by Jay Wallis | @jaywallis11
Pacers 89, Cavaliers 74
The Pacers haven’t missed a step since being one step away from the NBA Finals a season ago. The Cavs kept it close through three quarters, even cutting a 13-point deficit to seven right before the third quarter ended. But thanks to a pair of Lance Stephenson 3-pointers during a 17-6 run, the Pacers put this one away for good midway through the fourth quarter. Dion Waiters led the Cavs with 17 points; however, Cleveland still can’t seem to find its rhythm, as starters not named Anderson Varejao shot 14-of-47 from the field (29.8 percent). In terms of the team’s No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett is making the Cavs’ front office nervous since he has no made field goals (0-for-12) up to this point. He even chunked up a few air balls Saturday night. Paul George has gone from the League’s Most Improved Player to the League’s fastest rising superstar. PG24 finished the game with 21 points and a team-high 13 rebounds and is averaging 25.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.7 steals thus far. Stephenson proved his worth against the Cavs with a team-high and career-high 22 points on five three-pointers. Over these first three games, Stephenson looks to be in much more control of his game while still being the team’s spark plug. In terms of NBA.com’s new SportVU analytics, Roy Hibbert, David West and Ian Mahinmi all rank in the top six for defensive impact. Indiana is leading the League in blocks (36), and even though newcomer Luis Scola is still trying to figure out his role, the undefeated Pacers already look like a team ready to make noise again.
76ers 107, Bulls 104
Speaking of undefeated teams, other than Indiana, Philadelphia is the only other undefeated team left in the East. Let me clarify what I just said: The team that started the season below the $52.65 million salary floor has started the season 3-0 by beating the Heat and Bulls in two of these games. Saturday night, the Sixers showed their resolve by coming back from a double-digit halftime deficit for the second game in a row. Even though Carlos Boozer (22 points, 10 rebounds) continued to play like he’s back in a Jazz uniform and the Bulls outrebounded the Sixers 51-39, the Sixers simply out hustled their opponent. Derrick Rose (13 points, six assists, eight turnovers, 4-of-14 from the field) may seem physically healthy, but his rust is still evident as he has shot 28.8 percent from the field so far. This young Sixers squad has had success by leaning on their three veterans and commanding rookie. Evan Turner (20 points), Thaddeus Young (13 points, seven rebounds) and Spencer Hawes (18 points, 11 rebounds) have helped Michael Carter-Williams (26 points, 10 assists, three steals) have a fantastic start to his NBA career. If Hawes continues to be a reliable option in the pick-and-pop and Carter-Williams ends up being a shadow of what he’s been so far, the Sixers might need to (not) try a little harder to win the “Tank for Wiggins” sweepstakes.
Pelicans 105, Bobcats 84
The Pelicans took a 33-15 lead into the second quarter and never looked back. Anthony Davis put on one of the best overall performances of the year, finishing with 25 points (14 in the first quarter), eight rebounds, four assists, six blocks (career-high) and six steals (career-high). Even though All-Star Jrue Holiday (14 points, 8 assists) and Tyreke Evans (15 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds) were the big offseason pickups, Davis and his play on the court have made it clear that this is his team. The Bobcats and Pelicans now share a 1-2 record, but it is unclear who is or will be the face of the soon-to-be-Hornets. Al Jefferson, who sat out Saturday because of a sprained ankle, has the pedigree to statistically be “the guy” but has never been much of a vocal leader. Point guard Kemba Walker (14 points) has shown flashes of greatness, but when he finishes with zero assists, which is reflective of the team’s measly 13 total assists Saturday night, you have to wonder if he will ever be what the team expects him to become.
Mavericks 111, Grizzlies 99
It is still debatable whether the Mavs will decide to play some defense this year. What’s not debatable is if they will have plenty of offense to go around. Dallas started out by missing their first seven shots of the game and looking like a team on the second night of a back-to-back. However, once they started putting their heads down and attacking the rim, the offense opened up. They ended up taking a 32-16 lead into the second quarter. Throughout the night, the Grizzlies made multiple pushes to get back into the game, but by getting to the line, the Mavs held their ground. Dallas finished 40-for-46 on free throws, including 21-of-25 in the fourth quarter. Mike Conley (24 points, 8 assists) and Zach Randolph (21 points, 14 rebounds) led the way for Memphis. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol (23 points) still can’t seem to have the same type of impact as he did last year. All five Mavs starters finished in double figures as their chemistry seems to be coming together fairly quickly. Dirk Nowitzki (24 points, six rebounds) looked much more comfortable with this new backcourt than last year’s new backcourt. And Shawn Marion (21 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks) keeps on being the ultimate “glue guy” that does a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor. Vince Carter (11 points) and newcomer DeJuan Blair (8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) already seem to be Carlisle’s go-to bench players, bringing instant energy into the game. Monta Ellis (18 points, 3 steals) had it all in the season opener, but has shot 12-of-33 in the last two games. If the Mavs hope to compete against elite teams, Ellis will need to find a way to be more efficient.
Raptors 97, Bucks 90
This game featured a battle between two 1-1 teams that should currently be considered as enigmas. Who knows where either of these teams stand or what direction they are going in. Rudy Gay (18 points, 15 rebounds, three steals) and Demar DeRozan (17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) remained the focal points of the offense. (However, Gay’s days in Canada may be numbered.) Even though Raptors management has claimed that everyone is available for trades except for Jonas Valanciunas, the big man has not looked good, failing to score in double digits in all three games. As a team, the Raptors did not shoot the ball well (39.2 percent) but crushed the Bucks on the boards, 60-38. Eight Toronto players had at least five rebounds, including Gay’s game-high 15. Playing without Brandon Knight or Luke Ridnour, rookie Nate Wolters had his number called and filled in quite well. The former Jackrabbit had seven points, 10 assists and 4 rebounds on the night. John Henson (13 points) got caught up in some foul trouble early on but seems to be primed for a jump this season. In the end, these are still two of the hardest NBA teams to figure out.
Rockets 104, Jazz 93
Just like that—the undefeated Rockets have begun their new era with a bang and the winless Jazz are closing in as frontrunners for that ever-so-coveted 2014 No. 1 overall pick. Dwight Howard (15 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) seems happy, Chandler Parsons (24 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists) is still growing and Jeremy Lin (20 points, 4 assists) is finding a role, all while James Harden (23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) continues to solidify himself as the best shooting guard in the League. The Rockets did have a 19-point deficit in the first half, and if it wasn’t for Parsons’ 20 points in these first two quarters, it could have been much worse. But once push came to shove in the second half, the better team cruised to a win. Utah could only muster one assist in the second half while the Rockets put up 64 points after halftime. Houston faces its first legitimate challenge on Tuesday when they will travel to Los Angeles to play Chris Paul and the Clippers. The current Jazz season may seem glum, but if Derrick Favors (12 points, 6 rebounds), Enes Kanter (16 points, 8 rebounds), Gordon Hayward (15 points) and Alec Burks (15 points, 3 steals) all mature and develop throughout the season, this could be a solid, young core once the 2014 draftees join the team.
Blazers 115, Spurs 105
The Spurs may have shot 50.0 percent from the field, but the Blazers shot 55.6 percent. Portland used offense, offense and more offense to take down San Antonio. Damian Lillard (25 points, seven assists, seven rebounds) and LeMarcus Aldridge (24 points, 7 rebounds, 11-of-17 from the field) led the way for the Blazers while Tim Duncan (24 points, 7 rebounds) bounced back from his rocky season-opener. Nicolas Batum collected his second career triple-double with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, but it didn’t come without controversy. He earned three of those points on a last-second three-pointer after the game had already been decided. Not counting Mo Williams’ 13 points, the Blazers bench only scored 10 of their 115 points. Even though Portland’s bench looks completely different compared to last year’s fiasco, it still is the team’s glaring weakness. Kawhi Leonard (9 points, 2 steals) and Danny Green have been decent in their first three games but haven’t yet shown that “leap” in production so many are expecting. With the win, Portland continues to have the best winning percentage against the Spurs over the last five seasons while also winning its 13th straight home opener.
Warriors 98, Kings 87
Similar to the Pelicans, the Warriors built a large lead early on and had smooth sailing to the finish line. The Kings fought back after being down 56-36 at halftime, scoring eight straight points to start the third quarter; however, the Warriors responded with 15 straight points, giving them their largest lead of the game. Stephen Curry (22 points, 12 assists, 5-of-8 on 3-pointers) and David Lee (15 points, 12 rebounds) each had their first double-double of the season while Klay Thompson (27 points, 10-of-17 from the field) continued his hot shooting. The Kings starters got outplayed and outscored (65-22) by their own bench. Even though this game got to trash time quickly, head coach Mike Malone may shift some players around if his starters continue to struggle. If Andrew Bogut (six points, six rebounds, four blocks) stays healthy, Harrison Barnes comes back strong, Curry cuts down on his turnovers (18 turnovers in his last two games) and Andre Iguodala (5 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) remains content with his reduced role, Mark Jackson’s squad seems to have the makeup to legitimately compete in the West.