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The Rundown w/T-Money … for October 23, 2019

Eleven games last night, including 50 from Kyrie Irving and the Suns scorching the Kings.

Eleven games kicked off the second night of Opening Week in the NBA, with a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview on the slate, Minnesota howling in the streets of Brooklyn, and a surprising Knicks performance.

Fultz Seemingly Back on Track in Magic win

Cleveland Cavaliers84
Orlando Magic95

The Orlando Magic’s 2018-19 season didn’t end in the storybook fashion that is accustomed to the Magic City, but the Magic proved for at least one night that they weren’t a one-act show as they gave the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers a sour reminder of their 2018-19 season last night.

Cavaliers

  • Tristan Thompson – 16 points, 11 rebounds, one assist
  • Collin Sexton – 16 points, two rebounds, two assists
  • Cedi Osman – 13 points, three rebounds, two assists

Magic

  • Nikola Vucevic – 21 points, nine rebounds, three assists
  • Evan Fournier – 16 points, three rebounds, four assists
  • Markelle Fultz – 12 points, 0 rebounds, six assists

Not only was it a solid reminder of the season and playoff run that Orlando had put together, but it was the emergence of Markelle Fultz, who’d started off his career with a litany of maladies – some physical, some psychological.

But he came out last night and shook the last two years off and showed the Magic why they took a chance on him.

On the other side of the coin, Kevin Love looked like his old self, but unfortunately the Cavs were also more of the same. Love’s 11 points and 18 rebounds were a nice complement to Tristan Thompson’s team-leading numbers, but proves yet again that Love can’t lead a team like he did in Minnesota … and Thompson’s performance may have just been an audition.

I’m still on the pole by myself in thinking that the biggest benefit for both parties involved would be swapping Aaron Gordon for Thompson … bu that’s just me.

SIDELINES

  • The game was John Beilein’s debut as an NBA head coach.
  • It wasn’t a total washout for Cleveland – they had a competitive first quarter and some nice moments in the third, where they outscored Orlando 24-16
  • Fournier shot 53.8 percent from the field.

NEXT UP

Indiana @ Cleveland on Saturday

Orlando @ Atlanta on Saturday

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

Battle of the Bigs as Detroit Muscles Past Indy

Detroit Pistons119
Indiana Pacers110

Dwane Casey is on the right track as he tries to guide the Detroit Pistons toward another Casey-built legacy. The first pit stop was Indianapolis, where the Pistons left their tire marks all over Indy at Bankers Life.

Pistons

  • Andre Drummond – 32 points, 23 rebounds, two assists
  • Luke Kennard – 30 points, three rebounds, two assists
  • Derrick Rose – 18 points, two rebounds, nine assists

Pacers 

  • Domantas Sabonis – 27 points, 13 rebounds, two assists
  • Myles Turner – 25 points, nine rebounds, 0 assists
  • Malcolm Brogdon – 22 points, three rebounds, 11 assists

In what was supposed to be the return of Victor Oladipo, instead became Malcolm Brogdon’s coming out party for Indiana, as well as Domantas Sabonis’ reminder to everyone that he, too, was part of that trade with OKC, too, as he asserted himself in a game that was dominated by big man play.

Brogdon had 22 points and half as many dimes, while Sabonis led the Pacers with 27 and 13, but it wouldn’t be enough without Vic.

The game also featured Derrick Rose’s debut with the Pistons. Rose would shoot 54.5 percent on his Opening Night with Detroit, but it was the former armpiece of Savannah Chrisley (Kennard) that would hammer the Pacers all night long, ending up with a career high six three-pointers.

The Pacers led by as much as 73-64 before Kennard revved his game up late in the contest. Maybe another contender for the Three Point contest in Chicago this February? We’ll see.

SIDELINES

  • Together, the Pistons and Pacers had 33 turnovers and 29 fouls that, honestly, made it look like this could be anyone’s game until Kennard went on his blitz.
  • Oladipo has been cleared by doctors, but head coach Nate McMillan is playing it safe, saying Oladipo is “weeks away” at this point.
  • Blake Griffin’s DNP was due to a sore hamstring and toe.

NEXT UP

Atlanta @ Detroit on Thursday

Indiana @ Cleveland on Saturday 

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

Hornets Ruin an Otherwise Decent Night for the Bulls

Chicago Bulls125
Charlotte Hornets126

Seems to be the same storyline, different day for the Chicago Bulls lately; look good, like you might pull this one out, for most of the game only to have the rug pulled out from under you at the last minute.

Bulls

  • Lauri Markkanen – 35 points, 17 rebounds, two assists
  • Coby White – 17 points, three rebounds, seven assists
  • Thaddeus Young – 17 points, three rebounds, two assists

Hornets

  • P.J. Washington – 27 points, four rebounds, one assist
  • Devonte’ Graham – 23 points, four rebounds, eight assists
  • Dwayne Bacon – 22 points, five rebounds, three assists

In one of the latter games of the NBA’s pre-season, the Bulls were looking fairly sharp against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans – with Zion Williamson – and fell in the waning moments of that game.

Last night looked a lot like those pre-season Bulls.

They allowed rookie P.J. Washington to score a record high seven three-pointers in his debut and the Hornets shot 52 percent overall, despite winning the battle of the boards, 49-41.

Not everything was perfect for the men in purple. I mean Marvin Williams was his old productive self at 17, two, and one; but Terry Rozier’s debut (seven, four, six) would have been a little sharper considering this team gave up Kemba Walker for him.

The Bulls have promise, but only one of their usual suspects even showed up in the top three, Otto Porter, Jr. not even cracking double digits. Jim Boylen’s Bulls have to be better than what they showed last night if they ever want to get out of the shadows of previous regimes.

Start by firing GarPax.

SIDELINES

  • The Hornets made 23 three-pointers, the most for any season opener in NBA annals.
  • Graham replacing Rozier in the final minutes of the game could raise questions about the team’s confidence in Rozier.
  • Nic Batum broke his finger in the second half

NEXT UP

Chicago @ Memphis on Friday

Minnesota @ Charlotte on Friday

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

Sixers Toy with Celtics, Then Pounce

Boston Celtics93
Philadelphia 76ers107

The Boston Celtics – despite losing Al Horford to the team they visited last night – looked like they might upset Horford and the Philadelphia 76ers … for about two and a half quarters.

Celtics

  • Gordon Hayward – 25 points, five rebounds, two assists
  • Jayson Tatum – 21 points, 10 rebounds, two assists
  • Enes Kanter – 12 points, six rebounds, two assists

76ers

  • Ben Simmons – 24 points, eight rebounds, nine assists
  • Al Horford – 16 points, two rebounds, three assists
  • Tobias Harris – 15 points, 15 rebounds, four assists

But that’s when the 76ers turned up the heat and showed why they are the odds-on favorite to win the Eastern Conference and even challenge for an NBA title this season.

With Russell Westbrook in Houston and likely to not register a fourth triple double season, the door is wide open for Ben Simmons who nearly stepped through on Opening Night in Philly just two rebounds and one assist shy of a triple double.

Boston looked solid in the first half, but just not the Celtics we’re accustomed to seeing. They were solid, not sharp. Enes Kanter looked comfortable replacing Horford, but Horford looked like he’d been on the 76ers squad for years, along with newcomers like Josh Richardson and Kyle O’Quinn.

J-Rich had a nice 17 and six debut, despite shooting only 33.3 percent in his new confines.

Gordon Hayward looked like he felt awkward in his new role as team leader and Marcus Smart looked like he wanted to muscle in on some of that leadership notoriety. 

The result speaks for itself as we march toward an all red-white-and-blue NBA Finals this spring. 

SIDELINES

  • Allen Iverson repped Trey Burke’s No. 23 jersey, but Burke got the DNP last night.
  • Kemba Walker’s debut for the Celtics was tough to say the least: 12 points, four-of-18 shooting. Rough, but better than Terry Rozier’s debut in Charlotte.
  • Ben Simmons has now gone 161 games without a three-pointer.

NEXT UP

Toronto @ Boston on Friday
Philadelphia @ Detroit on Saturday

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

Heat Without Jimmy Butler in 2019-20 Season Debut

Memphis Grizzlies101
Miami Heat120

I wasn’t looking forward to the debut of Jimmy Butler as much as I was the debut of Ja Morant last night. Let me say that neither really surprised or disappointed me.

Grizzlies

  • Jaren Jackson, Jr. – 17 points, three rebounds, 0 assists
  • Tyus Jones – 15 points, one rebound, seven assists
  • Ja Morant – 14 points, four rebounds, four assists

Heat

  • Justise Winslow – 27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists
  • Kendrick Nunn – 24 points, two rebounds, three assists
  • Goran Dragic – 19 points, three rebounds, three assists

The disappointment was that the Memphis Grizzlies got my hopes up after running out to an eight point lead after one, a six point lead at the half, and still led by one going into the fourth quarter.

That’s when Miami turned it on and blasted the Grizz with a 37-17 fourth to take the ‘W.’

With Hassan Whiteside having defected via free agency, and Jaren Jackson, Jr. coming back healthy, the last thing anyone expected was the Grizzlies getting outrebounded, 51-40, and then getting blindsided by rookies Kendrick Nunn (undrafted out of Oakland University) and Chris Silva (undrafted out of South Carolina). Silva finished with eight points and six rebounds in 11 minutes.

Nunn shot 10 of 18, and Silva was 100 percent across the stat boards.

As for Morant, expectation is heavy for him to be the leader of this Memphis team, which performed better than expected for a road game. I cannot wait for Morant and Jackson to gel, because this Grizzlies team could be a very exciting one for Taylor Jenkins.

Just wish they’d given J.B. Bickerstaff another year.

  • SIDELINES
    Though Morant finished six-of-12, he started the game five-of-seven.
  • None of the players who started for the Grizzlies in the 2018-19 season opener are even on the roster any longer.
  • Not to be overlooked, rookie Tyler Herro debuted with 14 points, eight rebounds, and one assist.

NEXT UP

Chicago @ Memphis on Friday

Miami @ Milwaukee on Saturday

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

Wolves Howl Through the Streets of Brooklyn

Minnesota Timberwolves127
Brooklyn Nets126 (OT)

In the much anticipated debut of Kyrie Irving last night in Brooklyn, it was the Minnesota Timberwolves – who I’d called disappointing earlier in the night on an SBNation broadcast – who came away with fresh blood on their chops as they took the Nets to overtime, despite Irving’s 50-point debut.

I guess that does make me the dumbass in the host’s circle of friends.

Timberwolves

  • Karl-Anthony Towns – 36 points, 14 rebounds, three assists
  • Andrew Wiggins – 21 points, eight rebounds, 0 assists
  • Robert Covington – 15 points, nine rebounds, 0 assists

Nets

  • Kyrie Irving – 50 points, eight rebounds, seven assists
  • Caris LeVert – 20 points, five rebounds, four assists
  • Taurean Prince – 15 points, 11 rebounds, two assists

Minnesota came to the big city on a mission, dropping the Nets early with a 33-22 first quarter and taking a 12 point lead into the locker room at halftime. 

All that licking of the chops was almost presumptive, though, as the Nets – behind Irving – stormed back in the third, outscoting Minnesota, 37-20, all but embarrassing the Timberwolves and anything they’d done in the first half. 

But Minnesota would come back in the fourth, outscoring the Nets by five in their own crib and pushing the extra period, where they won it 12-11.

Brooklyn outshot Minnesota 47 percent to 42 percent, despite the loss. Jeff Teague shot 62.5 percent for the Wolves, while Joe Harris was the cat for the Nets, shooting 55.6 percent for 14 points.

SIDELINES

  • Jarrett Culver scored four points in his rookie debut for Minnesota.
  • Brooklyn has lost seven straight season opening games.
  • Irving’s 50 broke the Nets record for a season opening point total; the previous record was 47, scored by Kiki Vandeweghe back in 1984.

NEXT UP

Minnesota @ Charlotte on Friday
New York @ Brooklyn on Friday

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

Aldridge Gets Paid, then Lays it On Thick

New York Knicks111
San Antonio Spurs120

New York has too many big men, they said. I’m telling you, they looked might comfortable with all those big men, even though they were on San Antonio’s home floor for each team’s Opening Night last night.

Knicks

  • Marcus Morris – 26 points, four rebounds, one assist
  • Julius Randle – 25 points, 11 rebounds, six assists
  • R.J. Barrett – 21 points, five rebounds, two assists

Spurs

  • LaMarcus Aldridge – 22 points, eight rebounds, one assist
  • Bryn Forbes – 20 points, five rebounds, one assist
  • Dejounte Murray – 18 points, eight rebounds, six assists

Mighty comfortable. Though they start 0-1 on my predicted march to 40 wins this season, you have to like and applaud Julius Randle’s debut as a Knick (55.6 percent from the field, 10 defensive rebounds. I mean, aside from a quiet eight and six from Bobby Portis, the Knicks exceeded expectations for the glut of beef they have on their lineup.

Three dropped over 20 points each, and Kevin Knox and Elfrid Payton were no slouches, either, chipping in 13 and 11, respectively. And as I’ve gone through stats for all teams this morning and noticed a dearth of assists, Payton’s eight stands out along with Ben Simmons’ nine.

But we’re talking the Spurs here; not many come into The House That Pop Built and steal a win. The Spurs gave Aldridge a nice, big payday and he returned the favor by delivering win No. 1 in a season of maybe 54 wins and another playoff appearance. DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay chipped in 13 apiece for good measure.

The Spurs will always be who they are, but don’t write the Knicks off just yet.

SIDELINES

  • The Spurs had to put together a solid fourth quarter run to win this one after New York was solid in the third.
  • You might remember, the Spurs had originally inked Morris, who pulled a Billy Donovan and reneged; his replacement – Trey Lyles – added eight points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio.
  • Pop now owns the honor outright for consecutive seasons coaching one team, beginning his 24th last night, moving past the legendary Jerry Sloan.

NEXT UP
San Antonio @ Brooklyn on Friday

Washington @ New York on Saturday

******************** 

Doncic, Porzingis as Good as Advertised

Washington Wizards100
Dallas Mavericks108

The Dynamic Duo in Dallas could be a nightmare for teams, based on what I saw in Dallas last night; then again, a Wizards team with John Wall back in the fold could be just as fun to watch.

Wizards

  • Bradley Beal – 19 points, six rebounds, nine assists
  • Thomas Bryant – 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists
  • Rui Hachimura – 14 points, 10 rebounds, 0 assists

Mavericks

  • Luka Doncic – 34 points, nine rebounds, three assists
  • Kristaps Porzingis – 23 points, four rebounds, two assists
  • Dorian Finney-Smith – 14 points, eight rebounds, one assist

The issue for Dallas is (if it is an issue) that Kristaps Porzingis and last year’s Rookie of the Year combined for over half of Dallas’ points while their support staff didn’t look as polished.

Meanwhile, the Wizards – other than the drafting of Rui Hachimura, and the additions of Davis Bertans and Moritz Wagner are pretty much the same team they were a year ago. They were one Tomas Satoransky away from stealing this win from the Mavericks.

Washington held serve in the first and fourth quarters, but the 67-43 outburst in the middle two stanzas are what cost the Wizards the chance at the upset. 

Bottom line is that the Mavericks simply outshot the Wizards in the confines of their own floor. Other than Wagner and Isaac Bonga shooting 80 percent from the floor, the Wizards weren’t that impressive shooting-wise; Dallas had more consistency with Justin Jackson (66.7 percent) and Doncic (63.2 percent) leading the way.

SIDELINES

  • Porzingis missed his first four shots before settling into a nice rhythm; Hachimura scored his first points in the NBA before Porzingis hit his first as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
  • Dwight Powell is still out with a hamstring strain.
  • Washington’s first three games are on the road.

NEXT UP
Washington @ Oklahoma City on Friday

Dallas @ New Orleans on Friday

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

Dark Horse Jazz in Right Rhythm in Beating Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder95
Utah Jazz100

Last night marked the debut of Mike Conley, er … I mean, Bojan Bogdanovic for the new-look Utah Jazz, and also a nice announcement that the 2023 NBA All Star Weekend will be in Salt Lake City.

Thunder

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 26 points, two rebounds, one assist
  • Chris Paul – 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists
  • Danilo Gallinari – 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists

Jazz

  • Donovan Mitchell – 32 points, 12 rebounds, three assists
  • Bojan Bogdanovic – 16 points, three rebounds, 0 assists
  • Royce O’Neale – 14 points, five rebounds, 0 assists

Conley had a rough outing last night in SLC, going 1-of-16 for only five points. But these things take time, right? The shooting of Bogdanovic took weight off the shoulders of Donovan Mitchell, allowing Spida to have a breakout night against rebuilding Thunder.

Rudy Gobert handled the rebounding department, adding 14 caroms to Mitchell’s dozen. 

The Jazz made the Thunder look lost in the first quarter and handled OKC in the fourth to salt the game away.

But, make no mistake, OKC might be rebuilding, however they have a lot of pride. Their top three scorers all went for 20 or more and Hamidou Diallo looks like he’s coming into his own this year already, finishing with 12 and three on 62.5 percent shooting.

Oklahoma City bounced back nicely from an embarrassing first quarter to take a lead into the fourth, pushing the Jazz to stamp their logo on the game with a 32-21 fourth.

SIDELINES

  • Conley scored his first points as a member of the Jazz in the third quarter.
  • His defense helped shut down the Thunder’s duo of guards to preserve the Jazz victory.
  • Darius Bazley fell flat in his NBA debut with no points and three rebounds.

NEXT UP

Washington @ Oklahoma City on Friday
Utah @ Los Angeles (Lakers) on Friday

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

Strong Fourth Quarter Helps Nuggets Spoil Portland’s Night

Denver Nuggets108
Portland Trailblazers100

After stumbling out of the locker room to a lackluster third quarter, the Denver Nuggets needed to lay it to the Portland Trailblazers in the fourth to take the win and try and rebuild the success they had a season ago when they felt they should have been the Western Conference champion and representative in the NBA Finals.

Nuggets

  • Nikola Jokic – 20 points, 13 rebounds, two assists
  • Will Barton – 19 points, five rebounds, two assists
  • Jamal Murray – 14 points, five rebounds, six assists

Blazers

  • Damian Lillard – 32 points, four rebounds, eight assists
  • Hassan Whiteside – 16 points, 19 rebounds, 0 assists
  • Rodney Hood – 13 points, five rebounds, one assist

With both teams returning to chase the opportunity to represent the West, it was clear that Denver’s core was strong enough to leave Portland winless on Opening Night in its own home.

Hassan Whiteside was impressive in his Portland debut, hitting for a double-double, but C.J. McCollum was almost as quiet as he was in the NBA Area Codes commercial, hitting a mundane 12, three, and three.

For Denver, who’s really only added Jerami Grant to the fold, it was another day at the office. I can’t imagine how fun this team will be to watch when Michael Porter, Jr. begins playing; he looked great in pre-season.

SIDELINES

  • Foul trouble plagued Jokic early on as he got his feet wet for the 2019-20 season.
  • Denver won 54 games last season; Portland finished the regular season with 53.
  • Bol Bol did not play for the Nuggets; Bol played for the nearby Oregon Ducks in college.

NEXT UP

Phoenix @ Denver on Friday

Portland @ Sacramento on Friday

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

Suns Blister the Kings 

Sacramento Kings95
Phoenix Suns124

As I’ve said all along, the Sacramento Kings’ woes weren’t and aren’t Dave Joerger’s fault. The problem is in the front office, every bit as much as it the issue in Chicago.

Kings

  • Buddy Hield – 28 points, five rebounds, two assists
  • Marvin Bagley III – 14 points, 10 rebounds, 0 assists
  • Harrison Barnes – 12 points, six rebounds, one assist

Suns

  • Devin Booker – 22 points, two rebounds, 10 assists
  • Kelly Oubre, Jr. – 21 points, nine rebounds, one assist
  • Deandre Ayton – 18 points, 11 rebounds, 0 assists

Under new coach Monty Williams, the Phoenix Suns can just ball. There’s really no other way to say it. Williams, unlike Igor Kokoskov, doesn’t have to go out of his way to try and brand himself or make a name for himself.

Williams is a player’s coach and it showed in last night’s scorching of the visiting Sacramento Kings. Any thoughts of trading Devin Booker should be slapped into submission after the boy’s been given the green light under Williams. Kelly Oubre, Jr. is the asset I knew he’d be and the freedom for those two opened up the lane for Deandre Ayton to flourish.

Now Luke Walton? I feel sorry for him, because he’s really not going to get to coach any more than Joerger was able to. Upper management and front office meddling is what plagues this team, and the Kings really need a third star – a big man – to complement Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III

Not saying Willie Cauley-Stein was a star, but with the right chance, he could have been bigger in Sacramento than he was allowed to be. Guess we’ll have to watch that team a couple hours down the road in San Francisco to see.

Would be nice to see Trevor Ariza be able to help the Kings, but no one’s watching Sacramento basketball this year.

SIDELINES

  • Jevon Carter finished with 11, one, and three for the Suns.
  • Hield scored 22 of his 28 in the first half; Sacramento only scored 17 points in the third and 19 in the fourth for a pathetic 36 point second half showing.
  • Kokoskov is on Walton’s bench this season after coaching the Suns last year.

NEXT UP

Portland @ Sacramento on Friday
Phoenix @ Denver on Friday

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

TONIGHT’S GAMES

Atlanta Hawks @ Detroit Pistons – 7 p.m. EDT – Fox Sports Detroit

Milwaukee Bucks @ Houston Rockets – 8 p.m. EDT – TNT

Los Angeles Clippers @ Golden State Warriors – 10:30 p.m. EDT – 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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