Toronto has been playing solid basketball of late — if you don’t bring a genuine effort against them you are in trouble.
Like getting blown out 113-96 kind of trouble, which is what happened to the Hawks on Tuesday night. The loss drops the Hawks to the six seed in the East, tied with the Bulls for the five seed but Chicago has the tiebreaker. If the Bulls win or the Hawks lose on Wednesday night, Chicago will finish in the five spot and face the Nets in the first round, the Hawks at six would get the Indiana Pacers.
Tuesday the Hawks looked like a team trying to avoid being on the Heat’s side of the playoff bracket (which they do as the six seed). Al Horford didn’t play and Josh Smith, Jeff Teague and Devin Harris played limited minutes.
The Hawks also looked like a team that shouldn’t worry about going deep enough in the playoffs to meet the Heat — the physical, defensive-minded Pacers are going to overwhelm the Hawks easily if Atlanta doesn’t bring a radically level of effort. Particularly on defense.
The question about the Raptors is just how efficient their offense will be on any given night with Rudy Gay leading the way, but against the lazy Hawks rotations they looked good.
Toronto took and early lead in this game and generally maintained a small lead through the first part of the second quarter, were able to stretch that out a little, sparked by a ridiculous Harris flagrant foul.
Toronto stretched that lead out to 68-51 at the half as Rudy Gay shot 7-of-10 while DeMar DeRozan hit 8-of-11. As a team they shot 66.7 percent in the first half (they went 5-of-9 from three). The Hawks came out playing with better energy in the third quarter but they couldn’t dig out of the big hole they were in. Then in the fourth the Raptors blew the lead out again.
DeRozan finished the game with 30 and DeRozan had 22.
We’ll see if the Hawks bring a different kind of effort on Wednesday, or if they like the idea of the Pacers and the six seed.
After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.
Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.
They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.
Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.
The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.
76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.
The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.
LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.
“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”
LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.
But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.
The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.
It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.
Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.
So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.
Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.
Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.
Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.