5 Preseason Observations

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1. The disconnect isn’t necessarily obvious. If you watch preseason, on the surface, there’s not much outside of the number of minutes for starters between regular season and this. I mean, the game is fundamentally the same. But the speed and intensity differential is startling, and you’ll see the shift for small moments with the key players putting themselves in a higher gear. It essentially means that most of the time, even when you see something that is fundamentally good or bad, you have to understand that there’s just very little connection between this and what we’ll see starting October 30th.

2. So in that vein, very little should be made of the Hornets, on either side. A 3-1 record would indicate that they’re actually putting some things together, but if you watch the games or look at the box you can tell that they are severely struggling. But on the flip side, Eric Gordon hasn’t played, and Anthony Davis sat out their Friday night loss for rest.

But the concerns are mostly in that the offense looks like quite the mess. Yes, Gordon is going to help, but there are concerns about Greivis Vasquez who has been charged with running point guard, and the small forward position is still a huge question mark. The results with the big lineup featuring Roben Lopez, Anderson, and Davis have not been good. In large part, the Hornets just don’t seem to have a whole lot of talent offensively.

But again, it’s preseason.

3. Jonas Valanciunas for the Raptors had an awful opening stat line but made a jump in his second game. The off-the-box stuff though, stands out nicely. He’s a quality rotation defender and aggressive at blocking shots. He’s got both good instincts under the basket and a little bit of savvy. He’s going to have growing pains, but you don’t get a sense watching him that he’s just completely lost, like some other top-five-pick big men of the last few years did, even in preseason.

4. The Lakers bench had better be saving itself.

5. Teams who appear sharp: Miami, Denver, San Antonio, Golden State.
Teams who do not appear sharp: Washington, Charlotte, Portland, the Clippers, and OKC’s bench.

But again, as always, it’s preseason.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook go head-to-head, literally (video)

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This sure didn’t look like just another game for Kevin Durant – and not only because the Thunder beat the Warriors for the first time since he left.

The 108-91 Oklahoma City victory didn’t look like just another game for Russell Westbrook (34 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals), either.

Harrison Barnes banks in game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer (video)

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With the shot clock off in the fourth quarter and the game tied, Grizzlies big JaMychal Green put back Tyreke Evans‘ miss with a clutch flush. There’s a very fine line between ensuring the last shot and leaving time for an offensive rebound, and Memphis threated it almost perfectly.

Emphasis on “almost.”

The Grizzlies left the Mavericks 0.5 seconds, which Harrison Barnes used to bank in a 3-pointer – off a pinpoint bounce pass by Dennis Smith Jr. – to give Dallas a 95-94 win.

Heat snap Celtics’ 16-game winning streak

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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The Celtics didn’t have another comeback in them.

After overcoming a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Mavericks on Monday to extend its winning streak to 16 games, Boston lost to the Heat tonight, 104-98. The streak ends as the NBA’s longest since the Hawks won 19 straight during the 2014-15 season.

The Celtics trailed Miami by 16 in the fourth quarter then cut the deficit to only one with three minutes left. But Dion Waiters hit back-to-back 3-pointers, helping the Heat pull away.

Goran Dragic (27 points) and Waiters (26 points) led Miami, which needed a reason to feel good after losing three of four to fall to 7-9.

The Celtics, on the other hand, still have a four-game cushion over the rest of the Eastern Conference. This might help them regain focus.

Serge Ibaka gets dunked on by Enes Kanter, hit in face by ball (video)

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Is Enes Kanter mad Serge Ibaka rifted with his family?

(No, not this family. That family.)