Wizards (1-1) 105, Magic (0-2) 98
Both Washington and Orlando entered Thursday night’s matchup with losses under their belts. Through three quarters, the Wizards were up 16 and wreaking offensive havoc on a young and inexperienced Magic squad. Orlando rallied during the final 12 minutes thanks to 11 fourth-quarter points from Ben Gordon and 9 from Nikola Vucevic to cut the lead to two with under a minute remaining. That was the moment John Wall decided to take things into his own hands, driving hard to the cup, hitting a layup over Vucevic’s outstretched arm, and extending the Wiz Kids’ lead to four to put the game out of reach.
Wall posted a tremendous 30/12/5/2 line, while Marcin Gortat finished with 20 and 12. Washington shot 53.8 percent from the three-point line to counteract big offensive nights from Vucevic, Gordon, and Evan Fournier.
Knicks (1-1) 95, Cavaliers (0-1) 90
Quicken Loans Arena was electric for King James’ return. K. Dot’s pre-game performance combined with Usher’s national anthem and a sold-out crowd (sup, Bieber?) made Cavs-Knicks more of an event than an actual basketball game. It’s a shame the play on the court couldn’t match the intensity felt in the entirety of the building.
LeBron was visibly emotional prior to tip-off, and one can infer that he had a slight case of the nerves during his first game back in a Cleveland uniform. In the first half, James scored 4 points on just 1-9 shooting. He finished with a decent 17/5/4 statline, but his passes were all over the place, committing 8 turnovers on the night. The rest of the Big Three did their thing, as Kyrie had 22/7/5 and Kevin Love went for 19 and 14. Meanwhile, Melo dropped 25 points including a facial over LeBron to extend New York’s lead to five with 25 seconds left. Derek Fisher earned his first win as a head coach over a Cleveland squad that we all know will take some time to gel. We did, however, get to see a perfect full-court pass from Love to LeBron for the deuce—a sneak preview of what’s likely to occur over, and over, and over again from the pair of superstar vets this season.
Timberwolves (1-1) 97, Pistons (0-2) 91
Thad Young continued his solid play, delivering 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. Nikola Pekovic started slow but his third quarter proved to be crucial, not only because he dropped 9 of his 17 points in the period, but also because he drew 3 fouls on Andre Drummond during that span of time. Ricky Rubio came close to a triple-double with 11 points, 8 assists, and 7 boards.
The Wolves and Pistons were tied at 80 with under two minutes left in regulation until Young and Mo Williams hit big shots down the stretch to put it out of reach. Despite dropping to 0-2 on the season, Detroit fans can find solace in the production they got out of Caron Butler (24 points, 8 rebounds), DJ Augustin (20 points, 6 assists), and Andre Drummond (11 points, 12 rebounds).
Mavericks (1-1) 120, Jazz (0-2) 102
On a night centered around the return of James to Cleveland, Mavs fans were happy to see Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea, two key cogs of the 2011 championship team, return to their home court. Dirk was as efficient as ever, scoring 21 points on 9-13 shooting in just 24 minutes as Dallas improved to 1-1. Parsons matched Nowitzki’s scoring output but also added 7 rebounds, and Al-Farouq Aminu provided a spark off the bench with 16 points and 10 boards. Derrick Favors (17 points, 11 rebounds), Trey Burke (16 points, 7 assists, 2 steals), and Gordon Hayward (16 points, 6 assists) led the way for the winless Jazz.
Clippers (1-0) 93, Thunder (0-2) 90
With his team down seven with two minutes to go, Russell Westbr—oops, I mean Sebastian Telfair—sank back-to-back three-balls to cut the deficit to one. This truly bizarre ending continued as Chris Paul, a career 85 percent free throw shooter, missed two at the charity stripe. Luckily for the Clips and new owner Steve Ballmer, Blake Griffin and JJ Redick cashed free throws of their own with under 10 seconds remaining. Serge Ibaka had one final three-point attempt at the buzzer to send the game to overtime, but his shot clanked off the front rim.
Russell Westbrook played just nine minutes before injuring his hand in the second quarter and sitting out the remainder of the game. Perry Jones notched a career-high in points with 32 on 10-17 shooting, and Ibaka dropped a cool 17 and 9, but in the end, it just wasn’t enough. Paul, Griffin, and Jamal Crawford combined for 61 on the night, and DeAndre Jordan reminded us all that he’s probably not human: