The NBA season begins in earnest on Tuesday and the marquee game will be a rematch of last season’s eastern conference finals when the Heat face the Celtics. There’s no shortage of bad blood between these two teams and every player is ready to jump into the fray and be part of it.
That sound you hear is panic coming from South Beach. Actually, no it’s just the waves crashing on the beach. Or maybe it’s the sound of music blaring out from one of the clubs. Or…you get the picture.
On a serious note, not having Anthony certainly affects the Heat. He’s one of their better back up big men due to his defensive presence and work on the glass. Teams have a harder time scoring in the paint when Anthony is in the game and his defensive first mindset is what has endeared him to Eric Spoelstra. With Anthony unavailable, Josh Harrelson may get some floor time or Dexter Pittman may get his name called.
However, what we’ll likely see is more non-traditional lineups. The Heat are moving away from a lineup that depends on a classic big man and instead will play guys who would typically only be power forwards and slide them into the middle. Chris Bosh will play most of his minutes at center and Eric Spoelstra may even throw LeBron into the pivot for limited minutes if the match ups allow it. It is all part of the “position-less” lineups that Spoelstra will play more of this year in the hopes of dictating match ups to his opponent while also getting his best five players on the floor.
So while Joel Anthony will be missed somewhat, the Heat will compensate just fine without him. Don’t throw their championship hopes out the window just yet.
Hawks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. kneed in the groin while defending 76ers (video)
1) Warriors end doubt about who will finish with top seed in West, make playoff statement by coming from 22-down to beat Spurs. The Golden State Warriors, with a healthy Kevin Durant (as we saw the middle of this season) is the most talented team in the NBA, and it will be difficult for any team to beat them in a seven-game series.
Wednesday night we had to ask: Are the Golden State Warriors without Kevin Durant still the most talented and best team in the NBA?
The answer the last two nights has been yes. First, the Warriors beat the Rockets and hold James Harden in relative check. Then the next night the Warriors come from 22 down to beat the Spurs in San Antonio, dominating the game’s final three quarters. That ninth-straight win all but assured the Warriors the top seed in the West. It also was a statement from Golden State — nobody is better than us right now… and by the way, we get to add Kevin Durant
However, in the NBA a massive first-quarter lead is almost never safe against a good team that can shoot the three. Those leads get blown all the time. And by the second quarter, the Stephen Curry (29 points for the game) and Klay Thompson (23 points) shooting exhibition was on. By the third quarter, the Warriors were in the lead and looking to take command.
The guy who plunged the daggers into San Antonio was former Spur David West, who was fantastic in the fourth quarter and finished with 15 points.
Yes, Golden State looked like the team to beat heading into the playoffs last year, and all they did was have a chance to win it all in the final minutes of Game 7 of the Finals (Cleveland closed that out better). Those Warriors were a very good team — and this year’s version may be better. The ultimate test of that is ahead. But the statement they are the team to beat has been made loud and clear the last two nights.
2) Every time you don’t think Russell Westbrook can do more… he set an NBA record with a 57-point triple-double in Thunder comeback win. I don’t know if Russell Westbrook is going to win the NBA MVP award — I get the sense a lot of voters are swayed by the numbers/efficiency/wins James Harden is putting up — but I know I can’t stop watching him.
Wednesday night was another show — and I don’t just mean the 57 points, the 13 rebounds, and the 11 assists, becoming the first player ever in the NBA with a 57-point triple double. I mean leading a team back from a 21-point third quarter deficit, then hitting the game-tying three to force overtime when everyone in the building knew he would take it but he pulled up from 30 off the dribble and drained it anyway. I mean the rim-rattling dunks, but also the seven points in overtime to secure the win. I mean the smart passes when the entire Orlando defense seemed to collapse on him. Westbrook did it all.
I keep hearing about how Westbrook is chasing stats. Maybe somewhat. However, what I see is a guy chasing wins and knowing the only way the Thunder get those is if he is nothing short of brilliant — the Warriors have a .815 winning percentage when Westbrook gets a triple-double and .333 when he doesn’t. The Thunder need him to play this way, they are a bad team when he is off the court. When he is on it, you can’t take your eyes off him.
3) Milwaukee shows why it will be a tough out in playoffs, beats Boston and knocks Celtics back into a tie with Cavaliers. The single best moment on Wednesday night was when Giannis Antetokounmpo and Isaiah Thomas had to face off for a jump ball.
It may be a little bit on the nose, but that was a good metaphor for this game — Milwaukee is a big, long team loaded with athletes and on this night Boston could not overcome them. Thomas has a strong game with 32 points and kept things close — Marcus Smart missed a three to tie at the end — but the Bucks had better balance and depth (the Greek Freak had 22, Khris Middleton added 19).
I’d still pick the Celtics in a seven-game series (although the Bucks look to be the Raptors’ first-round problem) but let this game serve as a reminder that the Bucks will not go quietly into that good night. Also, you may want to avoid jump balls with them.
Stephen Curry scores 29, leads Warriors’ rally over Spurs 110-98
SAN ANTONIO (AP) —Stephen Curry scored 29 points, Klay Thompson had 23 and the Golden State Warriors rallied from a 22-point deficit in the opening quarter to beat the San Antonio Spurs 110-98 on Wednesday night for their ninth straight win.
Golden State extended its lead over San Antonio to 3 1/2 games for the league’s best record, beating the Spurs for the first time in three meetings this season.
Kawhi Leonard had 19 points and five assists for San Antonio. Leonard shot 7 for 20 from the field while being guarded by a rotation of defenders.
The Spurs had a five-game winning streak halted in inglorious fashion. San Antonio got off to its best start of the season two days after dismantling Cleveland in a 29-point victory. The Spurs raced to a 33-17 lead in the opening quarter, matching their largest lead of the season after the first quarter.
Andre Iguodala‘s 20-foot fadeaway jumper off one leg in the final seconds kept the Warriors from matching a season-low for points in the opening period.
Iguodala finished with 14 points.
Golden State rallied from that horrendous start, overcoming a 22-point deficit in the first quarter to take its first lead at 59-57 on Thompson’s 3-pointer 1:20 into the second half.
The Warriors outscored the Spurs 93-65 after the first quarter.
Golden State finished 13 for 26 on 3-pointers after shooting 2 of 5 on 3-pointers in the first quarter. San Antonio had 14 turnovers in the final three quarters.
Warriors forward David West, who was met with a chorus of boos upon entering the game, finished with 15 points. West signed with Golden State in the offseason after playing for San Antonio last season on a discounted contract.
Warriors: Golden State forward Kevin Durant worked out on the court before the game, but remains sidelined by an injured left knee. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said there is no update on a possible return, but is encouraged that Durant is moving well and progressing. Durant played a “hard” 1-on-1 against Golden State assistant coach Willie Green earlier in the day. “Kevin got him pretty good,” Kerr said. “It’s a good sign. If Willie had beaten him, I would have been worried.” … Curry has 289 3-pointers this season, second-most in league history, surpassing the 286 he made in 2015. Curry set the league record with 402 3s last season. … Golden State has seven winning streaks of at least seven games in three seasons under Kerr.
Spurs: Ginobili has played 987 regular-season games in his career, tying Hall of Famer David Robinson for third all-time in franchise history behind Tony Parker (1,136) and Tim Duncan (1,392). … PG Patty Mills has 582 career 3-pointers, one more than Hall of Famer Michael Jordan. … San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said rookie Dejounte Murray is progressing slowly, but remains out with a left groin injury. … San Antonio has eight games remaining, including four at home. … The Spurs are 106-57 overall against the Warriors.
Grizzlies beat slumping Pacers, who fall into tie for final playoff spot
Memphis played without All-Star center Marc Gasol, who missed his third straight game with a left foot strain. But Conley helped the Grizzlies get off the fast start, and Pacers were never able to catch up.
Memphis led by as many as 22 in the second quarter and carried a 72-53 advantage into the break. Conley scored 22 points in the first half, and the Grizzlies went 10 for 17 from beyond the arc in the first two periods.
Brooks made four 3-pointers and scored 14 in the first half for Indiana.
The Grizzlies led 96-79 after three, and the sliding Pacers never threatened in the fourth.
Indiana (37-38) dropped into a tie with Miami for the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Both are two games behind Milwaukee and Atlanta.
The Heat, Bucks and Hawks all won Wednesday night.
Pacers: Brooks made a 3-pointer in the first quarter to reach 800 for his career. … Indiana dropped to 0-8 in road games on the second night of a back-to-back.
Grizzlies: JaMychal Green was out with left shoulder soreness. That caused Memphis to use its 22nd different starting lineup this season. … Memphis scored 38 points in the first quarter, matching its highest point total for any quarter this season. … Memphis has made at least 10 3-pointers in 36 games. … In the third quarter, Carter passed Ray Allen (24,505) for 22nd in NBA history for career points scored. … Reserve guard Andrew Harrison left in the third quarter with a right ankle injury.
Pacers forward Thaddeus Young played high school basketball in Memphis and still lives there. Pacers guard Monta Ellis has a home in the Eads community east of Memphis.
Memphis (41-34), which sits seventh in the Western Conference playoff race, has a beneficial schedule down the stretch. Of its seven remaining games, five are at home, and five are against teams with losing records.