First Cup: Monday
November, 4, 2013
By Nick Borges
- Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The Miami Heat got a rare taste of what it's like to be a team with a losing record. The feeling didn't last too long. After a brief stint below the bar, the Heat moved back to .500 with a 103-93 victory against the winless Washington Wizards Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena. LeBron James led Miami with 25 points and five assists. Center Chris Bosh finished with 24 points and seven rebounds while guard Dwyane Wade added 20 points. "We talked about coming out in a much more competitive disposition," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Our starters were able to get us off to a better beginning. It set the tone for the game. It wasn't perfect but the intensity was better." The Heat dropped below .500 for only just the second time in the Big Three Era when they lost consecutive games to the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. The last time it happened was when they fell to 0-1 after losing to the Boston Celtics in the 2010-11 season opener. The recent experience prompted the players and coaches to air out their concerns in a team meeting. They concluded they were perhaps getting too comfortable after winning back-to-back NBA titles.
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards may have caught the Heat at the wrong time, since it had stumbled to a 1-2 start. Wade compared the Heat’s early problems to a relationship in which one partner gets neglectful and stops doing all the little things. Miami was certainly more alert when it came to sharing the ball, as it had 32 assists on 37 made baskets. James led all scorers with 25 points, Bosh had 24 and Wade chipped in with 20. Washington probably had a hint that the night wouldn’t go their way in the first half, when Wall drove into the lane and James clobbered him as Wall found Beal wide open in the corner. Flat on his belly, Wall watched as Beal buried a three-pointer that would’ve brought the Wizards within nine points — but James was whistled for a foul, waving off the points. The Wizards’ possession ended with Wall being forced to take a shot from 25 feet as the shot clock expired. “I was surprised they called the foul. I made the pass, that’s why I didn’t shoot it and I look, it’s going in and they call the foul late, so that’s how it goes,” said Wall.
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: First, the good news. Russell Westbrook is back. Do you read me? RUSSELL WESTBROOK is back! Russell the Lionheart returned to the lineup of merry old OKC. He missed all of 11 games that mattered. Seemed like 11 hundred. Now the bad news. The Thunder needed virtually all of Westbrook's 32 minutes and 45 seconds to put away the hapless Phoenix Suns 103-96 Sunday night. The Thunder's offensive quagmire continued in game 3 of the NBA season. In fact, I figure Westbrook got the medical clearance to play about eight minutes into that fiasco Friday night in Minnesota. The Thunder offense has been abysmal so far. Of course, there's rusty and there's messing-around-with-Phoenix-at-home rusty. No way should the Thunder trail the Suns by six points with 71/2 minutes left in the game. No way should Phoenix be within two points with 30 seconds left. But until the Thunder starts making shots or working its way through offensive morass, victory of any kind will be much appreciated. And this one was. It would have been a shame to ruin Westbrook's return, a full month ahead of the Thunder's pessimistic prognosis.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The view from atop the Western Conference was short-lived, but the Suns looked more at home there Sunday night in defeat than they had in previous home wins against fringe playoff hopefuls. The Suns led Oklahoma City by six points with 7:45 to go, despite plenty of elements that should have made the game more lopsided than the Thunder’s 103-96 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Suns (2-1) had no business challenging Oklahoma City (2-1) in its home opener after the Thunder’s stinging 19-point loss at Minnesota. The Suns did not figure to have a chance once the surprising return of Russell Westbrook was announced just hours before tipoff. The Suns won Friday when Goran Dragic left early but could not be expected to do it again on the road when Dragic left in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle, the same one he sprained in the preseason. The Suns should not be in a game against any team, let alone Oklahoma City, when they make 25 turnovers with plenty of silliness included (they stepped out of bounds five times).
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: In their first three games, the Magic were most successful when they played three guards simultaneously. The team had employed a total of 29 lineups in those games, and 12 of those lineups outscored the opponent on a per-minute basis, according to the NBA's official statistics database. Seven of those 12 lineups were three-guard lineups. It should be noted that the sample size is much too small to draw any grand conclusions. Still, it was difficult not to notice that three-guard lineups had been successful for the most part. "I think overall it gives us multiple ball-handlers," Jacque Vaughn said. "That gives us a great ability to get into our offense without delay."
- Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: It had Kevin Garnett already questioning his role, considering the Nets are 1-2 and he has yet to crack double-digits scoring. “I’ve got to get better with what I’m doing, making my minutes more productive,” Garnett said. “I’m just being a little more passive, trying to be the glue, if you will. “I need to be a little more aggressive at times. I don’t really think about the offense. Defense is where I’m trying to make sure that we’re cohesive and we will.” The Nets have 36 combined All-Star appearances on the roster. The Magic has one. Brooklyn may not be a team built for the regular season, but it’s not going to get very far getting blown out by the likes of Orlando. The game was over with 10:14 remaining in the fourth quarter, when rookie Victor Oladipo snatched the ball from Williams in the open court and finished a 360-degree dunk to give the Magic an 82-61 advantage. The Nets responded as they did all night: with bricks. They also struggled defending pick-and-roll, particularly when Oladipo had the ball. They were outrebounded 54-42, giving up 23 second-chance points.
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The last time the Timberwolves started the season 3-0, Chauncey Billups and Terrell Brandon played in their backcourt and Ricky Rubio was 11 years old. That also was the only time in franchise history, until Sunday’s 109-100 withstanding of the New York Knicks at sold-out, celebrity-soaked Madison Square Garden on Sunday night. And it made them now 2-for-25 years. Rick Adelman’s teams have started the season with three consecutive victories seven times in his career, so the Wolves coach barely shrugged when such a so-called achievement was mentioned to him. “I’d rather see it 4-0,” Adelman said dryly. Kevin Love’s teams, however, have started his previous five seasons 5-10, only one time winning more games than they have lost in the opening three games. “I mean, it’s cool,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the way we wanted to start out.” Both men, though, caution that it’s early. But the Wolves have started a season of such expectations by eking out an opening-night victory over Orlando, thumping Oklahoma City two nights later and, on Sunday, holding off Carmelo Anthony and a Knicks team that chopped a 23-point, second-quarter deficit down to just a bucket with 4 minutes, 49 seconds left. They did so just as Adelman envisions his humming offense will operate, with its two Kevins — the aforementioned Love and 10-year NBA veteran Martin — scoring together down the stretch.
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: Carmelo Anthony has not been the cold-blooded scoring assassin he was to start out last season. Through three games, Anthony is averaging 21.0 points on just 37.7 percent shooting. After missing the game-winner in Chicago Thursday, Anthony started Sunday versus Minnesota 1-of-7 before heating up briefly to help a Knicks comeback that fell short. He finished with 22 points but shot 8-of-21 with 17 rebounds and five turnovers. He admitted after the 109-100 loss to the Timberwolves he has got to get cracking. “I don’t know, man, I’m trying to get in sync offensively," Anthony said. “I’m a beat off offensively. That time will come." Anthony joked that he is no longer currently the best player from Syracuse, raving about 76ers rookie sensation Michael Carter-Williams before the game. And afterward, Anthony cracked, “He can have the torch. I have no problem passing the torch."
- Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: The ascension Xavier Henry underwent from a training camp invitee to the Lakers’ starting forward coincided with his continual effectiveness toward attacking the basket. But to conquer that skill, Henry needed to tolerate the endless sharp elbows directed at his eyes and face that makes the current gash on his forehead that required nine stitches pale in comparison. Henry said he was in a car wreck when he was 18 years old that required 150 stiches surrounding his face. All those drives to the basket also required stitches that he considers “too many to count.” That’s why he hardly made a big deal about playing through a gash he suffered Friday against San Antonio that required nine stitches. “My head’s a lot better,” Henry said. “I take plenty of Aleve.” Possible endorsement deal? Who knows? But whether his starting position becomes permanent or fleeting, Henry won’t change the mindset on what earned him the spot in the first place. “I’m just always being aggressive and sticking to what I do best,” said Henry, who posted 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting in the Lakers’ 105-103 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center.
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks lost for the eighth straight time at Los Angeles even as the Lakers played without Kobe Bryant, still recovering from a torn Achilles. The Hawks went on a 29-14 run between the third and fourth quarters to cut their deficit to two points, 98-96. The Lakers pushed the lead back to five points but minutes later Korver hit a 3-pointer and Millsap hit a jumper to tie the score at 103-103 with 35.4 seconds remaining. Korver extended his streak to 76 consecutive games with a 3-pointer. It is the fourth longest in NBA history and two behind third-place Dennis Scott and three behind third-place Michael Adams.
- Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: It’s not time to sound the alarm just yet, but the Pistons’ inability to treat the basketball with any type of care is turning into a cause of concern for the players and the coaching staff. It began in the preseason, and has managed to trickle into the games that count, as the Pistons’ 20 turnovers per game tie for second-worst in the NBA with Houston and Indiana. “I am very concerned about the turnovers,” said Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks after Sunday’s 87-77 win over the Celtics. “It’s something we’ve been discussing. You can’t recover with so many turnovers we make; (our defense) can’t recover.” At 2-1, it hasn’t caught up to bite them too much yet, and turnovers weren’t the chief reason they lost in overtime to Memphis on Friday night. “Some of them were careless, and we have to correct them,” Cheeks said. “There’s good turnovers and bad turnovers. A lot of them were ‘bad’ turnovers.” “Bad” turnovers in coachspeak means unforced, which are easily correctable, if you’re looking on the positive side. Playing with talented players can turn into trying to do too much as opposed to making the simple play.
- A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com: Avery Bradley at the point didn't work under Doc Rivers, and it doesn't look any better under Stevens. In three games, he has nine assists with 14 turnovers. Ouch! Bradley's a great defender, evident by him being named to the NBA's All-Defensive second team last season. He can knock down the corner 3-ball, and his work ethic is as good as you'll find in the NBA. But he's not a point guard!! Both Bradley and the Celtics will be better off once this truth is embraced and treated as such. Then there's Jeff Green who tends to go back and forth between being magnificent one minute, and downright miserable to watch the next. Arguably Boston's most talented player, his inconsistency has been among the many reasons why the Celtics are 0-for-the-season.