Post Up: Undefeated

by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz

Monday night saw the Pacers stay perfect, the Rockets outlast the Raptors and the Clippers juuuuust avoid choking against Minnesota. Let’s dive in.

Pacers (8-0) 95, Grizzlies (3-4) 79

The Pacers are really, really, really good. They held the Grizzlies to just 16 points in each of the first and third quarters last night, and destroyed Memphis on the glass (45-32).

Lance Stephenson triple-doubled with 13 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds. He committed just one turnover, knocked down 3 threes and led the team in minutes with 34. His ascension has been an amazing one, going from highly touted recruit to second-round pick to benchwarmer to defensive wiz to, maybe, an all-around star. He’s the shooting guard of the future for Indiana, regardless of Danny Granger’s health.

Paul George isn’t bad, either, and dropped 23 on the Grizz. He added 7 boards and got to the stripe 6 times. He’s been as god as any player in the League this season (LeBron included). David West, George Hill, Luis Scola and Ian Mahinmi each scored in double figures.

Memphis, now 0-3 away from home, just couldn’t get anything going offensively. Marc Gasol led the team with 15 points, Zach Randolph shot 6/12 for 12 points with 6 rebounds and Mike Conley hit just 4/11 shots with 2 dimes. We should all be very afraid of Indiana.

Rockets (5-3) 110, Raptors (3-5) 104 (2OT)

Toronto managed just 33 first-half points last night, but bounced back in the second half and took a one-point lead with 40 seconds left in regulation. On the following Rockets’ possession, James Harden split a pair of free throws to force overtime.

In the first OT, Houston led by three in the closing seconds when Rudy Gay, whose draft rights were traded by Houston to Memphis back in ’06, sank a three at the buzzer to knot the score again.

The Rockets finally managed to close the game out in its sixth period, as they held the Raptors scoreless for the final 1:49.

Lin led all scorers with 31 off the bench in 46 minutes while Patrick Beverley started at point guard but struggled greatly (24 minutes, 1 point, 0 assists). Lin obviously outplayed him, but that might serve to further lock Lin into his new sixth man role, rather than start a point guard controversy.

Meanwhile, James Harden double-doubled with 26 points and 10 assists, while Dwight Howard did the same in very different fashion—18 points and 24 rebounds, including 6 off of the offensive glass. He also swatted 5 shots in 45 minutes and has posted some mammoth stat lines the likes of which we rarely saw from D12 last season. It’s nice to have him back.

Toronto was led by Rudy Gay’s 29 points on… how do I put this… thirty-seven shots. DeMar DeRozan launched 25 shots of his own and scored 22 points, while Kyle Lowry shot just 6/16 and somehow didn’t attempt a free throw despite playing 48 minutes in total. Each of Gay, Amir Johnson (10 points) and Jonas Valanciunas (10 points) snagged at least 10 rebounds.

Bulls (3-3) 96, Cavs (3-5) 81

Cleveland cut down a big deficit early in the fourth quarter, but Chicago pulled away in the final minutes last night.

Derrick Rose scored 16 points with 7 assists, but he made just 8/21 shots and didn’t get to the free throw line. He also left early with what seems like a minor hamstring injury, so in all it was something of a mixed bag for the former MVP. D-Rose has looked rusty this season, but the Bulls have plenty of time to figure things out in a surprisingly shallow East.

Carlos Boozer led the team in scoring with 17 and added 7 boards and 4 assists. Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng combined to make only 7/25 shots, but Chicago held Cleveland to 41.3 shooting on the night.

That had a lot to do with Kyrie Irving, who was scoreless at halftime and finished 5/19 with 16 points. On the bright side, Tristan Thompson double-doubled yet again and Andrew Bynum started and played 21 solid minutes (11 points, 6 boards, 2 blocks).

Hawks (4-3) 103, Bobcats (3-4) 94

Charlotte led at the break last night, but a 26-7 third quarter run by Atlanta allowed the Hawks to pull away.

Al Horford paced the team with 24 points and Cartier Martin came off the bench to score 16 points in 20 minutes, including a pair of treys in the final two minutes of the third. Jeff Teague posted 14 points and 12 dimes. He’s double-doubled in five of seven games so far this season, and had 24 points and 9 dimes in the Hawks’ opener. They certainly made the right call re-signing him this summer, and it seems like he’s clicking with new coach Mike Budenholzer.

Seven players scored at least 10 points for the Bobcats, led by Josh McRoberts, who finished with 19, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 16 points with 6 boards.

Spurs (7-1) 109, 76ers (4-4) 85

San Antonio played without Tim Duncan last night, but they didn’t need him. The Spurs jumped out to a 31-13 advantage after one quarter, and the Sixers never made it interesting.

The Spurs spread the wealth, with 10 players scoring at least 6 points and zero players scoring 20 points. They knocked down 13 threes, including 5 from Danny Green, who finished with a team-high 18 points. Tony Parker went for 14 and 9 and Kawhi Leonard scored 13 with 8 rebounds.

Philly got 20 from Evan Turner and 17 and 13 from Spencer Hawes, but Michael Carter-Williams (2/11, 8 points) and Thaddeus Young (3/7, 7 points) both struggled. The Sixers have dropped four outta five since their 3-0 start.

Celtics (4-4) 120, Magic (3-5) 105

Boston has turned around an 0-4 start in impression fashion.

Last night, the Celtics offense clicked against a pretty decent Orlando squad. The team shot 60 percent overall and 13/15 from the free throw line. Avery Bradley led the team in scoring with 24 (10/15), and Jordan Crawford ran a surprisingly efficient point guard on his way to 16 points and 10 assists. Jeff Green and Kelly Olynyk (7 rebounds, 5 assists) each scored 16 points, and Olynyk looked especially sharp in the W. His rookie campaign is off to a solid start.

Seven Magic players scored in double-figures, but it’s tough to win when you give up 120 points on the road. Nikola Vucevic double-doubled with 15 & 10, Arron Afflalo scored 18 with 7 assists and Victor Oladipo came off the bench to shoot 7/17 with 17 points. Orlando is 3-1 at home and 0-4 on the road.

Nuggets (2-4) 100, Jazz (0-8) 81

Utah trailed 70-68 after three quarters before getting smoked in the fourth. Denver closed on a 25-7 run.

The Nuggets’ offense was solid, getting double-doubles from Ty Lawson (17 and 10) and Kenneth Faried (15 and 13). JJ Hickson scored 14 points with 9 rebounds in 29 minutes, and he figures to handle a major role in JaVale McGee’s absence.

Utah’s numbers perfectly outline why this team will likely be among the NBA’s worst two or three this season. Gordon Hayward dropped 22, Derrick Favors went off for 21, 13 and 3 stuffs, Enes Kanter was okay with 12 points and 4 boards and everybody else was brutally bad. Richard Jefferson shot 2/10; John Lucas III shot 2/8; Alec Burks shot 2/9; Jamaal Tinsley and Marvin Williams added next to nothing in a combined 30 minutes.

The Jazz are the League’s last remaining winless team, and face the Pelicans (twice), Warriors (twice), Spurs, Mavericks, Thunder and Bulls over their next eight games. They then get two games against the Suns, followed by three against the Rockets, Pacers and Blazers. They could be looking at an 0-21 start if they don’t take one of the games against Phoenix at the end of the month.

Blazers (5-2) 109, Pistons (2-4) 103

Don’t look now, but Portland is playing really good ball. Last night, they held off a late push from Detroit behind 25 from Damian Lillard. He knocked down 5 treys and handed out 5 assists. LaMarcus Aldridge kicked in 18 and 12, Robin Lopez posted a big 17 and 10 and Mo Williams delivered 17 points off the bench. The Blazers got absolutely nothing from their reserves last season, but the core of Mo, Dorell Wright (11), Joel Freeland and Thomas Robinson has added some much needed punch to the team.

Meanwhile, Detroit got 28 from Brandon Jennings, 19 from Greg Monroe and a massive 16 & 16 from Andre Drummond. Still, the defense was brutal—Portland shot over 51 percent overall and 11/23 from deep—and it cost them on Monday night. The Pistons have now lost three in a row, but the Ls have come at the hands of Indiana, Oklahoma City and Portland. I’m certainly not ready to give up on Lob City East.

Clippers (5-3) 109, Timberwolves (5-3) 107

Blake Griffin miraculously hit a pair of free throws with under a minute left to put LA up four on Monday, but a bucket and a stop gave the TWolves the ball back with about six seconds left down two. But Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love each missed game-tying chances in the waning seconds.

Griffin finished with 25, 10 and 5 dimes, continuing his monster start to the season. He seemed to regress in the two years following his rookie campaign, but he’s back to being a 20 and 10 guy so far in ’13-14. Chris Paul scored 21 with 11 dimes and 4 steals, extending his season-opening double-double streak to eight games. (This makes me very happy.) DeAndre Jordan joined the double-double-fest with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Clippers shot 55 percent overall.

Did somebody say double-double-fest? Love posted 23 and 19 (and 7 dimes) for Minnesota, who also got 25 and 10 from Pek. That’s a hell of a duo. Martin continued his torrid scoring pace with 30 on 22 shots. Ricky Rubio handed out 10 assists, but made just 2/6 shots. He’s shot better than 34 percent in only two of Minnesota’s eight games thus far. The TWolves are the real deal, and look like they’ll be competing for a 4-6 seed in the West, rather than just clawing their way into the eighth spot.

Bonus: Vintage Show Of The Day

This season, I’ll be posting a semi-random highlight video of a former baller at the bottom of my Post Ups. Today, Magic gets the honor. Enjoy this ridiculous compilation of his greatest passes, the best of which is impossible to pick. (2:53 is irresistibly awesome and 3:19 is not on the charts.)