Post Up: Born Ready Banker

by November 08, 2014

Hornets 122 (3-3), Hawks 119 (1-3) 2OT

The electric guard with the nickname “Born Ready” hit his first three-pointer of the season, and it couldn’t have come in a more dramatic manner. After a game filled with many questionable and close calls, the Hornets had the ball in a tie game with 2.7 seconds left in the second overtime. Al Jefferson (34 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) had carried most of the load up to that point, being too much for Al Horford (24 points, 10 rebounds) and former teammate Paul Millsap (13 points, 6 rebounds), who turned the ball over a game-high six times. Kemba Walker (15 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks) had a complete game, impacting it in more ways than one. Point guard Jeff Teague (22 points, 15 assists) had some fantastic plays on the night, keeping his team in the game time and time again.  But the player of the game is undoubtedly Lance Stephenson (17 points, 13 rebounds), who poured in 47 minutes and used a little bit of luck to give Charlotte its second straight win. Struggling to find his touch and role on the team during these first few weeks, Stephenson might have made the shot Friday that will help him find his place.

Magic 112 (2-4), Timberwolves 103 (2-3) OT

This matchup featured a lot of young faces that might eventually be at the forefront of the NBA. In picking up their first home victory of the season, rookie Aaron Gordon (career-high 17 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) had the best game of his young career while fellow rookie Elfrid Payton (15 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 turnover) continues to look like one of the most NBA-ready picks from this past draft. He is running this offense, getting his teammates involved and keeping his turnovers to a minimum. No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins (6 points, 3 rebounds) still looks like he’s working out the kinks in his game, as many of us expected. But second-year center Gorgui Dieng (11 points, 10 rebounds) picked up his first double-double of the season, picking up right where he left off towards the end of last season. Kevin Martin (21 points, 3-11 on 3-pointers) led the T-Wolves in scoring, firing away all night. The worse loss for Minnesota came late in the first half when Ricky Rubio left the game with a sprained left ankle. Rubio played in all 82 games for the Timberwolves last season. The Magic sent this game into overtime thanks to two clutch Nikola Vucevic (14 points, 9 rebounds) free throws with 11.9 seconds left in regulation. They then used a quick 7-0 spurt in just over a minute late in overtime to take control for good. The Magic controlled the boards on the night, outrebounding the Timberwolves 52-38.

Bulls 118 (5-1), 76ers 115 (0-6)

Chicago decided to sit Derrick Rose for this game, and Bulls fans shouldn’t worry about these sporadic rests for their star point guard. Even though Rose probably wants to play in all 82 regular season games, that simply can’t happen. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and Rose needs to be there at the finish line. And Friday night, the Bulls survived without him thanks to lights-out shooting from Mike Dunleavy (27 points, 5-8 on 3-pointers) and another 40-minute night from workhorse Jimmy Butler (23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists). These two swingmen certainly have contrasting styles of play, but they have found a rhythm in their second year playing together. During a third quarter in which the Bulls outscored the Sixers 35-19, though, those 12 minutes belonged to Dunleavy as he scorched Philly for three 3-pointers and 12 points. Even though the Sixers still have yet to win this season, there are a few bright spots, one of those being Tony Wroten (31 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds). He sometimes plays out of control but still has the ability to create for himself and his teammates.

Celtics 101 (2-3), Pacers 98 (1-5)

Coming into this game with six players out with injuries, as C.J. Miles (migraine) joined the group right before game time, the nine players who did suit up gave a valiant effort against the pesky Boston Celtics. Jared Sullinger (17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) and Jeff Green (15 points, 7 rebounds) led the way for the Celtics as they used a 7-2 blitz to start the fourth quarter to retake the lead, which they wouldn’t give up the rest of the way. Unfortunately, the story of this game was the gruesome injury to promising rookie Marcus Smart, who had to be carted to the locker room after hitting the floor hard after driving to the basket. The Boston crowd tried to lift the team’s spirits by chanting the guard’s name and giving him a standing ovation as he was taken off on the gurney. As was the case with Julius Randle, it’s always tough seeing these rookies go down so early in their professional careers, and we can only hope the injury isn’t too serious. With the loss, the Pacers have matched their worst start since opening the 1996-97 season 1-5. They take on the Wizards Saturday night, as both teams will enter that game on the second night of a back-to-back.

Nets 110 (3-2), Knicks 99 (2-4)

The first New York showdown wasn’t much of a showdown as Deron Williams (29 points, 6 assists, 10-15 from the field) certainly looked like he is over his ankle issues. The former All-Star point guard showcased some crafty crossovers and efficient shooting we haven’t seen in a while, helping push the Nets to a 22-point lead at one point in this game. Now Lionel Hollins will just have to wait and see if D-Will can tack on some consistency to Friday’s performance. The Knicks superstar in Carmelo Anthony (19 points, 5-20 from the field) still hasn’t found his place in the triangle offense; it will take some time for this entire team to find their place in Phil Jac–Derek Fisher’s system. It wasn’t all about the superstars, though, as Brook Lopez (20 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) easily had his best game of the season while Joe Johnson (18 points, 4-6 on 3-pointers) and Mirza Teletovic (18 points, 4-6 on 3-pointers) were knocking down the long ball. If these four can find their groove with one another, the Nets will find their way back into the playoffs.

Pistons 98 (2-3), Bucks 95 (2-4)

The Pistons starting shooting guard might have finally turned a corner after a dreadfully inefficient start to the season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (19 points, 7-11 from the field) led the way for the Pistons, hitting a big-time three-pointer late in the game. In his first three games, Caldwell-Pope shot 11-42 (26.2 percent) from the field and 2-16 (12.5 percent) on 3-pointers. During the Pistons last two wins, he is shooting 15-29 (51.7 percent) from the field and 7-12 (58.3 percent) from deep. For the Bucks, Brandon Knight (17 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 turnovers) had another stat-filled night while Jabari Parker (18 points, 3 steals, 8-14 from the field) had his most efficient game so far. Pistons forward Josh Smith (14 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5-14 from the field) also made a critical shot, laying it in with 15.1 seconds remaining to give Detroit a 97-93 lead. Unlike KCP, J-Smoove still has plenty of efficiency woes and is shooting 32.1 percent from the field, 0.0 percent (0-9) on 3-pointers and 48.6 percent on free throws. If Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons no longer want to be a bottom feeder in the East, Smith has to adjust his style of play.

Raptors 103 (5-1), Wizards 84 (4-2)

A season ago, these two teams surprised the NBA community with their strong campaigns, and they both have become the “dark horse in the East” for many. Friday night was all about All-Star snub Kyle Lowry (13 points, 10 assists, 11 rebounds), as his Raptors were dressed in their retro dinosaur jerseys. (I have to say, I am a huge fan of this look.) Lowry notched his first triple-double of the young season and fourth since taking his talents to Toronto. That is now the franchise record–one more than Damon Stoudamire had during his short stint with the franchise. Terrence Ross (18 points, 4-6 on 3-pointers) was the Raptor that sparked his team to an early lead, putting up eight points in the first five minutes as Toronto built a 14-2 lead. Lowry and DeMar DeRozan (25 points, 11-11 on free throws) took care of the rest. (Also–if you ever get the chance to watch these Raptors, check out DeRozan’s footwork. It’s basketball beauty.) The Wizards had a lot of players score around 7-13 points, but no one who took reins of the offense and tried to get back in the game. Paul Pierce (8 points, 8 rebounds) and John Wall (8 points, 7 assists) went a combined 6-24 (25 percent) from the field, with neither player being able to find their touch.

Grizzlies 91 (6-0), Thunder 89 (1-5)

The Grizzlies are probably frustrated with their play, since they struggled to take down the injury-ridden Thunder, but when you extend your franchise-best start to 6-0, the cliche “a win is a win” certainly applies. But they escaped in this one thanks to back-to-back big 3-pointers from Mike Conley (20 points, 5 assists), who is all of a sudden being noticed by the national media as “an underrated point guard.” Big men Marc Gasol (8 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Zach Randolph (16 points, 7 rebounds) continue to compliment each other fantastically, both on the offensive and defensive side of the court. Conley didn’t make all the big buckets late, as fellow backcourt starter Courtney Lee (17 points, 3-3 on 3-pointers) knocked down a 3-pointer before Conley’s consecutive treys. Serge Ibaka (16 points, 7 rebounds) and Reggie Jackson (22 points, 8 assists, 9-20 from the field) countered these deep shots with a three each, but the Thunder inevitably fell short on an Ibaka launch as the buzzer sounded. The Thunder now have to take on the red-hot Sacramento Kings in OKC on Sunday.

Mavericks 105 (4-2), Jazz 82 (2-4)

After being blown out by the Blazers Thursday night, the Mavs rolled over the Jazz…but that wasn’t the best news for the Mavericks. For the first time this season, Dallas won the third quarter and won it handily. Dirk Nowitzki (27 points, 10 rebounds, 11-18 from the field), Monta Ellis (13 points, 6 assists, 3 steals, 0 turnovers) and Chandler Parsons (5 points) all contributed in the 9-0 run to start the second half as their team eventually won the quarter 26-18. The Big German picked up his first double-double of the year and looks to be in for another, well, Dirk year. He is averaging 21.2 points and 5.8 rebound while shooting 54.3 percent from the field and 44.8 percent on 3-pointers. Centers Tyson Chandler (15 points, 13 rebounds) and Brandan Wright (12 points, 2 blocks) really seem to have good chemistry already, as do most of the players on this roster. Coming off a thrilling victory over the Cavaliers, the Jazz looked like the team playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Alec Burks (14 points) led them in scoring while Gordon Hayward (12 points, 3-9 from the field) had an off night. They just didn’t take good care of the ball, turning it over 21 times compared to only eight times for Dallas.

Kings 114 (5-1), Suns 112 (3-3) 2OT

With 76 remaining in Sacramento’s schedule, there is still way too much basketball left to claim them the “Phoenix Suns of this year.” But in these first six games, the Kings have been an absolute blast with two Team USA players showing the positives that can come from playing for the red, white and blue. (As Klay Thompson is doing as well.) DeMarcus Cousins (25 points, 18 rebounds, 2 blocks) led the way through four quarters right before fouling out on an illegal screen with 34.7 seconds remaining in regulation. But then in both overtimes, Darren Collison (16 points) and Ben McLemore scored (15 points) all but two of their team’s 15 points. Those two points they didn’t score? That basket came in the form of a Rudy Gay (11 points, 9 rebounds) turnaround baseline jumper to give his team a one-point lead with 1:07 to go. More impressive than the offense had to be the Kings team defense, which shut down Phoenix to only 24 points in the fourth quarter, first overtime and second overtime combined. Goran Dragic (22 points, 4 assists) looked good through three quarters, but only managed two points on some free throws the rest of the way. Eric Bledsoe (23 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds) led Phoenix most of the game while Miles Plumlee (15 points, 16 rebounds) had a big double-double. However, no matter how fast they play, this Suns roster will remain undersized and it showed on the boards tonight, with the Kings dominating that battle 60-42.

Cavaliers 110 (2-3), Nuggets 101 (1-4)

The Cavs finally showed fans what this team can eventually be once all the pieces start to fit together. LeBron James (22 points, 7 rebounds, 11 assists) played a lot of point guard early, Kevin Love (19 points, 8 rebounds) got his touches in the post, Kyrie Irving (12 points, 6 assists) distributed the ball and Dion Waiters (17 points) became a scoring punch off the bench with the insertion of Shawn Marion (10 points, 6 rebounds) into the starting lineup. And Marion should stay there, just as he started for the 2011 NBA Champions while Jason Terry came in off the bench as a jolt of offense. Aside from any specific players, Cleveland finally started trusting each other and passing the ball. They finished the game with 25 assists, picking up 10 of those in the first quarter when they built up a 38-20 lead. Even though the Nuggets were without Ty Lawson, who tweaked his ankle in warmups, the glaring issue is defense. They have plenty of scorers, including sharpshooter Randy Foye (28 points, 9 assists, 5-10 on 3-pointers), Nate Robinson (14 points, 5 assists) and Wilson Chandler (14 points, 10 rebounds). But in Denver’s four consecutive losses, this team is giving up a horrid 113.3 ppg. Whether you want to blame the lack of any interior presence of pressure up top, something needs to change for Brian Shaw’s squad.