Baseline to baseline recaps: Dallas has some issues

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What you missed while out celebrating Boxing Day….

Kings 100, Lakers 91: We covered this one already in our game of the night.

Nuggets 115, Mavericks 93: Mavericks forward Sean Williams threw up when subbed out in the fourth quarter of this game, which got a lot of laughs on the Mavs bench but pretty well summed up the Dallas performance. Ty Lawson dominated Jason Kidd and that was the spark… but the bigger issue was Dallas had no spark whatsoever for the second straight night. Denver controlled this game from the start. Not time to panic yet in Dallas, but it is time to be concerned.

Spurs 95, Grizzlies 83: This is the 11th straight season the Grizzlies have lost their opening game. Neither team looked sharp in this one, nothing like the playoff series last season, but the 24 turnovers by Memphis sealed it.

Nets 90, Wizards 84: The craziest game of the night by far. The Wizards led this 35-15 in the second quarter and were in complete control, until Johan Petro started to lead a comeback that had the Nets in the lead in the third quarter. A 21-5 Nets run in the fourth sealed it. This was a sloppy game where nobody shot well, although Kris Humphries was efficient on his way to 21 points and 16 rebounds (the Nets controlled the glass and had 19 offensive rebounds, which was key). John Wall seemed to spend the game trying to make the more difficult, spectacular pass when a simple one would have led to a good look shot.

Pacers 91, Pistons 79: Indiana had a balanced attack and three double-doubles — Roy Hibbert (16 points14 rebounds), David West (11 and 12) and Tyler Hansbrough (15 and 13). Indiana had control of this one from the start.

Magic 104, Rockets 95: If you have big man who cam match up with Dwight Howard — like the Thunder did on Christmas in Kendrick Perkins — you can slow the Magic down. Jordan Hill and Samuel Dalmbert could not do that for the Rockets, Howard had 21 efficient points and things opened up for Orlando. Hedo Turkoglu had 23 points on just 14 shots and it was bombs away for J.J. Redick with 20.

Bobcats 96, Bucks 95: Kemba Walker has gotten his Rookie of the Year bid off to a fast start, hitting two late free throws to win this game. Walker finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Brandon Jennings had 22 for the Bucks but their offense let them down again (just like last season). Charlotte won this with a dominant third quarter (30-14) where they dominated the glass. Bobcats guard D.J. Augustin sprained his ankle and is listed as day-to-day.

Raptors 104, Cavaliers 96: Not a great game if you enjoy defense, but Toronto brought more balance with seven players scoring in double digits. The Raptors went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter and never gave the lead back.

Trail Blazers 107, Sixers 103: Portland went small in the second half and the 76ers could not make them pay for it. Portland grabbed the lead in the first quarter and despite runs by Philly never gave it back behind 25 from LaMarcus Aldridge and 21 from Gerald Wallace. People who sleep on how good the Sixers are will regret it.

Thunder 104, Timberwolves 100: Young legs will be key for the Thunder this season. Up-tempo game (100 possessions) on the second night of a back-to-back but Oklahoma City gets the win. Kevin Durant had 33, Russell Westbrook 28 for OKC. Michael Beasley led the Wolves with 24 but needed 27 shots to do it. He is a black hole. One key — the Thunder got to the free throw line 31 times and made 29; the Wolves got there 26 times and made just 19.

And by the way, Ricky Rubio looked really good in limited run. More on that later.

Hornets 85, Suns 84: Newly acquired Eric Gordon got the call with the game on the line, squared up Jared Dudley and drained the 20 footer for the win with 4.2 seconds on the clock. The Hornets were able to keep the tempo of the game in check, which was key. Gordon had 20 for Charlotte, Robin Lopez led the Suns with 21. Steve Nash had 14 points and 12 dimes.

Warriors 99, Bulls 91: Stephen Curry can be so, so good — he had 21 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, outplaying Derrick Rose. But the scary part comes with his fragility — he had to leave the game after aggravating his ankle injury. This was really a win for the Warriors bench — the game was 16-16 in the first when subs started coming in and Golden State went on a 30-11 run and made that lead stand up against a Bulls team on a back-to-back. Chicago’s 20 turnovers helped that cause. Monta Ellis had 26 and David Lee 22 in the win. Luol Deng led the Bulls with 22.

LeBron James dunks way to 26, but Lakers have long way to go, drop opener in Portland

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The Portland Trail Blazers know who they are and what they want to do — they return mostly the same core players, led by All-Stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, still running Terry Stotts offense as they have for years.

The Lakers have LeBron James who scored 26 and grabbed a dozen boards… and a lot of other new faces. Too many of whom are not a threat from three and all of whom are still getting to know each other.

In LeBron’s Lakers’ debut, continuity and shooting won out.

Throughout much of the night, and especially when things tightened up late, Portland knew what it wanted to do and executed — it was Lillard time, he finished the game with a team-high 28 points. In contrast, too often the Lakers looked disorganized, particularly on defense. Their offense felt clumsy in the half court, with LeBron working to get guys involved more than just take over.

The Trail Blazers won the fourth quarter 35-28 and with it the game, 128-119, much to the delight of a raucous Portland crowd.

The Lakers are now 0-1 in the LeBron era. It’s just one game, but it showed that the Lakers have a long way to go to get to be the team they want to be this season — and it also showed the potential of what they can be.

“We had some good, we had some bad, which is to be expected in game one,” LeBron said after the loss. “I liked our fight to get back into the game when we were down double digits, I liked the way we competed at times, I liked the way we shared the ball at times as well.”

These new-look Lakers did what Luke Walton had promised — they ran, they attacked the rim scoring a ridiculous 70 points in the paint, and they moved the ball. The Lakers had 17 fast break points in the first half, this is a team that averaged 17.5 fast break points a game last season (LA finished with 34).

And Los Angeles dunked. LeBron got in on the fun and was throwing it down.

That, alone, does not win games.

The Lakers shot just 7-of-30 from three, missing a lot of quality looks from the corner and going 0-of-7 from there. Maybe in other games those start to fall, but concerns about the lack of shooting with the Lakers go back to how Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka constructed the roster, and that looked like a real issue on opening night.

LeBron also struggled to connect passes to teammates, he finished with six assists but turned the ball over on 18.8 percent of his possessions on the night. In the halfcourt, he let Rajon Rondo run the shot often (he had  13 points and 11 assists and was a +11 in 32 minutes, it was a good night for him).

“We had some turnovers, which I expected, just trying to get a feel for one another,” LeBron said. “We can do a better job.”

Portland, on the other hand, knocked down the kind of shots they struggled to hit against the Pelicans in the playoffs last April — they were 13-of-37 from three (35.1 percent). The surprise came from Nik Stauskas, who was 5-of-8 from three on his way to 24 points on the night.

Los Angles moved well off the ball and when LeBron got the rock at the elbow he found a lot of cutters. However, when Rajon Rondo or Lance Stephenson was initiating the offense, the Blazers laid back and took away passing lanes, daring the Lakers to shoot.

Some of the Laker youth showed promise — Josh Hart had 20 points and was 3-of-5 from three, Brandon Ingram had 16 points and Kyle Kuzma 15. However, they are still adapting to playing with LeBron, they often struggled from three, and like the entire team, they were up and down on the night.

There were flashes when the Lakers were running when you saw how dangerous this Lakers team can be with a roster full of unselfish playmakers — the Lakers ran on 24.2 percent of their possessions and they scored 1.71 points per possession on those.

But they are not yet the team they need to be — and on the road, against a Portland team that knows exactly who it is, that is not enough. Welcome to the Western Conference, LeBron, there are a lot of teams like Portland out there.

Ben Simmons triple-double, Joel Embiid’s 30 leads 76ers past Bulls 127-108

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Markelle Fultz heard 20,000 Philadelphia 76ers fans exhort him to shoot each time he touched the ball, a roaring confidence boost for a No. 1 pick closer to a bust than brilliance.

Fultz had the look he wanted in the second quarter. He dribbled to the foul line without a defender in his path, pulled up and uncorked a jumper. The ball rattled around the rim before it fluttered through the net.

Sixers fans rose to their feet, erupted in cheers and chanted “Fultz! Fultz! Fultz!”

Yes, a simple jumpshot from the top pick of the 2017 draft in the second game of the season was enough to get a rise out of the fans – and a sigh of relief from Fultz.

“It makes me feel better for the whole crowd to feel as good as I want to,” Fultz said.

The curious case of Fultz’s missing jumper continued against the Bulls when one of the more scrutinized players in the NBA managed to steal the spotlight from his more accomplished teammates with routine – yet highlight-reel worthy – baskets.

Until he gets his shot right, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will continue to lead the Sixers.

Simmons had a triple-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists and Embiid had 30 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers past the Chicago Bulls 127-108 on Thursday night.

Fultz scored 12 points on 5 of 15 shooting, the most shots taken by a Sixer.

“He shot it to mean it,” coach Brett Brown said. “He didn’t look afraid of anything. He missed the shots but they looked good.”

Fultz is coming off a miserable rookie season that was shortened because of a right shoulder injury, a broken shot and busted confidence. Even his personal shooting coach said Fultz suffered from the “yips,” an assertion shot down on media day by the second-year guard. Fultz simply blamed his lost season on the injury. Brown tried to give Fultz a confidence boost by putting him in the starting lineup – yet has benched him for the start of the second half.

Fultz was 1 of 6 in 15 minutes in the first half and didn’t play again until late in the third and the Sixers leading by 88-68.

“The challenge is to grow him and help us win the game,” Brown said. “There’s no book that tells you how to do that, so you’re going to have to figure some stuff out. There will be some pain along the way and some positives.”

With or without Fultz, the 76ers had plenty of positives after an opening-night disaster in Boston.

Simmons reached a triple-double with 2:34 left in the third, the 13th of his career and the first Sixer to ever get one in the home opener. Sixers fans chanted “Trust the Process!” when Embiid ended the third with free throws.

Fultz proved a long-range ace again in the fourth – this time with a 3! He drained his first career 3-pointer for a 108-88 lead and the Philly fans that are firmly perched in his corner went wild and again chanted his name.

The Sixers know that if they want to become legitimate Eastern Conference contenders, Fultz will have to become the star they envisioned when they drafted him.

“I’m never afraid,” Fultz said. “I worked hard this summer. Tonight, I didn’t make a lot of them, but I’m going to keep shooting them. If I see an open shot, I’m going to go shoot it.”

He didn’t even mind when Chicago’s defense sagged off him, daring him to take shots. The Bulls, not expected to win much in the East, scored a combined 35 points in the second and third quarters. Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 30 points in their season opener.

“When we started missing shots, we stopped guarding and rebounding,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ben Simmons racked up his first triple-double of season in three quarters

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The first triple-double of the season went to the Pelicans Elfrid Payton with the “just made it” version of 10, 10, and 10.

Ben Simmons racked up the first of what will be many triple-doubles this season in his second game, Thursday night against the Bulls. He finished the night with 13 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists. Here is the assist that put him over the top, along with a few other highlights.

Philadelphia started the second half on a 19-2 run and controlled the game the rest of the way, going on to win by 19. There was even a Markelle Fultz pull up three that fell.

Kobe Bryant: “The Lakers are going to surprise a lot of people,” make playoffs

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Lakers fans are not known for their reasonable expectations or patience, and LeBron James coming to the team has only enabled those tendencies. However, around the team a lot of people are tamping down expectations, with some even suggesting the Lakers will miss the playoffs.

Kobe Bryant is a Laker fan, and he is tamping down nothing.

In a wide-ranging Q&A with The Undefeated, Kobe addressed his expectations for the Lakers this season.

“The Lakers are going to surprise a lot of people. Rob [Pelinka, the Lakers’ general manager] has smartly built a team of physical players. Big, versatile, fast, physical players. He understands that if you want to challenge Golden State, you can’t challenge them with shooting. That’s what they do. You’ve got to beat them somewhere else. You have to beat them with size. Chippiness. Feistiness. Strength and speed. And he has a team that has that. He has a mixture of vets that are still in their primes and young kids that are hungry and open-minded and willing to learn. A team that can compete and challenge. That is a dangerous mix.”

So, Kobe, we’re talking about a playoff team?

“Oh, God, yes. C’mon.”

I predicted the Lakers as a playoff team, somewhere around 47 wins. They are going to be good, I like the young core with Brandon Ingram (who will have to be the No. 2 option this season), Lonzo Ball and the rest. The young players are going to have to step up, and the veterans — particularly Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee — can help.

But the margin for error is slim, as it is with every team in the West playoff hunt not in Houston or the Bay Area. A slow start and it’s fair to ask questions about the Lakers. Injuries will play a role in the West no doubt. The Lakers should be a playoff team but they are no lock.

If they do fall short, Kobe will not be the only disappointed fan asking questions.