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The Rundown w/T-Money … for October 28, 2019

The Knicks and Warriors finally get in the win column, Denver and Philly remain undefeated, and what’s wrong with the Indiana Pacers? A quick take on all 11 of last night’s games in the NBA …

The Knicks and Warriors finally get in the win column, Denver and Philly remain undefeated, and what’s wrong with the Indiana Pacers? A quick take on all 11 of last night’s games in the NBA …

Pistons Beat Pacers for Second Time in a Week

Indiana Pacers (0-3)94
Detroit Pistons (2-2)96

Were it not for the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons might not have two ticks in the win column and be at .500 right now. As it were, for the second time in a weeks time, the Pistons have claimed victory over Indiana … which begs the question – what’s wrong with the Indiana Pacers?

Pacers

  • Domantas Sabonis: 21 points – 14 rebounds – one assist
  • T.J. Warren: 19 points – five rebounds – one assist
  • Myles Turner: 16 points – five rebounds – one assist

Pistons

  • Christian Wood: 19 points – 12 rebounds – 0 assists
  • Andre Drummond: 18 points – 18 rebounds – one assist
  • Luke Kennard: 14 points – three rebounds – four assists

The team had so much promise before Victor Oladipo went down last season. They had a four game drop right afterward, but bounced right back with pride and determination to show the team wasn’t a one-trick pony. But lately, they’ve gone about as mentally off course as the fictional Ricky Bobby.

Two of their three losses have come at the hands of the Detroit Pistons and I have only mentioned that as many times as I have because it’s about the only thing (beating Indiana) that’s gone in the right direction for Detroit, another team who seems to have no identity without its star player – Blake Griffin.

Christian Wood is getting the exposure he sought in Griffin’s absence and had a nice night against Indiana last night – but who hasn’t, at 0-3? And, though his name isn’t in last night’s top three, Derrick Rose has taken advantage of his time in Detroit, hitting the game winner last night with 28 second remaining.

Both teams have some soul searching to do if they want to take the focus off all those kids on both teams in L.A.

SIDELINES

  • Jeremy Lamb was left out of last night’s game with a hip pointer.
  • Rose shot just four-of-16 from the field, but made it when it counted.
  • Indiana looked good for a bit in the fourth quarter, when they erased a nine point deficit and took a four point lead, but ran out of gas.

NEXT UP

Indiana @ Brooklyn on Wednesday
Detroit @ Toronto on Wednesday

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

Portis has Another Great Game Against Bulls

Chicago Bulls (1-3)98
New York Knicks (1-3)105

Since being traded away from the Chicago Bulls in February of this year, Bobby Portis has taken full advantage and done well every time he’s played his former team, including leading the New York Knicks to their first win last night at Madison Square Garden.

Bulls

  • Zach LaVine: 21 points – five rebounds – three assists
  • Wendell Carter Jr.: 20 points – 10 rebounds – two assists
  • Lauri Markkanen: 18 points – six rebounds – two assists

Knicks

  • Bobby Portis: 28 points – 11 rebounds – two assists
  • R.J. Barrett: 19 points – 15 rebounds – five assists
  • Kevin Knox: 14 points – two rebounds – two assists

Portis shot 10-of-14 (71.4 percent) and led all scorers as the New York Knicks finally got into the win column. Julius Randle added 13, 14, and five, and six Knicks got into double figures in the much-needed win.

Chicago wasn’t as listless as they were in their last game – they almost made the century mark last night. But if it weren’t for Wendell Carter, Jr. these past couple of games, it might have been as if the Bulls never showed.

Coby White and Otto Porter, Jr. should be the focal points of the Bulls, if for no other reason to take the pressure off of Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. Other than the bulking up this offseason, Markkanen looks disinterested at best. I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams calling on him this season.

But the monkey’s off the Knicks’ back and they can focus on what’s worked and what hasn’t. You can’t play Chicago every night of the season.

SIDELINES

  • The Knicks won without Dennis Smith, Jr. due to a death in his family.
  • Otto Porter, Jr. was 7-0 at Madison Square Garden before last night’s loss.
  • The Knicks missed 13 of their first 15 shots, but found their rhythm for the win.

NEXT UP

Chicago @ Cleveland on Wednesday
New York @ Orlando on Wednesday

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

Hawks Get Clipped by Embiid, Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers (3-0)105
Atlanta Hawks (2-1)103

Honestly, as I settled down with my NBA schedule last night, I thought the Rockets and Thunder was going to be the most fun game to watch. I missed most of that game thanks to this Eastern Conference showdown that reminded me a lot of a game about a decade ago between Dallas and Phoenix. An old fashioned shootout.

Sixers

  • Joel Embiid: 36 points – 13 rebounds – five assists
  • Josh Richardson: 14 points – five rebounds – three assists
  • Ben Simmons: 13 points – six rebounds – six assists

Hawks

  • Trae Young: 25 points – four rebounds – nine assists
  • John Collins: 16 points – eight rebounds – one assist
  • De’Andre Hunter: 14 points – nine rebounds – one assist

The 76ers held Trae Young under 30, something no one else had done yet this season, but Joel Embiid’s 36 was even more impressive than either of Young’s 30+ point games, in my opinion.

Credit some of that to ‘load management’ (aka ‘ankle injury’), but also credit the athleticism of one of the finest centers to come along in quite some time.

Throw in the fact that Philly has not on, but two #VFL basketball players in Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris, with Harris there for the long term. Also credit whoever let Jimmy Butler go – because he obviously wouldn’t have been here for these first three wins.

And centers can’t hit free throws? Embiid hit two at the end of the game to register points Nos. 104 and 105, thank you very much.

Atlanta’s future is bright, but it wasn’t to be last night with Philly coming to town. They impressively jumped out to a 65 point first half, but hit a downdraft, only scoring 38 points in the second half.

SIDELINES

  • Shake Milton added nine points for the 76ers before leaving the game with a hyperextended left knee.
  • Mike Scott was ejected for a flagrant foul on Damian Jones.
  • Cam Reddish has accumulated only 11 points through his first three games in the NBA.

NEXT UP

Atlanta @ Miami tonight

Minnesota @ Philadelphia on Wednesday

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

Magic Rally Comes up Short in the North

Orlando Magic (1-2)95
Toronto Raptors (3-1)104

The Orlando Magic gave it their best shot last night in Toronto, running up into the lead with a little over four minutes in the game. They obviously fell short in the end. But it wouldn’t have had to rally like that if they hadn’t let Toronto jump out to a 31-22 burst in the opening quarter.

Magic

  • Jonathan Isaac: 24 points – seven rebounds – 0 assists
  • Evan Fournier: 18 points – four rebounds – two assists
  • Markelle Fultz: 13 points – two rebounds – five assists

Raptors

  • Kyle Lowry: 26 points – five rebounds – six assists
  • Pascal Siakam: 24 points – nine rebounds – three assists
  • Fred VanVleet: 14 points – five rebounds – six assists

Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam did their thing on the home floor to push the champs to their third win of the season. In fact, the starting five all hit double digits in scoring: Fred VanVleet is trying to fill the shoes of the vacated Kawhi Leonard, while O.G. Anunoby went 12 and eight, and Marc Gasol finished with 10 and 10.

Jonathan Isaac stood tall with 70 percent shooting for the Magic, who seemed to have made Aaron Gordon disappear thus far this season. The Magic also had five drop numbers in double digit fashion, but Gordon again wasn’t one of them, only notching two points in 30 minutes of play.

For a team that appeared to ably compete in the Eastern Conference, the Magic sure seem to have been an illusion at best, compared to 2018-19. If they want to get back to the level of respectability, and yes, playoff basketball, they’ve got to dig deeper – trade Gordon to Cleveland for Tristan Thompson, for starters.

SIDELINES

  • Marc Gasol scored on an 11-2 run for the Raptors to start the second half.
  • Nikola Vucevic, arguably the team’s star, shot 1-for-13 last night.
  • Nick Nurse is 0-for-3 on coach’s challenges thus far this season.

NEXT UP

New York @ Orlando on Wednesday
Detroit @ Toronto on Wednesday

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

Warriors Get First Win in New Orleans

Golden State Warriors (1-2)134
New Orleans Pelicans (0-4)123

The New Orleans Pelicans look like a team trying to take another shot at a No. 1 pick next summer. The Golden State Warriors may not be far behind them, but last night jumped a tick ahead of the Pelicans in that not-so-endearing race.

Warriors

  • Stephen Curry: 26 points – three rebounds – 11 assists
  • D’Angelo Russell: 24 points – seven rebounds – eight assists
  • Damion Lee: 23 points – 11 rebounds – two assists

Pelicans

  • Brandon Ingram: 27 points – 10 rebounds – six assists
  • Jaxson Hayes: 19 points – three rebounds – one assist
  • Kenrich Williams: 16 points – six rebounds – two assists

We knew it was going to take something special from not only Stephen Curry for the Warriors to have a semi-successful season, but from someone – anyone – else on this hodgepodge Golden State roster with Klay Thompson out for the majority of the year.

Golden State has nine new players to assimilate into its roster; on the other side of the coin, at least the core of the New Orleans roster played together – in L.A.

But last night that didn’t matter as Brandon Ingram seems to be the only dominant name night in and night out in New Orleans’ locker room, on the floor and the stat sheet at the end of the night. Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart only had 12 points and four rebounds apiece, though Ball did have nine assists.

Rookie Jaxson Hayes stepped up and put his name in the lights for the first time this season, but it was Golden State’s Damion Lee and Jordan Poole who helped things click for the Warriors’ first win of the season.

D’Angelo Russell and Curry will be a nice tandem when they’re on, but if and when they’re not, they may see themselves beside New Orleans at the podium drawing ping pong balls next May.

SIDELINES

  • Draymond Green quietly had a triple double last night – 16 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists.
  • Kevon Looney was out for the second straight game with tightness in his hammy.
  • J.J. Redick missed nine of 10 shots last night; eight of nine from the perimeter.

NEXT UP

Phoenix @ Golden State on Wednesday
Denver @ New Orleans on Thursday

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

Harden’s 40 Pushes Rockets Past Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder (1-3)112
Houston Rockets (2-1)116

It’s not like Oklahoma City jumped out to a 13 point first quarter lead. Oh yeah, they did. And a 62 point first half? Oh yeah, they did that, too. In fact, Houston looked like it had a problem after the visiting 1-2 Oklahoma City Thunder came to town to pay its respects to former teammate Russell Westbrook

Thunder

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 22 points – nine rebounds – four assists
  • Dennis Schroder: 22 points – five rebounds – seven assists
  • Chris Paul: 15 points – five rebounds – four assists

Rockets

  • James Harden: 40 points – three rebounds – seven assists
  • Russell Westbrook: 21 points – 12 rebounds – nine assists
  • P.J. Tucker: 17 points – nine rebounds – one assist

And Russ gave love right back, nearly notching another triple double at the expense of his former teammates. But it was James Harden who stole the show, shooting 21 shots to get to his game high 40 points to hold off the hungry and motivated Thunder.

P.J. Tucker jumped into the fray again, having been a third-option factor in every game this season. Which begs the question – why did Daryl Morey pay Eric Gordon $54.5 million to go 30.2 percent and 11.3 points per game this season? Are the China comments just a distraction from the fact that he biffed it on Gordon?

The Thunder gave it a great effort last night, though. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander seems to be bringing out the best in Dennis Schroder and vice versa. Nerlens Noel matched Chris Paul, and as has been his reputation no matter where he’s been, Danilo Gallinari has been the silent assassin.

The Thunder aren’t as bad as you think.

But the Westbrook-Harden pairing is going to be better than we all think. Ironically, the question mark so far is Harden and his sub-par shooting percentage. Keep an eye on the Rockets.

SIDELINES

  • Westbrook went to the Oklahoma City bench and hugged head coach Billy Donovan, and greeted each player before the game began.
  • The closest the Thunder got in the fourth quarter was four points, when they reached the century mark.
  • Steven Adams left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return.

NEXT UP

Portland @ Oklahoma City on Wednesday
Houston @ Washington on Wednesday

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

Bucks Team Win Changes Narrative

Cleveland Cavaliers (1-2)112
Milwaukee Bucks (2-1)129

‘Most Valuable’ in my book is how a team does with the services of their most vital player on the court versus without. It can also mean, how does the team do when their most vital players has an off night. For the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokuonmpo, I feel he’s proven his MVP status by how his team performs when he doesn’t have MVP numbers.

Cavaliers

  • Collin Sexton: 18 points – three rebounds – one assist
  • Tristan Thompson: 17 points – 13 rebounds – four assists
  • Jordan Clarkson: 17 points – 0 rebounds – four assists

Bucks

  • Khris Middleton: 21 points – eight rebounds – two assists
  • George Hill: 19 points – eight rebounds – three assists
  • Pat Connaughton: 17 points four rebounds – four assists

Antetokuonmpo’s desire to challenge himself and his teammates, to take things one game at a time, be more cordial and be better people and basketball players have translated to his teammates and will transcend this team to an eventual championship before all is said and done.

That being said, they were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers last night. Not exactly the L.A. Clippers or L.A. Lakers.

But with Antetokuonmpo only shooting 33.3 percent and ringing up a 14-10-7 evening, six other Bucks players stepped up into double digit scoring, and Kyle Korver and Pat Connaughton shot the lights out at 100 percent and 70 percent, respectively.

Cleveland got a good game out of its core, also having six players hit double digits, but its woes lie in 45 percent shooting to Milwaukee’s 52 percent, being outrebounded, out-assisted, and beaten 9-2 in steals.

It’s gonna be a slow rebuild in Cleveland. Tough to fill the shoes of No. 23.

SIDELINES

  • The injury bug has bitten John Henson again – a strained right hamstring could mean at least a month out of the rotation for the Cavaliers big man.
  • George Hill played well against his former team, also hitting 70 percent in shooting.
  • Cleveland got as close as 96-91 in the fourth quarter.

NEXT UP

Chicago @ Cleveland on Wednesday
Milwaukee @ Boston on Wednesday

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

Blazers Unable to Pull it Off in San Antonio  

Portland Trailblazers (2-2)110
San Antonio Spurs (3-0)113

Apparently running out to a 33-19 first quarter caused the Portland Trailblazers to run out of steam; it caused head coach Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs zero concern.

Blazers

  • Damian Lillard: 28 points – nine rebounds – seven assists
  • C.J. McCollum: 27 points – three rebounds – five assists
  • Rodney Hood: 11 points – three rebounds – 0 assists

Spurs

  • DeMar DeRozan: 27 points – seven rebounds – 0 assists
  • Derrick White: 21 points – five rebounds – three assists
  • LaMarcus Aldridge: 15 points – seven rebounds – three assists

The Spurs came back in gentlemanly fashion with a 26-18 second quarter and a rambunctious 37-20 third quarter to salt the game away and keep their record spotless through the first three games of the season.

Portland comes into the season with something to prove after getting bounced by the Golden State Warriors in last season’s Western Conference Finals, four games to none.

San Antonio truly never seems to have anything to prove, which may be why they are one of the most successful franchises in all of sports, much less the NBA.

Calm, cool, and collected, the Spurs put together their 63 point run over the second and third quarters behind DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White

Meanwhile, Damian Lillard scored 18 straight points for the Trailblazers in the fourth quarter to try and singlehandedly push Portland back into contention and will the win, but outside of C.J. McCollum, Lillard had little help.

It’s gonna take a better effort than eight and seven from Hassan Whiteside to will themselves to win against teams like San Antonio if they want to get back to the WCF.

SIDELINES

  • San Antonio is 3-0 for the eighth time in 43 years.
  • The Spurs have only been under .500 for 65 days in the last 23 years.
  • Kent Bazemore fouled out, scoring only three points; Pau Gasol did not play for Portland.

NEXT UP

Portland @ Oklahoma City on Wednesday
San Antonio @ Los Angeles (Clippers) on Thursday

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

Jazz Eclipse Suns

Utah Jazz (3-1)96
Phoenix Suns (2-2)95

After starting the season 2-0, the Phoenix Suns have dropped their last two in close games. No moral victories, that’s just not music to Phoenix’s ears right now, even though they’re a game ahead of their 1-3 start through four games last season.

Jazz

  • Bojan Bogdanovic: 29 points – five rebounds – two assists
  • Donovan Mitchell: 25 points – two rebounds – three assists
  • Rudy Gobert: 15 points – 18 rebounds – one assist

Suns

  • Devin Booker: 21 points – three rebounds – 0 assists
  • Kelly Oubre, Jr.: 18 points – three rebounds – three assists
  • Jevon Carter: 15 points – four rebounds – three assists

In fact, the Suns began 2-8 through their first 10 games a season ago, while Utah started out 2-2 through four and 4-6 through 10, a disappointing start for them considering the run they put together in Donovan Mitchell’s rookie season.

Expectations for the Jazz are high again this year, with many thinking they could be the dark horse candidate to win the Western Conference. Not if either L.A. team or Denver has to say anything about it, much less San Antonio.

But it’s the addition of Bojan Bogdanovic – not Mike Conley – which has paid big dividends thus far. Bogdanovic has led the team twice in scoring through four games – not bad considering he was out for Game Two.

Conley had one point, two assists, and ones across the rest of the stat board as he still tries to find a way to impact this roster. Perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate (and winner) Rudy Gobert finally made his presence felt last night and Mitchell continues to do his thing, including last second free throws like last night.

For Phoenix, 2-2 has to feel good, though not as good as last week. But to lose your starting center for basically a third of the season and still be winning or in games by a bucket or two gives Monty Williams more to build upon that to dig for answers for. Take the little wins, even in the losses.

SIDELINES

  • Utah outrebounded the Suns in the first half, 35-22.
  • Former Jazz guard Ricky Rubio missed the Suns’ last game with a bruised knee; he finished with 10-10-8 last night.
  • Utah shot only 38 percent and committed 23 turnovers – still got the ‘W’

NEXT UP

Los Angeles (Clippers) @ Utah on Wednesday
Phoenix @ Golden State on Wednesday

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

Nuggets Stay Spotless

Denver Nuggets (3-0)101
Sacramento Kings (0-4)94

Somewhere, Dave Joerger is either laughing his ass off, or scratching his head. Maybe both.

Nuggets

  • Jamal Murray: 18 points – four rebounds – three assists
  • Gary Harris: 17 points – four rebounds – two assists
  • Will Barton: 13 points – nine rebounds – three assists

Kings

  • Richaun Holmes: 24 points – 13 rebounds – 0 assists
  • De’Aaron Fox: 20 points – three rebounds – nine assists
  • Harrison Barnes: 12 points – eight rebounds – 0 assists

The Sacramento Kings are 0-4 to start this young season, yet no one in the front office is calling for Luke Walton’s head on a platter … yet. At least, this time a year ago, the Kings were 1-3, and had gone into Oklahoma City and taken down the Thunder … with Russell Westbrook.

But now we’re all supposed to have faith in the process under Walton.

I guess the Kings ownership and management are considering the fact that the Kings have had to play tough opponents like Phoenix, Portland, Utah and Denver, giving Walton the benefit of the doubt and a ‘tough schedule.’

Just going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing Sacramento would lose to the Big 3’s Killer Threes in a three-on-five game, they’d lose to the Sacramento Boys & Girls Club, and the 2-3-4 NBA writers that live on BackSportsPage as well.

For Denver, and former Sacramento and current Nuggets head coach Michael Malone (yeah, he knows the culture I’m talking about in Sac-Town), it truly is about building a winning culture from top to bottom, which he’s done and been allowed to do in the Mile High City.

The result? An undefeated record thus far, one hell of a season a year ago, and many more to come with this core of players.

Last night was no exception; rather an example, of how it’s done. Nikola Jokic let the guard corps run and he collected rebounds and Denver walked out of Sacramento spotless. With a culture like the Denver Nuggets, dare I say, even Luke Walton could have coached them to a win.

Congrats to Malone on last night, on his success in Denver, but mostly on getting out of Sacramento.

SIDELINES

  • The Kings have been outscored by 10 or more in the third quarter of every game so far this season.
  • Nemanja Bjelica matched Harrison Barnes’ 12 points.
  • Jamal Murray scored the final four points of the game four Denver, also 14 of his 18 in the second half.

NEXT UP

Dallas @ Denver tonight
Charlotte @ Sacramento on Wednesday

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

Hornets Get Swatted in L.A. for Second Straight Game

Charlotte Hornets 96
Los Angeles Clippers111

Scary Terry finally showed up for the Charlotte Hornets. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to push the Hornets to an improbable win in L.A., nor has it been enough to justify the ROI on the $58 million the Hornets paid for the former Boston back-up.

Hornets

  • Terry Rozier: 17 points – three rebounds – two assists
  • Malik Monk: 15 points – one rebound – one assist
  • Cody Zeller: 14 points – 13 rebounds – one assist

Clippers

  • Kawhi Leonard: 30 points – seven rebounds – six assists
  • Lou Williams: 23 points – four rebounds – four assists
  • Landry Shamet: 16 points – four rebounds – two assists

Now I know that’s asking a lot going up against a world championship caliber guy like Kawhi Leonard, perennial Sixth Man Lou Williams, and a Clippers team that played valiantly without superstars a year ago.

But something needs to change in Charlotte and Terry Rozier is not the answer. I envy watching the games in the Queen City because I see so many empty seats, so I know that even without media credentials, I could have one of the nicest seats in the house. 

Saddening, since the Charlotte Hornets were once the pride of the Eastern Conference with names like the late Bobby Phills, Larry Johnson, David Wesley and Alonzo Mourning gracing the locker room, court and community.

That’s where the Clippers are today, filling the Staples Center on their own merits, prompting billionaire team owner Steve Ballmer to build the Clippers their own home arena. No longer the stepchild to the Lakers.

I’m loving watching the Clippers blossom, Landry Shamet molding himself in the image of a mentor like Williams, and how tough the team will be when Paul George suits up.

Rozier better enjoy the money he got paid. Try any improve his game to at least be worth of half of it. Because in L.A., he’d just be 10-12 on the roster … but maybe lucky enough to don a ring at the end of the season.

But not in Charlotte. Michael Jordan, fix this team, please.

SIDELINES

  • Montrezl Harrell scored eight of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.
  • The Clippers won 10 straight over the Hornets at the Staples Center since February 2009, and 10 of 11 overall.
  • Landry Shamet hit four three-pointers in the first six minutes of the game.

NEXT UP

Charlotte @ Sacramento on Wednesday
Los Angeles (Clippers) @ Utah on Wednesday

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

TONIGHT’S GAMES

Atlanta Hawks @ Miami Heat – 7:30 p.m. EDT – NBATV
Dallas Mavericks @ Denver Nuggets – 9 p.m. EDT – Altitude
Memphis Grizzlies @ Los Angeles Lakers – 10:30 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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