Post Up: What Rivalry?
Pacers assert control in Central, Vucevic dominates Clippers
by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Bobcats 92, Raptors 90
The Bobcats gutted out another win to go to 3-2, tying the best five-game start in franchise history (haha!). Gerald Henderson, off to a tough start to the season, pumped in 23 points on 10-17 from the field for the Cats. Charlotte got out to a quick start, making 75 percent of their shots in the opening quarter for a 14-point lead, but Toronto came right back to tie it up by halftime. The game stayed tight for the whole second half, and Toronto had a chance to swipe a win away late. Bismack Biyombo saved the day, swatting a layup attempt by DeMar DeRozan (14 points, 5-16 shooting) to keep the Raptors at bay. Weirdly, the Raptors chose not to foul as the Bobcats ran the clock down, sealing the loss. Jonas Valanciunas put up a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto, while Rudy Gay led the Raps in scoring with 20. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist pitched in 14 points for Charlotte, and even knocked down his only jumper attempt for the night.
Pacers 97, Bulls 80
Chicago downplayed the rivalry between these two teams pre-season, but a game against the Bulls clearly means something to Indiana, and they showed it as they stayed undefeated. The first half was as much of a slugfest as you’d expect, with the two teams combining for just 80 points and the Bulls taking a six-point lead into half. The Bulls smothered the Pacers in the second quarter, holding them to just 12 points. Derrick Rose (17 points, 6-15 shooting, just 2 assists) looked to be rounding back into form in the first 24 minutes, putting up 12 points on 5-9 shooting, although he didn’t record any other stats save for a turnover.
Things didn’t get any prettier in the second half, as both teams ended up shooting under 43 percent for the night. Indiana sprinted away from the Bulls down the stretch, with Luis Scola (12 points) and Lance Stephenson, who shook off a very rough shooting night to finish with 15 points, providing some of the spark. Indiana harassed Chicago’s ball handlers all night, forcing 19 turnovers. Roy Hibbert was once again dominant on defense, adding another 5 blocks to his total. Paul George led the Pacers in scoring with 21, and David West put up a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Magic 98, Clippers 90
The Magic pulled another upset in a first week-plus full of them, knocking the Clippers off to stay undefeated at home. Los Angeles went down big early, trailing by as many as 19 early in the third after shooting a paltry 36 percent in the first half. They closed that gap pretty quickly, with JJ Redick (17 points, 7-15 shooting) netting 12 points in a six-minute span as part of a 29-5 run, giving LA a slim lead. To their credit, the Magic hung in during a tight fourth quarter as the Clippers couldn’t find the basket for long stretches in the quarter, and Orlando took the lead back with about three minutes to go. Redick, a former Magician, missed an open triple with under 30 seconds to go and a chance to tie it for the Clips.
Nikola Vucevic kept up his dominant play, posting a monster 30 points and 21 rebounds. He even knocked down six free throws to ice the game for Orlando. Vuc has already shown that last season wasn’t a fluke, and could very well be pushing for an All Star bid if he keeps this up. Chris Paul now has a double-double in all five games this season, with 18 points and 10 assists in Orlando.
Wizards 116, 76ers 102
In the first must-win game of the season, the Wizards came out firing and didn’t let up, finally getting their first win and avoiding being the last team to get a win for the third straight year. As we can probably expect from Sixers games this season, the first half was wild. The Wiz put up 39 points in the first quarter and had 60 in the half. Washington shooters consistently found themselves wide open behind the arc, and they took advantage by draining a season-high 18 triples. John Wall, not much of a shooter, knocked down 5-8 from deep on his way to a strong line of 24 points and 9 assists, plus a steal and a block. The Sixers certainly didn’t help themselves out, turning the ball over an obscene 20 times. Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes both continued their good starts to the season for Philly, with Spence throwing up a 23-11 double-double and ET going for 24 points (9-13 shooting), 7 boards and 4 assists. Marcin Gortat made his presence felt for Washington, putting up 19 points and 12 boards, as Randy Wittman survived to coach another day.
Celtics 97, Jazz 87
One of these tank-tastic teams was going to get their first win in this game, and it ended up being the Celtics running the Jazz out of the building to get one in the win column. Utah actually closed the first quarter with a lead, but it got ugly from there. They scored just 8 points in the second quarter, and Boston kept their foot on the gas pedal to stretch their lead. Utah managed to cut it to single digits late in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t pull to within striking distance.
The win was Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens first in the NBA in a season where he probably won’t get many, while Utah is now one of just two teams still looking for their first W. Gordon Hayward was solid in defeat, knocking down shots from just about every location on the floor for 28 points and also pulling in 9 boards. Brandon Bass was the high man for Boston with 20, and Uncle Jeff Green pitched in 18 for the C’s.
Pelicans 99, Grizzlies 84
In another of the big surprises of the night, New Orleans took home a win against the struggling Grizzlies. The Pellies came out and hit the Grizz in the mouth, putting up 33 points and taking a 15-point lead in the first quarter. Eric Gordon (19 points, 6-14 shooting) headed up a well-rounded scoring effort by New Orleans in the first half, scoring 11 to pace the ‘Cans. Anthony Davis (18 points, 9 rebounds) continued to be a freakish defensive presence, racking up a combined 5 blocks/steals in the half. If he hasn’t made the leap to being a franchise player yet, he’s well on his way.
Zach Randolph left the game in the third quarter to be at the hospital with his fiancé for the birth of their son (congrats, Z-Bo!) but Memphis definitely could have used his inside game. Without half of it’s dominant front court, the Grizz got blown out in the second half. Tyreke Evans got untracked a bit for New Orleans, scoring 16 points off the bench on 7-12 shooting. Mike Conley was the only bright spot for Memphis, scoring 26 points. His shooting slump from three deepened in this one, though, as he went 0-4 from beyond.
Bucks 109, Cavaliers 104
Playing without big man Larry Sanders, out with a thumb injury after an incident in a club that we’ll definitely be hearing more about, Milwaukee hung on for a divisional win at home. OJ Mayo led the Bucks with 28 points and hit six threes, while former Spur Gary Neal dropped in 23 for Milwaukee. Kyrie Irving, who had his best game of the season with 29 points on 10-20 shooting, scored 10 straight for the Cavs in the fourth as they fought back with a 13-point run. Irving’s personal run was broken by CJ Miles (14 points), outstanding off the bench all season, hitting a three to give Cleveland a one-point lead with a minute to go. Caron Butler put the Bucks back in the leauge with a tip-in basket, giving the ball back to the Cavs. With the game in his hands and a chance to give Cleveland a lead and likely the win, Kyrie bounced a dribble off his kicks and watched the ball and the game go to Milwaukee. Some good news for Cleveland: Anthony Bennett finally made his first field goal, five games into his career.
Warriors 106, Timberwolves 93
Two of the league’s most exciting young teams got together in Minneapolis, and the Warriors got out of the building with a relatively easy win to go to 4-1. The Wolves started out hot, but went ice cold when the bench unit came in during the second quarter. They never really recovered, despite Stephen Curry (5 points, 2-8 shooting, no threes) having his worst game of the season. Steph got checked out for what’s being called a left ankle sprain – always a worry with him – but returned to the game and had plenty of time to rest late. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious and he’ll be back on the court for the Dubs’ next game.
The Warriors got their scoring from the wing, with Andre Iguodala putting in 20 on 8-13 shooting and Klay Thompson going off for 30 points, dropping in 6-9 threes. David Lee, last season’s league leader in double-doubles, got another one in Minny with 22 and 13. Kevin Love, who’s looked like the best power forward in the league in this young season, posted another outstanding stat line with 25 points and 16 boards for the Wolves.
Oh, and if you didn’t know, Harrison Barnes is back. This Warriors team is scary…as long as they’re healthy.
Spurs 99, Suns 96
The Suns apparently haven’t gotten the memo that they’re supposed to be really bad this year. Tony Parker delivered a reminder, drilling a go-ahead jumper with just under 30 seconds to go to push the Spurs to a win. Parker scored 15 of the Spurs’ final 16 points, holding off the feisty Suns. Markieff Morris, who may or may not be the better Morris twin, had a career high 23 points and 12 boards for the Suns. Phoenix refused to quit in this game, not letting the Spurs get ahead by any more than 5 points in the second half. They got a balanced scoring effort, with five guys in double figures. Finals phenom Danny Green had 19 for the Spurs, knocking down 3-6 threes and hitting free throws to ice it, while Tim Duncan had 17 points in just 28 minutes.
Thunder 107, Mavericks 93
If anyone wrote off the Thunder this year, concerned that Russell Westbrook’s injury and front office stinginess would lead to a drop off, it’s time to think again. With Russ back in the lineup weeks ahead of schedule, the Thunder rolled to another win against the Mavericks. As expected, Westbrook and Kevin Durant were their usual excellent selves, going for 22 each, with Durant dishing out 10 dimes to boot. Serge Ibaka got going in this one, too. He might be the biggest individual beneficiary of having Russ back in the lineup, as he went for 17 points and 10 boards. He also blocked three shots, more than doubling his total for the season. The Mavs were flat for most of the night in the second of a back-to-back. In a weird sequence, Vince Carter traded ‘bows with Thunder rookie Steven Adams, leading to Carter’s ejection. Monta Ellis put up 20, while Dirk dropped only 16. Jae Crowder, who hasn’t been getting much run so far in his second season, had 17 points in 24 minutes off the bench.
The Thunder have got to be pleased with what their young guys gave them, as two of the pieces from the James Harden deal looked ready to contribute. Jeremy Lamb scored 13 off the bench, showing he could very well develop into a sixth man option. Adams had 9 rebounds in just 20 minutes, also chipping in 6 points.
Now, for your viewing pleasure, some Russell Westbrook dunks: