‘Melo vs. Garnett sideshow is dull, Knicks’ hard-fought win is not

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Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett played nice. In fact, in the third quarter Garnett went to the floor trying to complete an alley-oop and it was Anthony who was there to lend a hand and help him back up. There were no fireworks, no ejections, nothing. They may not be going out for a beer together afterwards, but the sideshow turned out to be nothing special.

But the game itself was special. Or at least a lot of fun.

If Rasheed Wallace were there with New York, he would have said “both teams played hard.” There was nearly the passion of a playoff game from both teams.

The Knicks just played a little less sloppy and hit their shots down the stretch, so they came away with an 89-86 win.

That would be five straight losses for the Celtics, who drop two games below .500 but remain the eighth seed in the East. The second seed Knicks improved to 26-14 on the season.

Anthony got his points but the improved Celtics defense made it rough on him — ‘Melo had 28 points but was just 11-of-28 shooting on the night. Without Raymond Felton (still out with a broken finger) the Knicks end up resorting to a lot more ‘Melo isolation late in the clock and that is just never efficient. Wasn’t in Denver, wasn’t last season, isn’t now. The Celtics defense as a whole looked active and energetic, holding New York to 38.6 percent shooting.

Their offense just couldn’t do anything about it.

Rajon Rondo is trying to get the offense moving, and he had 23 points (on 19 shots), 11 assists and 10 rebounds — his fourth triple-double of the season. But take him out of the equation and the rest of the Celtics shot 36.8 percent. Rondo is the straw that stirs the Celtics drink, but there is only so much he can do to bring everyone along.

Look at their possessions in the final four minutes and you see how it is all Rondo: Rondo hits an elbow pull up jumper; Rondo drove and drew a foul from Amare Stoudemire; Paul Pierce passes up good look 18 footer to tie it instead passing to Avery Bradley for a corner three he missed; Garnett misses a contested midrange jumper; J.R. Smith reaches in and tips the ball on a handoff to Rondo and it goes out of bounds off Boston; Rondo nails a step-back 17 footer; Pierce boots the ball out of bounds as he is hounded by Smith.

Smith also had a key three late. It was a true gunner’s shot — he was 2-of-15 on the night when he caught the ball but he let it go without hesitation or memory of the past misses and he drained it.

This was the kind of ugly, defensive-minded game the Celtics won in recent years. Their defense would carry them through their offensive lulls. This year it’s just not working, the offensive lulls are too long, the defense isn’t consistent enough.

The Knicks, they are winning ugly. And in a game that felt like the playoffs they will take it.

Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Ingram all ejected for punches-thrown fight in Rockets win

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LOS ANGELES — By the end, LeBron James‘ home opener as a Laker wasn’t about him.

It was about a rare, actual punches thrown NBA fight that saw Houston’s Chris Paul, and Los Angeles’ Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram ejected and all likely to face suspensions.

It was also about another Lakers’ loss, 124-115. The Lakers have started the season 0-2 and been out-executed at the end of both games.

“I talked to the guys, fights happen in sports, but we’ve got to keep our composure,” Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said. “We somewhat did, but they made a lot of shots down the stretch. (James) Harden made a couple ones, one possession with a rebound on one, we missed a switch on a high pick-and-roll…

“We didn’t execute well enough to win that game down the stretch.”

The Rockets did, bouncing back with some fight after a punchless loss to New Orleans in their opener.

“We had to win a game… ultimately the most important thing is to win the game,” said James Harden, who finished with 36 points on 19 shots. “All the commotion going on, that’s what I tried to go do.”

With it being LeBron’s home debut, the crowd was fired up from the start. The game was back and forth and getting physical at points, but nothing out of the ordinary.

That was until in the fourth quarter when Houston’s James Ennis clotheslined Josh Hart who was driving the lane. Ennis got a flagrant one.

“The clothesline, three minutes prior to (the big fight), I saw that. Zero idea how that’s a flagrant one,” Walton said. “(Ennis) clotheslined a guy, he picked him up off his feet and slammed him on his back, and that’s a flagrant one. To me, if I’m a player or a teammate, and that’s a flagrant one, then we can play a little more physical.”

It did get physical after that and a few minutes later is when things spilled over into the fight.

Los Angeles’ Brandon Ingram was particularly frustrated with Harden drawing foul calls (welcome to a big club, Brandon) and after Harden drew another with 4:13 left in the game Ingram let his frustration go and pushed Harden. That was a quick and deserved technical, which there was jawing, which is when Lance Stephenson stepped in to pull Ingram out and protect him from himself (yes, Stephenson was the level head… it was weird to type that).

Usually in an NBA “fight” that’s when things calm down.

Saturday night, that’s when things went crazy.

Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo — two guys who don’t like each going back most of a decade — were jawing after the play when CP3 took his finger and pushed Rondo in the face — and Rondo responded by throwing a punch.

Paul said later Rondo spit on him, which provoked the reaction. Rondo and the Lakers vehemently deny this (on the video you don’t see Rondo spitting.)

That’s what (Paul) is saying. And as a man, the only thing you can do is react,” Harden said. “Stand up for yourself.”

Once that punch was thrown it was mayhem on the court.

Which is when Ingram came sprinting back into the scene and threw another punch. He was quickly pulled out of the pile, but the damage was done. He was going to be ejected, and could face the biggest suspension of anyone because he was the third man into the fight (and instigated everything shoving Harden).

Once everything settled down, the ejections came — Ingram, Rondo, and Paul were all gone.Kiki VanDeWeghe, the NBA’s lead disciplinarian, was in the building and saw everything first hand. Expect the suspensions to come down Sunday, before the Rockets play the Clippers on Sunday night.

C.J. McCollum breaks Bryn Forbes ankles, drains three, Blazers bench LOVES it

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Bryn Forbes was going to be the third-string point guard for the Spurs, but injuries to Dejounte Murray and Derrick White thrust him into the starting lineup.

Saturday night, C.J. McCollum schooled him. Broke Forbes ankles then drained the three over the top of him.

But the best part of this is the bench reaction.

Damn, that’s cold.

McCollum had 24 and Damian Lillard had 29, and the Blazers beat the Spurs 121-108.

Watch J.J. Redick’s game-winning three, it lifts 76ers past Magic 116-115

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — JJ Redick hit a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to lift the Philadelphia 76ers over the Orlando Magic 116-115 on Saturday night. You can see the video above.

Redick had his best game since moving to Philadelphia’s bench at the start of the season, scoring 31 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including eight 3-pointers.

Aaron Gordon had a chance to tie it with 10 seconds remaining but missed his second free throw, and a desperation heave by Terrance Ross missed the net entirely.

Joel Embiid had 32 points and 10 rebounds for the 76ers, including 19 points by halftime. He did it with an outside game in the first half but was more of a force down low after intermission.

Dario Saric scored 13 points and Robert Covington had 12 as the 76ers improved to 2-1 this season.

Evan Fournier had 31 points to lead Orlando. Nikola Vucevic added 27 points and Gordon had 20.

Ben Simmons left the game after the first quarter with a tight back, meaning Philadelphia had to lean that much more on Embiid and Redick.

With Simmons out, Markelle Fultz was given an opportunity to play extended minutes and run the offense. Fultz finished with eight points on 4-of-11 shooting and added seven assists with only one turnover.

However, with the game on the line, 76ers coach Brett Brown opted to use T.J. McConnell at the point and kept Fultz on the bench.

High scores have been common in the early part of the NBA season as teams are pushing the pace and trying more shots, especially from deep.

Both teams shot lights out from 3-point territory. The Sixers, paced by Redick, shot 17 of 34 (50 percent) while the Magic, led by Fournier’s six 3-pointers, shot 16 of 29 (55.2 percent).

Thirteen players attempted shots from beyond the arc, eight for Orlando and five for Philadelphia.

 

Young guys out: Sixers’ Ben Simmons, Knicks’ Kevin Knox leave games with (hopefully) minor injuries

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When the team’s young star goes down, or heads back to the locker room mid-game with a hitch in his step, an entire fan base holds their breath.

That happened tonight in Philadelphia with Ben Simmons and New York with Kevin Knox, but fortunately neither seems to be serious.

Simmons had hit a couple of layups but ran back up the court gingerly, like he was in pain, before asking out of the game at the 4:19 mark of the first quarter. He is not returning.

Simmons has been tearing it up for Philadelphia, averaging 16 points, 14 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game through the Sixers first two. Philadelphia is off until Tuesday when they start a back-to-back in Detroit then head to Milwaukee.

New York’s Knox went down after Boston’s Terry Rozier tried to cut Knox off in transition and fouled him.

The Knicks announced it was a sprained ankle.

Knox drags that ankle behind him in an awkward way after the collision, let’s hope it’s nothing more than a mild sprain.

Both a tight back and a sprained ankle are things that can be worse the next day, keep your eyes out for updates on these guys.