Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Welcome back, fear the Thunder


It’s the first full slate of the season for the NBA — 14 games — but in case you couldn’t hang out in front of the TV because you had to coach one daughter’s soccer practice then go to a fundraiser for another (parents out there are nodding their heads), here are five takeaways from a night around the NBA.

1) Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant are back — fear the Thunder. You could see it through the preseason, but Wednesday might they made it official — the Thunder are back. There was Russell Westbrook putting up 19 first-half points plus dishing out four assists to keep the Thunder in it. Then with the game on the line in the fourth Kevin Durant and Westbrook combined for 16 points on nine shots. With that the Thunder beat the Spurs, 112-106 in a tough season opener.

Durant didn’t have a monster night — 22 points on 6-of-19 shooting — although a big part of that had to do with him being guarded by Kawhi Leonard much of the night (Leonard had a monster night of his own, 33 points on 23 shots). Westbrook finished with 33 points on 23 shots, plus 10 assists.

Here’s what should make fans of other contenders nervous: Billy Donovan was brought in to make sure the Thunder were more than Westbrook and Durant. That’s the only way they can win the ultimate prize next June. Wednesday, with the game on the line late, Dion Waiters hit two huge jumpers. Steven Adams made a great switch and contest on the Spurs’ shot attempt to win the game the buzzer. For all his defensive flaws, Enes Kanter put up 17 points and 16 boards. The point is those other guys did step up and make plays, and that makes the Thunder far more dangerous.

2) Kobe Bryant started his 20th season and looked exactly like what we should expect. Like expecting your grandmother to understand Halo, expecting Kobe Bryant to change at this point in his career would be foolish. Kobe is who he is — he doesn’t get to the rim much anymore, his shot selection isn’t ideal, however his footwork and fundamentals are impressive, and when those shots fall he’s dangerous. And those shots were falling in the first half Wednesday night as Kobe put up 15 points early.

Kobe started the game 8-of-16 shooting, but he missed his final eight shots. Bryant — and the entire Lakers team — ran too much isolation down the stretch as they blew a 16-point lead and lost to the Timberwolves 112-111. To be fair, it wasn’t just down the stretch, the Lakers’ offense was stagnant and isolation heavy all game, they just hit shots for stretches. Kobe finished with 24 points on 8-of-24 shooting, going 3-of-13 from three. Maybe a little of that is rust coming off all his injuries, but the reality is he’s not an efficient scorer anymore and his challenge will be sustaining the success he does have. The Kobe of Wednesday night is a Kobe we could see a lot this season.

By the way, both Karl-Anthony Towns (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Julius Randle (15 points, 11 boards, and fearlessly went right at Kevin Garnett) showed promise. They are two young players to watch.

3) Detroit beat Utah and is off to a surprising 2-0 start. The last time the Pistons were 2-0, they were so underwhelmed, they promptly traded Chauncey Billups for a washed-up Allen Iverson. After that deal led to seven dismal years, Detroit is surely more pleased with its fast start this season. The Pistons have beaten the Hawks and Jazz, relying on energy and defense. Detroit’s offense has sputtered, but Stan Van Gundy’s revamped lineup has at least shot well on 3-pointers. It’s too early to overreact, but for a Pistons team that began the season on the playoff bubble, this fast start might nudge to inside-looking-out status. —Dan Feldman

4) Did NBA’s new replay center miss a goaltending call that cost Orlando the game? Welcome back to the NBA Scott Skiles, good luck sleeping after this game. His Magic were up by one point when John Wall made what would ultimately be the game-winning shot.

That gave the Magic 10.7 seconds to try to hit a game winner of their own. Tobias Harris drove past Otto Porter and put up a floater that bounced and hung on the rim while guys jumped up thinking tip — and on the floor the referees called goaltending on the Wizards for one of those tips.

However, once the NBA’s new replay center got a good look at it, they reversed the call and said Bradley Beal‘s touch of the ball — after the game he admitted he touched the ball — was incidental and not when the ball was over the cylinder (and after Nikola Vucevic had hit it). Man that is close. I think this is the angle that might have sealed Orlando’s fate — the ball was certainly coming out but was it still over the cylinder when Beal hits it?

Magic fans, this is not why you lost — you had a five-point lead with two minutes to go and couldn’t hold it. That is what is going to keep Skiles up more than the call.

5) Knicks, Nuggets pick up impressive upsets wins. There are always some upsets opening night, but Denver and New York gave us head-turners. The Nuggets beat the Rockets on the road 105-95 behind 23 points from Danilo Gallinari, plus a defense that held Houston to 84.6 points per 100 possessions on the night. James Harden was 6-of-21 shooting. Not sure Denver can sustain all that defense, but the Mike Malone era got off to an impressive start.

As for the Knicks, their offense looked uptempo and like a triangle in a 122-97 win over a Bucks team that is supposed to have a strong defense. Carmelo Anthony was off (11 points on 4-of-16 shooting) but Derrick Williams had 24 points on 17 shots, while Langston Galloway added 16 points on 10 shots (4-of-5 from three). Again the question is sustaining it, but that’s a strong start for the Knicks.

Victor Oladipo denies trade rumor he wants out of Indiana

Victor Oladipo
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It was a trade rumor that kind of came out of nowhere — maybe more as a thought exercise for Celtics fans hoping to move on from Gordon Hayward — but it got traction: Victor Oladipo reportedly wanted out of Indiana.

Not true, Oladipo said.

Oladipo jumped on Instagram Live with rapper Fat Joe and shot down the rumors (hat tip Clutch Points):

“I’m a Pacer. I’m a Pacer…

“Those rumors on the internet, I don’t know where they’re coming from, I’m just focused on getting my knee right for next year.”

Oladipo returned mid-season from his knee injury to a Pacers’ team that finished as the four seed in the East but got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat.

Oladipo never quite returned to his All-NBA form after coming back from injury and averaged just 14.5 points a game in the 19 regular season games he did play. Oladipo is owed $21 million next season, the last year of his current deal.

Whether he wants out of Indiana or not, at $21 million and with questions about just what level of player he is post-injury, there is not much of a trade market for Victor Oladipo. Indiana more than likely runs it back under a new coach — who has yet to be chosen — and banks on a healthy Oladipo helping the team make the next step.

Adam Silver: Goal is to start next season in January, in team arenas

Adam Silver
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The NBA bubble — which has worked and gotten the league to the NBA Finals — may be a one-off.

The goal for next season is a January start with games being played in team’s arenas, even if fans are not yet filling the buildings, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in his annual address before Game 1 of the NBA Finals Wednesday.

“As for fans in seats, it’s certainly our goal, but it’s dependent on some additional advancements. Rapid testing may be the key here,” Silver said. 

Silver refused to be locked down to any details — most people around the league expect a February start, or later — and said the league might have to return to a bubble, or hybrid-bubble, for part of next season. However, he hoped testing and technology would allow NBA games in NBA buildings, with players going back to their homes at the end of the night.

This is dependent on rapid testing and where the virus is in our nation as we get into December and January than it is on a vaccine.

“Based on everything I’ve read, there’s almost no chance that there will be a vaccine, at least that is widely distributed, before we start the next season,” Silver said. “So I do not see the development of a vaccine as a prerequisite.”

The other part of starting next season is figuring out the league finances and setting a salary cap. The league’s revenue took a serious hit with around 20% of home games canceled, then the playoffs delayed and moved to a bubble. Silver said salary cap and other negotiations are taking place between the NBA and the players’ union. The league has set a date for the 2020 NBA Draft — Nov. 18 — however, the start of free agency, training camps, and the tip-off date for next season are still open and being discussed.

“I don’t have expectations of labor issues… I think while no doubt there will be issues and difficult negotiations ahead, I think we’ll work them out as we always have,” Silver said.

Those are the future. For now, Silver was clearly proud that the bubble worked and that there could be a lesson there for the nation.

“The basic protocols that we’re all following are working,” Silver said. “I mean, the testing is only needed to demonstrate that at this point. By wearing a mask, by exercising appropriate protocols, hand washing, appropriate cleanliness, et cetera, by maintaining physical distance… that’s what’s working.”

Also of note from Silver’s press conference, he was asked about there being just four Black head coaches in the NBA right now after Nate McMillan (Indiana), Alvin Gentry (New Orleans), and Doc Rivers (L.A. Clippers), all were let go (there are currently six open coaching jobs around the league).  Silver said he has had talks with teams that have had openings, making sure a diverse field of applicants is considered, but added the NBA has not thought of adding a “Rooney Rule” to the hiring process.

“I know we can do better,” Silver said.


NBA playoffs, Finals schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

2020 NBA Finals preview
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It may be five months after they were originally planned, but the NBA playoff schedule has reached the point the 2020 Finals are here.

It is down to the final two. There is LeBron James leading the Lakers against the team where he first won his ring. And then there is the gritty Miami team that nobody expected to be here — except themselves.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except for one two-day break between Game 4 and Game 5
Even more members of families for the players, coaches, and team staff are in the bubble for the Finals.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):


Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

Game 1: Lakers 116, Heat 98
Game 2: Oct. 2, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 3: Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4: Oct. 6, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Oct. 9, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 6: Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 7: Oct. 13, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
*If necessary.

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Conference Finals

Eastern Conference Finals

No. 5 Miami beat No. 3 Boston 4-2

Western Conference Finals

No. 1 L.A. Lakers beat No. 3 Denver 4-1

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

Miami injuries: Goran Dragic tears plantar fascia; Bam Adebayo tweaks shoulder

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The Los Angeles Lakers physically overwhelmed the Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals — and it led to some Miami injuries that could dramatically impact the rest of the series.

Miami Heat starters Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo both had to leave the game with injuries, not to return.

Dragic left the game in the first half not to return with what multiple reports have said is a torn plantar fascia. There is nothing official from the team, but this is a bad sign.

As Jeff Stotts wrote at In Street Clothes, it is possible to play through a torn plantar fascia but it is both very painful and limiting.

If he plays again this series, the Dragic that returns would be a shell of the Dragic that used his quickness to tear apart the Boston defense in the Eastern Conference Finals. Dragic’s ability to blow by his man in isolation and get into the paint helped make Miami’s offense a threat, and without this penetration they floundered against the Lakers’ length. Rookie Tyler Herro got the start in the second half for Miami Wednesday, and for the game he was -35 (tying the All-time NBA record for worst +/- with Kobe Bryant from Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals).

Another of the Miami injuries was to starting center Adebayo, who tweaked the shoulder that had bothered him in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami.

There was no update from the team (as of this writing), but Tim Reynold of the Associated Press wrote Adebayo himself expects to play.

Adebayo is crucial for the Heat — he is their best defensive rebounder and the guy they will turn to in the crunch to cover Anthony Davis. He struggled against the length and physicality in

Having Dragic and/or Adebayo out will reduce the already-slim margin for error for Miami in this series to almost zero.

“We’re still expecting to win. We still know that we can,” Jimmy Butler said of the Heat mindset after the game. “Like I said earlier, we want [Dragic] out there with us. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, but until we can have him back, we got to go out there and we got to fight even harder. We got to try to cover up what he gives us and make up for it. We’re capable of it. We have to be capable of it. Moving forward with or without Goran we better hurry up and tie it up 1-1.”

The NBA continues its fast pace of games in the Bubbe: Game 2 of the NBA Finals is Friday night. Less than 48 hours away