Our nightly look around the NBA, or what you missed while figuring out how to use lasers to mark the first down line in the a football game….
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. For my money right now he is the best power forward in the game. I’d rather have him over Kevin Love or Dirk Nowitzki or Carmelo Anthony or even Tim Duncan. Anthony Davis will take the crown in a few years but he’s not there yet. (I’m not counting LeBron James as a four even though that’s the role he plays the most for Miami, different system.) The Portland Trail Blazers are 16-3 after beating the Thunder Thursday night and Aldridge finished with 38 points on 17-of-28 shooting (60.7 percent) plus he had 13 rebounds and zero turnovers. He dropped 28 and 10 the last game on the Pacers defense. He is at his peak right now and lifting these Blazers to a surprising and amazing start.
Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks raced out to an early lead and never looked back in this one and Millsap’s 11 first quarter points were key to that start. Millsap finished with 25 points going right at Blake Griffin whenever he could. Millsap has been a great fit for Atlanta this season.
Houston Rockets’ offense. Despite giving up 97 points to the Suns, the Rockets played respectable defense Wednesday night. It was the other end of the floor that was the mess — Houston shot 35.2 percent as a team and 29 percent from three. James Harden was 3-of-17, Dwight Howard 4-of-11, Aaron Brooks 7-of-18 and so on. It wasn’t pretty. Houston has the second best offense in the league so far this season; this was just a one-off night for them.
Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks. He knocked down a three 30 seconds into the game to give the Hawks a lead 3-2 that they would never relinquish. More importantly that three set a record — that is his 89th consecutive game making a three, tying the league record. Korver knocked down 6-of-9 from three for a season-high 23 points.
Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.
There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.
Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.
Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.
The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.
Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.
More than fine.
Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.
Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):
The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.
Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.
Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.
The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?
Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:
If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.
The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.
It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.