Nets win streak ends with loss to Mavs

With two of the Nets big three out, the Nets on Friday fell to a Mavericks squad that recently welcomed Kristaps Porzingis back to action. Via the NY Post:

The NBA’s longest winning streak ended Saturday with a thud, the sound of the red-hot Nets crashing back down from Cloud 9.

The Nets were undersized and undermanned, playing without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. But they aren’t using any of that an alibi for getting thrashed, 115-98, by Dallas at Barclays Center.

“No, this is a no-excuse team. If you’re on the floor, you’re going to play as hard as you can. They just got the best of us, and they got the win. That’s all it really was,” said Jeff Green, forced out of the game as well. “It’s not about us running out of gas or anything. We just didn’t come ready to play and they won.”

Not only did Irving’s scratch to rest his surgically repaired right shoulder pare the Big 3 down to a Big 1 in James Harden, the Nets also saw Tyler Johnson ruled out just before tipoff with a migraine and Green’s own shoulder injury removed him with 3:17 left in the third.

And the NY Daily News:

On one end of the floor, Luka Doncic spins off his man, drives down the lane and euro-steps around James Harden for the easy basket. On the other, Harden lulls his man to sleep, one flurry of crossovers after another, before stepping back for a contested three that borders on equal parts un-guardable and flat-out unfair.

Watching Doncic and Harden go toe-to-toe at Barclays Center on Saturday was like the viral meme of two Spidermen pointing at one another. Doncic finished with 27 points, seven assists and the victory, while Harden recorded 29 points and six assists in a superstar showdown that substantiated the similarities between the two offensive masterminds.

“Both of these guys are great one-on-one players,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “They’re great passers. They can both play the team movement game very well. Harden has been in a situation the last few years where the offense has really revolved around him, and our team it does around Luka similarly, but our style is a little bit different than Houston and Brooklyn, but both of these guys are generational type players. There’s no question about it, and that’s another thing that makes a game like this very compelling.”

In the Mavs win, supporting Doncic’s effort was Porzingis with 18 points, four rebounds, three blocks in 26 minutes, Tim Hardaway Jr. scoring 13 off the bench, Dorian Finney-Smith with 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals, and Josh Richardson with 11 points.

Pacers break losing streak with win over Pistons

It’s been a little while, but the Pacers are back in the win column. Via the Indianapolis Star:

It didn’t matter it was against the previously 6-18 Detroit Pistons. Nate Bjorkgren’s Pacers would have taken a win against anyone, in the middle of their longest losing streak since a first-round sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat in Orlando last summer.

In the middle of Indiana’s three-game trip, and on the back-end of a back-to-back, the Pacers recovered from the kind of slow start that has plagued them of late to knock off the Pistons 111-95 on the heels of big games from their three stars.

All three just missed the mark on double-doubles: Domantas Sabonis finished with a game-high 26 points on 9-for-14 shooting, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc, to go with eight rebounds and eight assists. Malcolm Brogdon followed with 18 points and nine rebounds while also adding a pair of 3s. Myles Turner finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, coming off a three-point, three-rebound game in Wednesday’s loss to Brooklyn.

A bright spot for Detriot in the loss was the play of undersized 6-foot-8 center Isaiah Stewart, who shot 8 of 9 for 17 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal struggle in Wizards loss to Heat

Friday in Miami, the Heat defended home court, beating the Wizards in convincing fashion, 122-95. The Wizards starting lineup, including their star-studdled backcourt brought little to the table. Via the Washington Post:

Beal’s rare off night made the loss feel even more miserable as the Wizards fell to 5-14 and bungled their shot at notching back-to-back wins for just the second time this season. The guard, who leads the league in scoring and had the most all-star fan votes of any Eastern Conference guard by a healthy margin when the league released its first voting totals Thursday, had his lowest scoring game since he had seven points on Dec. 23, 2018.

He matched that tally Friday, scoring seven points while missing 13 of his 14 shots from the floor, including missing six of seven from beyond the arc. His deep ball in the third quarter was his lone field goal and the game marked the first one this year he failed to score at least 25 points, ending his record-breaking streak.

Without Beal to prop up the team and with Russell Westbrook offering a mediocre 13 points in his stead, Washington had next to no chance at matching Heat center Bam Adebayo and his supporting cast. Kendrick Nunn had a game-high 25 points, but it was Adebayo’s 21-point performance — including an astounding 11-for-11 from the free throw line in the first quarter — that got the Heat up and running with a new rotation Coach Erik Spoelstra debuted Friday, in part to contend with Westbrook.

A bright spot for the Wizards was recent new addition Alex Lex. Coming off the bench, the center shot 7 of 12 to lead the team in scoring with 18 points and five blocks in 24 minutes.

Nikola Vucevic scores 43 points in Magic win over Bulls

Magic center Nikola Vucevic had himself a night. Via the Orlando Sentinel:

The Orlando Magic went to Nikola Vucevic early and the veteran center just kept delivering.

Vucevic scored a career-high with 43 points and hit two crucial free throws with 2.6 seconds to play as the Orlando Magic held off the Chicago Bulls for a 123-119 win Friday night at Amway Center.

Evan Fournier finished with 21 points while Cole Anthony had 17 points and James Ennis had 14 for Orlando (9-14). Anthony also recorded a career-high nine assists as the Magic snapped a four-game losing streak.

Vucevic is putting up big number this season. He’s averaging a career-high 22.5 points per game, averaging 11.2 rebounds, which is one more than usual for his career, and doing his part. But the Magic as a squad have been below average on both ends of the floor so far in 2021.

Bradley Beal scores 47 points in Wizards loss to Pelicans

It’s been a rough time lately for Bradley Beal and a Wizards team that is missing a lot of key players. Yesterday’s did-not-play list included Russell Westbrook, among others. The latest struggle saw them lose 124-106 to the Pelicans last night. Via the Washington Post:

Beal more than made up for a sluggish first quarter by scoring 24 in the third quarter alone, finishing with 47 points on 17-for-37 shooting. Lopez added 14.

“We know we’re a lot better than what our record is showing, and we can’t feed into that,” Beal said. “We can’t think that’s the type of team we are — granted, reality is reality. But we also believe that we’re better than that, we’re shorthanded, we haven’t played in two weeks. We’re still getting back. It’s no excuse, 100 percent . . . but we can’t feed into being 3-11.”

Despite Beal’s effort, he couldn’t make up for a roster missing six key contributors — Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith and Moe Wagner. Brooks is not sure when they will get out of league protocols and rejoin the team, but all six players are now back on court and working out.

Jordan Bell, signed last week to a 10-day contract, started to give the Wizards more size against Zion Williamson and Steven Adams. But the 6-foot-8 forward could only do so much — Bell had a team-high 11 rebounds in 30 minutes.

Beal scored 47. The rest of the Wizards starting lineup yesterday scored 25.

The Pelicans continued to get monster performances from their pair of starting forwards. Brandon Ingram shot 12/19 and hit 7/12 threes for 32 points, six rebounds and eight assists, while Zion Williamson shot 12/16 for 32 points.

Chris Paul scores big, but Suns lose to Thunder

Suns point guard Chris Paul had himself a big scoring night against his former Thunder team, scoring 32 points, but it was in a 102-97 losing effort. Via the Arizona Republic:

Blowing a 17-point lead, Phoenix succumbed to offensive fouls, a horrid stretch of 3-point shooting and Deandre Ayton scoring just five points in a 102-97 loss Wednesday night to Oklahoma City at Phoenix Suns Arena.

“Down the stretch, we had unbelievably poor finish,” said a frustrated and upset Suns coach Monty Williams. “We got open shots. We’re missing shots under the basket. It’s just poor. Poor execution and poor finishing. That’s it.”

The Suns (8-8) are 1-5 in their last six games…

Chris Paul scored a season-high 32 in his first game against the Thunder (8-9) since the trade that brought him and Abdel Nader to Phoenix, but lost to his former team that ended a five-game road trip with a stunning victory.

The Suns have been pretty good defensively this season, but surprisingly, their offense is merely average for the league so far this season.

Kyle Lowry hits game-winner for Raptors over Hornets

The Raptors aren’t off to a great start so far this season, but last night they beat the Hornets despite three Charlotte players putting up 20 or more points. Via the Toronto Star:

The Raptors knew they were going to get a ton of three-point attempts on Saturday night. The Charlotte Hornets play a lot of zone defence that creates those opportunities.

And it was a long two-pointer that was the biggest bucket of the night.

Kyle Lowry made a step-back 18-footer with just over 30 seconds to go for the game-winning basket, allowing the Raptors to post a 116-113 win over Charlotte, their second in three nights in Tampa.

Toronto stayed in the game with some of their best three-point shooting of the season. Despite droughts to start the game and open the second half, the Raptors made 21 on the night.

In the win, Chris Boucher came off the bench and put up 20 points, nine assists and two blocks on just seven field goal attempts. He’s been a standout so far this season and the story of the season for Toronto.

LaMelo Ball outplays brother Lonzo in their first NBA game against each other

It was Ball brother against Ball brother on Friday, as the Hornets beat the Pelicans 118-110. with Lonzo Ball starting for the Pelicans and rookie LaMelo Ball coming off the bench for the Hornets, here’s what went down, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

LaMelo Ball checked in midway through the first quarter and immediately started guarding Lonzo Ball. In their first game against each other at the NBA level, the brothers were matched up on one another a fair amount. Surprisingly, LaMelo won Round 1 handily. He had 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists — a near triple-double. Lonzo had a five-point, three-assist dud.

Nine games into the season, Lonzo doesn’t look like a much different player than he was last year. He is a capable defender, and he makes multiple gorgeous passes every night. He also remains wildly inconsistent, is hesitant to drive the basketball into the paint, and can’t get to the free-throw line.

Remember New Orleans’ opening-night win in Tampa, when Ball attempted six free throws? In the 272 minutes he’s played since then, he’s attempted four free throws. In that same stretch of games, Nicolo Melli has attempted four free throws in 47 minutes, and Willy Hernangomez has attempted four free throws in seven minutes. Ball’s unwillingness to try shots at the rim further restricts the Pelicans in the half court, where they already don’t have much shooting to begin with.

LaMelo is still brand new to the league but is already flashing some very big-time talent.

Raptors make change, start Alex Len at center

The Raptors aren’t off to a good start this season, so it’s no surprise that head coach Nick Nurse is making some rotation adjustments. And today, with the team on the road in Sacramento, Alex Len started at center against the Kings. Via the Toronto Sun:

Nurse didn’t make it official until he was obligated to by league rules, but taking Aron Baynes out of the starting five could not have come as a shock to many.

Baynes, outside of a few early games, has looked rather lost for the Raptors at either end of the floor. He was replaced last night by Alex Len.

When Baynes was performing earlier in the season, he was taking inside passes and converting them into points, but even that has dried up.

Defensively, he just doesn’t seem to be in step with everyone else, whether that’s protecting the rim on drives from the perimeter, or even rebounding the misses to get the Raptors back on offence.

The Raptors came away with a 144-123 victory tonight, but Len and Baynes played little part of it. Len played five minutes, Baynes none. But the team won thanks to big performances from Fred VanValeet, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, and Chris Boucher off the bench.

Bradley Beal scores 60, but Wizards lose to Sixers

Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal had himself a game on Wednesday, shooting 25 of 35 and hitting 7 of 10 three-pointers for 60 points, seven rebounds and five assists, but unfortunately it was one that ended in a loss. Via the Washington Post:

Bradley Beal’s career night was sealed at the free throw line, an anticlimactic ending that belied the thrilling performance the Washington Wizards’ star guard delivered in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Beal came achingly close to breaking Gilbert Arenas’s franchise single-game scoring record set 15 years ago, just as the Wizards nearly completed a stunning comeback against the 76ers.

Beal led his team with 60 points, tying Arenas’s tally from Dec. 17, 2006. But he could not will his team to a win.

The Wizards lost, 141-136, falling just short of a 21-point comeback mounted midway through the third quarter. Beal shot 20-for-35 from the field, 7-for-10 from three and made 13 of 15 at the free throw line, notching his fourth career 50-point game.

He had 57 points through three quarters but shot 1-for-6 in the final 12 minutes.