It’s dangerous to read much into trends a week into an NBA season — the sample size is too small. Look at it this way: For some three or four game stretch this season, the Miami Heat will look terrible, but that doesn’t mean they are terrible and will not be the team to beat come June.
But in Boston, one early season trend going on grabs your attention because it is a continuation of last season — when Kevin Garnett sits, the team’s defense struggles. A lot. Even in their win over Washington the Celtics gave up a 16-point lead when Doc Rivers tried to get KG (and others) some rest.
Through three games, Garnett is a +6 — 1-2 Boston has outscored its opponents by 6 points when he is on the floor this season (as a team, Boston is -16). For comparison Rajon Rondo is -9 and Paul Pierce is -6. And you don’t want to get into the bench, which has ugly numbers. The Celtics were supposed to have more depth this season but it has yet to really show up. Again, small sample size theater, but we have seen this movie before.
Here is what Cedric Maxwell said on Comcast SportsNet New England after the Wizards game (video below), courtesy CSNNE.com.
“Well they start off early on, you think about playing defense, they did a lot of good things,” Maxwell said. “They really shut down Washington, didn’t allow them to score any points early in the game. After that, the problem with the Celtics so far [is] going to the bench. When KG comes out of the game the Celtics have had some difficulties and some problems….
“I think the thing about KG, KG is the engine,” Maxwell said. “You can have the keys — Rondo has the keys to everything — but KG is the engine and when the engine is going the car is going the right way. KG rebounds effectively and defensively he is the captain of what they do really well. When he’s been out of the game, they have struggled.”
Boston needs to find a way to solve this because they can’t wear KG out all season giving him big minutes then expecting him to be fresh for the playoffs. It’s early, too early to really worry about it. But it’s a trend to watch because it’s not a new one. Just one Boston thought it had solved.
As if Golden State was not already a prohibitive favorite Saturday night.
DeMarcus Cousins, who has missed the last two games for Sacramento with a strained back and that will continue Saturday. Our old friend Bill Herenda tweeted it first.
Not only are the Kings 1-6 without Cousins, but they were also on their way to beating Charlotte Monday until Cousins had to leave the game.
Golden State will likely be without Harrison Barnes in this game after spraining his ankle in the last game. Expect Andre Iguodala to get the start, or if interim coach Luke Walton doesn’t want to mess with the bench rotation he could go with Brandon Rush.
Watching Anthony Davis fall to the court clutching his knee, not being able to put any pressure on his leg as he was helped to the locker room, it was frightening Friday night in Los Angeles.
It turns out it’s not that bad. After the game the injury was described as a “knee contusion” and not the serious damage that was feared. Saturday the Pelicans said Davis was good to go.
Whew. Nobody wants to see Davis miss time.
The Pelicans had won three in a row until they ran into the Clippers Friday night. Davis has played better of late — the New Orleans defense is 7.2 points per 100 better when he is on the court — and New Orleans has gotten better point guard play out of Ish Smith.
That is just cruel.
An on-fire Warriors team dropped 44 on the Suns in the first quarter Saturday, and Curry had 19 of those points going 5-of-6 from three. The Suns’ had no defender who could begin to hang with him. Certainly not Ronnie Price, who came in off the bench and got abused for his efforts.
Curry finished with 41 points, never had to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors improved to 17-0 on the season. Just another day at the office for them.
We tend to think of record streaks having to be in one season, not broken up across two.
But if you can suspend that, the Philadelphia 76ers are now the owners of the longest losing streak in NBA — and major professional sports — history.
With their tough two-points loss to Houston Friday night, the Sixers have lost 27 in a row. The Sixers dropped their final 10 last season and with the loss to the Rockets are 0-17 to start this one.
That bests the 26-game losing streaks of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and these same Sixers from 2013-14. Looking across sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-1977 also lost 26 in a row, which when you consider the length of the NFL season is pretty embarrassing.
The Sixers struggles are born from a plan by GM Sam Hinkie (and approved by ownership) to get better long-term by being bad now and hoarding draft picks. It’s a strategy that can work if Hinkie nails the draft picks (the book is out on how Hinkie is doing on that front). And they are committed to it through at least this draft.
But don’t think for a second the players and coach are trying to lose.
If you have watched the Sixers play their last few games you know the players are trying hard to get that victory (and almost have a couple of times). The effort is there, they are just outmatched and lack the kind of presence at the end of games to execute under pressure (something a couple of quality, regularly-playing veterans might help, but that’s another discussion). They have the point differential of a team that should have a couple wins; they just haven’t been fortunate. It happens. Go ahead and blame management if you think this plan is an abomination. Just don’t question the desire or effort of the players or coaches, that is not in doubt.
The Sixers play at the Grizzlies Sunday, then have maybe their best shot at a win for a while when they host the Lakers on Tuesday.