It’s a make or miss league. With that comes the simple fact every night in the NBA there are winners and there are losers.
In this new column at PBT, five nights a week we will lay out the nights winners and losers in NBA action for you — not just the teams and on the scoreboard, but in every facet of the game. No better time to start than on an interesting opening night.
DeMarcus Cousins and the surprisingly entertaining Kings. Fresh off a win over the Trail Blazers, the Kings were impressive again in a road win against the Clippers. Cousins was dominant, with 34 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and three blocks, and Rudy Gay had another excellent game. But most impressive of all was the job Darren Collison did on Chris Paul defensively. The West is too deep for Sacramento to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs, but they’re starting to look like a basketball team for the first time in several years, which is good to see.
Miami’s big two. The Heat are the only undefeated team left in the Eastern Conference, picking up a 107-102 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. We knew they would be playing with a chip on their shoulders, but there have been plenty of questions about the health of Dwyane Wade and the readiness of Chris Bosh to step into the role of first option. So far, so good on both fronts. Bosh has been phenomenal since the start of the season, and finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. Wade was terrific too, logging 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting, 11 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks against Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas. Time will tell whether he can stay on the floor, but Heat fans have to be encouraged by the post-LeBron era so far.
Damian Lillard. The Blazers have a lot of things to blame for their 95-90 loss to the Warriors, with late-game turnovers chief among them. But Lillard has been terrible. He shot 1-for-7 from three-point range on Sunday and 4-for-18 from the field overall. He’s missing a lot of shots he normally makes, so you have to think the stroke will come back eventually and this is just some early-season rust. The Blazers need Lillard to be the player he was last year if they hope to take the next step as playoff contenders.
Carmelo Anthony. Melo’s 28 points helped the Knicks to a 96-93 win over the Hornets, but it wasn’t just his numbers. He made the two game-clinching plays down the stretch. He hit a contested jump shot with just over a minute to go that broke a 93-93 tie and gave New York the lead for good. Then, he secured the rebound with less than a second to go when Kemba Walker missed a jumper, sealing the win.
The Raptors at the foul line. As a team, Toronto missed 15 free throws on Sunday, going just 24-for-39 from the line. Lou Williams missed both of his free throws near the beginning of the quarter, and Kyle Lowry missed two of three with 1:49 remaining. Lowry missed six foul shots on the night and DeMar DeRozan missed five.