Lakers, Suns put on a triple-overtime show of shows

12 Comments

This was the most entertaining game of the season.

Not the best played, there was plenty of slop (Vince Carter’s 2-of-13 from three) and some odd decisions — Lamar Odom, why in the name of Unbreakable are you fouling a three-point shooter up three with a second to go?

But there were also amazing plays — Marcin Gortat playing point guard, Odom hitting everything — some good defense and a whole lot of made shots over good defense.

And there were overtimes. Three of them. When the dust settled the Lakers won their fifth in a row 139-137.

Only the Suns bring this kind of play out of teams, with their open style, questionable defense and the dynamic play of Steve Nash. We are going to really miss Phoenix in the playoffs this season.

Kobe Bryant dropped 42 for the night, and in the third quarter he took over and it looked like the Lakers were going to run away with this, going up 21. Kobe had 12 points of 5-of-7 shooting in the third.

Then the Suns bench started whipping the Lakers bench. Nash started the push but it was Aaron Brooks leading a 10-0 run that made it a game again, one that was nip and tuck the rest of the way. The Lakers helped that run along by falling into the Suns trap of tempo and taking jump shots, which fueled the Suns transition play.

Odom helped keep the Lakers in it — he finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds starting for Andrew Bynum (sitting out the second game of his two-game suspension). On the flip side, Gortat had 24 points and 16 rebounds. They both made huge plays in overtime.

The reason there were three overtimes was a decision made by Odom at the end of the first one. The Lakers were up three and the Suns had just 5 seconds left to tie it. The Suns Channing Frye got a look at a game-tying three and missed it — but Steve Nash tracked down the rebound and got it to Frye with a second to go, but Frye was 26 feet away with his back to the basket. So he turned and started to shoot — and Odom fouled him. The Lakers had a foul to give – fouling a guy not in the act of shooting would have been a great play. But Frye was starting his shooting motion; Odom was just late and soft with the foul.

Frye hit all three free throws and we were on to a second OT.

With a minute to go in OT numero dos the Suns were down one and the Lakers did a good job trapping Nash against the sideline — then Nash, falling out of bounds threw a perfect no-look bounce pass to Gortat at the arc. With nobody between him and the basket Gortat pretended he was a guard and attacked on the dribble, then when the defense rotated he made a perfect kick out pass to Frye for a three. Suns up two.

That might have won it, but at the other end Kobe drove baseline, got in the air, hung, then found Pau Gasol in the lane and hit him with an amazing bounce pass. Gasol attacked, was fouled, hit two free throws and there was another OT to be played. ‘

In that one, Kobe drained a pull up three over Jared Dudley (it was well defended) to put the Lakers up by one, then Artest picked Nash’s pocket and got a breakaway dunk to put the Lakers up three. After another defensive stop by the Lakers Ron Artest hit a bad shot — a running leaner off one leg. Because he’s Ron Artest. Lakers up five and while the Suns pushed that ended up being the ballgame.

All those moments were just a fraction of the show these two teams put on. It was a game of highlights and fantastic runs.

It also was a game the Suns were desperate to have. They are now three games back of the Grizzlies for the last playoff in the West. They are going to need this kind of play — except for winning in the end — if they are going to make it happen.

Wembanyama scores 37 Scoot Henderson 28, both make case to go No.1

0 Comments

The NBA league office hates tanking — the action, the word, the mere suggestion of it.

But there is going to be some serious tanking in the NBA this season, and anybody who watched the Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson game Tuesday (also known as the G-league Ignite vs.  Metropolitans 92 from France) knows exactly why.

What. A. Show.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, showed why he is a true 7’4″ unicorn who can do seemingly anything. He finished the game with 37 points, hitting 7-of-11 from 3, with five blocks, showed off some handles and even brought the ball up court a couple of times.

This play sums him up well: at 7’4″ Wembanyama is the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, looks smooth, and when the defender goes under the pick casually drains a 3.

Scoot Henderson, expected to go No.2 in the next draft, flashed his explosive athleticism to the tune of 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.

Ja Morant was impressed.

There was a lot for fans, scouts, and GMs to be impressed with.

For all his shooting an offensive game, Wembanyama was just as impressive on defense. His length and mobility forces players to change their driving angles to the rim. He also showed a fearlessness in going after the big block.

Henderson showed high-level athleticism and an ability to get to the rim at will, but he also set up teammates and an improving shot. Henderson is a dynamic athlete and a season playing against the men of the G League is only going to sharpen his skills.

Henderson made his case Tuesday to be the No.1 pick — scouts say he has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone point guard, a top-10 player in the league, and he looked it in this game. He showed no fear, even going at Wembanyama a few times.

However, Wembanyama will go No.1 because he just breaks the mold, there is nobody like him. Anywhere. He looks like a generational talent, even if there is some work to do to realize it. Wembanyama started to show that Tuesday night.

These two teams face off again on Thursday night in Henderson, Nevada.

Royce O’Neal on Durant, Irving trade rumors: ‘That was the summer’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

The Brooklyn Nets are trying to move on from a turbulent, awkward summer where their two best players tried to get tradedone throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum — and they are tired of talking about it.

It sounds like they have moved on from the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving drama in the locker room, at least based on what Royce O’Neal told Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

“That was the summer. Nobody cares about it now. We’re all here, and we’re going to make it work. We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

No doubt that is the mantra in the locker room, and it’s easy to do during the carefree, optimistic days of training camp or even the first preseason games. The players believe they have moved on.

The real question about these Nets is what happens when adversity hits? And it will hit, it does every team. How will Ben Simmons handle the stress? Irving? Can coach Steve Nash keep the Nets all on task, or will the finger-pointing start, and will the locker room get split?

Those questions are why everyone is finding it hard to predict these Nets — they could win a ring, they could have Durant demanding a trade again by Christmas. Most likely they land in the middle somewhere, but every possibility is on the table.

Speaking of teams being broken up, Scotto also asked about O’Neal’s former team, the Utah Jazz, and Danny Ainge’s decision to trade Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer. Ainge said “this team didn’t believe in each other,” but that’s not how O’Neal saw it. He was surprised the team was blown up.

“I was definitely shocked. I had been there for five years. The team we had for a couple of years fell short. I thought we were going to build on it. Things happened, so keep it moving.”

The question is will the Nets keep moving when things get hard?

Collin Sexton expects to start for Jazz once he gets back to full speed

2022 NBA All-Star - NBA x HBCU Classic Presented by AT&T
Getty Photo
0 Comments

After the blockbuster trade that was centered around Donovan Mitchell sent Collin Sexton to Utah, the immediate expectation was that he would start for the Jazz and have the ultimate green light.

However, that wasn’t the case in their first preseason matchup with Toronto on Sunday. In 18 minutes off the bench, Sexton finished with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting (3-for-4 on 3-pointers) to go along with one rebound, two assists, two steals, and two turnovers.

It came as a bit of a surprise to most viewers that Sexton didn’t get the starting nod, but he told Sarah Todd of Deseret News that he expected to come off the bench for this game. He acknowledged that it was because he hasn’t played much since his meniscus surgery, but he expects to start once he gets back to full speed.

Utah hit the reset button by dealing away four of their five starters from last season. They’ve ushered in a new era that is centered around Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt, and a ton of first round picks. Sexton has talked about wanting to improve on his assists numbers this season, which we should definitely see him get the opportunity to do.

The Jazz have cemented their place in the center of the Victor Wembanyama race, so they’ll have no problem letting their young guys learn through trial and error. Sexton averaged 4.4 assists per game for Cleveland just two years ago. However, he won’t be playing alongside another young guard like Darius Garland, so Sexton should have the ball in his hands more than he ever has in the NBA.

Ben Simmons looks fine in return, is ‘grateful just to be able to step on that floor’

0 Comments

Ben Simmons played in an actual, live basketball game on Monday night.

It’s preseason, sure, but the Nets rolled out their likely starting five — Simmons, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Joe Harris, and Nic Claxton — and had Simmons initiating a lot of the offense early.

The results were not bad. Fine. Good in flashes. Simmons ran the floor well and finished with six points on 3-of-6 shooting, five assists and four rebounds. He missed both free throws he took and all three of his makes were at the rim, his three missed shots were all in the paint and included an ugly skyhook-like thing and a turnaround that missed. There was clear rust.

The Nets got him a lot of touches, having him initiate the offense early. Whether that is something that carries over into the season remains to be seen, the offense moved better with the crisp passing and decisions of Kyrie Irving.

Simmons sounded comfortable after the game, quotes via Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“I’m grateful just to be able to step on that floor,” Simmons said. “Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.”

“That’s the one thing, I thought I was going to be nervous,” Simmons said. “But I wasn’t nervous. I was excited.”

Simmons pushed for a trade off these 76ers a year ago, then sat out all last season due to mental health concerns. Having him back on the court for 19 minutes over a couple of shifts was enough for the Nets.

The 76ers sat Joel Embiid and James Harden for the night, but Tyrese Maxey was the best player on the floor with 20 points in 14 minutes and showing a confident 3-point stroke.

Furkan Korkmaz, another player coming off an injury, added 15 His play will add depth to the Sixers roster.

Claxton ran the floor hard and finished with 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting (all at the rim), while Durant led the way with 13 points.