Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while stopping a crime using coffee…
Thunder 122, Lakers 105: The Lakers show some fight. Kobe Bryant had 30, Steve Nash had 20 and this was a five point game with six minutes to go. But the Thunder have another gear, the Lakers scored one point the rest of the way, Russell Westbrook poured in 37 on the night, and OKC got a comfortable win. Our man Brett Pollakoff broke it all down.
Celtics 109, 76ers 101: Avery Bradley — he’s not just for defense anymore.
Bradley had 22 points (on 10-of-15 shooting) to lead a Celtics offense was once again clicking and moving the ball. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett each scored 18. But that was not the real key to the game — the Sixers led much of the first quarter because the usually stout Celtics defense let Jrue Holiday and his Philly teammates got to the rim seemingly at will. Boston played like they could win this by just showing up.
But Boston went to stretches of playing zone as the game wore on and with that the 76ers inability to sustain offense returned — they messed seven shots in a row early in the second quarter. By the middle of the second quarter the Celtics were up seven and while that lead fluctuated Boston was still up seven at the half.
The Sixers never lead the rest of the way but also wouldn’t go away and closed the third quarter on an 8-0 run to make it a five point game after three. Boston answered with a 9-0 run to open the fourth and that was your ballgame. Holiday had 18 points and 10 assists, but also another five turnover game for the Sixers.
Nuggets 120, Kings 113: It was a close game until Denver opened the second half on an 11-2 run and that was pretty much when you could leave the arena if you wanted beat the traffic. Ty Lawson had half of his 24 points in the third and the Nuggets as a team put up 36 in the quarter. Kenneth Faried was huge in the paint for Denver with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Meanwhile the Kings’ key big man DeMarcus Cousins had one of those nights, opening the game 0-for-8 shooting and not scoring until the third quarter.
Just a suggestion for rookie Dejounte Murray: Don’t do this in front of Gregg Popovich. You may not like his reaction.
That said, the Spurs needed to get more athletic this off-season — landing Pau Gasol certainly didn’t help that cause — so enter first-round pick Murray, who pulled this off in a recent pickup game.
Murray is going to be brought along slowly in a backcourt where Tony Parker and Patty Mills will be splitting time at the point. Murray is more of a combo guard and is going to have to shoot a lot better than he did in college (28.8 percent from three) to get some run. But this is a situation where the Spurs can groom him, bring him along slowly, and see if they have another draft steal.
He’s certainly got the athleticism.
James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.
Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.
Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.
“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”
We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.
Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.
Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?
If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.
I can see the questions on Twitter/in the comments already so let me save you some time.
Because it’s summer.
Because it’s Drake (he’s a celebrity and an NBA hanger-on with some quasi-official position with the Raptors).
Because Stephen Curry did it, too.
Because what other hoops are you watching on a late August afternoon?
And besides, you clicked on it. You know you want to see it.
So here it is, Drake, hitting a halfcourt shot while doing a sit up. Enjoy.
Mario Chalmers was thriving with the Grizzlies after a midseason trade from the Heat when a torn Achilles ended his season.
Not the way Chalmers wanted to enter free agency.
Still unsigned, he says he’s progressing.
Can he go 100%, though? If not, when?
A few teams could use another point guard. If Chalmers shows his health, he belongs in someone’s rotation. But that might require taking a low-paying deal and working his way up from the third point guard spot – or even just onto the regular-season roster.