Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Anthony Davis sets personal record

Associated Press
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If you missed the full slate of NBA Games Sunday because you and other mascots were dancing to set a record, I completely understand. And we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know from a Sunday around the Association, starting with Dan Feldman’s dispatch from outside Detroit:

1) Anthony Davis goes off for 59 on Pistons.

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan – Anthony Davis said he knew the referees would never call a foul on Andre Drummond, who made plenty of contact as Davis held the ball with the clock expiring in the Pelicans’ 111-106 win over the Pistons on Sunday.

Maybe Drummond was trying for a final steal despite his team trailing by multiple possessions. Maybe he was trying to help Davis get to the foul line and bump his scoring total just one more point.

If it were the latter, no matter.

Davis was perfectly pleased with his 59 points, the most in an NBA game this season or last. The New Orleans forward, whose previous career high was 43, said 50 had long been his goal.

“If people get 40, that’s tough to get. Thirty is kind of tough in the NBA. But 50,” Davis said, his eyes widening, “it’s 50. Everybody can’t get 50.”

Especially not with the 20 rebounds Davis grabbed Sunday.

Just two other players had a 50-20 game since at least 1983-84, as far back as Basketball-Reference.com records date: Chris Webber (51-26 in 2001) and Shaquille O’Neal (61-23 in 2000). Add Davis’ four assists, and his point-rebound-assist marks are unprecedented in the Basketball-Reference database.

Davis made 14-of-19 shots in the paint, 8-of-13 mid-range shots, 2-of-2 3-pointers and 9-of-10 free throws

At one point, he hit a shot fall-away shot over Drummond.

“I was like, ‘Damn,'” Davis said. “I was like, ‘It might be one of those nights.'”

“After a while, you feel like any shot you put up is going to go in.”

—Dan Feldman

2) Cleveland’s other “big three” lead Cavaliers to statement win over Thunder. Kyrie Irving was out with the stomach flu (he didn’t play in the second half Sunday), but it didn’t matter because the Cavaliers had their other “big three” — their front line of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. That trio combined for 68 points, 32 rebounds, 16 assists, and they were a +20 when on the court together against the Thunder. That fits with their season numbers, where the trio is +20.4 points per 100 possessions (in more than 700 minutes together), according to NBA.com.

This game was close early, but the Cavaliers bench started to stretch the lead out, and the Cavaliers were up nine at the half. Then the Cavs cranked up the defense — OKC scored just 39 points in the second half — and starting with an 11-0 run four minutes into the second half pulled away or a comfortable win. The Cavs led by as many as 26 in the second half. For the Cavaliers it’s a sign of them taking another step, showing that they can be a threat to San Antonio and, more importantly, Golden State. On the other side, the Thunder have struggled against the NBA’s best teams this season and that’s a concerning trend. Especially with a game against the Warriors looming on Saturday.

3) Kobe Bryant played his last game in Chicago. There was added emotion on the Kobe farewell tour Sunday because Chicago is the home of Michael Jordan — the guy Kobe has so often been compared to. It was also emotional because Pau Gasol was there to do the pre-game introduction for his friend, and then embrace him afterward.

As for the game itself, the Bulls defense was again miserable, but not as miserable as the Lakers’ — the Bulls knocked down their threes, got 24 out of Derrick Rose, and scored the 126-115 win. The game was entertaining in an “only slightly more defense than the All-Star Game” way, and Kobe hit some tough shots that the fans ate up, but this wasn’t pretty basketball. Still, the Bulls will take it.

4) Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combine for 61 and spark Trail Blazers win. Every team that had beaten Golden State this season turned around and lost their next game — Portland’s backcourt was determined to break that streak. Utah had pushed its way back into the playoff discussion in the West and led by double digits most of the second quarter and into the start of the third. That’s when McCollum (31 points) and Lillard (30) led the comeback by hitting their threes (especially from the left side of the court) and finishing when they got to the rim, despite the skilled shot blockers the Jazz have clogging the paint. McCollum hit a couple of late free throws to ice the 115-111 win for Portland. This gave Portland the tie breaker over Utah, which matters as these teams are the current seven (Portland) and nine (Utah) seeds in the West and are separated by just 1.5 games.

5) Anderson Varejao, David Lee find new homes in the Western Conference. Veteran big men Anderson Varejao and David Lee, both recently bought out and waived (Varejao was traded, to boot) cleared waivers on Sunday afternoon and both quickly signed with their new teams.

Varejao, the long-time Cavalier, signed with the Golden State Warriors, something he confirmed. This is a spot where he can get a little run in the short term — Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezili are out injured — and he can chase a ring. It also could set up an awkward reunion if/when the Cavs and Warriors meet in the Finals. (Also, I’ve seen the tweet getting forwarded around of a few frustrated Cavs fans calling Varejao a traitor for signing with Golden State. Give me a break. Loyalty is a two-way street. Varejao showed nothing but loyalty to the Cavaliers for 11.5 seasons, and he was rewarded with being shipped out to Portland to make way for Channing Frye — the team showed no loyalty to him. It’s a cold business. Varejao looked out for himself and owes nothing to Cleveland now.)

Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle confirmed that David Lee has signed with Dallas. Lee was looking for a place he could get some run after being glued to the bench in Golden State last season (at least until he was needed in the Finals) then in Boston this season. In Dallas Lee should get some run with the second unit, playing behind Zaza Pachulia (and in the mix with Salah Mejri, who has been the backup center of late).

Heat, Tyler Herro agree to four-year, $120 million extension (with $10 million in incentives)

Miami Heat Media Day
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Tyler Herro was frustrated — he saw players he felt he was better than getting paid.

Now he has a contract he will have to live up to.

The Heat have signed Herro to a four-year, $120 million extension of his rookie contract, with up to $10 million in incentives) a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and now confirmed by the team.

“Tyler is an impact multi-faceted player and we are excited to have him signed for the next five years,” Heat President Pat Riley said in the statement announcing the signing. “His improvement every year since we drafted him has led to this day. We believe he will continue to get better.”

Signing an extension takes Herro off the table for any trades to upgrade the Heat roster this season. Herro had been at the heart of the rumors about the Heat and Kevin Durant, as well as other teams.

Herro’s new contract extension is a big bet on the wing taking another step forward this season and beyond. The deal is a little larger than expected (the conventional wisdom had Herro coming in close to the $107 million RJ Barrett got with the Knicks). Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel and I have discussed Herro’s price before and didn’t quite picture it this high, but with the rising cap over the next few years this deal may not look out of line.

Miami stepped up and paid the reigning Sixth Man of the Year high-level starter money — now he has to earn that job and that paycheck.

Mostly, he has to improve on defense so Eric Spoelstra can trust him at the end of games and deep into the playoffs (while Herro has had big playoff games, his role shrunk deeper in last postseason because of his defense).

Herro puts up numbers — 20.7 points a game on 39.9% from 3 last season — and is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but does this new deal move him up in the Heat offensive pecking order with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler? Probably not in crunch time (and if Kyle Lowry bounces back this season, there could be games where Herro is option No.4).

This locks up part of Miami’s roster going into the season, but they are still on the look for depth at the four. Don’t consider this roster settled.

 

Watch Celtics shooters look sharp in easy preseason win over Hornets

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics
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It’s just one meanless preseason game, but for a franchise that could use some good news the Boston Celtics will take it.

The Celtics’ shooting looked in mid-season form in their preseason opener against the Hornets on Sunday — 57.1% overall and 22-of-47 from 3 (46.8%). Boston just couldn’t seem to miss, especially early.

Jayson Tatum had 16 points in 22 minutes, while Jaylen Brown was the leading scorer with 24 points in 24 minutes.

The one unexpected bright spot was a strong game from Mfiondu Kabengele, who is currently on a two-way contract with the team. He ended up with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting and showed some hustle.

Kelly Oubre led the Hornets with 17 points, while LaMelo Ball had 14 points, seven rebounds and four dimes.

It’s just one preseason game, don’t read much of anything into it. But the Celtics will take the good news where they can find it.

T.J. Warren still out for Nets; team to reassess status in November

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The Brooklyn Nets bet that the T.J. Warren from the bubble in Orlando — the one who averaged 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers — would re-emerge and give them a quality forward they could mix into a deep rotation.

Instead, so far it has looked more like the Warren who has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

Warren is improving and the Nets are bringing him along slowly, keeping him off the court until November at least, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Small forward T.J. Warren, who has missed nearly two full seasons following multiple foot surgeries, is “doing some shooting” and “a little bit more movement the last two weeks than he was prior,” Nash said. He added that Warren will be reassessed in about a month.

The Nets can afford to be patient. They have plenty of other questions to answer as a team before worrying about what Warren can or cannot contribute. But in the dream scenario where everything comes together for the Nets this season, Warren gets healthy and becomes a valuable contributor off the bench giving the Nets more versatility, scoring, and shooting along the front line.

For now, the Nets and Warren wait.

NBA returning to Seattle for exhibition game; when will it be more?

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SEATTLE — An NBA preseason game may not seem like a benchmark moment, even in a basketball-hungry city like Seattle, but Jamal Crawford believes there’s value even in an exhibition.

“It reignites a whole new generation of kids who need to see this,” said Crawford, a Seattle native who has been a basketball ambassador for the city through a 20-year NBA career and now with a pro-am that brings in NBA players every summer. “They need to be able to dream and know that it’s real.”

The NBA is making its latest brief return to the Emerald City. The Los Angeles Clippers will play the Portland Trail Blazers there on Monday night, the first time two NBA teams will meet in Seattle since 2018, when the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings played a preseason game. That was the last sporting event inside KeyArena before it was gutted and rebuilt into the gleaming Climate Pledge Arena.

There was a warm-up act of sorts Friday when the Clippers played Israeli team Maccabi Ra’anana in an exhibition, one where the most of the Clippers’ big names – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Reggie Jackson – weren’t participating.

A sell-out crowd turned out for that Warriors-Kings game four years ago, the first one in Seattle since the beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in the Pacific Northwest. Another big crowd is expected Monday.

“The Sonics haven’t been a team since I’ve been in the NBA. So just to go play in Seattle is cool,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “We played in Vancouver a few years back. I think like two or three years ago, we had a preseason game at the (Memorial) Coliseum. So every time we get to do something like that, I always enjoy it because I wondered what was it like when it was a real thing, when the games were played in these different arenas. So I am excited to play in Seattle.”

Someday, possibly soon, the expectations are that Seattle will reclaim its place as an NBA town.

“It’s always been a great city to me,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “It’s unfortunate that they lost their team and the team went to OKC. This city definitely deserves a team.”

Speculation is nonstop about when the NBA will choose to expand. Thanks to the resolution of its arena situation, Seattle seems likely to be at the forefront of those expansion talks, with Las Vegas likely right behind it.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been noncommittal about a possible expansion timeline, and it seems likely those talks won’t pick up steam until the league deals with the new collective bargaining agreement and television deals that are on the horizon.

The community’s commitment has never been in question. The appetite of Seattle fans hasn’t waned in the years since the Sonics left and as the region became a hotbed for NBA talent, whether it was Crawford continuing to carry the banner for the city, to Zach LaVine of Renton, Washington, to this year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, another Seattle native.

As if any reinforcement was needed, the summer provided a perfect example as fans camped overnight outside Crawford’s summer league venue for the chance to get inside and watch LeBron James make his first basketball visit to the city in more than a decade.

“Anyone that knows Seattle knows what a great basketball city we are,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said this summer when the preseason game was announced.

The idea for having the Blazers and Clippers meet in Seattle was the result of a brainstorm between Lue and Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The two close friends wanted their teams to meet in the preseason and Lue noted the owners for both teams are Seattle based: Steve Ballmer of the Clippers and Jody Allen for the Blazers.

“I haven’t been back since I played there in 2008, I think it was. So just to be able to go back there and you know, Mr. Ballmer and kind of see his offices and how he lives, and (Chauncey) to get a chance to see his owner, and then to be with my best friend, I thought it would be a great common ground,” Lue said.