by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Bobcats 90, Cavaliers 84
The Bobcats didn’t need their expensive new center to get a win in their home opener against Cleveland. Charlotte went up by 10 at the end of the third, but the game remained very tight throughout. In the fourth quarter, Kemba Walker (23 points, 8-14 shooting, 7 assists) took the game into his own hands. The UConn product hit a big three to break a late tie, putting the Cavs into desperation mode. CJ Miles missed a late three and the Bobcats put it away with free throws. Miles did finish with 22 points, and Tristan Thompson put up 21 and 12 rebounds for the Cavs, while Kyrie Irving had another subpar shooting night (7-17) on his way to 17 points.
Magic 110, Pelicans 90
They’re only two games into the season, but New Orleans is off to a rough start. After blowing a big lead in their opener, the Pelicans traveled to Orlando and got wiped out by the Magic. Orlando blew things open in the second quarter, winning the frame by 16. They didn’t look back from there and held the Pels at bay for the rest of the night. Moe Harkless (20 points, 8 rebounds) and Arron Afflalo (30 points, 4-5 on three pointers), looking like he’s set for a big bounce back year, were the top scorers for Orlando. Anthony Davis was once again a beast in the loss, going for 26 points and 17 rebounds to go with 3 blocks. New Orleans is going to have to figure out what to do with Tyreke Evans, who was scoreless off the bench.
76ers 109, Wizards 102
On Wednesday, it was the Sixers that came out on fire. Friday night, John Wall was the one that came out of the tunnel firing. The one-man fastbreak was the whole Wizards offense in the first half, hitting his seven shots and getting to the rim at will against Philly’s defense. He finished the half with 23 points. The second half was a different story, as the Sixers’ veterans – Thad Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes – led them back into the game, eventually taking a lead late in the fourth. Wall was unable to keep his hot hand going, scoring only 4 points after half to finish with 29 as the 76ers eked out a win to unexpectedly go to 2-0. Young scored 29, while Turner put up 16 points, 14 boards and 5 assists.
Hawks 102, Raptors 95
Al Horford and the Hawks withstood a furious second half scoring display from one of Toronto’s explosive wings, getting first-year coach Mike Budenholzer his first NBA win. DeMar DeRozan scored 23 of his 31 points in the second half, but didn’t get much help from his Raptors teammates. Rudy Gay was particularly off, going 6-23 from the field and 0-3 from deep on his way to 14 points, proving that Lasik surgery doesn’t solve everything. Big Al put up 22 and 16 boards for the Hawks and was helped by Jeff Teague’s 17 point-12 assist double-double and 5 three-pointers from Kyle Korver.
Bucks 105, Boston 98
On a day when a statue of Bill Russell was unveiled in Boston, the Celtics played a brand of basketball that the legendary center probably didn’t even recognize. Up 22 at one point and by 10 early in the fourth quarter, the Celtics offense went into shutdown, letting the Bucks back into it. Boston made just one field goal in the final six minutes of the game; it goes without saying that performances like that won’t win a lot of basketball games. Zaza Pachulia put up big numbers for Milwaukee, with 20 points, 9 rebounds and a layup that sealed the win.
Rockets 113, Mavericks 105
Mark Cuban let everyone know pregame that he thinks Dwight Howard made the wrong decision going to Houston. James Harden spent the night proving otherwise, putting up 34 points to pace the Rockets in the victory. This one could have been a blowout, but Monta Ellis (20 points, 7-19 shooting) helped pull the Mavs back into the game with 5 quick points in an 8-0 Mavs run. Dirk Nowitzki struggled through a rough shooting night, going 6-15 from the field and missing both of his threes. Dwight did his best to show Cubes what he missed out on, putting up 13 points and 16 rebounds. With Patrick Beverley set to miss two weeks with an abdominal injury, Jeremy Lin put up 14 points in his return to the starting lineup after a very short stint as a reserve
Grizzlies 111, Pistons 108 (OT)
Two of the biggest front lines in the league went head to head in Memphis in a game that promised to be a battle. It was a grinding affair all night, marked by physicality from both sides, turnovers and poor shooting from deep. Josh Smith was the biggest offender on the latter (3-11 from long range; will he ever stop firing from deep?) but somehow managed to hit a huge triple late to put the Pistons up six. Marc Gasol answered with a three-point play to cut it to two a few minutes later, then tied it up with a putback with under 10 seconds on the clock. In OT, the Grizz clamped down on defense, forcing Detroit into several turnovers and swatting away shots, powering their way to a win in the Grindhouse.
Timberwolves 100, Thunder 81
The Thunder got their first real dose of what life is like without Russell Westbrook as they fight through their early schedule. The Wolves got out to an 18-point lead by the end of the first quarter and pounded on their way to the easy win. Reggie Jackson had a hard time running the offense for OKC, committing 7 TOs, and Kevin Durant was oddly passive (13 points, breaking a streak of 143 games with 15+) in the early going as the Wolves raced out to their lead.
Everything was clicking for Minny, with Kevin Love bombing away from deep (24 points, 12 rebounds, 3-5 from three) and Nikola Pekovic (15 points, 10 boards) throwing people around like a nightclub bouncer in the paint. Ricky Rubio had 14 and 10 dimes, including one especially slick pass.
Nets 101, Heat 100
The Celtics-Heat rivalry may be dead, but black is the new green for Miami. The Nets and Heat squared off on national TV in the first game of this transplanted rivalry. The Heat got themselves off to another slow start, generally looking sluggish all night, as Brooklyn maintained a double-digit lead for much of the second half. The Brooklyn crowd was as ready for the game as the players were, going wild when Paul Pierce stuffed LeBron James. The Nets used great ball movement all night to find efficient shots, hitting 50 percent overall while also knocking down half of their threes (8-16).
Miami, after being down 11 with four minutes left, went on a run to cut it to just two points with 18 seconds to go, thanks to threes from Dwyane Wade (21 points) and Mario Chalmers (12 points, 3-4 from three). After a few trips to the line, Miami got the ball back down by four. LeBron James (26 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) calmly drilled a corner three with 4.7 seconds on the clock, cutting the lead to a single point. It turned into a free throw contest from there, and Miami’s chances ended when Chris Bosh (17 and 4 rebounds) accidentally hit his second shot from the line.
Paul Pierce used a strong second half to finish with with 19 points (on just 10 shots), 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Joe Johnson hit two big threes in the fourth on his way to another 19 for Brooklyn.
Trail Blazers 113, Nuggets 98
Last year, all the Nuggets had to do was roll out of bed and they were pretty much guaranteed a home win – they ran off 23 straight at the Pepsi Center at the end of last regular season. The Blazers showed it might be a different story for visitors to Mile High this season, taking it to the Nugs behind 25 points and 9 rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge and some hot early shooting from Nic Batum. The Frenchman scored the first 10 for the Blazers, finishing with 21, and Wes Matthews put up another 21 and 12 rebounds for Rip City. Nate Robinson was one of the few bright spots for Denver, putting up 24 points off the bench.
Suns 87, Jazz 84
The Jazz and Suns pulled off a rare double in the Suns’ win: a fast-paced, low-scoring game. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t exciting at the end, though. Eric Bledsoe switched into beast mode after a rough first three quarters, a day after the Suns didn’t sign him to an extension. Bledsoe went into the fourth with just 1 point on his stat line, and proceeded to explode for 17 in the final quarter. He saved his best shot for last, confidently splashing a three with 0.7 seconds to go to break an 84-84 tie. In fact, he put up the final 14 points for Phoenix. Derrick Favors, one of the few eligible players who did receive an extension, looked the part of future franchise cornerstone, tossing up 14 points (including a nasty baseline spin move in crunch time) and 17 rebounds for Utah.
Clippers 110, Kings 101
It’s not Arco Arena anymore, but the cowbells are still ringing and Sacramento home games are starting to look like fun again. The Kings gave the Clippers all they could handle, but ran out of gas after taking a lead halfway through the fourth quarter. Isaiah Thomas absolutely exploded for Sacto, going right at the Clippers for 29 points on 9-13 shooting. He also took the early crown for Pass of the Year on a sweet fastbreak dish to Jason Thompson.
The Clippers withstood that onslaught thanks to the steady hand of Chris Paul (26 points, 10 assists) and hot shooting off the bench from Jamal Crawford. Blake Griffin went for a double-double with 20 points and 17 rebounds. He also went 8-8 from the free throw line, a welcome development for Doc Rivers.
Spurs 91, Lakers 85
With no Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant, this just didn’t feel like a Lakers-Spurs game. It wasn’t pretty with those two future Hall of Famers sidelined, with both teams laying bricks in the first half. The game ended up coming down to the final seconds anyway. The Spurs’ offense came from their international contingent down the stretch, with Tony Parker (24 on 12-18 shooting) and Boris Diaw hitting big jumpers and Manu Ginobili (20 points, 7-14 shooting, 3-7 from three) icing the game with a dunk and free throws.
Once again, the Lakers’ bench unit outscored the starters, 45-40. Pau Gasol was the only starter in double figures for the Lakers. He once again looked totally different from the player he was last year, putting up a 20-11 double-double.