1In The Baseline, we take a look back at the action from the night before, and break it down. Check back every morning to see what you might have missed.
Brooklyn Nets at Cleveland Cavaliers-
The Brooklyn Nets traveled to Cleveland to debut their new stars. I guess Cleveland didn’t get the memo stating that the Nets were title contenders now. The Cavs had great ball movement, and had 21 assists on 35 made baskets. 7 players scored in double figures for the Cavs, and it looks like this team will be fun to watch this season. Anderson Varejao hit 2 big shots late in the game, and Kyrie Irving hit 4 straight free throws to win the game. Irving had 15 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds. The bigger story was the fact that Andrew Bynum was healthy enough to play. He played just 7 minutes, but it was the fact that he played that mattered. As for the Nets, they had an underwhelming debut. They shot only 40% from the field, and they were out rebounded 48-37. Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce all played under 30 minutes, and Garnett failed to score more than 8 points. The Nets are still trying to find their groove as a team, so it’s no surprise that they struggled in the first game. They were in it for the whole game, so that’s a promising sign. The Cavs will be in playoff contention this season. They started off 1-0 by winning 98-94.
Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers-
So, this was shocking. The 76ers are assumed to be the worst team in the league, and the Heat are assumed to be the best. So, this was probably going to be a blowout, right? Wrong. The Sixers came out firing, and led by as many as 22 points in the first half. I wasn’t high on Michael Carter-Williams as a rookie. He played poorly through Summer League and preseason, and I thought he turned the ball over too often. Well, for one game, he made me look like a fool. Carter-Williams had one of the best rookie debuts in the history of the NBA. He scored his first basket off of a dunk, and had 22 points, 12 assists, 9 steals, and 7 rebounds. His defense was stout, and it led to 26 fast break points. Evan Turner played well, scoring an efficient 26 points. He even dunked on Lebron James (sort of). The Heat were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and Dwyane Wade sat this one out. The Heat were so emotionally invested in the first game against the Bulls, and they came out lethargic, and seemed like they weren’t taking the Sixers seriously. They made a run to lead in the 4th quarter, but it got ugly quick. They shot just 5 of 22 from the field in the 4th, and the Sixers came back. Lebron had 25 points and 13 assists, but he didn’t do much in the 4th. The Heat had their chances late, but they couldn’t hit a 3 to tie, and Michael Carter-Williams hit free throws to seal it. The Sixers won 114-110 on the night Allen Iverson announced his retirement.
Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors-
The Raptors are thinking playoffs. The Celtics are thinking Andrew Wiggins. In the first game without Paul Pierce in over a decade, the Celtics debuted a team filled with castoffs, and ushered in a new era. The game would be close through the first quarter, and a 2 of 14 shooting performance by Boston in the 2nd would give the Raptors a double digit lead. The game would be tied at 71 going into the 4th, as Brandon Bass threw down a putback slam at the buzzer. Rudy Gay and Jeff Green would go back and forth in the 4th, but ultimately Gay hit a turnaround jumper to seal it. Gay had 19 points and 8 rebounds, and Jeff Green had 25 for the Celtics. Toronto spoiled Brad Stevens debut with a 93-87 win.
Washington Wizards at Detroit Pistons-
The Pistons added a lot of talent in the off-season–but it is yet to be seen how it will mesh. They started Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond, so their floor spacing will need some work. The Pistons played great against a fringe playoff team last night, and their frontcourt was a thing of beauty. Smith handled the ball in transition often, and he had 5 assists. All 5 starters scored in double figures for Detroit. Chauncey Billups made his return to Detroit to the tune of 16 points, and he looked good. Brandon Jennings was out for the Pistons. For the Wizards, this game was out of hand early, but they battled back. Trevor Ariza had 28 points and hit 6 threes. John Wall dropped 20 points and 11 assists, but the slow start hurt the Wizards. Otto Porter was out for them. Marcin Gortat had 9 points and 9 rebounds in just 16 minutes after the trade. The Pistons pulled away in the 4th and won 113-102.
Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks-
The Heat are mad that the media is picking the Bulls to win the East, and the Bucks are mad that people are picking the Sixers to have the worst record. The Bucks made some head-scratching moves this off-season, and they probably won’t be very good. The Knicks started Melo at the 4 in this one. They played great early, and saw themselves up by 20 in the first half. Amazingly, the Bucks came back, and rode Ersan Ilyasova and Caron Butler to take the lead. The Knicks took it personal, and ended the game on a 10-2 run. Melo had 19 points, and the Knicks just 4 players in double figures. Brandon Knight left the game in the 1st quarter with a hamstring injury. The Knicks won 90-83.
Charlotte Bobcats at Houston Rockets-
The much anticipated debut of Dwight Howard in a Houston Rockets uniform finally came, and he didn’t disappoint. The Rockets started Omer Asik and Howard next to each other, and the offense stalled out of the gate. The Bobcats were able to take advantage of the awkward pairing, and the Rockets mustered up just 17 first quarter points. Jeremy Lin played 31 minutes off the bench, and even shared time on the court with Patrick Beverly. He scored 16 points, and was an effective spark plug for this team. Howard looked like he did in Orlando, scoring 17 points, grabbing 26 rebounds, and blocking 2 shots. He and Harden played well together, and it looks like Howard is committed to doing what his coach asks. The Bobcats put up a good fight, and they had 5 players in double figures. Al Jefferson added 13 in his Bobcats debut. Kevin McHale knows the Rockets have some work to do. “ “We should have had way more run-outs … than we had tonight. … We played very unlike ourselves. … Watching us play offense was like a trip to the dentist,” McHale proclaimed. The Rockets rode a strong second half to win 96-83.
Orlando Magic at Minnesota Timberwolves-
The first quarter saw the home team score 38 points, the most in a quarter since the last game that Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic started and completed a game as healthy, functioning players. That was way back in early March of 2012, when the Wolves scored 40 points in Portland. The coincidence is too perfect to ignore, and a snapshot of exactly how maligned this organization has been. If we can keep seeing this trio, plus new addition Kevin Martin, playing healthy minutes together on a consistent basis, well, then we have something.
Tonight, a night in which Nikola Pekovic only had just 6 points on 3 of 9 shooting in 24 minutes by the time the final minute of regulation hit, and Kevin Martin having shot just 4 for 17(!) from the floor at that point, should be the exception to the rule. Only Kevin Love played a complete game for the Wolves, and, in every way, was the glue that held this team together throughout the night. With a one point lead and just under a minute remaining, the Wolves kicked the ball away and saw the Magic put in an easy fast break layup, taking a one point lead of their own. Rubio missed an elbow jumper, and after two Orlando free throws, the Wolves found themselves trailing 103-100 with just over 12 seconds remaining. The Wolves ran a perfect side-out play, with a crushing screen by Pekovic freeing Love for a wide open three from the left wing. Love sunk it, and Corey Brewer shut down Arron Afflalo in isolation on the right baseline for a missed jumper at the buzzer.
The Wolves won 120-115. It’s safe to say they are glad Kevin Love is back.
Indiana Pacers at New Orleans Pelicans-
The Indiana Pacers will move to 2-0 in this season, and what a win this was tonight. You can throw out the cliches. Great teams figure out how to win and a tale of two halves is the best ones to use for this game. The Pacers just looked out of it in that first half, and probably had no business coming out with this win. Just think a few years ago, this Pacers team probably doesn’t win this game. But know they’re starting to see that you can figure out how to win a game when your best stuff isn’t there. Or just save the best for last.
That third quarter is where the Pacers start the turnaround in this one as they outscored New Orleans 23-16. Allowing under 15 points is the ideal defensive effort I would love to see, but that 16 points is fine too. But perhaps saving the best for the last was the Pacers motto as they put up 36 points in that final quarter. 36 points in any quarter is a great number. To do 36 points in the fourth quarter when you’ve played a game the night before, and now you’re playing a team that’s opening up the season at home is just extra icing on top of the cake. This might not be any significant win in the standings for the Pacers, but this type of win could go a long way in the season.
The Pacers came from behind to win 95-90. Paul George played fantastic again.
Atlanta Hawks at Dallas Mavericks-
The Atlanta Hawks are installing a new system under coach Mike Budenholzer, and there will be some growing pains until they figure everything out. They also experienced some turnover, so wait until about December if you want to see them at full strength. Al Horford played poorly with only 11 points. Paul Millsap played well in his Atlanta debut with 20 points. Cartier Martin was a nice bonus for the Hawks with 17 points off the bench. The Hawks were very pick and roll heavy, which was to be expected, and Jeff Teague was the beneficiary of it with 24 points and 9 assists. The Mavericks controlled most of this game, and the Monta Ellis pick and roll with Dirk Nowitzki was deadly. Ellis had 31 efficient points, and Dirk added 24. The Hawks made a run, but the Mavericks won 118-109.
Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs-
The Spurs came as close as you can to winning the title last season, and they don’t seem to be hanging on to that loss. The Spurs came out firing in this one, and they looked like the same old Spurs. They jumped out to a 21 point halftime lead, and they had a firm grip on this game the whole way. Tim Duncan left the game with a chest contusion after getting elbowed, and only played 17 minutes. As for the Grizzlies, they struggled under new head coach David Joerger. He called a timeout in the first minute of the game when the team missed a defensive assignment. The Grizzlies made a late run, but the Spurs won 101-94.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz-
The Jazz will be a bad team this year, but they played well last night. Although the Thunder led by double digits at times, Utah fought hard. They were led by 24 points off the bench by Alec Burks, and he will probably lead them in scoring this season. The new starting big men Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors combined for 29 points and 19 rebounds. The Thunder are without Russell Westbrook, so Kevin Durant carried the load. He scored 42 points, and 22 of those were free throws. The Thunder are looking for the second scorer to replace Westbrook, and they got 14 each from Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha. The Thunder squeaked by with a 101-98 win.
Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns-
It was a night of impressive performances for most of the Suns players. Goran Dragic led the team with 26 points, six rebounds, and nine assists. His backcourt partner Eric Bledsoe was spectacular in his debut for the Suns, putting up 22 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. The pair connected well, and showed that they just might be able to share the backcourt for Phoenix. Perhaps more surprising was the fantastic night from Miles Plumlee, who was just recently promoted to the Suns starting center. He put up 18 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks. P.J. Tucker also added 18 pointsIn his NBA debut, rookie Alex Len neither played much nor contributed. At times, it seemed like he wasn’t being aggressive in the paint, but he began to toughen up later in the game. That said, he is still recovering from an injury and adjusting to the NBA.The Suns as a whole played run and gun ball, which is not only fun to watch but seems to be when the Suns play at their best. They had difficulty on defense, and shot only 29% from deep, but a 51% shooting night and a big win is certainly something to be pleased with.There isn’t much that could’ve made this a better start to the Suns season, and hopefully this is a sign of what the Suns new regime has in store. The Suns won 104-91.
Denver Nuggets at Sacramento Kings-
It was a night that was about more than just the game on the floor. Another chapter in the Sacramento Kings near-relocation saga was written, as fans poured into Sleep Train Arena to celebrate the return of their Kings for the season opener. The energy was palpable all night, and thankfully for the sellout crowd, the positive result was the cherry on top of an amazing night. At many times, the product on the floor didn’t match the intensity of the fans. But when it mattered, Sacramento came through. Against a game Denver Nuggets squad, the Kings eeked out a 90-88 win on Jason Thompson’s emphatic last-minute putback dunk.
The Nuggets still are finding an identity, so it’s no surprise to see them play poorly. Neither of these teams are going to the playoffs, but it’s good to see the Kings win with emotion. Demarcus Cousins was a monster with 30 points and 14 rebounds.
Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors-
The outcome was not hard to predict from the opening tip. The Lakers played defense as if they were blindfolded. Shooters were wide open. Shots were never contested. Open lanes led to layups and dunks at the rim. Wes Johnson as a power forward was a disaster. He was too small to guard David Lee who had 24 points and 8 rebounds. Worse than being undersized, Johnson has little intuition on how to play in the paint. He does this thing where he flails with his hands all around the shooters face and body and when the ref’s whistle blows he seems baffled as to why. Jodie Meeks is also too small. He does not have the size to guard Klay Thompson who did his best Michael Jordan impression. Thompson had 27 points at half on his way to a career high of 38. Thompson almost made Steph Curry seem invisible. Almost. Curry’s dribble penetration disrupted whatever defense the Lakers thought they were executing, creating open shooters all over the court. It felt like a scrimmage and the Lakers were a college team and the Warriors were NBA champions and these two should never meet again.
The Lakers need to play good defense if they want any sort of success this season. The Warriors will be really good, and they started out with a 125-94 win.
Fans are still in NFL mode, but it’s important to remember not to overreact to 1 game. There are 82 of these things, so look for trends, not games.
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