Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Wednesday night was the Night of the Living upsets — we’re not even going to get to Dallas handing Memphis its first loss, or the Suns going 2-0 since firing Watson/banishing Eric Bledsoe.
1) Cavaliers not named LeBron James take night off, fall to Nets. When the Cavaliers shipped out Kyrie Irving to Boston late in the summer, the most valuable thing they got back was the Brooklyn Nets unprotected 2018 first-round pick — the Nets were going to be bad, and this pick would help get the team grab young talent to go around LeBron/jumpstart the rebuilding process.
The Nets made that pick a little less valuable Wednesday — Brooklyn upset Cleveland 112-107.
This kind of loss has been a problem for the Cavaliers for a couple of regular seasons now — they take nights off (occasionally weeks off). Especially against teams they think are inferior, such as the Nets, who were without D’Angelo Russell. LeBron was brilliant — 29 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds — but he had eight turnovers, Kevin Love added six, and as a team Cleveland turned the ball over on one-in-five trips down the court. Kyle Korver pitched in 22 points off the bench, but the Cavaliers were not sharp on offense.
Brooklyn is 3-2 to start the season, and they are playing loose and free. They jacked up 46 threes (hitting 17, 37 percent), and they are playing so loose that with the game on the line Spencer Dinwiddie is willing to shoot from Stephen Curry range (and it worked).
We know the Nets aren’t going to rack up a lot of wins this season, but the way they are playing they will get more than some people expected. And certainly more than the Cavaliers’ front office wants.
2) Eric Gordon saves Rockets from upset with buzzer-beating game-winning three to knock off Sixers. Philadelphia is a young team looking for a confidence-boosting signature win — and they thought they had it Wednesday. The Sixers were up two with 6.4 seconds left and a chance to knock off the Houston Rockets.
But 6.4 seconds can be an eternity in the NBA.
The Rockets did not surprise anyone, they inbounded the ball to Ryan Anderson, who quickly handed it off to James Harden, who was isolated on Robert Covington. Harden drove and Covington didn’t give him much space, pushing Harden drove down the left side of the court. Joel Embiid rotated over and took away a lane, so Harden kicked it to the corner to a waiting Eric Gordon. The Rockets had struggled from three all night, and had hit just 25 percent on corner threes all game. Embiid did a good job closing out, forcing Gordon to put the ball on the floor and take a step right to create a little space.
That’s all he needed.
There are no moral victories for a team with playoff aspirations, but for the Sixers they can learn from these hard losses. They are just getting tired of the lessons.
3) Wizards don’t respect Lakers, pay the price with a loss. Earlier in the day, John Wall said he would show “no mercy” to Lonzo Ball after more comments from LaVar. Instead, he showed little interest. None of the Wizards did.
“We didn’t respect them from the get-go,” Bradley Beal said after the game. “We thought it was going to be easy, and that we could just come out here and beat them. These guys are professionals just as well as we are.”
Washington led by 10 in the second quarter, and by six with less than two minutes left, but in a sloppy game — Wall had 18 points on 22 shots, Ball has 6 points on 11 shots, and they summed up the inefficiency of both teams — it was an ugly but gritty play by Brandon Ingram that forced OT.
The Wizards’ struggles from three — not taking enough of them, not making them when they do — continued in this game as the team went 6-of-26 from deep. The Lakers were not shooting it better (7-of-30) but got a timely three in overtime from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who finished with 15 points and had a strong game. Down the stretch in overtime Lakers’ coach Luke Walton went young and small (no Brook Lopez, it was Julius Randle at center) and it worked — it was a confidence-boosting win.”
What do the Wizards need to do?
“Play defense,” Wall said.
“We play defensive basketball like we are supposed to read each other’s minds, and when you do that you get beat on switches,” coach Scott Brooks said. “You have to communicate and that has been slipping the last couple of games, and it showed tonight. We switched sometimes and the other player didn’t know we were switching.”