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The Rundown w/T-Money … for October 25, 2019

The No. 7 pick embarrassed the No. 2 pick, Boston makes a statement, and the Lakers get their first win.

Nine games on the slate last night on Day Four of Opening Week, including the Battle for New York, an overtime shootout in the Mile High City, and are the Minnesota Timberwolves for real?

GAME OF THE NIGHT

New York Knicks (0-2)109
Brooklyn Nets (1-1)113

It’s my Game of the Night simply because of all the verbal battles that go on online between the fans of these two teams, which have been like gas on a bonfire since the Brooklyn Nets landed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant over the New York Knicks.

Knicks

  • Allonzo Trier: 22 points – three rebounds – two assists
  • R.J. Barrett: 16 points – three rebounds – three assists
  • Kevin Knox: 16 points – one rebound – two assists

Nets

  • Kyrie Irving: 26 points – two rebounds – five assists
  • Spencer Dinwiddie: 20 points – two rebounds – five assists
  • Joe Harris: 13 points – four rebounds – one assist

Kyrie Irving didn’t have to drop 50 last night against the crosstown rival, and to be honest I’d be more concerned if he had to do that for the Nets to win. But the guy who missed the potential game winner in the Nets’ opener came up big last night, hitting the game winner with 21 seconds to go.

And the guy that had a heavy hand in recruiting Irving – Spencer Dinwiddie, who came into his own last year – dropped another 20 to help the Nets silence some of those Knicks fans, but more online message board arguments will begin anew this morning.

The 0-2 Knicks are playing better than their record suggests, but need to dig deeper than relying on rookie R.J. Barrett. They found one of last year’s nuggets in Allonzo Trier to lead them in their efforts, which included a 26-19 fourth quarter surge. 

But Julius Randle, who had a solid outing on opening night, has to be better than five-for-15 and losing the ball in the waning moments of a tight game. 

New York needs some fine tuning – question is, is David Fizdale the right guy as head coach?

SIDELINES

  • New York Yankee greats C.C. Sabathia and Aaron Judge were in the crowd at Barclays last night.
  • The Nets blanketed the seats in the arena with black Kyrie Irving jerseys, which people were already online complaining about as ‘cheap’ – whaddya expect, NBA-level jerseys? Just an update, those Nike ones aren’t that much better.
  • The image battle is on in The Big Apple, with the Nets envisioning themselves in the role the Los Angeles Clippers are now in graduating past longtime icons like the Lakers. To both teams: You’ve come a long way, baby. But time will tell.

NEXT UP

Boston @ New York today
Brooklyn @ Memphis on Sunday

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

On the Road, Raptors Just Another Team

Toronto Raptors (1-1)106
Boston Celtics (1-1)112

The Boston Celtics are trying to assert themselves as a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference, despite making any big splashes beyond Kemba Walker in the free agency moves last summer. Last night, they had to face the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors.

Raptors

  • Pascal Siakam: 33 points – eight rebounds – two assists
  • Kyle Lowry: 29 points – four rebounds – seven assists
  • Serge Ibaka: 13 points – eight rebounds – one assist

Celtics

  • Jayson Tatum: 25 points – nine rebounds – four assists
  • Jaylen Brown: 25 points – nine rebounds – four assists
  • Kemba Walker: 22 points – six rebounds – two assists

No problem for the Celtics, who have their core and future in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The duo combined for 50 points on the night while Walker began to find his footing, despite shooting 36.4 percent. 

While both Brown and Tatum nearly had identical stats, it was Brown whose energy and shooting lifted the Celtics to the win in Beantown last night. Gordon Hayward also jumped into the fray with 15 points and eight rebounds. Boston outscored the Raptors 36-24 in the final stanza to seal the win at home.

The emotional leader of the Toronto Raptors may be the longest tenured player on the team – Kyle Lowry, but it’s obvious the mantle of athleticism has been handed to Pascal Siakam, who did not disappoint. I still think if the Raptors don’t want to devolve into Eastern Conference irrelevance after their championship season, they are still another player away. Siakam and Lowry can’t carry a team that’s driven by a front court. They’re still a flashy, slasher type away and though I love Fred VanVleet, it’s not him nor is it O.G. Anunoby.

Masai Ujiri, whatcha got?

SIDELINES

  • The Raptors played nine players last night in Boston, versus the eight man rotation they featured on Opening Night.
  • Daniel Thies and Robert Williams III both logged 14 minutes in rotating through the lineup as the team covers for the injured Enes Kanter.
  • Pascal Siakam was nearly scoreless before halftime.

NEXT UP
Toronto @ Chicago today
Boston @ New York today

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

Are the Timberwolves for Real?

Minnesota Timberwolves (2-0)121
Charlotte Hornets (1-1)99

After question marks over the past couple of seasons, the Minnesota Timberwolves are off to a 2-0 start in this young 2019-20 season. Question is, is it a legitimate 2-0? Or is it just because they’re playing lesser talent?

Timberwolves

  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 37 points – 15 rebounds – eight assists
  • Andrew Wiggins: 16 points – four rebounds – two assists
  • Josh Okogie: 14 points – four rebounds – three assists

Hornets

  • Devonte’ Graham: 24 points – two rebounds – four assists
  • Miles Bridges: 17 points – two rebounds – one assist
  • Terry Rozier: 11 points – one rebound – 10 assists

The answer is, it doesn’t really even matter. A win is a win is a win. Young, struggling teams that are trying to forge an identity need confidence and wins build confidence. The onus is on head coach Ryan Saunders to find and fix the flaws the way his dad, Flip, used to do to make a ho-hum team a great team.

Andrew Wiggins has been trying to find his way and his worth since being traded from Cleveland for Kevin Love – who honestly has been trying to find his way and worth since leaving Minnesota.

Given the right coaching and space, Wiggins has the chance to make this his year. Tough playing in the shadows of Karl-Anthony Towns, but that will always be the case as long as he’s in the woods up north.

For Charlotte, they have a gem in Devonte’ Graham, which could help them in the long run, because he is the answer Charlotte was looking for when they signed Terry Rozier. Rozier looked nice last night, but he’s not the franchise guy here nor would he have been had he stayed in Boston.

Too early to tell, especially if we’re looking at Kemba Walker this season, but that’s a trade that never should have happened. However, Graham has the opportunity to seize upon it and become the darling to Hornets fans and their empty seats that Walker once was.

SIDELINES

  • Charlotte struggled without Cody Zeller in the lineup versus Karl-Anthony Towns. The gaping hole in the middle allowed Minnesota to dominate the boards, 52-42.
  • Graham is shooting 75 percent from downtown through Charlotte’s first two games.
  • Towns drained four three-pointers in the contest.
  • Nic Batum’s broken finger will have him out three weeks.

NEXT UP
Miami @ Minnesota on Sunday
Charlotte @ Los Angeles (Lakers) on Sunday

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

Mavs Start Slow, End Big … and Easy

Dallas Mavericks (1-0)123
New Orleans Pelicans (0-1)116

The New Orleans Pelicans paid homage to Dirk Nowitzki in the first quarter by scoring 41 points to Dallas’ 27; but the feel-good ended there, as the Mavericks answered in the second quarter with 45 and stole the Pelicans’ momentum en route to a seven-point win in the Big Easy.

Mavericks

  • Luka Doncic: 25 points – 10 rebounds – 10 assists
  • Kristaps Porzingis: 24 points – four rebounds – three assists
  • Delon Wright: 20 points – seven rebounds – three assists

Pelicans

  • Brandon Ingram: 25 points – eight rebounds – three assists
  • Josh Hart: 16 points – nine rebounds – 0 assists
  • Derrick Favors: 16 points – seven rebounds – two assists

For the Pelicans, it’s the former Lakers that are taking over this team in the absence of Zion Williamson, and that’s not such a bad thing once head coach Alvin Gentry can wrap his arms around it, embrace it and figure out how to use it to his advantage.

Not only did Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart have solid games, Lonzo Ball is coming into his own this season in New Orleans; he finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists as he works through his newfound shooting style.

But it’s disheartening to watch the alienation of Jrue Holiday and Frank Jackson, two guys who were Pelicans through and through, amid the turmoil of last season’s Davis drama. Holiday drug the bottom of the Mississippi River with his 18.2 percent performance last night while Derrick Favors shouldered the load shooting 80 percent.

Dallas’ imprint this season is the pairing of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, who combined for 49 of Dallas’ points last night. For the second straight game, the question remains, who else is going to step up for the Mavericks? That was answered last night by Delon Wright, who also had five steals and shot a team-high 66.7 percent.

SIDELINES

  • The game was knotted at 109-109 with five minutes remaining.
  • Doncic notched the young season’s second triple double; Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokuonmpo had the first, appropriately, against Russell Westbrook.
  • Dallas was 14-of-40 from downtown; New Orleans finished 15-of-41.
  • With the big first quarter, New Orleans led by double digits most of the first half; however, after their 14 point first quarter, Dallas responded by outscoring the Pelicans by 22 in the second quarter and the Mavericks took a 72-64 lead into the locker room at the half.

NEXT UP
New Orleans @ Houston today
Portland @ Dallas on Sunday

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

Wizards Feast on Roadkill in Oklahoma

Washington Wizards (1-1)97
Oklahoma City Thunder (0-2)85

It’s strange to see a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder opening the season at 0-2. But when you’re rebuilding, every team – even the Washington Wizards, led by former Thunder skipper Scott Brooks – will swoop in like vultures to pick at the dead flesh for a ‘W.’

Wizards

  • Thomas Bryant: 21 points – 11 rebounds – two assists
  • Rui Hachimura: 19 points – five rebounds – two assists
  • Bradley Beal: 17 points – six rebounds – three assists

Thunder

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 28 points – seven rebounds – four assists
  • Danilo Gallinari: 18 points – five rebounds – two assists
  • Dennis Schroder: Nine points – four rebounds – three assists

Of course, it doesn’t help when the roadkill barely has a pulse beyond Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. No one on the Thunder even touched double digits in scoring other than those two. Mr. $160 Million only mustered six points, two rebounds and four assists; his stats with State Farm commercials are better.

Steven Adams only had double digits in the rebounding column with 14, which the Thunder barely won, 49-47. In fact, it was their only redeeming quality, after shooting 39 percent in their own house.

Meanwhile, Brooks and Co. took advantage, though the pickings were relatively easy. I mean when your top guy, Bradley Beal, is your third leading scorer, it’s been easy pickings. Rui Hachimura may have been the steal of the 2019 NBA Draft this side of Zion Williamson, however.

While it’s been well known, and their play has shown it quite apparent that the Oklahoma City Thunder are in rebuild mode, there’s no need to lay down and die, allowing teams to run through your house like an estate sale.

That’s not the Oklahoma spirit that I’ve known and loved for the past 10 years.

SIDELINES

  • Washington put on a 14-0 run to deal the Thunder’s fate, after being held scoreless for the first 4.5 minutes of the fourth quarter.
  • Oklahoma City had 19 turnovers last night – so it wasn’t all Russell Westbrook, right?
  • Andre Roberson – who has missed the last year and a half, did not play again last night and has no timetable for a return. I think he’d look good in a Raptors uniform; I’ll take Fred VanVleet in OKC.
  • Oxymoronic quote from Mr. State Farm: “It’s the NBA. We’re all pros. You can’t be taking time and losing games.” Again – six, two, and four.

NEXT UP
Washington @ San Antonio today
Golden State @ Oklahoma City on Sunday

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

If Beale Street Could Talk … It’d Be about Coby White

Chicago Bulls (1-1)110
Memphis Grizzlies (0-2)102

With the seventh pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select Coby White from the University of North Carolina. Pinch me, but am I admitting that the dumpster fire of a front office that Chicago has may have actually done something right?

Bulls

  • Zach LaVine: 37 points – six rebounds – four assists
  • Coby White: 25 points – six rebounds – two assists
  • Lauri Markkanen: Nine points – 11 rebounds – three assists

Grizzlies

  • Jaren Jackson, Jr.: 23 points – 11 rebounds – two assists
  • Brandon Clarke: 14 points – five rebounds – one assist
  • Jae Crowder: 13 points – nine rebounds – three assists

The seventh pick of this year’s draft came into the house of the second pick of the draft and straight went ham. White scored 21 of his points in the second half while Ja Morant was quiet with 10 points, three rebounds and five assists in the Memphis loss, their second in two games.

Brandon Clarke, who the Grizzlies got on draft night from the Oklahoma City Thunder, looked solid shooting 77.8 percent – the only guy in the top four for Memphis last night whose name didn’t begin with “Ja.”

As always, Zach LaVine led the Bulls, while Lauri Markkanen did what he needed to do in the rebounding department with 11, and the Bulls snuck out of Beale Street leaving the Grizzlies to sing the blues.

Lots of tape to watch in Memphis already for Taylor Jenkins.

SIDELINES

  • The Bulls have won five straight over the Grizzlies.
  • The Grizzlies play five of their next six games at home.
  • In case you were wondering, the wind drag on Coby White’s afro has been calculated at D = Cd * A * .5 * r * V^2

NEXT UP

Toronto @ Chicago today
Brooklyn @ Memphis on Sunday

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

Shootout in the Rockies Puts Denver Up 2-0

Phoenix Suns (1-1)107
Denver Nuggets (2-0)108 (OT)

If you’re a fan of pure, competitive basketball and you missed last night’s game between the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets, then you missed a gem … and you’re not a purist.

Suns

  • Kelly Oubre, Jr.: 23 points – eight rebounds – two assists (fouled out)
  • Frank Kaminsky: 19 points – 11 rebounds – one assist
  • Devin Booker: 18 points – five rebounds – seven assists

Nuggets

  • Jamal Murray: 27 points – seven rebounds – three assists
  • Nikola Jokic: 23 points – 14 rebounds – 12 assists
  • Malik Beasley; 17 points – four rebounds – one assist

Nikola Jokic posted the first triple double of his young season in the overtime win last night in Denver. Personally, I think the title of Mr. Triple Double falls to Jokic or Ben Simmons with Russell Westbrook having to share the ball more in Houston, and I think that does nothing but benefit the Denver Nuggets and their fans. 

Denver is on a mission to regain the respect they had a year ago as they led the Western Conference for the majority of last season, before bouncing out of the playoffs in embarrassing fashion. (I tend to think that Denver would have given Golden State more problems than the nothingness that Portland put up in the Western Conference Finals).

Returning virtually the same cast, they can use that experience to become one of the elite teams in the NBA under head coach Michael Malone.

But Monty Williams isn’t going to let the Phoenix Suns rest on their laurels, despite a scorching in Game One of this young season. Williams’ presence in Phoenix has the Suns looking sharp again, and he has plenty of weapons to crank out a reversal of fortune in the Valley of the Sun.

Last night was entertaining, but as has always been the knock on the Suns since Mike D’Antoni’s days, you’ve got to be able to lock down a guy like Murray if you want the win(s). Just ask Torrey Craig, who impeded Devin Booker’s shot at a last second Phoenix win.

That’s how it’s done.

More like this, please.

SIDELINES

  • Suns center Deandre Ayton began the first of a 25 game suspension for violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy when a diuretic was detected.
  • Phoenix cleaned up at the foul line, where they went 31-of-32.
  • Mike Malone has gone from 33 wins his first season in Denver to 54 last year (33-40-46-54); looking for 58-60 from him this year and a shot at the NBA Finals.

NEXT UP
Los Angeles (Clippers) @ Phoenix today
Denver @ Sacramento on Monday

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

Blazers’ Strong Third Gets Them in the Win Column

Portland Trailblazers (1-1)122
Sacramento Kings (0-2)112

You knew someone was going to come out of this game with their first win of the season; you also knew it wasn’t going to be the Sacramento Kings. If so, then last year’s magnificent run through the Western Conference playoffs meant nothing.

Blazers

  • Damian Lillard: 35 points – five rebounds – five assists
  • Hassan Whiteside: 22 points – nine rebounds – three assists
  • C.J. McCollum: 19 points – two rebounds – three assists

Kings

  • De’Aaron Fox: 28 points – six rebounds – five assists
  • Buddy Hield: 21 points – five rebounds – one assist
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic: 16 points – one rebound – three assists

The Blazers opened up a 37-27 burst coming out of the locker rooms, where they went in tied at 57 at the half. Both teams dropped 28 apiece in the final stanza, so the third quarter was all Portland needed to separate themselves from the Kings and from an 0-2 start to the season.

Portland outshot Sacramento 54 percent to 42 percent on the shoulders of 60-plus percent shooting from Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Mario Hezonja, and Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside went nine-for-10 to lead the Blazers’ effort and may have quietly been the best free agency pick-up of any of them.

C.J. McCollum showed up to the party and chipped in 19 on 44.4 percent shooting, and despite 25 percent from downtown.

But the Kings’ woes extend beyond not being able to hang out with Bud Light Premium. Only Nemanja Bjelica (who management wanted ousted from Dave Joerger’s lineup all season long last year), Richaun Holmes (.667, 10 points, six rebounds), and Justin James and Yogi Farrell (both 1-of-1 in garbage time) got above the .500 mark for Sacramento.

Luke Walton is going to have to get a lot more out of his team than what we’ve seen through two.

It’s called coaching – is he capable? Name recognition alone won’t get you wins.

SIDELINES

  • Damian Lillard scored 13 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter.
  • Anfernee Simons added 15 points in a reserve role for the Blazers.
  • Hassan Whiteside has played 26 minutes in each of his first two games.
  • Longtime Sacramento King Chris Webber and Walton’s father, Bill Walton, were in the house last night.

NEXT UP

Sacramento @ Utah today
Portland @ Dallas on Sunday

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

Lakers Get First Win, Clippers are 2-0

Utah Jazz (1-1)86
Los Angeles Lakers (1-1)95

It took a lethargic first and third quarter from the Utah Jazz for the Los Angeles Lakers to get their first win of the season. Might be a damn lucky thing that Mike Conley is still trying to get his legs with the Jazz, because last night’s Lakers win wasn’t pretty – but they’ll take it for now.

Jazz

  • Donovan Mitchell: 24 points – five rebounds – three assists
  • Mike Conley: 13 points – four rebounds – three assists
  • Emmanuel Mudiay: 12 points – two rebounds – two assists

Lakers

  • LeBron James: 32 points – seven rebounds – 10 assists
  • Anthony Davis: 21 points – seven rebounds – two assists
  • Troy Daniels: 15 points – three rebounds – 0 assists

‘High expectations’ doesn’t even begin to describe what’s on the table for both of these franchises.

Utah was getting a veteran point guard, playmaker, coach on the court type if you will, in Mike Conley. Yet the grizzled vet hasn’t found solid footing for the Jazz just yet. Not found his rhythm. And so the onus of responsibility falls on the shoulders of Donovan Mitchell, for arguably the third straight season (though this season is still in its infancy).

Spida has a nice outing on the Jazz’s Opening Night, but didn’t have much help last night in L.A.

For the Lakers, who missed the playoffs as predicted by yours truly last season, expectations are higher than a winning season. Many have (naively … foolishly … maybe smartly?) put them in the NBA Finals – not penciled them in, but thrown it out there in bold, fat Sharpie expectation, highlighted in Laker gold highlighters.

But who beyond LeBron James and Anthony Davis?

I’d say James’ numbers last night were nice. LeBron fans will drool over them, but we’ve come to expect that from LeBron James over the years. Davis had a better outing last night than Opening Night, where he looked lost and out of place.

Last night it was Troy Daniels, who shot 55.6 percent (highest on the team) with his 15 point effort. But the Lakers are going to have to find a third piece that plays with consistency and some defense. Maybe Oklahoma City’s Andre Roberson, once he’s healthy.

Danny Green had a great night on Opening Night, but was as mundane as you and I last night, shooting 37.5 percent for nine points. JaVale McGee was a goose egg. 

Frank Vogel’s Pacers were much better than Frank Vogel’s Lakers.

It’s a young season – but as anyone who’s aged knows, time goes by faster than you think when things drag on.

Take the win. But let’s see some movement, Rob Pelinka.

You, too, Conley.

SIDELINES

  • The Jazz had 23 turnovers.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic, who the Jazz forked over $73 million for, did not play; Jeff Green had five points in his place.
  • That third piece may very well be Kyle Kuzma, who’s been out with injury through the first two games. Still …

NEXT UP
Sacramento @ Utah today

Charlotte @ Los Angeles on Sunday

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


TONIGHT’S GAMES
Miami Heat @ Milwaukee Bucks – 5 p.m. EDT – NBATV
Philadelphia 76ers @ Detroit Pistons – 7 p.m. EDT – Fox Sports Detroit
GAME OF THE NIGHT

Orlando Magic @ Atlanta Hawks – 7:30 p.m. EDT – Fox Sports Florida
Boston Celtics @ New York Knicks – 7:30 p.m. EDT – NBATV
Toronto Raptors @ Chicago Bulls – 8 p.m. EDT – NBC Sports Chicago
Indiana Pacers @ Cleveland Cavaliers – 8 p.m. EDT – Fox Sports Midwest-Indiana
New Orleans Pelicans @ Houston Rockets – 8 p.m. EDT – AT&T SportsNet Southwest
Washington Wizards @ San Antonio Spurs – 8:30 p.m. EDT – NBC Sports Washington
Sacramento Kings @ Utah Jazz – 9 p.m. EDT – NBC Sports California
Los Angeles Clippers @ Phoenix Suns – 10 p.m. EDT – NBATV

*** 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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