Christmas Day. It’s the unofficial start of the NBA season (at least for casual fans).
The NBA tries to line up its best and brightest (and biggest draws) for a day of games on ABC and ESPN. This season everyone wants to see the NBA Finals rematch/preview as Golden State visits Cleveland — now with Kevin Durant. It’s unquestionably the game of the day, the first meeting between these teams since the Cavaliers were celebrating a title in the Warriors’ building.
But there are other games of intrigue out there: Boston at New York to start the day should be competitive. Can Minnesota even slow down Russell Westbrook? How do the Clippers look without Blake Griffin?
Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down each game, plus talk Chinese food on Christmas.
Draymond Green has another reason to pass out cigars (other than winning a ring) — he is a new father.
Draymond Jamal Green Jr. was born Thursday at 3:55 a.m.
Congratulations to Green and his family.
On the court, this means Green will not be with the Warriors Thursday night in Brooklyn to take on the Nets, reports CSNBayArea.com.
He is questionable for Sunday’s Christmas Day game against the Cavaliers in Cleveland.
The birth of his child and soaking in that experience, bonding with him, and being in that moment is far, far more important than any basketball game. Mature adults understand that. If he’s not there Sunday, he’s missing the game for the best of reasons.
The Cavaliers will be without J.R. Smith for that game following surgery on a broken thumb.
Three things we learned Wednesday: Blazers struggles open door for Kings, Nuggets
1) Portland is a mess, has lost 8-of-9, falls into a virtual tie with Sacramento, Denver. We’re deep enough into the season to say this: Barring a catastrophic injury, there are seven teams in the West that appear playoff bound. The top four that seem obvious — the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets, and Clippers — but also the Grizzlies, Jazz, and Thunder are all on pace to win 48 games or more and make the postseason.
Notice the Trail Blazers were not on that list. That’s because the team that came into this season with high hopes of building on their 44-win, second round of the playoffs effort a year ago is a mess. Portland played as bad a half of basketball Wednesday night as we have seen in the league this season, and the team has now lost 8-of-9. There seems to be a real chemistry issue — they don’t help each other on defense (which remains the worst in the NBA), and their ball movement has dried up on offense.
The end result of that was a loss at home Wednesday to the Dallas Mavericks. Portland was getting blown out early in this one — they shot 37.6 percent, had 11 turnovers, and were down by 24 at the half — then came back on the strength of Damian Lillard.
It wasn’t enough. Good defense by former Blazer Wesley Matthews on Lillard on the game’s final play caused the missed shot that gave the Mavericks the win, 96-95. No Lillard heroics this time.
The result of all this is that Portland, Sacramento, and Denver are all in a virtual tie for the eighth seed in the West. On paper, the Trail Blazers should pull away from that group and secure the final playoff spot, but they are simply not good enough. Not with that defense. This could be a race that continues on into early April, that goes down to the wire, to see which team gets to be fodder for the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.
One other note from that chase: Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs in a decade, and owner Vivek Ranadive desperately wants to do so in the team’s first season in its new building in the heart of the city. Which means, if you’re expecting a Cousins trade during the season, you might as well be expecting “Suicide Squad” to win the Best Picture Oscar. Even moving Rudy Gay seems less likely — despite the fact they will get nothing in return when he walks this summer — because he’s their second-best scorer. As long as the Kings can sniff the playoffs, making it is the goal.
2) Russell Westbrook outduels Anthony Davis on an entertaining showdown. The results were what we expected: Oklahoma City beat New Orleans 121-110. But that’s not why we tuned in. We wanted the scoring showdown between Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis. We were not disappointed. Davis had 34 points, but Westbrook had 42 (10 rebounds, 7 assists) as the pair put on a show.
3) Cavaliers pick up the win over Bucks, but they are going to miss J.R. Smith. Not sure why the schedule maker decided the Milwaukee Bucks needed to be involved in all of the league’s home-and-home series (or at least it seems that way), but after an overtime game on Tuesday night, the Cavaliers got an easier win Wednesday at home, 113-102.
The question is, can they sustain it. Tyronn Lue has leaned heavily on his starting five of Irving, Smith, LeBron, Love, and Thompson — that group has been on the court 300 minutes this season, no other five-man group more than 46 minutes heading into Wednesday night. The Cavaliers are still going to win games — they still have LeBron, Irving, and Love — and they will hold on to the top spot in the East, but it’s going to be an adjustment.
And they’re going to miss Smith in games like Sunday, when the Warriors come to town.
Marc Gasol ties career high with 38, Grizzlies beat Pistons 98-86
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) —Marc Gasol matched a career high with 38 points on 14-of-17 shooting, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Detroit Pistons 98-86 on Wednesday night in a matchup of slumping teams.
The Grizzlies ended their three-game losing streak, while Detroit dropped its fourth straight.
Memphis was boosted by the return of Chandler Parsons, who missed the previous 17 games with a bone bruise on his left knee. He had two points and two rebounds in 15 minutes.
Gasol was the only Grizzlies player to reach double figures until JaMychal Green got there with 1:03 to play.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy had planned to change his starting lineup after three straight losses, but Jon Leuer missed shootaround after being in a car accident. Leuer played, but Van Gundy decided to hold off on starting him until Friday against Golden State.
For much of the first half, it looked as though the Pistons were headed for another blowout loss, as they trailed by as many as 18 points. A 16-2 run cut the deficit to 42-38, but Memphis pushed it back to nine at halftime.
Detroit made another run in the third quarter, but was never able to get enough stops to pose a serious threat. Gasol scored 14 in the period – his second double-digit quarter – and Memphis took a 79-63 lead into the final 12 minutes.
Grizzlies: Gasol gave Van Gundy a friendly pat on the backside after hitting a fadeaway jumper to give Memphis an 11-point lead late in the third.
Pistons: Despite the accident, Leuer played 17:21 in the first half, including the entire second quarter.
The game was played less than 36 hours after several local fire departments were called to put out a kitchen fire at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The blaze was extinguished quickly enough to prevent damage to game-day operations. The Pistons are leaving the Palace at season’s end to move to Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit.