Houston Rockets v Memphis Grizzlies

NBA Summer League’s second day features plethora of solid performances

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LAS VEGAS — The second day of NBA Summer League featured pretty the same things as the first — random cameos in the crowd by established NBA like Baron Davis, J.R. Smith and David Lee; a lot of less than stellar basketball interspersed with jaw-dropping highlights and 32 quarters of players most of the crowd in attendance has never heard of fighting to better their basketball careers.

Not everybody in attendance was able to dominate like they probably planned, but plenty of players put together solid enough performances to be included in our Day 2 bullets featuring the best — and some of the worst — players  for packed house in Las Vegas.

  • The entire Memphis Grizzlies team played well to begin things on Friday afternoon against the New York Knicks. The team’s last two first-round picks and seemingly career combo guards — Josh Selby and Tony Wroten — played stifling defense while combining for 39 points. They weren’t the only standouts, though, as current free agent Matt Janning also played very well with 13 points, four rebounds and even a block as he looks to once again parlay a successful Summer League performance into an NBA contract as he did his rookie season with the Phoenix Suns.
  • Josh Akognon has been tearing up China since leaving Cal State Fullerton, but there are very people in NBA circles familiar with his game. He showed quite a bit on Saturday, though, as he scored 25 points and nailed four 3-pointers … though the 5-foot-9 guard failed to record an assist.
  • Bradley Beal is the player most people figured would be a standout for the Washington Wizards’ Summer League entry, but it ended up being second round pick Tomas Satoransky stealing the show on Saturday night. Satoransky’s Wizards would go on to win a blowout over the Houston Rockets, but the young point guard played very solid on his way to 10 points — including a pair of dunks that would dispell some of the criticisms that he’s not athletic enough to play in America’s top league. Beal still finished better than him in the box score, however, scoring 14 points to go with five rebounds and four assists.
  • The Rockets-Wizards game was a blowout, but the two team’s young power forwards didn’t make that evident over the course of the game. Marcus Morris and Chris Singleton had to be separated at one point after a war of words and then later rookie Royce White and Singleton also exchanged some words. None of the three turned in particularly incredible performances, but it was fun to see some passion in Vegas.
  • Jeremy Lamb wasn’t overtly-amazing considering he made just two of his seven 3-pointers — and one of those misses was an airball — but he finished with 23 points in the points column. Fellow rookie Terrence Jones was quite a bit more efficient with 13 points on eight shots in 18 minutes.
  • Donatas Motiejunas didn’t look nearly as good on Saturday as he did on Friday. The Rockets big man of the future finished his second game in America with just one point after missing all five of his field goal attempts — and getting abused by Garret Siler a few times on the defensive end.
  • The majority of the Knicks looked like they had less than NBA talent, but former Memphis wing Wesley Witherspoon was able to put together a solid game with 15 points and five rebounds off the bench. It was more than most expected following a disappointing college career, but he did have one major blemish in the game — an air-balled 3-pointer that drew just the faintest chants of “Airball!” from a still-building crowd.
  • Klay Thompson got off to an impeccably-hot start on Saturday as he seemed to be on his way to cementing a Summer League MVP performance with 12 early points as he nailed the first four 3-pointers he attempted. The second-year pro for the Golden State Warriors wasn’t able to sustain that success, however, and finished with just 17 points to go with six turnovers and five fouls — though his 4-of-6 performance from beyond the arc didn’t hurt. Charles Jenkins was probably the best player on his team as he scored 24 points whereas Harrison Barnes took a stepback in scoring just 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
  • The Denver Nuggets look like they brought a Summer League All-Star team to Vegas, but they weren’t able to play like that for the majority of Saturday’s game. Jordan Hamilton had an amazing second quarter on his way to 18 points and a huge dunk (that led to him saluting opponent Draymond Green), but the remainder of his performance wasn’t quite as impressive. His veteran teammates weren’t all that impressive, either.
  • Kenneth Faried scored 10 points and had a series of three huge blocks, his 4-of-15 performance from the field can’t be sugarcoated while former first round picks Solomon Alabi and Gani Lawal combined for just six points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time.

Games will continue to get more interesting on Sunday as games start to be played at both the Cox Pavilion and Thomas & Mack Center leading to even more possible standouts at NBA Summer League — and we’ll have a recap of all of them available for you right here at Pro Basketball Talk.

Celtics’ Al Horford blows game-winning layup against Rockets (video)

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The Celtics couldn’t have asked for a much better look on their final possession, but Al Horford missed this layup to give the Rockets a 107-106 win last night.

Maybe Isaiah Thomas should have gone to the line for getting pushed over by Montrezl Harrell, but I’m not 100% sure Harrell should’ve been called for a foul. Besides, that Thomas screen sprung Horford for the layup. I’d take my chances with that barely contested close-range shot.

Michael Beasley, Davis Bertans ejected from Bucks/Spurs for being third/fourth into altercation

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This should have been the usual NBA altercation — two guys jawing with nothing physical happening because teammates step in, everyone does their posturing, and we move along. Monday night in the Spurs eventual win over the Bucks, Greg Monroe and Dewayne Dedmon got tangled up going for a rebound, Dedmon threw a little elbow, Monroe pushed him off, and the two started the well choreographed NBA dance.

Then San Antonio’s Davis Bertans came in and shoved Monroe.

Followed by Milwaukee’s Michael Beasley coming in and shoved Bertans.

Both Beasley and Bertans were ejected for escalating the situation, and you can expect the league will hit both with a fine for being the third/fourth men in.

Three things we learned Monday: Don’t forget, the Warriors have Klay Thompson, too

Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson follows through on a shot during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Associated Press
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What kind of night was it in the NBA? Russell Westbrook had his sixth straight triple-double, and everyone took it in stride like that happens as often as Family Guy reruns. Anyway, these are the three things we decided to feature instead.

1) Oh yeah, don’t forget the Golden State Warriors have Klay Thompson, too. It’s just not fair. The Indiana Pacers have not played good defense this season, they were on the second night of a back-to-back having beaten the Clippers, and they got rewarded for all this by having to face the Golden State Warriors. All that said, the Pacers did hold Stephen Curry to just 13 points, and Kevin Durant was well below his average with just 20 points.

Oh, but the Warriors still have Klay Thompson.

Klay was peeling off screens (15 possessions) and getting his chance on spot ups (eight), but once he got going it didn’t matter the Pacers put Paul George on him and defended fairly well — Thompson was 11-of-14 on contested jumpers (via NBA.com). He was hitting from almost everywhere on the court.

klay shotchart 2

The Warriors offense is a fearsome machine.

2) Cleveland would like to remind Toronto — and everyone else — they are the best team in the East.
The Cavaliers were on a three-game losing streak and had been playing in a malaise. The Toronto Raptors had been the hottest team in the NBA over the past couple of weeks. So when the top two teams in the East met Monday…

Cleveland won, 116-112, but it felt more comfortable than that suggests. They did it in Toronto. The Cavaliers were not sharp defensively in the first half but hung around thanks to 20 points from Kevin Love (he finished with 28), then in the third quarter the Cavs defended like champions holding Toronto to 20 points on 34.8 percent shooting. Cleveland never pulled away to make it a blowout, but they were in control. LeBron James had 34 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, Kyrie Irving pitched in 24.

DeMar DeRozan (31 points, and carried the team for stretches) and Kyle Lowry (24) played well, but they did not have enough help. Particularly from their starting front line.

If Toronto is going to threaten Cleveland come the playoffs, Raptors GM Massi Ujiri is going to have to make a move. This team simply does not have the talent to beat Cleveland four out of seven as currently constructed. Monday was simply a reminder of the pecking order in the East when Cleveland cares about the game.

3) Jamal Murray went into Joel Embiid’s building and dropped an impressive 22, just to make an early Rookie of Year statement. It’s still too early to have a serious discussion of postseason awards. To me, any discussion before we get to the season’s halfway point is premature. Not that being premature ever stopped us, just providing some context.

Joel Embiid became the early Rookie of the Year leader with his performance this season, but Jamaal Murray won the Western Conference Rookie of the Month award for November because the Denver Nuggets’ reserve guard has shown better handles than we expected, and that’s given him room to get off the shot we knew he had.

Monday night, Murray went into Philly and dropped 22, hitting seemingly everything.

While Denver big man Jusuf Nurkic made things difficult for Embiid, who finished with 16 points on 15 shots.

This is just one game out of 82, it does not define a ROY race that is far too early to talk about seriously (especially this award, which often goes to the rookie who gets hot and more run in the second half of the season), but Murray is making his case for serious consideration. And he’s earned that thought.

James Harden’s 37 helps Rockets over Celtics 107-106

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s coaching staff emphasized to the players that Boston led the league in fourth-quarter scoring.

So when they Rockets found themselves down by six entering the final frame they knew they’d have step things up to escape with a win.

Harden made sure they did that, scoring 13 of his 37 points in the fourth before Al Horford missed a shot just before the buzzer to allow the Rockets to hold on for a 107-106 victory Monday night.

“The fourth quarter we just picked up … we just wanted to lock in and get stops and offensively be aggressive,” Harden said.

The game was tied before Harden scored five straight points to make it 107-102 with less than a minute remaining. Avery Bradley made a jump shot and Harden received a flagrant 1 foul for elbowing Marcus Smart in the face. Smart made both free throws before Isaiah Thomas missed a layup.

But Houston knocked the ball out of bounds with 5.2 seconds left, giving Boston one last chance. Horford drove into the lane, but his shot rolled off the rim and Harden grabbed it to secure the victory.

“I felt good when I shot it, but it just didn’t go down,” Horford said.

Horford had 21 points and Thomas added 20 for the Celtics, who had won two straight.

It was the ninth 30-point game this season for Harden, who also had eight assists and seven rebounds.

An 8-2 run by Houston, powered by a pair of 3-pointers by Eric Gordon, cut Boston’s lead to one with about 8 1/2 minutes left. Smart made a 3-pointer for the first of seven straight points for the Celtics that made it 96-88. Smart also had a big defensive play in that stretch when he blocked a one-handed dunk attempt by Montrezl Harrell.

Houston scored eight straight points, topped off with a dunk from Harrell, to take a 102-100 lead with about 3 1/2 minutes left.

Harden raved about Harrell’s work.

“You see how he’s flying around everywhere,” Harden said. “He does a lot of different things, some things that don’t show up on the stat sheet that helped contribute to this win.”

The Celtics trailed by 12 early in the third quarter before using a 15-2 spurt to take a 68-67 lead with about 7 minutes left in the quarter. Boston made three 3-pointers in that span, capped by one from Horford. Houston missed five shots, including four 3s, and had two turnovers to help the Celtics close the gap.

“We guarded at a different level and our first unit played pretty well in the third,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “In one stretch in the fourth we turned the ball over and that was hurtful.”

The Rockets were up by three points with 2 minutes left in the first half before Smart fouled Harden on a 3-point attempt and he made all three free throws. Houston had extended the lead to seven when Smart again fouled Harden on a 3-point try and his three free throws made it 58-48 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Celtics: James Young missed the game with an illness. … Thomas received a technical for arguing a call at the end of the first half. … Bradley finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. … Smart had 13 points.

Rockets: Made 12 3-pointers to extend their NBA record of consecutive games with at least 10 3-pointers to 20. … Trevor Ariza started despite dealing with back spasms and had 15 points and eight rebounds. … Gordon finished with 19 points and made four 3-pointers to give him six straight games with at least four 3s.

PERFECT

Harden tied a franchise record for most free throws without a miss by making all 18 of his attempts on Monday night. Kevin Martin also went 18 for 18 on March 20, 2011 against Utah. He lamented committing the offensive foul on Smart late instead of drawing the foul and getting a chance to go to the line and set the record.

“Of course I wanted two free throws at the end of the game instead of a flagrant, but we won,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”

LATE PUSH

The Rockets have developed a knack for scoring late. After managing just 13 points in the fourth quarter of a 105-103 loss to Oklahoma City on Nov. 16 the Rockets have picked things up, averaging 27.9 fourth-quarter points in the last 10 games.

THEY SAID IT

Stevens on Harden: “Harden is a really good player. I don’t know what else to say. We could go through and dissect every play, but overall he is just a really good player.”