The Rockets and Wizards combined for 317 points in regulation, things get rough in Philly, Stephen Curry breaks his left hand, and load management causes the Clippers to fall behind the Lakers. Eleven games on tap last night. Let’s take a look …
Thompson, Love Fuel Cavs to Second Win
|Chicago Bulls (1-4)||111|
|Cleveland Cavaliers (2-2)||117|
The Cleveland Cavaliers got their second win of the season behind Tristan Thompson’s sudden consistency as a basketball player and team leader, while Kevin Love was reminiscent of the old, Minnesota Kevin Love.
- Lauri Markkanen: 16 points – eight rebounds – three assists
- Zach LaVine: 16 points – 0 rebounds – two assists
- Wendell Carter, Jr.: 15 points – eight rebounds – 0 assists
- Tristan Thompson: 23 points – 10 rebounds – two assists
- Collin Sexton: 18 points – two rebounds – two assists
- Kevin Love: 17 points – 20 rebounds – six assists
Cleveland shot 52 percent at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse last night (I miss ‘The Q’), led by their newest millionaire player, Cedi Osman, who shot 66.7 percent along with Jordan ‘The Forgotten Man’ Clarkson. Six Cavaliers shot above .500 from the field, leading to the victory, despite committing 17 turnovers to Chicago’s six.
The Bulls seemed to have found their regular season lethargy and slipped back into their little comfort zone of getting out there and barely presenting fans an opponent – think Washington Generals, except the Generals had organized management and the losses were orchestrated. How far off am I?
Thinking Georgia’s Anthony Edwards already are we? Memphis’ James Wiseman? Or LaMelo Ball?
I don’t blame them. Personally, I’d take Ball – he’s certainly the most athletically talented of the three, though I’m sure Lavar would argue he is.
Too early to admit tanking, but with the way the Bulls are playing, I wouldn’t put it past Jim Paxson and Gar Forman.
- Chicago looked good in their first quarter 15-0 run, but fell flat after that.
- The Bulls have now lost three straight games.
- Chandler Hutchison is rehabbing his strained hamstring through the G League.
Pistons @ Bulls – Friday
Cavaliers @ Pacers – Friday
Two Unbeatens, Two Ejections, Still One Win
|Minnesota Timberwolves (3-1)||95|
|Philadelphia 76ers (4-0)||117|
Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid got into a good, old-fashioned, 1980s-style basketball brawl that just warmed the cockles of this old man’s heart. Embiid came away smiling, not just because of his demeanor – he and Towns were ejected. But because his Philadelphia 76ers came away still undefeated.
- Andrew Wiggins: 19 points – five rebounds – two assists
- Jeff Teague: 15 points – one rebound – five assists
- Karl-Anthony Towns: 13 points – six rebounds – one assist
- Joel Embiid: 19 points – five rebounds – two assists
- Tobias Harris: 18 points – nine rebounds – two assists
- Furkan Korkmaz: 17 points – 0 rebounds – two assists
The pair have a history of trash talking, with Embiid taking the crown on social media – especially Twitter – and only those two truly know what started last night’s MMA match. Funny, for a guy who’s reaction to Kawhi Leonard’s game-winning, last-second rim bouncing shot last spring replaced the Crying Jordan meme on that same social media outlet.
But Embiid appeared to come out of the fracas unscather, other than the ejection, and smiling that broad smile after the third quarter melee.
What those boys watched from their respective locker rooms was nothing short of what we’ve expected from the 76ers and what is known about the Timberwolves’ reputation – they fold and backpeddle when playing a real team.
Philadelphia outscored the Wolves 25-17 in the final period to pile onto the already commanding lead they had built and cap the win.
- The Minnesota loss leaves Philadelphia and San Antonio as the only undefeated teams in the league.
- The last time the Sixers were 4-0 was 2001-02 led by Allen Iverson.
- Embiid led the team in scoring despite playing only 20 minutes.
Timberwolves @ Wizards – Saturday
Sixers @ Portland – Saturday
Gordon Re-Appears for Magic
|New York Knicks (1-4)||83|
|Orlando Magic (2-2)||95|
It’s weird – when I call someone out, they emerge as if to debunk what I’m saying about their absence. If that is truly working, I’m calling out Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals tonight.
- Julius Randle: 16 points – 10 rebounds – seven assists
- Bobby Portis: 12 points – 10 rebounds – 0 assists
- Mitchell Robinson: 12 points – five rebounds – two assists
- Nikola Vucevic: 21 points – 13 rebounds – four assists
- Aaron Gordon: 15 points – 11 rebounds – one assist
- Evan Fournier: 14 points – three rebounds – three assists
But last night saw the emergence of Aaron Gordon, who’s been Casper thus far this season. Gordon came out with a six-of-13 performance for a double double of 15 and 11 in the Magic’s second win of the season. He scored 10 of his 15 in the fourth quarter.
Nikola Vucevic, who’d disappeared in the Magic’s last game, re-constituted his old self for a team-leading performance. The Magic center led all scorers in the game, while Jonathan Isaac had another nice shooting night with 66.7 percent to lead Orlando’s 42 percent on Ugly Shooting Night in the Magic City.
New York isn’t going to come close to winning any game shooting 37 percent, getting outrebounded by eight – which is inexcusable with all the beef they have up front, and losing the assists and steals battles.
The Knicks’ non-existent backcourt means the front court guys have to carry the team, which leads to double digit losses most of the time. No pressure on the rookie, but R.J. Barrett is going to have to do better than 9-2-2 and 36.4 percent from the field for the Knicks to have any chance of getting to 20 or 30 wins, much less the 40 that I went out on a limb in predicting.
- Orlando is the worst shooting team in the NBA a week and a half into the season.
- No Magic player reached double digit scoring in the first half.
- Julius Randle has had a double double in every game this young season.
Knicks @ Celtics – Friday
Bucks @ Magic – Friday
Pacers Pull One Out in Brooklyn
|Indiana Pacers (1-3)||118|
|Brooklyn Nets (1-3)||108|
If you didn’t watch the Indiana Pacers’ game last night, just looking at the score versus their previous three games this season, you’d think Victor Oladipo dressed and played. Instead, Domantas Sabonis rose up, and Malcolm Brogdon is playing at an Oladipo level as the Pacers get their long-awaited first win of the season.
- Domantas Sabonis: 29 points – eight rebounds – four assists
- Jeremy Lamb: 25 points – seven rebounds – 0 assists
- Malcolm Brogdon: 21 points – eight rebounds – 13 assists
- Kyrie Irving: 28 points – seven rebounds – six assists
- Spencer Dinwiddie: 20 points – two rebounds – seven assists
- Caris LeVert: 15 points – six rebounds – three assists
Sabonis outscored everyone in Brooklyn last night – yes, even Kyrie Irving – as the Pacers put together their best game to date this season. Shooting 61.1 percent in his efforts, Sabonis led the Pacers to a 46 percent evening, topped the Nets in assists and steals, and got to the line for 17-of-20, an 85 percent clip.
Brooklyn dominated the boards by a +13 margin, but let the Pacers run out to a 30-20 third quarter that proved to be the difference in the game. All the other three quarters were a dead-even wash.
To hear head coach Nate McMillan describe Sabonis as “a monster down there” wasn’t a Halloween metaphor; he meant that because Sabonis is his go to guy, along with Myles Turner, for the future of the Pacers’ frontcourt. But hearing that brought back memories of his dad, Arvydas Sabonis.
Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson talked about the Nets’ lack of structure and organization, which is evidenced out on the court and in their 1-3 start.
Where’s Uncle Drew? Aside from that 50 point Opening Night, we’ve yet to see the positive leadership effect of Kyrie Irving on Brooklyn Nets basketball.
Knicks fans rejoice – you virtually have the same record without Kyrie … and saved all those duckets.
- Myles Turner left the game in the first quarter after spraining his ankle.
- The Pacers led by 16 with 4:43 remaining in the game.
- Justin Tuck was courtside.
Cavaliers @ Pacers – Friday
Rockets @ Nets – Friday
Bucks’ Play Brings About Question Marks, Not So for Celtics
|Milwaukee Bucks (2-2)||105|
|Boston Celtics (3-1)||116|
The team who held the best record in the NBA for most all of last season is a .500 team after the first week of the season. The odds-on favorite to win the East a year ago, is putting their imprint on the East this year – without Kyrie Irving – who was why they were the faves last year … and why they fell out so quickly last year.
- Khris Middleton: 26 points – six rebounds – three assists
- Giannis Antetokuonmpo: 22 points – 14 rebounds – five assists
- George Hill: 12 points – five rebounds – two assists
- Kemba Walker: 32 points – six rebounds – six assists
- Jayson Tatum: 25 points – four rebounds – two assists
- Gordon Hayward: 21 points – 10 rebounds – seven assists
On Halloween, we don’t want to be talking about teams that really aren’t who they say they are, but here we are talking about a Milwaukee Bucks team that performed out of expectation – maybe even their own – last season, boasts the reigning MVP, but can’t get out of the gate over teams like the re-branded Celtics or the resurgent Miami Heat, neither of which have the roster firepower that the Bucks have.
Losing Malcolm Brogdon is proving to be tough, given the numbers the former Sixth Man is putting up in Indy.
But racing out to a 15 point lead in the first quarter only to give the game away with a 20 point deficit in the third is all but inexcusable for a top tier Eastern Conference team like Milwaukee – even on the road.
Give the Celtics credit, especially Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward. Both are coming into their own with the Celtics. Hayward no longer has to play in Irving’s shadow, though the pressureless 2018-19 campaign allowed him to slowly reassimilate after his devastating injury.
Walker is proving that the trade from Charlotte for Terry Rozier may have been worth it after all.
- Walker had 21 of his 32 points in the second half.
- Milwaukee led by as many as 19 points at one point in the first half.
- Jaylen Brown was out with an illness and the Celtics are missing Enes Kanter for the third consecutive game.
Bucks @ Magic – Friday
Celtics @ Knicks – Friday
Champs Improve to Fourth Win
|Detroit Pistons (2-3)||113|
|Toronto Raptors (4-1)||125|
The reigning NBA Champions looked to be a long shot to even be a consideration in the Eastern Conference without Kawhi Leonard, much less return to the playoffs, Eastern Conference Finals, or the NBA Finals. But, at 4-1, they look like they’ve at least learned something from their one year with Leonard.
- Andre Drummond: 21 points – 22 rebounds – three assists
- Langston Galloway: 17 points – one rebound – one assist
- Derrick Rose: 16 points – 0 rebounds – 10 assists
- Pascal Siakam: 30 points – five rebounds – five assists
- Kyle Lowry: 20 points – five rebounds – eight assists
- Serge Ibaka: 19 points – six rebounds – two assists
That’s not to say that Leonard’s imprint is on par with everything successful in Toronto this season. We’re five games in and have a lot of road to cover between now and April.
But also give head coach Nick Nurse some credit, hell the majority of it – he knows how to win and teaches these guys that 2018-19 doesn’t have to be a one-time illusion – that they can compete, and win.
Pascal Siakam is proving to be the athletic leader on the court, while Kyle Lowry is the inspirational leader – Mr. Raptor – due to his loyalty to the team and ability to lead them as the floor general, an extension of Nurse.
Part of that winning mindset was put in place by Nurse’s predecessor and former boss, Dwane Casey. But Casey seems to have left a lot of that in Toronto, as the Pistons sputter out to a 2-3 record this season.
Derrick Rose and Andre Drummond are nice, long-term assets for Detroit, but we won’t truly know what this team is capable of until they’re healthy. Blake Griffin is still out, but rumored to be back in November.
- The Raptors shot 59 percent on their own floor last night; Detroit hit for 46 percent.
- Pascal Siakam has had three 30+ point efforts through five games; he only hit that mark five times last year.
- Twenty-nine of Toronto’s points came from Detroit’s 20 turnovers.
- It’s the first time that Dwane Casey has lost to the Raptors since he left the team.
Pistons @ Bulls – Friday
Raptors @ Bucks – Saturday
Wild West Shootout Leaves Wizards Wounded
|Houston Rockets (3-1)||159|
|Washington Wizards (1-3)||158|
In case anyone forgot who James Harden is and what he’s capable of doing, last night was a stellar reminder. In case anyone was worried about whether or not Russell Westbrook wasn’t going to get any more triple doubles, he got his second of the season and 140th overall last night. And in case anyone was wondering if Bradley Beal still has game, then you missed one of the best games this side of Minnesota-Philadelphia last night.
- James Harden: 59 points – three rebounds – nine assists
- Clint Capela: 21 points – 12 rebounds – three assists
- Russell Westbrook: 17 points – 10 rebounds – 12 assists
- Bradley Beal: 46 points – six rebounds – eight assists
- Rui Hachimura: 23 points – five rebounds – 0 assists
- Davis Bertans: 21 points – three rebounds – two assists
In arguably the best game of the season thus far, the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards battled to 317 combined points in regulation, and Harden and Beal competed to the tune of 105 combined points, with the Rockets ekeing out a one point win in the nation’s capital.
By all logical means, the Wizards shooting 62.6 percent on their home floor, and 82 percent from the line should have equated to a close win in their favor, right?
But the Rockets beat the Wizards where games are decided – hustle points. Houston won out in rebounds, assists, steals, and fewest turnovers, and blocked shots were a wash at four apiece.
Harden took 32 shots at 56.3 percent to get his 59; Beal shot 20 at 70 percent to get his 46. Davis Bertans’ 21 also came at a 70 percent clip – you know Gregg Popovich is missing that. Even Isaiah Thomas got 24 minutes in the slugfest, coming out with a nice 17 point, 10 assist showing.
How close was the end of this game? Harden went one-of-two for the final margin with 2.4 remaining after Beal had tied it with free throws with 8.1 seconds in the game.
I’d watch that one over and over again.
- Westbrook’s 14 points in the fourth quarter ensured him his 140th career triple double.
- Six of the nine players in Scott Brooks’ rotation are new to the Washington Wizards roster.
- The game began about the same time as Game Seven of the World Series; the Washington team fared better in that one, the Nationals stunning the Houston Astros 6-2 to take home the championship in Major League Baseball.
Rockets @ Nets – Friday
Timberwolves @ Wizards – Saturday
Blazers Latest to Beat Up on Thunder
|Portland Trailblazers (2-2)||102|
|Oklahoma City Thunder (1-3)||99|
Same story. Different personnel. Same result in Oklahoma City.
- Damian Lillard: 23 points – seven rebounds – 13 assists
- C.J. McCollum: 22 points – four rebounds – three assists
- Kent Bazemore: 14 points – five rebounds – 0 assists
- Chris Paul: 21 points – five rebounds – five assists
- Dennis Schroder: 17 points – four rebounds – two assists
- Nerlens Noel: 15 points – 13 rebounds – two assists
Last year, the dismantling of the Oklahoma City Thunder wasn’t Kawhi Leonard meeting with Paul George and stealing him away to L.A. It wasn’t Russell Westbrook moving on to Houston. Nor was it Sam Presti being a realist and making the decision to rebuild.
It was that damned Damian Lillard wave after hitting a long distance game winner over George in the Western Conference playoffs. Another early round exit. Bye bye.
Lillard and the Blazers were back in town last night to add insult to injury, pour a little salt into a still-fresh wound. Same Blazers team, different Thunder team – same result.
While it was nice to see Chris Paul step up and lead this team (aka increase his trade value) and Nerlens Noel finally play like he did at the University of Kentucky, you can’t play Even Stevens in the stat column, but let the visitors jump out to a 24-17 first quarter lead on your home floor.
Sure, the points pretty much evened out by the end of the third, making Portland score four more than the Thunder in the fourth to steal another win in OKC, but you’ve got to share the ball a little bit more and turn it over a little bit less.
It could mean the difference between 1-3 and 2-2, like the Blazers.
- Lillard was at it again, making three three-pointers in the fourth quarter that turned the tide in the Blazers’ favor.
- The Thunder were ahead 69-68 heading into that fateful fourth quarter, and 79-76 before it was Dame Time.
- The Thunder outrebounded the Blazers despite Steven Adams sitting this one out with a knee contusion.
76ers @ Blazers – Saturday
Pelicans @ Thunder – Saturday
Washington All the Buzz for Charlotte
|Charlotte Hornets (2-3)||118|
|Sacramento Kings (0-5)||111|
After two tough games in L.A., I’m sure the Charlotte Hornets were glad to get to Northern California and see the Sacramento Kings on their schedule. As poorly as Sacramento is playing, the Hornets may not have even had to show up.
- P.J. Washington: 23 points – eight rebounds – three assists
- Terry Rozier: 22 points – five rebounds – six assists
- Malik Monk: 18 points – four rebounds – two assists
- Buddy Hield: 23 points – one rebound – four assists
- Harrison Barnes: 22 points – seven rebounds – one assist
- Richaun Holmes: 17 points – nine rebounds – two assists
You gotta get those gimme games in when you can, and last night afforded P.J. Washington to show why Charlotte drafted him with the 12th pick out of the University of Kentucky.
“He’s a freak of nature. He can jump, alley-oops, post up real well. His three-point shot has improved since college, and he’s shooting it with confidence and it’s going down. He’s able to handle it, push it in transition, so he can do a little bit of everything out there. I’m very impressed with his game, impressed with his progression, impressed with his mentality and IQ out there… ” — Los Angeles Clippers forward Patrick Patterson, after the Hornets played the Clippers this week
Washington led the Hornets last night with 23 points, a blistering 76.9 percent shooting performance from the field, and 66.7 percent from downtown.
No one on either roster even came close. (Okay, I lie; Marvin Williams was four-of-four in his 20 minutes).
Other former No. 12 picks can’t even compare. Gerald Henderson, Mookie Blaylock (okay, maybe), and I’ll give them Jim Paxson.
The kid is something special. I hope that the Hornets coaching staff and management can keep him around to give the 8,264 fans in Charlotte something to cheer about.
- The Kings had their boot on the necks of the Hornets with a 14 point lead that they gave away like it was Halloween candy. Trick or treat. Trick!
- Nic Batum’s broken finger is going to cost him and the Hornets 3-4 more weeks.
- Lost in the loss was De’Aaron Fox’s flirtation with a triple double at 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists. If you’re going to lose like this, deal the kid – he doesn’t deserve this.
Jazz @ Kings – Friday
Hornets @ Warriors – Saturday
Load Management Costs Clippers Advantage on Lakers
|Los Angeles Clippers (3-2)||96|
|Utah Jazz (4-1)||110|
The Los Angeles Clippers fell to 3-2 and behind the Los Angeles Lakers in the standings and Staples Center bragging right due to the team’s decision to rest Kawhi Leonard last night. What we got was last year’s Clippers, which wasn’t pretty.
- Lou Williams: 24 points – three rebounds – four assists
- JaMychal Green: 23 points – eight rebounds – 0 assists
- Montrezl Harrell: 10 points – two rebounds – 0 assists
- Mike Conley: 29 points – one rebound – five assists
- Donovan Mitchell: 24 points – five rebounds – two assists
- Bojan Bogdanovic: 14 points – four rebounds – two assists
But looking at L.A.’s next opponent, you can see why head coach Doc Rivers rested the Franchise Killer. It’s San Antonio, the last remaining Western Conference team with a spotless, undefeated record.
His absence was emphasized by Mike Conley’s breakout game, which took the guard five games to evolve. It’s okay. It was worth the wait. And last night’s version of Mike Conley is what I and many others envisioned as we toyed with dark horse fantasies of Quin Snyder’s Utah Jazz returning to the NBA Finals after a 20+ year absence.
Utah shot 55 percent on their home floor, the “I Can’t Believe They Kept the Same Arena Sponsor for More Than Two Years” Arena, led by Conley’s 64.7 percent pace and Rudy Gobert’s 71.4 rate, closer to the rim.
Conley was also five of eight from downtown.
L.A. countered with the always dependable Lou Williams, and JaMychal Green shot 72.7 percent on the night. But other than that top three in the statistical column, the Clippers might as well have been the L.A. Crickets.
- Conley had 18 points in a Utah Jazz 40-point third quarter; it pushed the Jazz to a comfortable 90-71 lead.
- Williams scored 16 of his points in the first half, before he and the Clippers petered out; the Jazz outscored L.A. 58-45 in the second half.
- Utah had a season-high 13 steals, led by Jeff Green’s three, and three players with two each.
Spurs @ Clippers – Tonight
Jazz @ Kings – Friday
Curry Breaks Left Hand in Loss
|Phoenix Suns (3-2)||121|
|Golden State Warriors (1-3)||110|
… and on a sad note, the Golden State Warriors’ season may be over. After all the Warriors’ games in San Francisco have thus far been busts, and now Stephen Curry’s left hand is busted as well.
- Devin Booker: 31 points – four rebounds – five assists
- Aron Baynes: 24 points – 13 rebounds – seven assists
- Dario Saric: 16 points – nine rebounds – five assists
- Eric Paschall: 20 points – three rebounds – 0 assists
- Glenn Robinson III: 17 points – two rebounds – one assist
- D’Angelo Russell: 15 points – seven rebounds – six assists
Using his hands to brace himself for a hard tumble on the court, Curry landed awkwardly with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter. He will undergo a CT scan to determine if surgery is necessary.
Lost in the somberness of the night was the fact that Monty Williams has the Phoenix Suns playing at another level.
Newcomer Aron Baynes, the recipient of playing time due to the suspension of Deandre Ayton (25 games total), stepped up big and admirable filled Ayton’s shoes in what will be a new look Suns team while Ayton is out.
The Suns put up 96 shots compared to 82 for Golden State, while neither team shot a remarkable percentage, Phoenix just played the numbers game and came out with the win.
Golden State will likely have to put together some sort of trade package to put someone alongside D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green for the Warriors to salvage games bewteen now and All-Star.
It’s a sad day in the NBA.
I guess now we’ll see if Steve Kerr can really coach.
- Curry was on a three-for-11 pace before he went down; he had nine points on the night.
- Kevon Looney has missed four straight games now with the hamstring injury.
- The Warriors had nine new faces at the beginning of the season; they will become the poster children for this franchise for the foreseeable future, pending Curry’s CT scan.
Spurs @ Warriors – Friday
Suns @ Grizzlies – Saturday
Miami Heat @ Atlanta Hawks – 7 p.m. EDT – TNT
Denver Nuggets @ New Orleans Pelicans – 9:30 p.m. EDT – TNT
San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Clippers – 10:30 p.m. EDT – FSN Prime Ticket
*** 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