Post Up: Processing Smoothly

Cavaliers 124 (5-6), Bucks 119 (4-6)

A GiannisLeBron battle was about as awesome as you’d expect it to be, with Greek Freak posting a ridiculous 40-point, 9-rebound line on 16-of-21 shooting and LBJ dropping the casual 30/8/9 with just a single turnover. However, Kevin Love would prove to be the difference in this one, throwing it back to his Minnesota days with 32 points and 16 rebounds.

It probably wasn’t a good sign for the Bucks when Dwyane Wade swatted Giannis like this, sending the MVP candidate to the floor.

The Cavs really needed this one, especially after LeBron’s interesting tweet from last night after Kyrie and the Celtics won their 9th-straight. They still didn’t play much defense but forced Giannis to commit 8 turnovers and dominated at the free throw line, taking 22 more attempts than Milwaukee. Cleveland has time to figure it out, and this was a good first step.

Pelicans 117 (6-5), Pacers 112 (5-6)

Indiana scored 37 first quarter points en route to another huge offensive half, as the Pacers led 75-61 at the break. But, New Orleans clamped down after the break, holding them to just 37 points total in the final 24 minutes.

Anthony Davis (37 points, 14 rebounds) and DeMarcus Cousins (32 points, 13 points) continue to dominate undersized frontcourts. They also combined to have 10 assists. That’s the key for the Pelicans, since AD and DMC are such isolation-focused players in the halfcourt. When they get others involved, the entire team plays better. That’s something New Orleans struggled with after the trade last season but is starting to figure out now.

Mavericks 113 (2-10), Wizards 99 (5-5)

In the second year of the max contract he signed with Dallas before last season, Harrison Barnes is starting to develop into the leader the Mavericks envisioned him as. He (31 points, 9 rebounds) and stud rookie Dennis Smith Jr. (22 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists) led the way as the Mavs ended a 6-game losing streak.

As Dallas tries to plot a post-Dirk course, those guys will certainly be a part of the longterm solution. The question is who else will join them.

For the Wizards, their sluggish start to the year continues. John Wall (23 points, 14 assists) and Bradley Beal (23 points) played well but the bench didn’t do much, and that’s the unit which has held this team back for awhile now. They need Kelly Oubre, Mike Scott, Jason Smith and others to step up.

Raptors 119 (6-4), Bulls 114 (2-7)

Toronto looked like it was going to blow the doors off the Bulls with a dominant first half but Chicago, behind 20 points from Robin Lopez and a stellar return from Bobby Portis (21 points and 13 rebounds in 24 minutes), fought back to make this a game in the second half. The Bulls might not have a ton of talent — and they miss Zach LaVine a lot — yet they play hard almost every night.

The usual solid performances from the Raptors’ starting unit (scored 85 of Toronto’s 119 points) helped them fend off the Bulls. DeMar DeRozan (24 points) even drilled a pair of threes as he starts to slowly make the longball more of a factor in his offensive game.

Jonas Valanciunas (21 points, 10 rebounds) has been good in decreased playing time. The Raptors are deeper this season, especially in the frontcourt with Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poetl and Lucas Nogueira, so JV doesn’t have to play as much. So far, that seems to have helped him be more effective when he is on the floor.

Knicks 118 (6-4), Hornets 113 (5-6)

There just isn’t much else you can say about Kristaps Porzingis right now. From game-winning threes to three-block possessions, the dude has been unstoppable. Just a lowly 28-point showing on 10-of-15 shooting tonight for Latvian.

Even CP3 had to show KP some love.

The W was the Knicks’ 6th victory in their last 7 games, and it was another that came after a huge fourth quarter comeback. New York outscored the Hornets 35-19 in the final frame to steal the game. Doug McDermott had a big 20 points off the bench while  Tim Hardaway Jr. added 19. MSG was absolutely rocking as the Knicks closed out a 4-1 homestand.

Spurs 120 (7-4), Clippers 107 (5-5)

LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points) kept his tear through the Western Conference going as the Spurs improved to 5-1 at home. Danny Green (24 points on 15 shots) made four triples as San Antonio made over 53% of their shots from beyond the arc. It’s easy to forget, with how good this team is playing, that Kawhi has yet to make his season debut. That’s scary.

Another scary thing about this team is how good Rudy Gay has been. Gay, who hasn’t played in 80 games in a season since the 2009-10 campaign, was a bit of an afterthought this summer, enough of one that the Spurs were able to snag him on a two-year, $17 million deal. Now, he looks fully healthy and has been a dynamic scorer off the bench. He was a +13 in his 24 minutes, scoring 22 points and grabbing 7 rebounds.

76ers 104 (6-4), Jazz 97 (5-6)

The Process is starting to prove itself. Even without Markelle Fultz, the 76ers show something every single game that makes you really think about incredible this team could be in the near-future…or even later in this season.

Tonight was Dario Saric (25 points, 10 rebounds) and Ben Simmons‘ (16 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks) time to shine. I mean, look at those stats for Simmons, who’s playing the point for Philly. Just ridiculous. Take this steal and slam, for example.

Outside shooting is his next big area of improvement, but the fact that he’s able to be this impactful — on both ends of the court — without a reliable jumper is pretty impressive. Joel Embiid didn’t even play in this one and Philly was still able to hand the Jazz a loss at home, where Utah is always tough.

Nuggets 112 (6-5), Nuggets 104 (4-7)

It was a good night for stretch-five Eastern Europeans. Nikola Jokic (41 points, 12 rebounds) burned the Nets’ depleted frontcourt, especially Tyler Zeller, all game, from threes to crafty shots at the rim to putbacks. Brooklyn had no way of stopping him.

It would be hard enough to defend him just as a scorer, but he also has incredible vision out of the post and can bring the ball up with ease. There will be many more 40-point, 10-rebound games in his future.

Grizzlies 98 (7-4), Trail Blazers 97 (6-5)

The beat goes on for Memphis, which just keeps finding ways to win games however it can. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol combined for 36 points but, once again, Tyreke Evans (21 points, 5 assists) gave the Grizzlies the bench spark they needed. The former King and Pelican has been a revelation through the beginning of the season and — like Rudy Gay — looks rejuvenated.

C.J. McCollum’s 36-point outburst wasn’t enough for Portland, which had just 11 assists on 36 made field goals. Credit Memphis’ defense for stifling a lot of that ball movement.

Kings 94 (2-8), Thunder 86 (4-6)

It’s far from panic time for OKC, but it’s clear the adjustment period for Russ, PG and Melo to get on the same page is going to be much longer than a lot of people though. They were a collective 15-of-54 from the field, and Westbrook turned the ball over seven times. There isn’t reason to worry just yet. However, if the offensive issues don’t go away in a few weeks, then there would be cause for concern.

Sacramento needed a mix of the young and the old in this one, as Zach Randolph led the starters with 18 points and 8 rebounds while Buddy Hield dropped 21 and 7 off the bench (on 4-of-4 shooting from three). The rookies, De’Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson, chipped in 26 between the two for the Kings’ first home win of the year. Also, we got to see firsthand at just how athletic Fox is.