Five Takeaways from an NBA Sunday: Houston is 0-3 and it’s ugly


Sunday you likely were parked out the couch, recuperating from Halloween, mindlessly watching Kansas City win one for George Brett, and maybe not paying as much attention to the NBA as you should have been. Here are five yet things you missed (reported live from Staples Center).

1) Houston is 0-3, and all three losses are by 20 or more points. First, I refuse to use the easy/cheesy Apollo 13 line here. Second, we are just three games into the start of a long season, it is way too early to reach for the panic button.

But if Rockets fans are feeling nauseous after watching their team blow a 21-point lead to Miami, lose by more than 20 again, and drop to 0-3 on the season, you can’t blame them. ESPN Stats noted no NBA team ever had started the season with three losses of 20 points or more — until the Rockets just did it. And it all starts with James Harden being in a horrific shooting slump to start the season, hitting just 22 percent of his looks. A shot chart can be worth 1,000 words.

harden three game shotchart

The Rockets’ defense has been inconsistent — they gave up 14 points in the second quarter to Miami Sunday, and then 65 points on 58.5 percent shooting in the second half of that game (while scoring just 29). Through three games, Houston is allowing a ridiculously high 109 points per 100 possessions.

It’s far too early to panic in Houston, but this leaves wondering what has to happen for Houston to start winning? Harden has to find his stroke from three and knock down some shots, Dwight Howard needs to get on the court and just play, defense needs to be more of a focus for everyone, Ty Lawson has to have an impact, and I could go on but all that would be a start and get them some wins.

2) The Bucks defense has not been pretty to begin the season. Last season, Milwaukee’s freakish length and defense propelled them to the postseason. It marked them as a team on the rise. To start this season we have seen none of that, and it has been ugly — the Bucks are 0-3 with a defense allowing 117.1 points per 100 possessions. The defensive rotations seem slow, especially out at the arc which has led opponents to shoot 46.4 percent from three against them. Opponents are grabbing 14.9 offensive rebounds per game. The Bucks are not doing a good job getting back in transition defense. They are fouling too much. Some of these are early season aberrations, and others are easily fixable, but until they do the Bucks are going to struggle.

3) Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili are now the winningest trio in NBA history. We covered this earlier, but with the Spurs’ win Sunday over Boston Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Many Ginobili have won 541 games together — passing Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish for the most all time. As great as that trio was (and Magic/Kareem/Worthy or Russell/Cousy/Jones) the Spurs three should go down as the greatest trio ever. It’s jut about consistency — the three have never won fewer than 50 games in a season, never missed the playoffs, and together have four titles. We’re going to miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe of more interest to Spurs fans, LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and 14 rebounds, his first big game for the Spurs. Through his first two games, he had averaged just 11.5 shots per game, but they found him and got him in a groove on Sunday.

4) Kenneth Faried had the block of the young season. Sorry Kyle Singler.

5) The NBA family gathered Saturday to remember Flip Saunders. Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle was one of the guys on Mark Cuban’s plane to the Saunders’ memorial Saturday, and before his Mavericks carved up the Laker “defense” Sunday night, he gave this assessment of the event.

“I would characterize it as a perfect ceremony for one of the great people that I’ve ever known in the league. It was attended by so many people that cared, so many people that he touched. His son gave just a fantastic talk about Flip and his life, his relationship with his son. Flip’s one of these guys we can’t forget, that’s why we’re going to be wearing pins all year long. To remember what he did as a coach over a period of two decades, and what he meant to us as a human being. Because along with being a great innovator, and a great creative guy, and a great competitor, he had an amazing way with people, and that touched many of us.”`

Ty Lawson dropped by team, reportedly banned from Chinese league after social media posts

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Ty Lawson’s off the court challenges were among the reasons he was playing in China and not the NBA this season. He signed for good money in China instead.

That era of his career after some social media posts, apparently of him at a strip club in China, has him dropped by his team and rumored to be banned from the league.

Lawson’s team, the Fujian Sturgeons, apparently gave this statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua:

“His inappropriate words are inconsistent with the social responsibilities and values abided by our club and have brought serious adverse social impacts to the club and the league. We will not sign him for the new season.”

Emiliano Carchia, the CEO of Sportando, reports that Lawson is out of the Chinese Basketball Association for good.

Lawson’s quickness and ability to create space and score could help some NBA teams, but incidents like this make it less likely an NBA team would roll the dice on the 32-year-old point guard. Lawson spent eight seasons in the NBA then the last two in China.

Mike Brown reportedly on list of Indiana coach interviews

Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown
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The buzz for a while has been the Indiana coaching job is Mike D’Antoni’s to lose — the Pacers want to update their offense, and no one is more qualified to do it.

But other names are circulating and people being interviewed: Dave Joerger, the Spurs’ Becky Hammon, Miami’s Dan Craig, Dallas’ Stephen Silas, Milwaukee’s Darvin Ham, Minnesota’s David Vanterpool, Philadelphia’s Ime Udoka, Brooklyn’s Jacque Vaughn, Portland’s Nate Tibbetts, and don’t forget Chauncey Billups.

Now add veteran coach Mike Brown to the list, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Brown was the head coach of both the Cavaliers and Lakers, leading the Cavaliers to the Finals in 2007 and being named Coach of the Year two years later. Brown has been the lead assistant under Steve Kerr for a few years now and has undoubtedly soaked up knowledge on setting up a modern NBA offense.

Whoever fills Nate McMillan’s shoes in Indiana has a tough job. Expectations may be high from ownership, but McMillan’s Pacers’ teams played hard and defended, making them difficult to play against. Their offense also was old school, which is why McMillan was fired after the Heat swept the Pacers in the first round, but it wasn’t terrible. How big a leap this team makes may rely less on the style of play and more on if Victor Oladipo has returned to his All-NBA form.

Don’t write of Boston off yet despite 0-2 deficit to Miami

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — If there was a sliver of consolation for the Boston Celtics on Friday, it probably could have been found within the understanding that a 2-0 lead for the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals doesn’t guarantee anything.

The Celtics learned that two years ago against Cleveland.

And Milwaukee learned the same last season against Toronto.

Dropping the first two games of the East finals to the Heat, obviously, isn’t the ideal scenario for the Celtics. But they’ve had chances to win both games – and might be getting Gordon Hayward back Saturday night for Game 3, when they’ll have the opportunity to get right back into this series.

“I think this series is far from over,” Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said.

Those aren’t fighting words. The Heat agree with him.

“We haven’t done anything. We haven’t,” All-NBA pick and Heat forward Jimmy Butler said. “We can’t get excited that we’re up 2-0 because as good as it is to be 2-0, it could easily be 4-2 Boston. So, we’re going to come into the same way knowing that we’ve got to be better and stay humble about it.”

The Celtics were up by 14 in the fourth quarter of Game 1, then were up by 17 in the first half of Game 2 and lost both games. Seeing a 17-point first-half lead get erased in the NBA is no big deal anymore; the wasted lead that truly bothered Boston was the five-point edge they had with 4:25 remaining. They got outscored 17-7 the rest of the way, and tempers flared in the Boston locker room after the game.

“We feel like we could have won,” Brown said. “Should have won, and we didn’t. So just a lot of emotions flying around. That’s it.”

The Heat got some great breaks in Game 2, plays like Kelly Olynyk banking in a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to help finish off a 37-17 Miami run – and Butler getting a steal and then whipping the ball behind his back as he saved it from going out of bounds in the fourth, a play where not only did the Heat maintain possession of his heave but where he wound up getting a layup.

But the comeback had important tactical elements as well, such as Miami going to zone defense and stifling the Celtics with that scheme. If Boston gets Hayward – who hasn’t played in a month because of a bad ankle – back on Saturday, his shooting and passing ability will help when Miami tries the zone. Hayward was listed as questionable for Game 3 on the injury report that Boston submitted Friday to the league.

“This isn’t about zones or defenses and offenses and stuff like that,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “This is, we just got to be better.”

Boston led Cleveland 2-0 in the 2018 East finals before losing in seven games; Milwaukee led Toronto 2-0 in the 2019 East finals before losing in six games. Momentum can change just that quickly in a series, and the Heat know that to be the case.

“You get to this level, in the conference finals, it’s not going to be easy for either team – and it wasn’t,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who got his 81st postseason win Thursday to tie K.C. Jones for eighth on the all-time list. “Both teams are laying it all on the line. That’s the way it should be.”

Some of what else to know going into Saturday:


Goran Dragic, Miami’s 34-year-old point guard, has led the Heat in scoring in each of the first two games, 29 points in Game 1 and 25 in Game 2. “He’s a winner, man. That’s my guy,” Butler said. The only other player this season, age 34 or older, to have multiple 25-point games against Boston was Toronto’s Kyle Lowry – in the East semifinals.


Brown and Marcus Smart are a combined 13 for 27 from 3-point range in the two games for Boston; Celtics teammates Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum are a combined 9 for 34. Tatum knows he has to be more aggressive, after not taking any shots in the final 4:56 of Game 2. “Not looking at we got to win four out of five … just win the next one,” Tatum said.


Even after giving up 223 points in the first two games of the East finals, Boston still leads these NBA playoffs in points allowed per game (101.8; Miami is second at 104.4), opponent field-goal percentage (.413) and opponent 3-point percentage (.317). But after a 6-0 start to the postseason, the Celtics are only 2-5 since. That matches Boston’s worst seven-game stretch from any point this season.

Watch Rajon Rondo hit ridiculous behind-the-backboard floater

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Everything was going right for the Lakers Friday night. They made it look too easy.

On their way to a 1-0 series lead, some may have tuned out before the shot of the game — a Rajon Rondo floater from the baseline, over the backboard and in.

Incredible. You can end a HORSE game with that shot.

Rondo had seven points on 3-of-7 shooting but also dished out nine assists. Maybe not vintage playoff Rondo, but he fit in with a Lakers team that dominated the Nuggets in Game 1.

Game 2 is Sunday evening.