Don Nelson threw a D-League team out on an NBA floor Wednesday night. Almost literally. Anthony Tolliver was playing in Idaho in January. Reggie Williams was playing for Sioux Falls last month. Chris Hunter was playing for Fort Wayne when the season started.
Three guys who were sharing hotel rooms, flying in coach, carrying all their own gear and trying to impress in the D-League this season.
Three guys beat the New Orleans Hornets Wednesday night.
The trio combined for 69 points on 66 percent shooting — 8 of 14 from three — leading Golden State to a 131-121 upset of New Orleans. They helped spark Golden State’s dramatic comeback from 21 down in the third to get that win.
It would be easy to rip the Hornets “defense,” which was downright bad. Without Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic, plus Emeka Okafor playing limited minutes, New Orleans is not going to be confused with a good NBA team. But give the D-Leaguers some credit, they battled. They earned this.
Tolliver had 30 points in his role as the starting center (even though at 6’9″ he’s no NBA center, he’s more of a combo forward). He showed off his athleticism all night and the man can attack the rim (and dunk).
Chris Hunter is a real center at 6’11” and during the comeback he took charge in the paint (something that likely confused Warriors fans at first as they had not seen someone dominate the paint in a long time, it’s not in Nelson’s playbook). He was grabbing offensive boards and getting tip ins. Reggie Williams was just draining threes (4 of 6) whether there was a guy contesting the shot or not. He seems unphased by hands in his face.
Golden State has more success with D-League call-ups than any other team in the league. Likely because of Nelson’s open system. But the Tolliver/Hunter/Williams trio was moving the ball — and moving without the ball — in a way the Warriors starters never did. The D-League guys were playing right, making the extra pass, finding the open man.
A 21-point comeback in an NBA game is huge. As is scoring 30 like Tolliver did. Don’t care who is defending you (or not defending, as the case may be). You’ve got to earn it at this level.
These three earned it.
As if this season wasn’t going to be hard enough for the Chicago Bulls, it started off on the wrong foot when Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic got into a fight during practice. That fight resulted in a facial fracture for Mirotic, putting one of Chicago’s best players out for multiple weeks.
Portis addressed the issue this week by apologizing to fans, the team, and Mirotic. However, Portis said that he has not heard from Mirotic since the fight, and that he did not respond when he tried to call his teammate.
Video of Portis’ apology is interesting if only because it’s a bit hard to discern the level of sincerity.
Chicago is 0-2 on the season. Portis is in the middle of serving an 8 game suspension for the incident.
MILWAUKEE (AP) — After scoring a career-high 44 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo wrote a note on the game ball.
“This is for daddy. We got a win tonight,” the 22-year-old Milwaukee Bucks player said, remembering his father, Charles, who died last month at age 54.
Antetokounmpo scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a dunk that put Milwaukee ahead 111-110 with 11 seconds to go.
After a timeout, Damian Lillard found Jusuf Nurkic running open down the lane, but Antetokounmpo blocked his shot at the basket, sending the 7-foot center crashing to the floor.
Antetokounmpo, starting his fifth NBA season, made 17 of 23 shots with eight rebounds and four assists as Milwaukee kept pace with a Portland team that had dominated its first two opponents. The Bucks star is averaging 38.3 points through three games, up from 22.9 last year, 16.9 in 2015-16 and 12.7 in 2014-15.
“Seventy-nine more. This is just the beginning,” he said, thinking about how many regular-season games remain.
After Nurkic was rejected at the basket, Khris Middleton was fouled and made both free throws.
“They committed two guys to Dame, so somebody was going to be open,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said, referring to Lillard. “Turned out to be Nurk but they made a really good defensive play.”
Lillard scored 26 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. CJ McCollum also scored 26, and Nurkic had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Tony Snell scored 17 points and Middleton added 16 for Milwaukee.
Stephen Curry is going to get fined for this.
The former MVP was frustrated, his team losing and thinking he was fouled by Mike Conley as he attacked the rim late in the Warriors loss in Memphis Saturday night. Curry threw his mouthpiece at the referee, which deservedly got him ejected instantly.
Durant followed him to the locker room, making a gesture that will earn him a fine as well.
The Warriors are 1-2 to start the season and there are a lot of factors at play. The China trip does this to teams, and throw in three straight trips to the Finals on top of it and it has an impact. The team is a little banged up. However, the biggest issue is their defense is a mess right now.
The Warriors will straighten it out eventually, but the start of the season could be a rough one for them.
There are more than a few NBA owners who are seeing the prices teams are being sold for — the Rockets just sold for a record $2.2 billion — and considering their options. Some other billionaires are looking for teams, several with the goal of packing up the franchise and moving it to their respected hometowns.
Those billionaires need not call Herb Simon. The Pacers owner said the team is not going anywhere, speaking to Gregg Doyel of the IndyStar.
“I want to leave my legacy: This team permanently in Indianapolis,” Simon told IndyStar Friday in an interview at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “That’s my No. 1 goal.”
Simon bought the Pacers in 1983 with his older brother, Melvin — who died in 2009 at age 82. He told IndyStar the team someday will be owned by his 53-year-old son, Steve. Behind the scenes, Steve Simon has been working closely with Pacers Sports and President Rick Fuson for five years — “He knows more about the dollars and cents than I do,” Herb said of his son — and met this week with several department heads.
“If anything happens to me, he’d be taking over,” Herb said, adding that father and son are on the same page: The Pacers are staying in Indianapolis.
Good. That is as it should be.
Indiana is part of America’s basketball heartland, and it should have a team. Pacers fans are smart and loyal, and the team has a long history going back to the ABA, running from Mel Daniels and George McGinnis through Reggie Miller and up to Myles Turner (hopefully he can be on the level of the rest of them someday). They play in the coolest basketball building in the league, one with the history of the sport wolven in.
Indy is the nation’s 27th largest television market, bigger than San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City and other successful NBA franchises. There is no reason the Pacers cannot thrive, so long as ownership is committed.
They are. Which is excellent news for Pacers’ fans.