by S.A. Prince
NBA Observations Week 2
Rookie Lost and Found
With everyone talking about Dennis Smith Jr., Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons, D. Fox, and all the other highly talented rookies, one rookie is flying way under the radar, and you may want to start paying attention to him.
I’m talking about John Collins for the Atlanta Hawks. While the Hawks are poised to have an underwhelming year, Collins is one of their few bright spots.
He’s come off the bench and put up two double-double in points and rebounds already. I don’t think it will be long before he’s starting, because he’s certainly giving them more than Muscala and Dedmon. Not to mention, he’s their most athletic big and their only quasi rim protector. If he doesn’t get the nod, he will definitely force Bud to increase his playing time.
If you haven’t picked him up on your fantasy teams, go and do it now. He’s worth the spot and I foresee his minutes only increasing from here.
Eastern Conference All-Stars
D’Angelo Russell and Kristaps Porzingis are going to put up All-star level numbers this year on absolutely atrocious teams. I think the Nets will be better than I expected because they’re playing so fast, but the Knicks are definitely at the bottom of the barrel. All that being said, it’s plausible that those two players are making it into the All-Star game.
How crazy would that be? Dame can’t even crack the All-Star team in the West, but bad teams are probably going to have All-Stars in the East. What a time to be alive…
Super Team Bullshit
These teams that loaded up are in for a rude awakening. OKC, MIN, HOU, and the CAVS who think they can lollygag because they have added top-notch players are getting smacked. I get these teams are getting used to playing to one another, but they have to get locked in. Just because you added good players, doesn’t automatically means you are going to be one of the best teams. All of those teams have MAJOR issues they need to address, and teams who we thought would be much worse because they lost key pieces, like LAC and IND, are showing that they are going to be better than anticipated.
1-5: Lost to Heat, Miami, Chicago, Denver
Atlanta is this year’s “Everybody gets a turn team.” They should just focus on finding a way to trade Schroeder. That being said, they did beat Dallas. But, I mean, let’s be honest, Dallas is a shitty baby diaper too.
I would talk about John Collins, but he’s the subject of the above article. He’s their bright spot, even though he had a tough couple of games this week.
On Monday the Hawks played the Heat without Schroeder, and the question I’m asking myself is, “Do they play better without him?” Defensively, it seems as though they played slightly better without him, even though they still lost. The Heat were hot from behind the arc, shooting nearly 40% from the three.
In Schroeder’s absence, the team turned to Bazemore and Prince for points, and they delivered scoring 20 each. With Schroeder, the Hawks have averaged more assists, but just watching the game against the Heat, it feels like there’s more ball movement, and more hands are touching the rock.
4-2: Beat Knicks, Beat Milwaukee, Beat Miami
Boston needed to win all three of those games their games this week. They beat a bottom feeder, a middle of the road team, and a contender. That should give them some confidence moving forward.
We have a rare sighting folks. Looks like Al Horford decided to show up and ball out against Milwaukee. The solid vet was more than solid. He finished with 27 points. The man was cooking.
They needed every bit of Horford’s offensive output too, because defensively they gave up way too many open shots and fastbreak buckets. Let me correct myself. Giving up the open shots was a part of their defensive scheme.
They didn’t want to let Giannis go off, so they shadowed him with an extra defender blocking off his path to the rim. Giannis has long strides though, so the extra defender was about a good 3 to 5 feet behind the guy guarding Giannis, who might I add, was giving up about a foot and a half to Giannis daring him to shoot. So, Giannis didn’t force the issue. He passed to the open guy who just so happened to hit the open shot. Brogdon, Snell, and the Curry Stopper were 3 of his 7 assists.
Steven’s approach worked out, because Giannis didn’t really go off. Yes, he had 28, but he forced up a couple threes late and hit them.
Kyrie can’t be checked, and I’d like to think that Malcolm Brogdon is a capable defender, but he needs help to guard Kyrie. Heck, everybody needs help to guard Kyrie. When the extra defender rotated to him tonight, he made the right read and passed the ball. Al Horford was on the receiving end of a lot of those passes. Kyrie finished with 7 assists.
3-3: Beat Atlanta, Lost to Orlando, Beat Cleveland, Lost to Knicks
This win matters. They are playing without Lin (out for the season) and D-Lo (having a knee issue). To every basketball coach reading this…have your team watch this game. It shows you the benefits of forcing turnovers and protecting the ball. The Nets only had 12 turnovers. They forced 21. Even if you are outmatched, if you can protect the ball and force the issue defensively, you give yourself a great shot at winning. That being said, it certainly helps that Cleveland shot 65% from the line.
2-3: Lost to Milwaukee, Beat Denver, Lose to Hou
The Hornets lost to Milwaukee on Monday, and they didn’t have to. That game was within their grasp, but every time they closed the gap, atrocious defense stopped them from overtaking the Milwaukee. The Hornets let Giannis was grab defensive rebounds and take the ball coast to coast. Nobody picked him up, or even tried to stop the ball. That’s basic basketball.
In the half-court game, the Hornets must figure out their defensive rotations when they’re playing against high-powered offensive players. Tobias Harris (Detroit) lit them up last week, and Giannis lit them up this week. In both occasions, bad defensive rotations from the Hornets led to easy baskets for these stars and their teammates.
This wasn’t a particularly hard game for the Hornets. Denver didn’t even challenge them past the first quarter. They got every shot they wanted, and Dwight Howard physically dominated Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets Frontcourt while grabbing 19 rebounds. No doubt, Charlotte is a good fit for Howard.
Dwight Howard, for as good as he is on the glass, refuses to close out hard and contest the three against shooting bigs.
Frank Kaminsky, although he can stretch the floor on offense, plays defense like he’s in a coma.
1-4: Lost to Cavs, Beat Atlanta, lost to OKC
Although they are losing games, their effort is refreshing. Watching their games is entertaining, and there future seems bright with some solid pieces to build around. Those pieces are Markkanen, Holiday, Valentine, and Lavine who is hurt right now.
Kudos to Chicago Great way to grind it out and force the Eastern Conference Champions to play 48 minutes. They took advantage of every defensive lapse, and made the Cavs pay. The Cavs may have thought they could look past Chicago, or thought they could play lazy defense and be okay, but Laurie Marks and the Bulls showed them otherwise. This is a great performance that they should be looking to build upon.
Atlanta is ass. Good first win for the Bulls. Chicago made Cleveland grind it out, so of course they’d beat the Hawks.
3-3: Beat Chicago, Lost to Brooklyn, Lost to Pelicans
Maybe they’re waiting until the playoffs to play defense!!? It’s bad. It’s really bad on the defensive end for the Cavs. Either they are waiting for the playoffs, or they are just too old to keep up. Don’t expect it to get better when IT comes back either, because he’s one of the worst defenders in the league.
I am concerned about the grind that Cleveland is going to have all season. Every game so far has looked hard. Last year they were blowing teams out. Offensively they were just too overpowering. Although they’ve added some good pieces, it seems like they’ve come back to the pack a little bit. Maybe losing Kyrie is going to hurt them more than they expect.
Chicago, the worst team in the league, forced the Cavs to play hard the entire game. They’re too young and they’re too inexperienced to beat the Cavs, but kudos to them for giving it all they had. At the end of the day, they can be proud they forced a close game with the “best” team in the East. The only reason Cleveland won this game is because LeBron is the top player in the world and he outclasses everyone on the court. He’s the ultimate trump card.
Victims of the back-to-back. There is just no way the aging Cavs, after having to grind it out against Chicago on Wednesday night, were going to beat Brooklyn on Thursday. Brooklyn didn’t even have their star D-Lo playing, and they still beat the Cavs.
Cleveland’s issues are on the defensive end, and at the free throw line. They are not focused.
The Cavs missed 9 free throws on their way to shooting 65% from the line. They lost by 5 points. Defensively, they only forced 12 turnovers. The Cavs have to pick up the pressure.
1-6: Lost GSW. Beat Memphis. Lost Memphis. Lost to Philly.
They shouldn’t be the worst team in the league, but they sure are looking like the worst team. I’m really disappointed in Harrison Barnes so far this season.
Dallas won the first game, but I didn’t expect either team to beat the other on back-to-back nights. That’s pretty hard to do.
The Mavs take way too long to get going offensively. Their star player, Harrison Barnes, sometimes doesn’t even score until the second half. It’s too hard to come back after slow starts like that. That’s why they lost to Memphis the second game.
In the second game, Harrison came out and got a couple buckets, but their offense production was still low. They’ve got to pick it up. They managed to come back against Memphis, but it was too little too late. Basketball is a game of runs, and Conley put 9 points on them in the fourth to help Memphis shut the door. Speaking of runs, the Mavs’ late game defense is brutal. You have to get stops late.
2-3: Lost to Washington, Lost to Hornets, Beat Atlanta
When you play a team that likes to get out and run, you have to stop the ball on the fastbreak and you have to get back. The defensive lapses from the Nuggets were unacceptable when they played Washington. You should always get back on D, but that is accentuated when you play at team like Washington who’s going to push the ball.
Jokic, for as many good plays he makes on offense, can’t be out on the floor when you’re down late and need stops. One of the reasons Washington beat them is because he got abused on switches down the stretch.
Milsap may be the best driving big man in the NBA after Giannis. He finishes at the rim with ease using either hand.
It’s like Denver’s guards didn’t even try. They didn’t work around screens, and they contest any shots. They let Charlotte have whatever they want. Murray, Harris, and Barton all got cooked. That was some of the worse defensive effort I’ve seen all year. Malone has got to get those guys to put as much effort into defense as they do offense.
4-2: Lost to Sixers, Beat Wolves, Beat LAC
I’ll repeat this until Van Gundy changes it: Stanley Johnson and Andre Drummond can’t play together.
Offensively, it kills the Pistons, and on nights where they can’t get defensive stops, like when they played the Sixers on Monday, it’s pointless to have them out there. Teams can just pack it in on them. There are times where Reggie Jackson drove to the rim and he had nobody to get the ball to.
Van Gundy tried to bring in Tolliver to help stretch the floor in the second quarter, but that was to no avail. At one point in the second quarter, the Sixers outscored Detroit, 20 to 8, and were up 21 late in the quarter. That’s very hard to overcome.
The Pistons would be better off starting Galloway or Kennard, or they can just hope Tobias Harris continues to have 30 point outings to make up for their poor offense.
Detroit is a different team when either Stanley Johnson and/or Drummond can give them something. It opens up their offense. Drummond attacked the offensive glass, and has success in the first half, and Stanley Johnson had a couple nice layups, a catch-and-shoot three, and a nice shot he took in rhythm. If Drummond and Johnson can give that to the Pistons every game, then it’s going to be hard to beat them.
Tobias Harris loves the catch-and-shoot three. He’s been killing people with it all year. I don’t get why teams aren’t playing up on him and forcing him to drive. The dude wants to catch-and-shoot. Get in his grill and make him uncomfortable.
Golden State Warriors:
4-2: Beat Dal, Tor, Wash
Righting the ship. The Warriors rolled through their opponents this week. I expect them to be challenged by LAC on Monday as they will be coming off of a back-to-back, but other than that, I’m not worried about them next week.
It’s like these guys are just coasting until the second half. When you’re at the top of the hill and nobody else is close, it’s hard to stay motivated. They were down 10 going into the fourth quarter, and then they dug-in defensively and roared back. GSW’s defense drives their offense. What other team has the leeway to not try for most of the game and still win? It was so funny watching this game down the stretch because WAS actually thought they had a chance. And then, GSW turned it on. It’s like the WWE. Make it look competitive for the fans.
5-2: Lost to Memphis twice, Beat Philly, Beat Charlotte
The Memphis losses were tough.
Memphis game #1:
I counted at least five missed threes by Houston late in the fourth quarter. That’s when they needed to press the issue and take the ball to the rim.
Ultimately, I blame that loss on Harden. His play down the stretch was ugly. I’ll blame some of that on being tired and some of it on laziness. On some possessions, he wasn’t even checking for a teammate to pass to, and his teammates knew it, so they stood and watched him front rim threes instead of cutting to get open.
Still, even if they didn’t score, they were still up big on Memphis late. Houston built that big lead by playing a zone and forcing Mike Conley (Memphis) into tough positions. Conley actually had a brutal game going into the fourth. He just couldn’t get a rhythm. For some reason, late in the game they switched to man-to-man defense, and Conley torched them.
It gets worse. The reason Conley torched Houston is 100% because of James Harden’s defensive laziness. With the game tied at 88, Conley hit two threes. One over Ryan Anderson, and the other was on Clint Capella. Both of those guys are bigs. They got switched onto Conley, because Harden didn’t even try to fight over weak screens that were set on him. Harden knew Conley had the advantage over those guys, and he let his team be put in a tough position where they had to guard him from behind the arch. It’s absolutely disgusting how he left his teammates hanging.
2-3: Beat Minnesota, lose to OKC
Keep getting out in transition. Keep playing scrappy defense. Keep sharing the ball. The Pacers are one of the most exciting teams in the league so far. I love watching them play. Oladipo and Collison play well together, and the Pacers are running through all these teams without their start player in Myles Turner who is still out with a concussion.
Minnesota ran into a buzz saw that they weren’t prepared for. The Pacers ran them into the ground, literally. Collison had 16 assists, and they got the Pacers got so many easy shots because they are getting out in transition, and in the halfcourt, they got open shots by continuously running the Wolves players through screens. That must have been a pretty frustrating game for a defensive coach like Tom Thibs.
Los Angeles Clippers:
4-1: Beat Jazz, Beat Portland, Lose to Detroit
Evenly matched. Played well. Used screens to get mismatches for Blake. Teammates moved well without the ball. They forced the Jazz into some bad shots. Ingles, Mitchell and Burks went 5 for 19 from behind the arch. The Jazz were cold all night. You can credit Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverly for much of that. They each had three steals. The Jazz only had a total of 7 steals for the entire game.
LAC who is a good defensive team didn’t get back in transition too many times. LAC also gave up some wide open shots on poor defensive rotations in the fourth. That helped Detroit close the game.
Not only did Drummond do a good job running the floor on offense which opened up open shots, he had some nice isolations where he attacked Jordan and scored in a half court set. On the defense end, he was scrappy and forced Blake into some tough shots.
Los Angeles Lakers:
2-4: Lost to Pelicans, Beat Wash, Lose to Utah
This should go without saying, but the Lakers are going to go through some growing pains. The talent is undeniable. Ingram is clearly not a “bust.” It is crazy how people can get down on you after a season.
Pelicans game: The issue with the Lakers is going to be how they fit together. So, Caldwell-Pope comes back (after sitting out the first two games) against the Pelicans, and drops 20. Question is, if he’s demanding the ball like that, how is that going to effect the other players? Putting in Pope and taking out Brewer immediately changes the flow of the offense. Go check out the third quarter of the Pelicans game. Pope is demanding the ball, and Lonzo Ball doesn’t look too happy about it. It’s written all over Ball’s body language.
The Lakers could have and should have beat the Pelicans. Problem is, they had a horrible first quarter, and it’s hard for young teams to battle back from slow starts. Just think about it. They had a slow start against the Clippers and lost too. Slow starts equal losses for young teams.
To their credit, the Laker bench battled back hard, and took the lead in the fourth quarter. They just ended up falling short. Clarkson and Kuzma did some serious work.
Wash game: Washington and John Wall, for all the shit they talked before the game, ran into a team that is equally as athletic as them, and who also likes to play fast and get out on the break.
LAL had a clear game plan early and they executed it well. They posted up Lopez, which forced other players to rotate to help, and opened up weak side offensive rebounds for Larry Nance. They also attacked the rim on the drive. Ingram had two great drives for scores. That set a great tone for the game.
The Lakers are deeper than Washington at every position, and it showed. Beal and Wall were on the court for over 40 minutes. The rest of Washington’s starters all played over 35 minutes. That matters coming down the stretch of a tight game on the road.
The Lakers best offensive play is the screen and roll with Lance and Ball. They typically get something good out of that.
The Lakers get caught watching on defense way too often.
Ingram and Ball couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. They had some good looks, and they even tried to run some offense through Ingram on the block, but it was to no luck in the first quarter.
Julius Randle plays best off-ball. He needs to just set screens and roll to the basket. Don’t dribble. Don’t shoot. Just screen and roll and make cuts through the lane dude.
5-1: Beat Houston, Beat Dallas, Lose Dallas, Beat Houston.
Memphis owned the Texas teams this week. Weirdly, I don’t know why the NBA scheduled them to play four games and a back-to-back against Texas teams this week, but whatever.
Great win for Coach Fizdale and Memphis. He outcoached D’Antoni late, once again proving its defense that wins games.
The Houston game was a three point shooting contest down the stretch. Harden missed his shots and Conley hit his. The quality of those three point shots were very different though.
Conley took his threes off of switches. He shot and made a three pointer over Ryan Anderson (Houston) and then over Capella (Houston). I doubt Conley would have forced those threes had Anderson and Capella not been switched onto him because of screen his teammates set.
When Harden took his threes, the scene was much different. One three he jacked from way beyond the arch, and the others threes he took were contested.
Marc Gasol has got to get better at not leaving his man. Capella got so many backdoor alley-oop slams it’s almost a shame. I get it, Gasol wants to help on James Harden drives, but you have to know that Harden wants to throw the lob to Capella. It’s one of Houston’s best plays. I’m sure Fizdale covered that in film before the game. Stop taking the bait Gasol.
2-3: Beat Hawks, Lose to SAS, Lose to Boston
It’s a story of threes for the Heat. In their loss opening night against Orlando, they shot 27% from behind the arc. In their win against Miami they shot 38% as a team. They’re taking in between 30 and 40 threes a game. If they’re going to live and die by the three, then we are going to see a wide spectrum of results. They’re going to lose some games they should win, like the opener against the Magic, and they may steal a couple they should lose.
3-2: Beat Hornets, Lose to Boston
Here’s something I noticed about the Bucks. They rarely set screens for Giannis at the three point arch. Instead, if somebody sets a screen for him, it’s usually at the free throw line. Now, that has a lot to do with his inability to shoot and hit a three pointer consistently, but it’s just aweing that he can score so effectively from in tight. He’s probably the only person in the NBA who can do that, because one step for him is two or three steps for everyone else. His physical prowess makes him literally un-guardable.
When the Bucks don’t watch the Giannis show, and actually cut off his drives, they’re a respectable team. That’s the problem though. They love to just watch him take on whole teams. It’s gotten so bad that sometimes the Bucks get beat in transition after Giannis takes it coast to coast for a fastbreak bucket.
Middleton came to play against the Hornets. The Bucks need him to stay aggressive. When he’s aggressive, they can win games. When he’s not aggressive, they lose games they should win, and games against inferior teams are closer than they should be. Last week, Milwaukee should have beat the Cavs, but Middleton, after missing a few shots in a row, tucked his tail between his legs and disappeared.
Giannis is literally taking on whole teams. He grabs the board, and although an entire team is back on defense, he drives through them and scores at the rim. Like, the whole team. One man taking on five. That’s more impressive than Steph Curry threes on the fastbreak.
Poor Giannis. Brad Stevens is exposing you teammates. He’s shadowing you and forcing them to make plays. He’s giving you room to operate and then smothering you in the paint. I like how you adjusted and backed down into the post from the wing and hit some turnaround jumpers. I like that, but you’re going to need help, because other teams are going to take Brad’s blueprint and use it against you.
Speaking of help…
Middleton, if you’re reading this bro, we need you to score more than 15 points. Milwaukee at least needs 20 to 25 points out of you until Jabari Parker returns. I don’t know how you’re going to get it, but you need to get it. When I watch game highlights that are 20 minutes long (I watched the whole game and the highlights of the Boston game), and you only have one highlight, but you’re the number two option, that’s a MAJOR problem!
Liggins, Delly, Henson, Teletovic, you guys are playing way too many minutes to give basically nothing offensively. Henson and Teletovic, you guys can at least grab an offensive board and give the team another possession or something.
Brogdon gets a pass. He’s balling out. He’s like Andre Miller, but with way more potential. Clearly, last year wasn’t a fluke.
3-3: Beat Thunder, Lost to Pacers, Lost to Detroit, Beat OKC
Great win against the Thunder. Too many defensive lapses though. You’re up 14 late in the third. You have to find a way to push that lead higher and close. Late game execution is key, and that brings us back to defense. Too many defensive lapses.
Wiggins…if Alex Abrines is checking you late in the fourth quarter, like he was against the in your game against the Thunder, you take it to him. Force him to stop you. That being said, you get a pass for the three point bank shot for the win.
Pacers game: I’ve been saying this all season, which has just been a couple of days. The Pacers are one of the most exciting teams in the league and it is a pleasant surprise. They absolutely destroyed the Timberwolves, mainly because they get out into transition and force the issue. When you play tough defense and push the ball in transition, good things happen.
Minnesota looked absolutely lost on defense. I mean, it was really bad. Darren Collison almost had 20 assists. They didn’t have Butler who’s out sick, but they weren’t even playing good defense with him.
Whenever an opposing team needs a bucket against the Wolves, all the need to do is run Jeff Teague through a screen action, because he’s a horrible defender. And, that is exactly what the Pacers did. He got torched.
It’s time for Coach Thibs to have a heart-to-heart with his guys. He has to find a lineup that can play defense.
New Orleans Pelicans:
3-3: Beat Lakers, Lost to Portland, Beat Sacramento and Cleveland.
Dude, I love Gentry, but there’s no way he makes it to the All-Star break, right?
From the beginning of the week, to the end of the week, the Pelicans looked like two different teams. First Anthony Davis got hurt, so he didn’t play since the Portland or the Sacramento game. In a way, I think that helped the Pelicans to simplify things. I can’t stress the importance of simplicity. Everything ran through one big, Boogie. Knowing that beforehand really helps a team focus on what they want to do.
The Sacramento game where Boogie went off was important for him and the Pelicans, because they showed a resiliency and determination to fight back from being down big. That momentum carried over into their game against Cleveland.
Secondly, they added Jameer Nelson. Although he’s getting cooked on defense, the veteran leadership the 35-year-old brings to the point guard position is crucial. It gives them a stability that they will need in close games.
This win was more about the Lakers being their own self-demise as oppose to the Pelicans doing anything. Had the Lakers NOT given away an entire quarter, I think they would have won.
I’d be willing to be the Pelicans and the Lakers end up with similar records at the end of the season.
New York Knicks:
1-3: Lost to Boston, Beat Brooklyn.
I don’t really want to talk about the Knicks, but doing things you don’t want to do is a part of life. You know, like getting stuck with the runt of the litter, because your buddy wants to get with her BFF and you owe him one. So yeah, let’s talk about the Knicks.
The second worst team in the league beat the worst team in the league. I’ll let you pick which one is which. The END.
I’m just kidding. Of course I watched the game. It looked like something straight out of the Rec League. It’s one thing for a guy to get an open shot, but when a team gets open shot, after open shot, after open shot, it just feels like I’m watching my Dad play in the 40 and over league.
Porzingis played well. Frank Ntilikina had 5 assists, which is nice, but he’s going to struggle and make some pretty silly looking mistakes because he’s just not used to the speed of the game.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
3-3: Lost to Minnesota, Beat Indiana, Lose to Minnesota, Beat Chicago
You can’t play from behind against young teams. You can’t let them think or feel like they can play with you. That’s what happened against Minnesota. You’ve got to bury young teams early.
Same thing. Minnesota got out to a quick start. I honestly think OKC is fine even though they lost to Minnesota twice. Minnesota is a tale of two teams. They are drinking their own Kool-aid. They get up for big games against teams like OKC and try hard, but fall flat on their face against other teams.
As far as OKC is concerned, Melo and Russ have to give the team something on defense. They killed on pick and roll, killed on the block, and killed on slow or weak defensive rotations. Until that gets better, they aren’t getting past GSW. As a matter-of-fact, it isn’t even close.
4-1: Beat Brooklyn and the Spurs.
Can we not gas the Magic? My friend from Orlando hit me after the Spurs game bragging. He thinks the Magic are good. I almost died from laughter. They beat Miami who’s not better than an 8 seed, if they even make it to the playoffs. They beat the Cavs on the tail end of a back-to-back against a trash, but gritty Chicago team, and they Brooklyn who is also basura (which is Spanish for TRASH!).
So, no, I am not sold on the Magic. That being said, let’s talk about this Spurs game.
I don’t know. I just feel like the Spurs took a trip to Disney of something. They couldn’t play offense or defense. They shot a disgusting 34% from the field. On defense, they couldn’t stay in front of their guy. It’s like they took a team vacation day.
As far as the Magic goes, they did a good job getting to the rim and working for good shots. Gordon, Fournier, and Vucevic were on fire. Simmons had something to prove. I feel like this was a statement game for the Magic, and they had more to gain by losing than the Spurs did by winning.
I hope you guys enjoyed Disneyworld Pop.
2-4: Beat the Pistons, Lose to Houston, Beat Dallas
The Sixers need to start every game like they started their win against the Pistons. They were scrappy on defense. They attacked every drive, and went after every rebound. They set a tone, and the Pistons just couldn’t completely recover.
Ben Simmons is unstoppable, especially if they have shooters surrounding him. Nobody can guard a nearly seven foot point guard with his skills. I mean, maybe they need to start trying to trap him early, or start applying pressure at 60 feet to force him into mistakes.
2-4: Beat Sacramento, Beat Utah, Lose to Portland
Watson out, Triano in. Get first win of the season against Sacramento.
Triano made some changes this week, and I like them. He put Chriss back in the starting lineup. Chriss stretches the floor like no other big can for them. It opens up the offense, especially when you have good point guards in Ulis and James who can drive and dish.
That brings me to my second point. He played Booker off-ball and let James and Ulis facilitate. It’s about time somebody did that. Booker, contrary to what most people think, isn’t much of a facilitator. He just isn’t there yet. Ulis and James are great facilitators and floor generals. They are both leaders. Triano understands this, and allowed Ulis and James to exclusively run the point. Booker should just focus on scoring. Just put the ball in the hole.
4-2: Beat Pelicans, Lost to Clippers, Beat Suns
Every Portland game has been close. They aren’t pulling away from teams, but so far this season they’ve closed out every close game except for the buzzer-beater loss against the Clippers.
The Suns have gotten much better since the coaching change. Triano has made some adjustments that’s got the team rolling the last three games, winning two and almost beating the Blazers. Both teams had some defenses lapses, but the game was relatively close. Down the stretch Portland made more plays. It was nice to see and all-around scoring effort from Portland. 7 players were in double figures. If they can continue that, it will really help them as they move forward to play stiffer competition.
1-4: Lost to Suns, Lost to Pelicans
I’ve seen enough from Garret Temple. The dude is clutch from behind the arch. His shot is pure.
Sacramento got off to a 17 to 4 lead. They were running the Pelicans into the ground in the first quarter. They still ended up losing though, and the issue is consistently. They need consistent effort on the defensive end, and consistent execution on offense. They let the Pelicans back into the game in the third quarter by giving up easy and open shots. This could have been a statement win for them saying we’ve moved passed you Boogie, but they let the Pelicans make a huge comeback.
Cauley-Stein, what are you doing? Boogie Torched WCS down the stretch. He scored three key baskets on him late in the fourth. If WCS deters Boogie even once, the Kings probably win the game. I get it, people keep telling me that the Kings have young players and that they’ll learn how to close out games, but there’s no excuse for WCS. If you want to be one of the top bigs in the game, you have to make stops when it matters most!
San Antonio Spurs:
4-1: Beat Toronto and Miami. Lose to Orlando.
LA ran the court on defense and got a block trailing Kyle Lowery in their win against Toronto. That dude is locked in right now. That play accentuates the win, and is why the Spurs stay at the top of the West no matter who plays for them.
Toronto tried to get out on the break, and they tried to force the issue. But, most of the time the Spurs got back on defense and were in position to stop the ball. Offensively speaking, the Spurs are ok, but it’s their defense that wins games. They are almost always on the same page defensively. So, even though they aren’t going to offensively blow anybody out (at least not while Leonard is out), their defense will keep them close, and stops down the stretch help them win games.
Another thing about the Spurs. They are scrappy and outwork most teams they play. If you get a chance, watch how they rebound defensively. It’s 3 to 4 guys to the glass almost every time.
3-2: Lost to Spurs Lost to GSW, Beat LAL
The Raptors didn’t play a bad against the Spurs. They just couldn’t get defensive stops when they needed them the most. LA (Spurs) got 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. He was abusing Nogueira. At some points, the Raptors got outworked by the Spurs, but there was nothing egregious. The difference between the Spurs and the Raptors is that the Spurs do all of the little things that add up to a win. They rarely fall into bad habits like poor defensive rotation and not getting back on defense to stop the break. The Spurs rebound as a team, and for the most part they take care of the ball.
All of those things add up over the course of a game.
3-3: Lost to Clippers, Lost to Suns, Beat LAL
The Clippers and the Jazz are pretty evenly matched. Games like this come down to the small things. Whoever does the little things better typically wins. The Jazz, as good as they are defensively, failed to get back in transition on multiple occasions, and the Clippers made them pay. The Jazz were without Rodney Hood, and that definitely hurt them. Also, every guard except Rubio got shut down. Burks and Donovan took the most shots in the game. Burks had 10 and Donovan had 20. They combined to go 10 for 30 from the field. When the people who take the most shots in the game, shoot a combined 33% from the field, you’re probably going to lose. When we look closer at the numbers, we see that nearly half of both Donovan and Burks shots were from behind the three point arch. If you’re shooting bad, you can’t settle for threes, you have to force the issue and get to the rim.
Back-to-back games are tough. When you consider the Jazz had to grind it out against a defensively stout team in LAC, and then go play the youth, energy, and fast paced play is a recipe for a 2 game skid. Every team in the NBA would have had trouble with that back-to-back, except maybe the Warriors.
Jazz got close late, but they settled for some bad shots instead of forcing the issue and driving to the rim. All credit to the young Suns for closing out a tough game. That’s 2 games in a row that the three ball has hurt the Jazz. Quinn Snyder is going to want to address that.
3-2: Beat Denver, lost to LAL, lost to GSW
Washington is playing with a nastiness and aggression unlike any other team right now. You can tell they want to make it to the championship bad, and they are on a mission. They’re probably on a collision course with the Cavs for the Eastern Conference Finals.
Who’s the top running back in the NFL? I don’t know, may be Le’veon Bell? Anyways, John Wall has the vision and the cutting ability of the best NBA running back. He sees plays well before they happen, and it helps him score and dish out dimes. There’s so many times John Wall uses Gortat screens to bait defenders to help off of shooters like Beal and Porter, it’s absolutely disgusting.
I feel bad for players like Gortat and Dwight Howard. Their foot speed is so slow that they have a tough time closing out on big man shooters behind the arch. Jokic torched Gortat on threes, because Gortat is just too slow to contest.
Depth is going to hurt the Wizards. Once you get past the starters, the team’s talent drops off considerably. It’s going to be hard closing out games against young athletic teams like the Lakers, especially if they start fast and get an early lead.