Kevin Durant dunks

Games of the night: Dallas has injuries, what was Denver’s excuse?

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Before the season, if you peaked ahead on the schedule, this looked like an interesting Thursday night of basketball. Turns out, not so much.

Thunder 99, Mavericks 95: Dallas has the much-discussed injuries to Dirk Nowitzki and Caron Butler. The effort is still there and while this is a deep team, there are limits to what they can do now. They can be beat.  Knowing that led to a flat Thunder team who played just one half of defense (the second half).

Turns out one half was enough. We could try to break this game down in detail, but I’m not sure there is a lot here we didn’t already know.

For Dallas, the old injury cliché rang true: It’s not the replacement player, it’s the replacement’s replacement. Shawn Marion and Jason Terry were forced to start with Nowitzki and Butler out. That meant guys who can create their own shot off the bench were gone. You end up with Brendan Haywood trying running hooks.

Maybe the best point guard in the game was Eric Maynor. (Russell Westbrook was 5-16 shooting, Jason Kidd 0-7.) Maynor played limited minutes (12) but when he was in he seemed to make things happen, and he finished with five points and four assists.

The other guy I love to watch because of his effort at both ends is Dallas’ DeShawn Stevenson. He just brings it and is earning more minutes.

Kings 122, Nuggets 102: The Kings came in to this 25th in the league in offensive efficiency, averaging 101.9 points per 100 possessions, and shooting 43.4 percent. Against the Nuggets they had 127.1 points per 100 possessions and shot 56.4 percent. Denver didn’t care about defense at all and the Kings have some talent on that roster if you really ignore them like that. Denver’s effort was embarrassing.

Credit Sacramento for stepping it up on the big stage. Denver fought back in the third quarter and closed a once 14-point lead down to a tie game, but the Kings kept fighting. And the Nuggets kept on playing individual ball and not defending.

The Kings attacked the rim hard, as evidenced by getting to the line 30 times on the night.

I like DeMarcus Cousins’ fire. The guy was jawing with Carmelo Anthony and would not back down. Call it hubris or whatever you wish, I like players who don’t back down like that. I don’t want rookies who just defer. Everything is going to come around for him one day and he will be a beast.

Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffers dislocated shoulder in preseason game

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Solomon Hill
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Preseason is only just getting underway and there’s already a potentially serious injury to report. In the game between the Hornets and Magic on Saturday night, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was taken to the locker room after suffering a right shoulder injury. The Hornets announced that he was then taken to an Orlando-area hospital for follow-up x-rays:

A few hours after the game, the Hornets announced that Kidd-Gilchrist has a dislocated shoulder:

Depending on the severity of the injury, he could miss a few weeks or a few months. Hopefully, it’s the shorter end of that timeline. We should know more on Sunday.