six rebounds – eight assists
Pistons
Andre Drummond: 27 points – 12 rebounds – seven assists
Tony Snell: 24 points – one rebound – two assists
Markieff Morris: 22 points – four rebounds – five assists

Granted, they faced the Detroit Pistons, which have lived up to their namesake by being up and down, misfiring, and revving the redline in their nine performances this season, so it’s truly difficult to peg which Pistons team is going to show up versus what you’ve seen on tape.

But it’s not just this game. Fizadale has a decent amount of talent on the roster, but doesn’t seem to be able to decide on which talent to push to be the face(s) of the Knicks. It’s almost as if he’s auditioning players by who randomly steps up night in and night out.

Sorry, boss, but training camp was over almost a month ago. This is the regular season. Time to pick an offense – if you have one. Pick some marquee players – you do have some. And start molding a team identity – if you’re capable.

People like Andre Drummond are always going to have their way with teams to the tune of double digit points and rebounds. But should Tony Snell be coming into the game and putting up the numbers he did last night? Should Markieff Morris be outdoing his brother, who arguably had higher market value last summer?

It’s time the Knicks find their rhythm or find a new coach.

SIDELINES
Marcus Morris has defected from Klutch Sports and joined Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports.
The Knicks are still without Dennis Smith Jr., Kadeem Allen, Elfrid Payton, and Reggie Bullock is also out with a herniated disk.
The Pistons had a season high 37 assists.

NEXT UP
Knicks @ Mavericks – Friday
Pistons @ Pacers – Friday

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Balanced Attack Fuels Pacers

Washington Wizards (2-5)106
Indiana Pacers (4-4)121


The Indiana Pacers got double digit scoring from seven players when they faced the visiting Washington Wizards last night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Wizards
Bradley Beal: 30 points – five rebounds – five assists
Thomas Bryant: 20 points – 11 rebounds – two assists
C.J. Miles: 15 points – two rebounds – three assists
Pacers
T.J. Warren: 21 points – four rebounds – two assists
Doug McDermott: 19 points – seven rebounds – four assists
Aaron Holiday: 18 points – two rebounds – one assist

The team effort helped replace the scoring and dynamic brought when the Pacers have Victor Oladipo, Jeremy Lamb, Myles Turner, and T.J. Leaf available and on the court.

Other than the top three, Jakarr Sampson added 14 points and six rebounds, Domantas Sabonis returned from injury with 13 points and 17 rebounds (career high) to go along with seven assists, Goga Bitadze added 13 of his own, and Malcolm Brogdon finished up the night with 12 points, three rebounds, and 13 assists.

Bradley Beal, Thomas Bryant, and C.J. Miles scored 65 of the Wizards’ 106 points, while Davis Bertans and Isaiah Thomas chipped in 21 more, at 11 and 10, respectively. The Wizards got very little help from their bench otherwise.

The win pushes Indy back to the .500 mark.

SIDELINES
It was Indiana’s third game in four nights.
The Wizards put out an 11-0 run in the third quarter, but were still down 14.
Their 121 points were the most points the Pacers have scored in a game this season.

NEXT UP
Cavaliers @ Wizards – Friday
Pistons @ Pacers – Friday

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Bulls Stake a Claim in State Farm

Chicago Bulls (3-6)113
Atlanta Hawks (3-4)93


It’s as if having a lead on the Los Angeles Lakers taught the Chicago Bulls that they could accomplish great things if they’d only put their collective minds to it. They lost that game by six on Tuesday night, but the real victims were the Atlanta Hawks, who the Bulls took their aggression out on in Atlanta last night.

Bulls
Tomas Satoransky: 27 points – seven rebounds – eight assists
Lauri Markkanen: 17 points – five rebounds – four assists
Otto Porter, Jr.: 13 points – four rebounds – two assists
Hawks
Jabari Parker: 18 points – five rebounds – one assist
Vince Carter: 14 points – five rebounds – one assist
Kevin Huerter: 12 points – two rebounds – two assists

The Bulls continued the L.A. game in their minds, racing out to a 33-19 lead in the first quarter much like they did when they outscored the Lakers 65-48 in the first half the night before. In fact, they took a 55-41 lead into the locker room against the Hawks. Fourteen and 17 point leads are nice, if you can keep them.

If nothing else, the Bulls learned from the Laker game that a first half is nice, but it’s continuing that mindset and momentum into the second half, where they outdid the Hawks again, 57-52. So, in other words, defense held serve and this game was really over in the first half.

Of course, it helped that Trae Young came crashing to earth with a 25 percent shooting night, and the Hawks only stayed in the game because of an improved Jabari Parker and an ageless Vince Carter.

It seems Young and the Hawks exhausted themselves in beating the high level San Antonio Spurs, and took the struggling Chicago Bulls for granted.

Instead, they got beat by 20 in their own crib. Isn’t that a Bulls mentality?

Maybe the Laker game helped the Bulls get over that hump – at least for one night. And that’s all it takes – one game at a time – to improve. They’re not mistakes if you learn from them. 

SIDELINES
Satoransky’s 37 was a career high; he had not scored more than nine points this season, after being lauded as a strong pick up for the Bulls this summer.
The Hawks were six of 30 from downtown and had two dozen turnovers.
Otto Porter, Jr. went down with a bruised left foot; he did not return.

NEXT UP
Kings @ Hawks – Friday
Rockets @ Bulls – Saturday

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Rockets Coming Together 

Golden State Warriors (2-6)112
Houston Rockets (5-3)129


There have always been serious rumblings about the ability for head coach Mike D’Antoni to get teams to come together like the expectations laid on the Houston Rockets to do so with a backcourt that features two people who have that mental need to have the ball in their hand(s) in crunch time.

Last night, the Rockets had six people like that with the Golden State Warriors in town, and it worked out gloriously for Houston as they were able to gift wrap the Warriors’ sixth loss of the season and hand it to them with all six in double digit scoring.

Warriors
Alec Burks: 28 points – eight rebounds – three assists
Eric Paschall: 19 points – six rebounds – three assists
Glenn Robinson III: 15 points – 11 rebounds – oneassist
Rockets
James Harden: 35 points – four rebounds – 13 assists
P.J. Tucker: 22 points – 11 rebounds – four assists
Clint Capela: 19 points – 16 rebounds – two assists

Austin Rivers was the only double digit scoring coming off the Houston bench, with his 12 points on 57.1 percent shooting. The other five were the starting five, who shot a combined 55.3 percent from the floor with James Harden and Russell Westbrook the only ones shooting below that mark at 43.5 and 44.4 percent each, respectively.

The team as a whole hit 49 percent of their 97 shots taken (Harden took 23, Westbrook another 18), smothering a nice effort put together by the Warriors’ second unit, forced to start due to injuries to most of the usual starting lineup.

Alec Burks put out a sound reminder that he still plays in the NBA and is an integral part of this team, recently drowned out by the strong play of Eric Paschall and Ky Bowman.

But it was shushed by Westbrook’s 18, eight and six, and Danuel House, Jr.’s 17, six and one.

Though it was the now-wounded Warriors that squashed Houston’s playoff run last season, it appears Harden simply circled this game on the schedule as motivation.

Mission accomplished … for now.

SIDELINES
Since going 17 of 79 in his first six games from downtown, Harden is 13 of 32 in the last two; he has 292 points through eight games – Michael Jordan had 303 through eight in 1988-89.
Paschall usually leads the Warriors, but was tasked with guarding Harden.
Golden State hasn’t been 2-6 in eight years.

NEXT UP
Warriors @ Timberwolves – Friday
Rockets @ Bulls – Saturday

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

Kings Nearly Crown the Champs

Sacramento Kings (2-6)120
Toronto Raptors (5-2)124


The Sacramento Kings are still the Bud Light left behind in the castle as they fell to Bud Light Platinum last night. Sorry for the corporate tie-in from Anheuser-Busch (I get no royalties, honestly), but every time I see the Kings get close to winning a game against an opponent of significance, I always think of that commercial where the Bud Light gets duped and left behind.

That’s the Sacramento Kings.

Kings
Harrison Barnes: 26 points – four rebounds – four assists
Bogdan Bogdanovic: 22 points – two rebounds – three assists
Buddy Hield: 21 points – eight rebounds – 0 assists
Raptors
Kyle Lowry: 24 points – two rebounds – six assists
Pascal Siakam: 23 points – 13 rebounds – five assists
Serge Ibaka: 21 points – six rebounds – two assists

Sad, honestly, because the Chicago Bulls of the West nearly had this one in hand; instead, the Raptors’ 5-2 record makes it look like – if anything – that Kawhi Leonard left more in the Toronto locker room than the shiny hardware, smell of champagne in the carpet and that awkward signature laugh.

Harrison Barnes put forth his best game this season all for naught, as Toronto countered with a strong night from its championship players that stayed in T.dot.

Had the Raptors not ripped off a 36-23 first quarter, we might be talking upset here, as the 13-point cushion appeared to be enough to withstand the Kings outscoring Toronto by five, one, and three in the remaining quarters.

Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol each chipped in a dozen for the Raptors, who won their fifth in a row over Sacramento.

SIDELINES
It was announced before the game that Patrick McCaw underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and will be out about four weeks.
The Toronto win was their fourth at home this season (4-0 at home), but snapped the Kings’ two game win streak.
Lowry has scored 20+ in six of Toronto’s seven games this season, and the champs were 12-3 last year when Lowry went 20+.

NEXT UP
Kings @ Hawks – Friday
Raptors @ Pelicans – Friday

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Grizz Roar Louder than Timberwolves Howl

Minnesota Timberwolves (4-3)121
Memphis Grizzlies (2-5)137


You knew the Memphis Grizzlies had it in them – it just took a pack of Timberwolves to back them into a corner and bring out the roar in Grind City.

Timberwolves
Andrew Wiggins: 30 points – two rebounds – six assists
Karl-Anthony Towns: 25 points – 13 rebounds – two assists
Jarrett Culver: 15 points – five rebounds – seven assists
Grizzlies
Dillon Brooks: 31 points – four rebounds – two assists
Ja Morant: 26 points – four rebounds – four assists
Brandon Clarke: 18 points – eight rebounds – two assists

Memphis used the first and final quarters of last night’s game to spoil the return of Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ nice 4-2 start to the season to prove to themselves and their fans that Beale Street isn’t always about the blues – sometimes Grizzlies run wild there, like they did last night.

When Memphis traded Darius Bazley’s rights to Oklahoma City, the Thunder didn’t realize what they were giving up in Brandon Clarke. (Do their scouts not watch Gonzaga basketball?)

His 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and over two assists should have been attractive enough for the Thunder who have needed a good power forward candidate since Serge Ibaka was traded away. Instead, they went with the flash of Bazley and the Grizzlies get the benefit of Clarke, who dropped 18 and eight last night, almost the same as his numbers last year.

Clarke is averaging 11.3 points and 6.4 rebounds so far this season as a Memphis Grizzly, underutilized by Taylor Jenkins, and proved that last night with his breakout performance.

Also, the evolution of Dillon Brooks this season shows his hard work over the summer is paying off. Brooks is almost 150 percent better than his career number in scoring, averaging 15.1 points per game. He also is at four rebounds a game and 1.7 assists. Last night was a treat.

For Minnesota, despite the fast start, question marks remain about everyone on the team this side of Karl-Anthony Towns. It’s been argued that they’re better than their performances show, but as a good friend of mine said, “let’s see where they are in December, after they’ve actually played somebody.”

A Grizzlies win doesn’t bode well for a roster that’s been together longer. 

SIDELINES
Brooks and Ja Morant combined for 30 points in the fourth quarter to seal last night’s win.
Texas Tech product Jarrett Culver started for the first time and was in the Timberwolves’ top three in stats.
It was the second straight game in which the Grizzlies had 66 points in the paint.

NEXT UP
Warriors @ Timberwolves – Friday
Grizzlies @ Magic – Friday

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

No Magic in Dallas

Orlando Magic (2-6)106
Dallas Mavericks (5-2)107

The Dallas Mavericks used third quarter sleight of hand to make the Orlando Magic fade to black last night, despite a run in the fourth quarter by the visiting team.

Magic
Aaron Gordon: 23 points – four rebounds – one assist
Nikola Vucevic: 19 points – 11 rebounds – seven assists
Jonathan Isaac: 13 points – 10 rebounds – five assists
Mavericks
Luka Doncic: 27 points – seven rebounds – seven assists
Maxi Kleber: 14 points – three rebounds – two assists
Tim Hardaway, Jr.: 13 points – three rebounds – two assists

Luka Doncic may have been the hero in the end, but was almost the goat – and I don’t mean Greatest Of All Time.

Twice, the Mavericks tried to give the game away with turnovers in the waning moments of a tight contest – one on a bad pass from Doncic, and again when Seth Curry went to the line for two and found goose eggs.

Dallas had seven players step up to double digit scoring on a night when Kristaps Porzingis only shot 28.6 percent from the field. Other than Doncic, Maxi Kleber, and Tim Hardaway Jr. – who led the way – the Mavericks got 12 and eight from Dwight Powell, 11 apiece from J.J. Barea and Justin Jackson, and 10 and eight from KP.

Aaron Gordon led the Magic once again, but to a loss once again, as Gordon got little help other than a double double from both Nikola Vucevic and Jonathan Isaac.

Head coach Steve Clifford is going to have to do a lot more than a shell game of “where’s the win?” to pull the rabbit out of the hat come playoff time – or he might be the next disappearing act.

SIDELINES
Doncic’s performance missed the triple double by three boards and three simes; he remains tied with LeBron James for the most in the NBA this season.
Barea made all 11 of his points at once in his debut this season for Dallas.
The Magic scored 100 points for the first time this season.

NEXT UP
Grizzlies @ Magic – Friday
Knicks @ Mavericks – Friday

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

Sixers Lose Despite Embiid’s Return

Philadelphia 76ers (5-2)104
Utah Jazz (5-3)106


I feel bad for Joel Embiid and my two Tennessee Volunteers on the Philadelphia 76ers’ roster – they pour out their blood, sweat and tears, but it’s the Utah Jazz who walk away singing “You make me so very happy … “

Sixers
Joel Embiid: 27 points – 16 rebounds – three assists
#VFL Josh Richardson: 24 points – four rebounds – four assists
#VFL Tobias Harris: 16 points – seven rebounds – three assists
Jazz
Donovan Mitchell: 24 points – five rebounds – eight assists
Bojan Bogdanovic: 20 points – six rebounds – five assists
Joe Ingles: 16 points – two rebounds – two assists

Embiid came back from a two-game suspension for his brawl with Karl-Anthony Towns to lead the 76ers and my Vols kicked in 40 together in support, only to find that Ben Simmons’ run-in with Royce O’Neale may have cost them the game as Simmons didn’t play the second half after the incident.

Instead, Utah waltzed away with the two point win with Joe Ingles factoring back into things with a season high 16 off the Utah bench. He was joined in double digits by Mike Conley’s 15 and six, and Rudy Gobert’s 14 point, 16 rebound double double.

Aside from Embiid, #VFL Josh Richardson, and #VFL Tobias Harris, Philadelphia got 11 and three from former Jazzman Raul Neto. Simmons left with unfinished business at two, one and two.

These two teams face one another again on December 2nd in Philadelphia.

SIDELINES
The Jazz outrebounded the Sixers 50-42.
The Sixers have two losses in a row after jetting out to a 5-0 start; things are different when you play in the Western Conference.
Donovan Mitchell made his first four shots and scored 10 points in the first quarter alone.

NEXT UP
Sixers @ Nuggets – Friday
Bucks @ Jazz – Friday

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

‘Load Management’ Costs Clippers Again 

Milwaukee Bucks (6-2)129
Los Angeles Clippers (5-3)124


Kawhi Leonard sat out a game that may amount to an NBA Finals preview; if so, then the Los Angeles Clippers aren’t any better off than they were a year ago when neither Leonard or Paul George were part of the roster.

Bucks
Giannis Antetokuonmpo: 38 points – 16 rebounds – nine assists
George Hill: 24 points – three rebounds – 0 assists
Eric Bledsoe: 20 points – six rebounds – two assists
Clippers
Montrezl Harrell: 34 points – 13 rebounds – five assists
Lou Williams: 34 points – six rebounds – 11 assists
Patrick Beverley: 20 points – 10 rebounds – three assists

While I fully understand and somewhat agree with load management, and how it relates to Leonard’s health, I don’t recall the greats going with load management. I remember Willis Reed in 1970 coming back to play despite injury, Larry Bird’s injured back, end I certainly remember Michael Jordan playing through the flu in Salt Lake City.

I don’t recall anyone just taking the night off ‘just because.’ I wish I could. Who wouldn’t?

I know there’s a work-life balance and that the Clippers and NBA support Leonard in said work-life-injury balance.

But these load management sessions are costing the Clippers ground in the jockeying of the Western Conference, which is bound to be, always is, and is already tight, as well as a chance to measure yourself against the best teams in the league – and right now, that isn;t Portland (L.A.’s next opponent).

Could he not have played against Giannis Antetokuonmpo, the reigning MVP? I’d rather measure myself against the best than score 34 on a team that got swept in the Western Conference.

It gave players on the Clippers a chance to step up, that’s for certain. But I’d rather have a win against one of the best teams in the East.

If this were an NBA Finals matchup, it’s Milwaukee 1 and L.A. 0.

Same story, different year.

SIDELINES
Paul George is targeting November 13th or 14th as his first game as an L.A. Clipper.
It was Milwaukee’s fourth consecutive win.
The Bucks’ bench outscored the Clippers’ bench, 45-20.

NEXT UP
Blazers @ Clippers – Tonight
Bucks @ Jazz – Friday

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

TONIGHT’S LINEUP
Boston Celtics @ Charlotte Hornets – 8 p.m. EST – TNT
Oklahoma City Thunder @ San Antonio Spurs – 8:30 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Southwest
*** GAME OF THE NIGHT ***
MIami Heat @ Phoenix Suns – 9 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Arizona
Portland Trailblazers @ Los Angeles Clippers – 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

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