Kurt Helin

Ricky Rubio scored career high 28, hit jumpers against Lakers (VIDEO)


It’s one game, I don’t want to read too much into that small a sample size but…

Ricky Rubio was knocking down jumpers and was very impressive Wednesday night against the Lakers.

He finished with a career-high 28 points plus 14 assists, but what caught everyone’s eye was he was making the Lakers pay for leaving him open and daring him to shoot. He killed them around the left elbow area. Here’s his shot chart from the game.

Rubio shotchart vs. Lakers

Hearing that Rubio has been working on his jump shot in the offseason is like hearing the new James Bond movie has a car chase. Everybody expects it.

But then you see it, and you’re caught off guard by how good it is. For one night at least, Rubio was knocking down those shots and as the defense adjusted he used the angles to set up teammates. Again, it was one night against a not-impressive Lakers’ defense, but it’s something to watch. Because if Rubio found a jumper the Timberwolves just got a lot more interesting.

Report: NBA investigating Clippers’ Austin Rivers for thrown seat cushion that hit fan

Austin Rivers, Darren Collison

No matter how hostile the environment — and make no mistake, there was plenty of bad blood between the Clippers and Kings in Sacramento Wednesday night — the NBA league office will not tolerate players throwing things at fans.

Even a seat cushion — as Austin Rivers may find out.

Rivers allegedly threw one into the crowd during the fourth quarter Wednesday night, it hit a fan in the face, and the NBA is looking into it, reports Sam Amick at the USA Today.

The situation caused a stir among Kings fans on hand, as the woman who was hit by the cushion in the second row was clearly experiencing discomfort in her eyes for quite some time after the incident.

It appears likely that Rivers will be disciplined as a result, though a final decision has not yet been made. The 23-year-old Rivers is the son of Clippers coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers.

If Rivers did this — and it sounds like he did — he will face a fine. As he should — you’ve got to control your emotions. There is a precedent for this, Glen Davis was fined $15,000 for kicking a seat cushion into the crowd at Boston Garden when he was a Clipper. What is it with the Clippers and seat cushions?

Rivers was not impressive in his role as a backup point guard on Wednesday night. He played 16 minutes and had three points, one assist, and a couple of steals. He made a couple nice defensive plays but his offensive decision making with the ball in his hands — jumpers early in the shot clock without running the offense — were not pretty. Maybe he works better as a reserve two guard next to Pablo Prigioni.

C.J. McCollum scores 28 in first half, 37 for game in Blazers’ win

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C.J. McCollum is going to win a lot of fantasy team owners games this season.

In Portland’s opener against a weary New Orleans team on the second night of a back-to-back, McCollum dropped 28 points in the first half (you can see that above) and 37 for the game, as Portland picked up a quality win to start the season 112-94.

His jumper was falling, he was 10-of-15 outside the paint on the night and hit 6-of-9 from three. He shot 14-of-22 overall and even when defended it didn’t matter much, he was 5-of-7 on contested shots (according to NBA.com stats). Damian Lillard added 21 points on 21 shots for Portland, plus had 11 assists.

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Welcome back, fear the Thunder

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Danny Green

It’s the first full slate of the season for the NBA — 14 games — but in case you couldn’t hang out in front of the TV because you had to coach one daughter’s soccer practice then go to a fundraiser for another (parents out there are nodding their heads), here are five takeaways from a night around the NBA.

1) Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant are back — fear the Thunder. You could see it through the preseason, but Wednesday might they made it official — the Thunder are back. There was Russell Westbrook putting up 19 first-half points plus dishing out four assists to keep the Thunder in it. Then with the game on the line in the fourth Kevin Durant and Westbrook combined for 16 points on nine shots. With that the Thunder beat the Spurs, 112-106 in a tough season opener.

Durant didn’t have a monster night — 22 points on 6-of-19 shooting — although a big part of that had to do with him being guarded by Kawhi Leonard much of the night (Leonard had a monster night of his own, 33 points on 23 shots). Westbrook finished with 33 points on 23 shots, plus 10 assists.

Here’s what should make fans of other contenders nervous: Billy Donovan was brought in to make sure the Thunder were more than Westbrook and Durant. That’s the only way they can win the ultimate prize next June. Wednesday, with the game on the line late, Dion Waiters hit two huge jumpers. Steven Adams made a great switch and contest on the Spurs’ shot attempt to win the game the buzzer. For all his defensive flaws, Enes Kanter put up 17 points and 16 boards. The point is those other guys did step up and make plays, and that makes the Thunder far more dangerous.

2) Kobe Bryant started his 20th season and looked exactly like what we should expect. Like expecting your grandmother to understand Halo, expecting Kobe Bryant to change at this point in his career would be foolish. Kobe is who he is — he doesn’t get to the rim much anymore, his shot selection isn’t ideal, however his footwork and fundamentals are impressive, and when those shots fall he’s dangerous. And those shots were falling in the first half Wednesday night as Kobe put up 15 points early.

Kobe started the game 8-of-16 shooting, but he missed his final eight shots. Bryant — and the entire Lakers team — ran too much isolation down the stretch as they blew a 16-point lead and lost to the Timberwolves 112-111. To be fair, it wasn’t just down the stretch, the Lakers’ offense was stagnant and isolation heavy all game, they just hit shots for stretches. Kobe finished with 24 points on 8-of-24 shooting, going 3-of-13 from three. Maybe a little of that is rust coming off all his injuries, but the reality is he’s not an efficient scorer anymore and his challenge will be sustaining the success he does have. The Kobe of Wednesday night is a Kobe we could see a lot this season.

By the way, both Karl-Anthony Towns (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Julius Randle (15 points, 11 boards, and fearlessly went right at Kevin Garnett) showed promise. They are two young players to watch.

3) Detroit beat Utah and is off to a surprising 2-0 start. The last time the Pistons were 2-0, they were so underwhelmed, they promptly traded Chauncey Billups for a washed-up Allen Iverson. After that deal led to seven dismal years, Detroit is surely more pleased with its fast start this season. The Pistons have beaten the Hawks and Jazz, relying on energy and defense. Detroit’s offense has sputtered, but Stan Van Gundy’s revamped lineup has at least shot well on 3-pointers. It’s too early to overreact, but for a Pistons team that began the season on the playoff bubble, this fast start might nudge to inside-looking-out status. —Dan Feldman

4) Did NBA’s new replay center miss a goaltending call that cost Orlando the game? Welcome back to the NBA Scott Skiles, good luck sleeping after this game. His Magic were up by one point when John Wall made what would ultimately be the game-winning shot.

That gave the Magic 10.7 seconds to try to hit a game winner of their own. Tobias Harris drove past Otto Porter and put up a floater that bounced and hung on the rim while guys jumped up thinking tip — and on the floor the referees called goaltending on the Wizards for one of those tips.

However, once the NBA’s new replay center got a good look at it, they reversed the call and said Bradley Beal‘s touch of the ball — after the game he admitted he touched the ball — was incidental and not when the ball was over the cylinder (and after Nikola Vucevic had hit it). Man that is close. I think this is the angle that might have sealed Orlando’s fate — the ball was certainly coming out but was it still over the cylinder when Beal hits it?

Magic fans, this is not why you lost — you had a five-point lead with two minutes to go and couldn’t hold it. That is what is going to keep Skiles up more than the call.

5) Knicks, Nuggets pick up impressive upsets wins. There are always some upsets opening night, but Denver and New York gave us head-turners. The Nuggets beat the Rockets on the road 105-95 behind 23 points from Danilo Gallinari, plus a defense that held Houston to 84.6 points per 100 possessions on the night. James Harden was 6-of-21 shooting. Not sure Denver can sustain all that defense, but the Mike Malone era got off to an impressive start.

As for the Knicks, their offense looked uptempo and like a triangle in a 122-97 win over a Bucks team that is supposed to have a strong defense. Carmelo Anthony was off (11 points on 4-of-16 shooting) but Derrick Williams had 24 points on 17 shots, while Langston Galloway added 16 points on 10 shots (4-of-5 from three). Again the question is sustaining it, but that’s a strong start for the Knicks.

Donovan wins NBA coaching debut, Thunder beat Spurs 112-106

Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 33 points and 10 assists to help Billy Donovan win his NBA coaching debut as the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-106 on Wednesday night.

Kevin Durant scored 22 points in his first regular-season game since February. He made just 6 of 19 field goals, but hit two critical free throws with 11.5 seconds remaining to put the Thunder in control.

Enes Kanter had 15 points and 16 rebounds off the bench for the Thunder.

Kawhi Leonard scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Spurs. LaMarcus Aldridge had 11 points and five rebounds in his debut with San Antonio after nine years with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Manu Ginobili scored 11 points and Tony Parker added 10 for San Antonio.

Westbrook found Durant for a 3-pointer with just more than four minutes remaining to put the Thunder up 99-97. It was Westbrook’s 10th assist.

After Parker put the Spurs up two, back-to-back baskets by Dion Waiters put the Thunder ahead by two. A 3-pointer by Durant with 54.2 seconds to play put Oklahoma City up by five.

Leonard scored, was fouled and made the free throw with 42 seconds left to cut Oklahoma City’s lead to two, and Westbrook missed a jumper to give San Antonio a chance to tie or win.

Danny Green‘s wild, off-balance 3-pointer was blocked by Steven Adams, and the Thunder gained possession. Durant made the free throws to put the game out of reach.