Mavericks 109 (2-1), Pelicans 104 (1-1)
The Mavericks continue to look as if they will have a top offense in the League, as almost everyone in the rotation already seems like they have figured out their respective roles. After his rough start in the season opener, Chandler Parsons (20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) has settled in and led the Mavs in scoring in two straight games. Parson, Monta Ellis (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Dirk Nowitzki (17 points, 6 rebounds) compliment each other well offensively. The issue with this team will come on the defensive end, as there still seems to be a lack of perimeter defense even with the additions of Parsons and Al-Farouq Aminu (2 points, 5 rebounds). Jrue Holiday (24 points, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3-8 on 3-pointers), Tyreke Evans (22 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 3-6 on 3-pointers) and the Pelicans got back in this game in the third quarter thanks to some open looks from long range. After falling behind 66-49 late in the second, the Pelicans used a 26-6 run to get right back in it. Mavs guards Jameer Nelson (8 points, 4 assists) and Devin Harris (12 points, 6 assists), though, drew back-to-back charges late in this one, sparking a run that put this one out of reach for New Orleans. Anthony Davis (31 points, 15 rebounds, 13-16 on free throws) put up another strong stat line, becoming the second player in the last 10 years to score at least 25 points, grab 15 boards and block three shots in consecutive games. Even with Davis and Omer Asik (13 points, 9 rebounds) protecting the interior, Dallas scored 62 points in the paint.
Grizzlies 71 (3-0), Hornets 69 (1-1)
This was an ugly, gritty game that showcased two teams that shot below 40 percent from the field and had five combined players scoring in double-figures. For the Grizzlies, Marc Gasol (22 points, 8 rebounds) and Zach Randolph (12 points, 12 rebounds) reached this mark, being too much for the Hornets to handle. Marvin Williams (3 points, 3 rebounds) can be an effective stretch-4, but defensively, he doesn’t match up well against bigger, more conventional power forwards. Williams picked up four fouls in the first 14 minutes. The big 3 of Al Jefferson (19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks), Lance Stephenson (2 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) and Kemba Walker (5 points, 4 assists) could not collectively buy a bucket. At one point in this game, these three were shooting a combined 3-25 from the field. Their defense kept them in this game while the offense tried its hardest to keep up. But Gasol’s and-one with just under a minute to go put the Grizzlies in front 71-69. In Charlotte’s final two possessions, Big Al turned it over and Walker couldn’t find his clutch touch, air balling a jumper to give the Hornets their first loss of the season.
Raptors 108 (2-0), Magic 95 (0-3)
DeMar DeRozan (26 points, 8 rebounds) made his first All-Star appearance last season, and it looks like he won’t be regressing this season. DeRozan has some of the best footwork in the League, and it has become a part of his offensive arsenal. Along with Kyle Lowry (21 points, 5 assists), these two have to make up one of the more underrated backcourts in the league. Saturday’s matchup was a battle of starting lineups, as all 10 starters scored in double figures. This one remained close throughout, with the Magic even having a 60-52 third-quarter lead after a Evan Fournier (18 points) and-one. Elfrid Payton (16 points, 9 assists, 1 turnover) is already showing great maturity as the team’s starting point guard. The Raptors, though, eventually started sending a help defender whenever double-double machine Nikola Vucevic (15 points, 12 rebounds) got the ball near the lane, throwing off Orlando’s offense. Defensively, the Magic fought foul trouble all night as six players ended the game with four fouls and Vucevic fouled out with two minutes remaining. The momentum really swung in this one when Lowry converted a 4-point play early in the third quarter, which ended up being the first points of a 21-6 run for Toronto. The Raptors never gave up the lead the rest of the way.
Heat 114 (2-0), 76ers 96 (0-3)
They might no longer have LeBron James in South Beach, but they have a revitalized and very good player in Chris Bosh (30 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists). The big man is primed for another All-Star season and continues to look like a top power forward in the League, which is what he clearly was before going to the Heat. Bosh had the most complete game for Miami, but the big fourth quarter buckets came from backup point guard Mario Chalmers (20 points, 4 assists, 4 steals). With the Heat only up 91-85 with 8:43 left in the game, the former Kansas Jayhawk scored eight straight points as the Heat blew this game wide open. The Sixers were outscored in the final frame 27-13, which has been a common trend this year. Philadelphia’s scoring has almost been doubled in fourth quarters, 72-38, through three games. Even though there haven’t been many positives in their 0-3 start, the Sixers have seen flashes of things to come from Nerlens Noel (2 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) and got a big game Saturday from Tony Wroten (21 points, 10 assists), who posted his first 20/10 game of his career. But when Bosh is on his game and Dwyane Wade (9 points, 10 assists, 3 steals) reaches double-digits assists, it would be hard for any NBA team to take down the Heat.
Wizards 108 (2-1), Bucks 97 (1-2)
No surprises in this one as the Wizards won wire-to-wire after building a 27-11 lead less than 10 minutes into this game. Marcin Gortat (20 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Nene (22 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) bullied the young, Bucks big men, combining to shoot 19-26 (73.1 percent) from the field. John Wall (19 points, 10 assists, 5 steals) notched his third straight double-double of the season while Otto Porter Jr. (21 points, 5 rebounds, 7-11 from the field) played his best game as a pro after Paul Pierce (2 points, 0-3 from the field) was ejected right before halftime for arguing with the referees. Guards Brandon Knight (24 points, 6 assists) and Jerryd Bayless (20 points) did most of the scoring on the night while Jabari Parker (13 points, 11 rebounds, 5-17 from the field) took a lot of shots on his way to a double-double. The Bucks lost this game on the defensive end of the court, allowing the Wizards to shoot 54.8 percent from the field and dish out 28 assists.
Hawks 102 (1-1), Pacers 92 (1-2)
The Hawks took the Pacers to seven games in the first round of last year’s playoffs, and they certainly looked like the better team Saturday night. Even though the Pacers had seven players in double figures, the Hawks had big performances from Jeff Teague (25 points, 6 assists, 3 steals, 10-10 from the free throw line) and Al Horford (20 points, 2 blocks). Chris Copeland (21 points, 6-11 on 3-pointers) had his best offensive game as a Pacer, but couldn’t contain the Hawks bigs on the other end. Adding injury to injury, Rodney Stuckey tweaked his already aggravated left ankle in the first half, ending his night. The Pacers actually climbed back into this one, only trailing 95-92 after Donald Sloan (14 points, 7 assists) made three free throws. But then Teague and DeMarre Carroll (11 points, 9 rebounds) made their free throws to give Atlanta its first win of the season.
Nets 102 (1-1), Pistons 90 (0-3)
Joe Johnson (34 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 0 turnovers) reminds us again and again that he can consistently make some of the biggest shots for his Nets. Johnson poured in 15 of his 34 points in the final eight minutes when Brooklyn took control of the game. His iso-play couldn’t be stopped. Before Johnson’s takeover, Kevin Garnett (18 points, 14 rebounds) looked like a much younger, spry Kevin Garnett. The Big Ticket already had 10 points and six rebounds in only 12 minutes of playing time in the first half. For the Pistons, they look to be in some trouble. Yes, it is still very early as players and teams are working out the kinks. The Pistons, though, seem to have an abundance of kinks. The Detroit guards had another awful shooting night as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (10 points, 6 rebounds), Brandon Jennings (18 points, 9 assists) and D.J. Augustin (6 points) combined to shoot 10-29 (34.5 percent) from the field. KCP in particular has really struggled as a starter, shooting 11-42 (26.2 percent) from the field and 2-16 (12.5 percent) on 3-pointers. Ouch. And when you look at the frontline, Josh Smith (14 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 6-15 from the field) refuses to play to his strengths and remains one of the most frustrating players in the League. In 2010, the power forward only took 23.3 percent of his shots from outside 16 feet. Since then, he’s taken 43.7 percent from this distance. If Stan Van Gundy and his Pistons want to turn their season around, he’ll need to attack the basket and live in the paint.
Rockets 104 (3-0), Celtics 90 (1-1)
This game was over before it even had a chance of getting started. Behind 10 first quarter points from James Harden (26 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals)—who did a little bit of everything on the night—the Rockets blitzed out to a 37-18 lead late in the first frame. Houston led by about 15-20 points the rest of the way as the Celtics never cut the deficit to single digits the rest of the game. Even though Harden will frequently have these low-percentage games shooting-wise, he makes up for it with his versatility. The All-Star shooting guard got help his big men as Dwight Howard (14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Terrence Jones (25 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) easily handled the Celtics bigs. No one really looked good for Boston as Jeff Green (17 points, 7-19 from the field) and Jared Sullinger (14 points, 9 rebounds, 6-15 from the field) were inefficiently the only Celtics in double figures. The Rockets certainly won this game, but a major reason the Celtics lost was their putrid long-range shooting. They shot 1-25 (4.0 percent) on 3-pointers, and I have no answer as to why they kept firing away. Even though the Rockets have looked good through their first three and will most likely continue to do so against the Sixers on Monday, they will finally face their first true competition against the Heat on Tuesday.
Bulls 106 (2-1), Timberwolves 105 (1-2)
These young and scrappy Timberwolves most likely won’t make the playoffs in the hyper-competitive West, but they will undoubtedly play spoilers multiple times this season. Their leader, Ricky Rubio (6 points, careeer-high 17 assists), seemed very comfortable early on with all his new teammates, dishing out six assists in the first quarter alone. Many of Rubio’s 17 assists on the night went to returning teammate Kevin Martin (33 points, 7 rebounds, 4-6 on 3-pointers), who had one of his out-of-the-blue 30-point performances when he simply can’t miss. The Bulls, without Derrick Rose due to a sprained ankle, seemed to take control right before halftime after Nikola Mirotic (12 points, 8 rebounds) drained a 3-pointer to put Chicago up 63-47. The third quarter, though, belonged to the young ones as Andrew Wiggins (8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks) and Anthony Bennett (12 points, 5 rebounds, 6-7 from the field) started to find their touch and helped Minnesota outscore Chicago 32-22 during these 12 minutes. They were even playing without swingman Thaddeus Young (8 points, 17 minutes), who left the game with a strained neck after a collision with Jimmy Butler (24 points, 11-15 on free throws, team-high 39 minutes). Butler played in his first game of the season Saturday after being out with a sprained left thumb. It might not have been a flashy one, but Butler put on a show, reminding fans why coach Tom Thibodeau loves playing this kid as much as he can. Butler has become one of the best in the league at getting to the line, and he shot nine of his free throw attempts before the fourth quarter even began. His biggest pair of free throws, though, came with 0.2 seconds remaining, as he nailed both to seal the victory. He looks ready to take on a larger role for his Bulls.
Thunder 102 (1-2), Nuggets 91 (1-1)
Since this franchise moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder, they have never faced an extended period of time without their superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. With the recent news that Russ underwent surgery on his hand, the Thunder are now entering uncharted territory. Thanks to the Nuggets sluggish start, OKC found a way to win its first game of the season. Denver shot 8-22 (36 percent) and trailed 29-17 after the first 12 minutes. The Nuggets didn’t fair much better in the second, only mustering 33 points by halftime—the fourth-fewest the Thunder have allowed in the OKC era. It just got worst in the second half, as the Thunder led by 26 points at one point in the third quarter. Ty Lawson (25 points, 5 assists, 7 turnovers, 8-12 from the field) seemed to be the only player who came ready to play but still coughed it up too many times. The Thunder power forwards looked great Saturday night as Perry Jones III (23 points, 3-7 on 3-pointers) and Serge Ibaka (23 points, 3-7 on 3-pointers) will cause many fits for less versatile big men. It can’t be forgotten that PJIII was in fact a lottery pick before the red light known as knee issues caused him to fall in the draft. He now has 55 points in the last two games. The former Baylor Bear managed 216 points all of last season. We’ll have to wait and see if he can keep up this level of play moving forward.
Jazz 118 (1-2), Suns 91 (2-1)
The Suns were playing on the second night of a back-to-back after battling the Spurs Friday night. It showed early on and late in the game, as Phoenix lacked what is usually its strength—energy. Derrick Favors (career-high 32 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals) put on a first quarter show. The big man already had 13 point, three boards one block and one steal after 12 minutes while Utah took a commanding 33-22 lead. Even though much of this can be blamed on playing two nights in a row, a glaring issue has surfaced for the Suns. They have an undersized frontline as Markieff Morris (13 points, 7 rebounds) and Marcus Morris (12 points) have struggled against teams with bigger frontlines. And in a conference with plenty of bruising power forwards, the Suns will need quality play from Miles Plumlee (6 points, 2 rebounds) and Alex Len (4 points, 5 fouls). With Gordon Hayward (24 points, 10 rebounds) heating up after halftime and scoring 17 of his 24 points in the second half, the Jazz pulled away for a dominating first win of the season. There will be plenty of growing pains for this young Jazz team, but Dante Exum (10 points, 3 assists, 2 steals), Rudy Gobert (6 points, 8 rebounds) and Rodney Hood (7 points) all give this franchise hope of things to come.
Warriors 127 (2-0), Lakers 104 (0-4)
This summer, the Warriors were not willing to part ways with a certain Splash Brother in order to bring in All-Star power forward Kevin Love. I think tonight showed why Golden State management feels this way and gave the shooting guard a major payday. Klay Thompson (career-high 41 points, 14-18 from the field) had one of the most efficient shooting performances in recent history, only missing two two-point field goals, two three-point field goals and one free throw. Thompson’s previous career-high ironically came on the Warriors’ home opener last season…against the Lakers. Stephen Curry (31 points, 10 assists, 3 steals) wasn’t too shabby either, as these two combined for 17 free throw attempts on the night. They incessantly pushed the ball up the court, taking advantage of the Lakers’ horrid transition defense. Kobe Bryant (28 points, 12-28 from the field, 7 turnovers) caught fire in the third quarter, but racked up too many turnovers. Carlos Boozer (9 points, 4 rebounds) continues to remind us why the Bulls are paying him $13.55 to not play for them. He is such a defensive liability and also lacks the ability to stretch the floor outside the 3-point line. Los Angeles never had a chance against a Golden State team already in midseason form. The Lakers are now 0-4, which is their worst start since the 1957-58 season when the team was still in Minneapolis. Have fun, Kobe.