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The Rundown v103121 – Pistons Win, Jazz Fall as Parity Begins in the 2021-22 Season

The NBA’s No. 1 draft pick – Cade Cunningham – paid homage to Jalen Green by scoring only two points (Green was the 2nd pick) in his NBA debut last night, but his presence was enough to motivate the Detroit Pistons to their first win of the season.

(Green scored nine points in his NBA debut).

Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz fulfilled my prediction that their first loss would be to the Chicago Bulls at Chicago last night.

That being said, the teams that were in the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago – the Atlanta Hawks and the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks – are both sitting at 3-3, just on the bubble of even making the eighth seed cut. 

And in the West, it’s like someone shook the snow globe. The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers are on the outside looking in, sitting at 10th and 12th place in the Western Conference, which if the playoffs were to begin today – and NBA Commissioner might have it his way with that damned in-season tournament notion – it’d be a new sheriff in the West …. or at least the return of an old, familiar marksman in Stephen Curry.

The Golden State Warriors have been near flawless, and Klay Thompson is set to return by Christmas.

And y’all thought it was going to be Lakers and Nets, and then 28 other teams.

Looks like about 15 of them took that personally. This is going to be a fun season.

Cade Cunningham versus Jalen Green is November 10th. At Houston. I’m feeling Green with the advantage that night.

EASTERN CONFERENCE WESTERN CONFERENCE
New York Knicks (5-1) Golden State Warriors (5-1)
Chicago Bulls (5-1) Utah Jazz (4-1)
Washington Wizards (5-1) Denver Nuggets (4-2)
Miami Heat (5-1) Dallas Mavericks (3-2)
Charlotte Hornets (4-2) Sacramento Kings (3-2)
Philadelphia 76ers (4-2) Portland Trailblazers (3-2)
Toronto Raptors (4-3) Minnesota Timberwolves (3-2)
Milwaukee Bucks (3-3) Los Angeles Lakers (3-3)
Brooklyn Nets (3-3) Memphis Grizzlies (3-3)
Atlanta Hawks (3-3) Phoenix Suns (2-3)
Cleveland Cavaliers (3-4) San Antonio Spurs (2-4)
Boston Celtics (2-4) Los Angeles Clippers (1-4)
Detroit Pistons (1-4) Houston Rockets (1-4)
Orlando Magic (1-6) Oklahoma City Thunder (1-5)
Indiana Pacers (1-6) New Orleans Pelicans (1-6)

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BOSTON CELTICS   112 WASHINGTON WIZARDS   115   (OT)
Jaylen Brown – 34 points

Jayson Tatum – 15 rebounds

Dennis Schroder – 9 assists

Bradley Beal – 36 points

Kyle Kuzma – 17 rebounds

Bradley Beal – 6 assists

In the best game of the night, the best team in the Eastern Conference (okay, one of four teams tied at 5-1) walked off the court a winner … and it wasn’t the Boston Celtics. They are mired at 12th in the conference, as first time head coach Ime Udoka triesto wrap his mind around how to right the ship. The other first time head coach – Wes Unseld, Jr. – is using his basketball pedigree and knowledge to get the most out of this ragtag bunch known as the Washington Wizards, a team his father was a dominant fixture of for many years. His dad would have been proud of the Wizards last night, who stayed with the Celtics step for step through the entire night, until they pulled away 6-3 in the second overtime period, sending the C’s crashing to a 2-4 mark. Bradley Beal (36 points, seven rebounds, six assists) may not regret staying in Washington after all.

NEXT UP
Cavaliers at Suns – Tonight
Rockets at Lakers – Halloween

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ORLANDO MAGIC   103 DETROIT PISTONS   110
Franz Wagner – 19 points

Cole Anthony – 10 rebounds

Jalen Suggs – 6 assists

Jerami Grant – 22 points

Isaiah Stewart – 8 rebounds

Cory Joseph – 6 assists

The Detroit Pistons finally picked up their first win of the 2021-22 season with seven players in double digit scoring, and none of them named Cade Cunningham. Jerami Grant led all scorers with 22 points, Kelly Olynyk had 18, while it was 13 apiece for Josh Jackson and Saddiq Bey, a dozen from Trey Lyles, and 11 each from both Cory Joseph and Isaiah Stewart. Franz Wagner led Orlando with 19 points, but in the cliche of the day, the Magic ran out of gas in the Motor City, and Detroit head coach Dwane Casey finally got to taste his first victory of the season. 

NEXT UP
Pistons at Nets – Tonight
Magic at Timberwolves – Monday

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NEW YORK KNICKS   123 NEW ORLEANS PELICANS   117
R.J. Barrett – 35 points

R.J. Barrett – 8 rebounds

R.J. Barrett – 6 assists

Jonas Valanciunas – 27 points

Jonas Valanciunas – 14 rebounds

Devonte’ Graham – 8 assists

The New York Knicks continued their stranglehold on the Eastern Conference by subduing the worst team in the Western Conference on the road last night in New Orleans. Stranglehold? Yes. If you’ve gotten something that you haven’t had in a long, logn time – why would you let it go? R.J. Barrett wasn’t about to, as he led all scorers with a career-high 35 points, eight rebounds, and six assists with the Knicks winning their fifth out of six. Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker each kicked in 19 points, while Taj Gibson came out of the ‘I thought he retired’ annals to notch 13, and it was 10 apiece for both Alec Burks and Julius Randle. The Pelicans had six in double figures, but it wasn’t enough as the Knicks’ strong first quarter was enough of an edge to keep the Pelicans at bay.

NEXT UP
Raptors at Knicks – Monday
Pelicans at Suns – Tuesday

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ATLANTA HAWKS   94 PHILADELPHIA 76ERS   122
Cam Reddish – 16 points

Clint Capela – 12 rebounds

Trae Young – 10 assists

Tobias Harris – 22 points

Tobias Harris – 11 rebounds

Tobias Harris – 4 assists

If the Atlanta Hawks are truly considering the market value of Cam Reddish, they might want to hold off or even reconsider that notion until the rest of this team gets their bird droppings together. Reddish was their leader in the season opening win against the Dallas Mavericks, 19 in a loss at Cleveland, 17 in a win over Detroit, and was Atlanta’s leading scorer again last night, though the Hawks fell on the road at Philadelphia. Reddish is second only to Trae Young on the team in scoring at 16.2 per outing, which shows you how much ground the Hawks have to make up to even get a sniff of the Eastern Conference playoffs again this year, much less the ECF. Philadelphia is far and away a more viable candidate with #VFL Tobias Harris leading the way last night with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists. Ben Simmons was spotted on an exercise bike at the 76ers practice facility. Head coach Doc Rivers saying Simmons is “out for personal reasons” means they haven’t found a buyer yet.

NEXT UP
Wizards at Hawks – Monday
Trailblazers at Sixers – Monday

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TORONTO RAPTORS   97 INDIANA PACERS   94
Scottie Barnes – 21 points

Scottie Barnes – 12 rebounds

O.G. Anunoby – 5 assists

Domantas Sabonis – 22 points

Domantas Sabonis – 14 rebounds

T.J. McConnell – 7 assists

Despite double digit scoring efforts from six of their players, the Indiana Pacers walked off the court last night a disappointing 1-6 after the Toronto Raptors stole one from them. Domantas Sabonis and Scottie Barnes played one another to a statistical standstill, though it would be the rookie Barnes getting the last laugh as Sabonis’ rushed three-pointer in the final seconds of the game was off the mark. The Raptors’ three game win streak is attributed to how Toronto doesn’t rely on a single player to be their savior. One night it’s Barnes, another O.G. Anunoby, and another night it might be Fred VanVleet. All good preparation for meshing well with one another until Pascal Siakam returns to the lineup. That will be surely tested tomorrow when they visit the New York Knicks.

NEXT UP
Raptors at Knicks – Monday
Spurs at Pacers – Monday

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

SAN ANTONIO SPURS   102 MILWAUKEE BUCKS   93
Dejounte Murray – 23 points

Keldon Johnson – 11 rebounds

Dejounte Murray – 9 assists

Giannis Antetokuonmpo – 28 points

Giannis Antetokuonmpo – 13 rebounds

Khris Middleton – 5 assists

The reigning champs are 3-3, a .500 team at best, and it shows not only in their record, but in their body language, up to and including last night when they fell to the visiting San Antonio Spurs by nine points. While the win helped San Antonio end a four game skid of their own, however it cost Milwaukee their second consecutive home loss, and it seems no one fears the deer much anymore. Jrue Holiday was again out with a left ankle injury; he’s now missed three straight games. Hence, Milwaukee’s shooting landed at a mundane .404 and they hit just 10 of their three pointers, shooting 39. 

NEXT UP
Jazz at Bucks – Tonight
Spurs at Pacers – Monday

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

UTAH JAZZ   99 CHICAGO BULLS   107
Donovan Mitchell – 30 points

Rudy Gobert – 19 rebounds

Donovan Mitchell – 6 assists

DeMar DeRozan – 32 points

Nikola Vucevic – 12 rebounds

Zach LaVine – 5 assists

This is the game where I said the Utah Jazz would suffer their first loss, and I was right. The Jazz, as good as they are, are an easy read, relying on Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jordan Clarkson almost to a fault. That foursome collaborated for 77 of Utah’s 99 points last night; the Chicago Bulls figured that, kept anyone else from getting any significant points, and turned up the juice on their side of the ball with DeMar DeRozan leading all scorers with 32 points, Zach LaVine adding 26 points, 16 from Nikola Vucevic, and 11 from Lonzo Ball. The Bulls’ big four outscored Utah’s big four 85-77. Ball game. I think teams underestimated how good the Bulls got from their summer acquisitions and aren’t paying attention to how well they’re coming together.

NEXT UP
Jazz at Bucks – Tonight
Bulls at Celtics – Monday

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

MIAMI HEAT   129 MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES   103
Jimmy Butler – 27 points

Dewayne Dedmon – 9 rebounds

Kyle Lowry – 8 assists

De’Anthony Melton, Ja Morant – 20 points

Steven Adams, Xavier Tillman – 5 rebounds

Ja Morant – 7 assists

Twenty-one three pointers for the Miami Heat last night – tough to match that, even for Ja Morant. Duncan Robinson hit five for 10, Kyle Lowry was four of five, Tyler Herro dropped four of his eight attempts, Markieff Morris was 100 percent on his two tries, Max Strus was three for four, and Dewayne Dedmon, P.J. Tucker, and Jimmy Butler each had one as the Miami Heat gave no respect to the Memphis Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum. The Heat delivered – Memphis didn’t.

NEXT UP
Nuggets at Grizzlies – Monday
Heat at Mavericks – Tuesday

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

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER   82 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS   103
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 15 points

Aleksej Pokusevski – 9 rebounds

Josh Giddey – 6 assists

Stephen Curry – 20 points

Draymond Green – 11 rebounds

Draymond Green – 8 assists

The Golden State Warriors did what you’re supposed to do when you get knocked down – get back up and ride the stallion that got you there in the first place. Stephen Curry is that horse, but playing against the Oklahoma City Thunder is more like a therapeutic pony ride at the local carnival, and Curry only had to score 20 points to beat Oklahoma City. He got s lot of help as there were 14 point contributions from three players – Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Jordan Poole, who was just extended by the Warriors’ front office. Otto Porter had 10 points off the bench and Andre Iguodala had 10 boards in reserve.

NEXT UP
Thunder at Clippers – Monday
Hornets at Warriors – Wednesday

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DENVER NUGGETS   93 MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES   91
Nikola Jokic – 26 points

Nikola Jokic – 19 rebounds

Nikola Jokic – 7 assists

Malik Beasley – 18 points

Anthony Edwards – 11 rebounds

D’Angelo Russell – 6 assists

If Nikola Jokic is doing all the heavy lifting, it’s going to be a tough row to hoe for the Denver Nuggets, which is why they needed a 24-18 rally in the fourth quarter to avoid losing their third game in six outings. Jokic led all scorers with 26 points, 19 rebounds, and seven assists. Monte Morris (16 points) and Will Barton (10 points) combined for another 26, while Aaron Gordon added 12. Minnesota had to settle for 14 apiece from Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell in the Timberwolves’ second loss of the season.

NEXT UP
Nuggets at Grizzlies – Monday
Magic at Timberwolves – Monday

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

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS   92 PHOENIX SUNS   101
Cedi Osman – 20 points

Kevin Love – 12 rebounds

Darius Garland – 5 assists

Devin Booker – 27 points

Deandre Ayton – 12 rebounds

Chris Paul – 10 assists

Happy Birthday to Devin Booker, who celebrated his 25th with a much-needed win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Booker led the Suns with 27 points in a game that saw a 50-12 scorching of the Cavs to turn the game in the Suns’ favor. As amazing as they looked last night, it was only Phoenix’s second win of the season, but was also thanks in part to Cleveland’s 19 turnovers, but the Suns’ first nine three-pointers were off the mark, too, creating the close game in the first half. Phoenix only made six out of 23 attempts for the game.

NEXT UP
Cavaliers at Hornets – Monday
Pelicans at Suns – Tuesday

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Tracy Graven is the Senior NBA Analyst for BackSportsPage.com.
He has written the NBA, done NBA Radio, and appeared as a guest for the last 21+ years for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show, NBARadioShow.com, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 21 years in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (CBA, G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta. 

A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia  

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