Heading into this weekend, we wondered if the Pacers would be able to continue their perfect start to the season facing a tough road matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.
But while the Nets are still finding their way from a chemistry standpoint, the Pacers are already there. And behind yet another strong all-around game from Paul George, Indiana improved to 7-0 on the season with a 96-91 road victory.
Brooklyn was in this game throughout, and cut a fourth quarter deficit of 10 points with under five minutes to play to just three in the game’s closing possessions. Joe Johnson had a chance to tie it with 11 seconds remaining, but his three-pointer rimmed out and David West secured the rebound before sealing the win for his team at the free throw line in the game’s closing seconds.
The Nets are going to rely on their starting lineup throughout the season to do the bulk of the damage, and on this night they largely came through as expected. But their bench unit didn’t provide much support, and in fact, neither did that of the Pacers. This was a matchup of the two teams’ best players, and Indiana’s had simply proven to be better by the time the final buzzer had sounded.
George led all scorers with 24 points, and got help from West with 18, while Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert chipped in 15 apiece. The Nets had similar contributions from four of their starters save Kevin Garnett, who managed just six points in 27 minutes but was effective as always defensively.
The only thing worth questioning with Indiana as it relates to the team’s fast start is whether the cohesiveness of having the majority of the same players in place as a season ago is a factor, along with the players’ relative hunger to succeed after coming so close to reaching the Finals last year.
One would think that teams like the Heat and the Bulls will be catching up at some point, but for now, the Pacers have proven to be the class of the league with their undefeated start at this early stage of the regular season.
Carmelo Anthony said the Knicks should have gotten a Christmas game last year. In hindsight, the NBA reportedly agreed.
So, Anthony expects New York to get a marquee matchup — against the Bulls — on either Christmas or opening night.
Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal:
The storylines are overflowing.
The Knicks added Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah — two former Bulls — to join Anthony, who strongly considered Chicago in his last free agency. The Bulls answered with a couple big names: Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. They’ll join Jimmy Butler, whose stature is only growing — just like Kristaps Porzingis in New York.
Those are plenty of attention-drawing players, and the league will want to capitalize, even if we’re talking about a couple middling Eastern Conference teams.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that New York and Chicago are huge markets.
Michael Jordan issued a statement on race in America and donated $2 million to a couple worthy causes.
That drew international coverage, including one curious photo choice:
Only in Malawi.
When Amar’e Stoudemire retired, I said history will treat him better than present-day analysis — maybe even to the point he gets legitimate Hall of Fame consideration.
Get past Stoudemire’s injury-caused decline with the Knicks and his wayward years with the Mavericks and Heat, and Stoudemire was a heck of a player with the Suns (and in his first year in New York).
Thanks to the NBA, the process of remembering Stoudemire for his peak can begin immediately. I was blown away by the first few highlights before realizing they were just the introduction for the top 10.
Vlade Divac isn’t calling Rudy Gay with trade-talk updates.
So, how is the Kings general manager spending his time?
Watching DeMarcus Cousins with Team USA.
James Ham of CSN California on Cousins:
He’s primed to show the world what both he and plenty of others around the basketball world already believe — that he is the best big man in the world.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said from his courtside seat. “He’s the most dominant player in the whole world. And being from Serbia, I have to root for Serbia, but I feel bad for them. He’s going to kill them.”
If we take Divac’s statement — “He’s the most dominant player in the whole world” — at face value, nope. LeBron James is. Other players like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are also better than Cousins, but big men can dominate in a way perimeter players can’t
If Divac meant just among big men, there’s a case. When Cousins is fully engaged, it’s one I’d definitely buy. He’s a load to handle inside, and his defense can be top-notch.
There are just too many times Cousins checks out. It’s a fine line, because Cousins’ emotions carries him to his highs. But he hasn’t yet found an ideal equilibrium point. His lows are still too low and too frequent.
That said, no center nears Cousins’ peak dominance. DeAndre Jordan and Draymond Green, when he plays the position, need too much help from teammates to be considered truly dominant. Andre Drummond isn’t polished enough. Even with his flaws, Cousins is probably already the NBA’s most dominant center.
Most dominant player, though? No. That’s a step too far.