De’Aaron Fox scores 43, but Kings lose to Pelicans

Kings guard De’Aaron Fox lit up the scoreboard Monday, but in a losing effort. Via the Sacramento Bee:

De’Aaron Fox scored 43 points against the New Orleans Pelicans for the second time this season, but again he left the floor in defeat as the Kings suffered another crushing blow to their fading playoff hopes.

Brandon Ingram had 34 points, seven assists and six rebounds, leading the Pelicans to a 117-110 victory over the Kings on Monday night at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Sacramento stormed back from a 26-point deficit to get within four in the final minute, but the Pelicans held on to hand the Kings their seventh consecutive loss.

Zion Williamson had 30 points with six rebounds and four assists for the Pelicans (25-29), who moved within a half-game of the Golden State Warriors for the final play-in spot in the Western Conference. New Orleans also padded its lead over the Kings (22-32), who now trail the Warriors by 3 ½ games with 18 games remaining.

The Kings are 22-32 this season, which is the 12th best record in the Western conference.

Their leading scorers so far in 2020-21 are Fox at 24.7 points per game, Buddy Hield at 16.5 ppg, Harrison Barnes at 15.5 ppg, and Richaun Holmes at 14.4 ppg.

Zach LaVine scores 40 points in Bulls win over Thunder

Zach LaVine dropped 40 in a Bulls win over the Thunder tonight. Via the Chicago Tribune:

While playing professionally in Europe, Chicago Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky became used to constantly shuffling in and out of the starting lineup. So even though the Bulls elevated him into the starting five this week, he took it in stride.

“I’m the guy who never really overreacts to starting,” Satoransky said. “Where I came from, we always changed the different lineups in European basketball. I said this to (coach Billy Donovan): I am ready for whenever he puts me in. I never overthink that too much.”

The Bulls were plus-28 with Satoransky on the floor Tuesday as their new-look starting lineup — and a 40-point performance from Zach LaVine — helped carry them to a 123-102 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at the United Center.

LaVine put up his points with efficiency, going 15 of 20 from the field and 7 of 12 from 3-point range. He was aided by strong performances from the two veterans inserted into the lineup: Satoransky, who had 13 points and seven assists, and Thad Young, who had 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

The Thunder, who are undergoing a rebuild, were missing a number of key players tonight.

The Bulls are 18-20 this season. They’re being led in scoring by LaVine at 28.1 points per game, Lauri Markkanen at 19.1 ppg in 17 games played, Coby White at 16.0 ppg, and Young at 12.1 ppg off the bench.

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.