NBA Power Rankings Week 1: L.A. Lakers, Miami Heat Top Despite Not Being at Best
The NBA season is well underway and there are familiar names at the top of the power rankings.
Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers have been good enough to hold onto their perch at the top of the tree and, after a rocky start, the Miami Heat are right up there, too. The Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers have also come out of the gates looking pretty good, and Atlanta and New Orleans are both a perfect 3-0 to start the year.
Others have stumbled out of the gate and a select few have yet to actually leave the gate. The Nets are about three weeks ahead of their woeful start from 2009, while the Charlotte Bobcats, L.A. Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers are looking for their first wins of the new year.
Read on to find out who's hot and who's not after the first week of play.
|5||New Orleans Hornets||3-0|
|10||Golden State Warriors||2-1|
|11||Oklahoma City Thunder||2-1|
|14||San Antonio Spurs||1-1|
|18||New Jersey Nets||2-1|
|22||New York Knicks||1-2|
L.A. Lakers (3-0)
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The Lakers have been on a so-so start in the first week, averaging 113 points across their opening three games.
They rallied from behind to upend the Rockets on the day they received their rings. And while it wasn't dominating on every level, they can take solace in the fact that Kobe played 37 minutes and that Steve Blake and Shannon Brown can dig the team out of a ditch when needed.
The Lakers then relied again on their bench to edge past Phoenix on the road, and although it's foolish to overlook the standout performances from Kobe and Lamar Odom, the Matt Barnes' of the team look like they will get their chance to shine.
Still, if Odom and Pau Gasol play like they did against Golden State (42 points, 26 rebounds) the bench will have little to do.
The bottom line is that the Lakers enter the second week undefeated. They haven't been perfect, but they have been good enough. Kobe is running at probably 80 percent, and the team has enough weapons to succeed even when someone has a down night.
They entered the season as the provisional No. 1 and there's nothing to suggest they should be anywhere else right now.
Miami Heat (3-1)
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After that rocky start in Boston, the Heat have reeled off three wins including a downright dominating victory over the Orlando Magic.
Expectations were unrealistically high heading into Miami's first game against the Celtics, and it is little surprise the team struggled to find its chemistry.
The team scored just nine points in the first quarter, shot 36.5 percent from the field overall and turned the ball over 17 times.
The Celtics led by as many as 18, but LeBron took over in the third, scoring 15 points to get the game close. He finished with 31 points and eight turnovers while Dwyane Wade added 13 points and six assists.
Things were, as expected, significantly easier against the defensively inept 76ers. The Heat dominated in the paint at will, and the 10-point final margin implies the game was closer than it really was. A defensively-poor fourth quarter halted a potential blowout, but there were more encouraging signs.
Wade torched Philly for 30 points, but James Jones was arguably the biggest asset in this game. He dropped 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting off the bench, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc.
The key result this week, though—an embarrassing 23-point blowout in New Jersey aside—was the 96-70 win at home over Orlando. They stifled the Magic offense, shut down their interior game and gave up nothing in transition, all while helping Wade lead all scorers with 26. Bosh and James chipped in with 26 points, 16 boards and eight assists, but this was all about the team effort.
LeBron said it best: "When me and Chris [Bosh] decided to join him [Dwyane Wade], and even the rest of the guys, this is what we envisioned. Is it going to be a 26-point win every night? No, it's the NBA and we know that, but the fans, they came out and the least we could do is play hard for them."
Boston Celtics (2-1)
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Ray Allen and the Celtics spoiled the start of LeBron and Co. in the season opener, but then they went and took LeBron's former team for granted.
Allen scored 20 points in Boston's 88-80 victory against the Heat, including a big three-pointer inside the final minute. Paul Pierce added 19 points and nine boards. Rajon Rondo dished out 17 assists in the opener and the old-look Celtics looked pretty comfortable against the new-look Heat.
That's more than what can be said in Wednesday's 95-87 loss to the LeBron-less Cleveland Cavs.
The Celtics turned the ball over 19 times, and despite building an 11-point lead, they were unable to finish off Hickson and the Cavs. Kevin Garnett was a beast on the defensive glass, but with Shaq only contributing 20-plus minutes a game, nine points from their All-Star forward just isn't going to get it done.
They're going to need to continue to move the ball and get everyone involved like they did against the Knicks.
Rajon Rondo had a career-high 24 assists as part of his 10th triple-double, and as a result, six Celtics finished in double-figure points. NBA reporter Brian Robb said Paul Pierce made "a concerted effort" to hit the glass this year, and with 14 rebounds in that game at home against New York, that aggressive approach on defense appears to be paying off early.
Portland Trail Blazers (3-0)
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The Trail Blazers have started off well with a three-game winning streak to open the season.
Come-from-behind victories against the Suns, Clippers and Knicks have highlighted Week 1 and Portland has shown tenacity and fight to win the battles they should be winning.
They have played solid defense down the stretch and have generally rebounded well, but they can't fall behind as early or as often if they want to be considered one of the better teams in the west.
Portland trailed Phoenix entering the fourth quarter but closed the game on an 18-1 run to outscore the Suns 31-11 in the final period. They dominated the battle on the boards, 48-30, and had five players score in double digits, led by double-doubles from Nicholas Batum and Marcus Camby.
Matthews came up big in his Portland debut with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes off the bench.
Similarly the Trail Blazers needed a 15-0 fourth-quarter run to beat the Clippers and a 17-3 finish to topple the Knicks. Big late defensive moves that have paid off for coach Nate McMillan included switching to a zone against L.A. on Wednesday and putting Camby on Amar'e Stoudemire on Saturday.
Portland is shooting 45 percent from the field and if they can play 48 minutes of basketball, they could cause some waves in the Northwest.
New Orleans Hornets (3-0)
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The Hornets went 37-45 last season, but the early indication is that Chris Paul seems fine and that means they are capable of putting together a winning season.
CP3, who missed almost a third of the regular season last year, will take a couple weeks to really find his stroke. And while he might have had fans a little concerned when he came out sporting a big knee brace in the opener, his 17 points and 16 assists says the effect on his game was minimal.
The transition game for New Orleans, much like Milwaukee, was nonexistent. But at least the Hornets moved the ball well in their half-court set and got open looks.
Emeka Okafor was completely absent on offense, and while he will play everyday, the Hornets need more from him. His scoring has been gradually declining over the past three or four years, and while he's not going to burn a team for 25, you need to count on him to do something. Anything. Zero points, zero shots and one offensive rebound in almost 26 minutes is going to kill the team in the long run.
His 13 points against the Nuggets was much better, but the story really revolved around Paul scoring 10 fourth-quarter points and the Hornets playing solid defense. They hustled back on defense, limited the Nuggets to just six fast-break points, and they contested shots without unnecessary fouls. Whatever Monty Williams is preaching has had a positive early-season effect.
The Hornets improved to 3-0 with a victory over the Spurs, fueled by a 26-9 run at the end of the first half.
Atlanta Hawks (3-0)
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Few teams have started as well as the Hawks. In a Southwest division where they are distinctly middle of the pack, a strong start to the year was essential and the players have delivered.
Sure, the unbeaten Hawks haven't dispatched any top-tier team. But you can only beat the team in front of you and that is what Atlanta has done.
Guided by Larry Drew's new offense, Johnson has averaged 22 points over the first week and the team has posted triple-digit scores twice while shooting over 50 percent as a unit.
Atlanta capitalized on Zach Randolph's injury in its opener against the Grizzlies, when the Hawks bench outscored the Memphis reserves 50-28 and Zaza Pachulia dominated Hasheem Thabeet.
The athletic Hawks then improved to 2-0 on the road behind Al Horford's 20 points and 12 rebounds and excellent ball movement that saw every starter register at least one assist.
The team continued its roll on Saturday with a four-point victory at home to the Wizards, even if they came out slowly. Johnson scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and the margin of victory could have been much more convincing had it not been for a big defensive game from JaVale McGee. Still, the Hawks got plenty of good looks from the zone offensive sets and they will come together even more as the year progresses.
Orlando Magic (1-1)
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There's a lot to like about the Magic, even though they got battered by the Heat.
They shot 56 percent against the Wizards and had more than twice the number of rebounds (53-25). Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson dominated on offense, and on defense they held Washington to three offensive boards and 49 missed shots.
An opening day blowout was the perfect way to christen the new Amway Center. Still, with no starter taking the floor in the fourth quarter, you would have thought they would have been nice and fresh to take on Miami.
Wrong. The Magic missed 20-of-24 three-pointers and despite trailing by just six points at halftime, they scored just 25 total points in the second half. There's no way you can go 2-for-20 in a period and expect to hang with one of the most dangerous teams in the league. How bad was it? Howard did not make a basket, from field-goal range or from the free-throw line, in the second half. The Heat played fantastic defense and Orlando had absolutely no answer for it.
Memphis Grizzlies (2-1)
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After a perfect preseason, it took just one injury and 48 minutes for Memphis to experience defeat once the regular season got under way, with a 15-point loss at home to the Hawks.
Despite that loss, the Grizzlies have looked pretty good, especially on defense. They rallied to beat Dallas in Texas and Mayo dropped 29 on the Timberwolves.
One of the biggest factors in their opening-night loss was the injury to Zach Randolph who was hacked by Al Horford early in the first quarter. With Marc Gasol already out, this gave Memphis too many matchup problems. Hasheem Thabeet was dominated by Zaza Pachulia and six Hawks scored in double figures. He has looked pretty average in every contest so far, to be honest.
Randolph remained sidelined with a bruised tailbone against Dallas, but Gasol had 10 points and 15 rebounds to help top the Mavs. Memphis had almost twice the number of offensive rebounds, which helped provide a 16-6 advantage in second-chance points, proving they could hang with a good team despite not shooting particularly well, even with their All-Star down.
The Grizzlies forced 20 turnovers in that game and followed that with 29 against Minnesota, including a franchise-high 22 steals. Also notable was the fact that Rudy Gay topped 20 points for the third straight game. If he can help the team stay afloat while early injuries heal, he will have started to repay some of that monster contract.
Between him and Darrell Arthur, who has been called on to play extended minutes at center and forward, Memphis is fighting hard in Week 1.
Dallas Mavericks (2-1)
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Dirk Nowitzki has started the season hot and the Mavs should really be one of the few unbeaten teams in the league right now.
Nowitzki scored 28 against the Bobcats and 27 versus Memphis, but while Dallas had little difficulty in its home opener, the team looked shaky down the stretch at home against the Grizzlies.
The Mavs are now 13-0 all-time against Charlotte and they have Nowitzki (11-for-13 shooting) and Kidd to thank for their most recent win. Kidd's 18 assists fell one short of the NBA opening-day record.
However, against the Grizzlies on Friday they committed nine of their 20 turnovers in the fourth quarter and missed 12 of 18 shots in the final 12 minutes.
A convincing 16-point victory over the Clippers has them back on track. Even though no one person had an exceptional game and they lost the rebounding battle to Chris Kaman and Blake Griffin, the Mavs shared the ball and got their starters enough touches to run away with the game in the third quarter.
An 11th 50-win season is still a very realistic goal.
Golden State Warriors (2-1)
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Golden State really is not a bad team. Sure, there are questions on defense, but they have a good three in Monta Ellis, Dorell Wright and David Lee and they will surprise some teams in 2010.
They won an ugly game at home to Houston in their opener, despite allowing 128 points. But they shot 55 percent (including 40 percent on three-pointers) and saw Ellis turn in one of the best opening-night performances in history with 46 points.
Ellis looked unstoppable in that 15-foot range and Lee had a nice debut with 17 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. Shame Lee never had an effect against the Lakers, but still.
The Warriors were a lot more focused on both sides of the ball against the Clippers and they didn't have as many problems guarding players in the blocks or on the low post. That can't be said for the loss against the champs. The Lakers jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back.
The simple analysis is that Kobe, Gasol and Odom had just too much firepower, and that's a problem Golden State will run in to from time-to-time against the elite teams, especially when they are without guys like Stephen Curry.
Speaking of Curry, despite the 2-1 start, there must be reasons to be concerned about his thrice-rolled already-hurt right ankle.
X-rays were not needed after he got crossed over and left the game against the Clippers. But I would be extremely concerned in the short term about how productive he can be. Long term, it's probably worth giving him time to recover before he does some serious damage.
Oklahoma City Thunder (2-1)
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Oklahoma City is one of a bunch of 2-1 teams after the first week.
Wins at home over Chicago and on the road in Detroit had them out to quick victories. But a sloppy first half at home to the Jazz put them in a hole they couldn't dig out of.
Kevin Durant is an absolute stud and he has 88 points already. But the team as a whole isn't shooting the ball too well for a team averaging 103 points per game.
They are shooting less than 40 percent from the field and 20 percent from beyond the arc. Considering how poorly they played in Detroit, they are a little fortunate to not be 1-2. But they were helped out by the lowly Pistons' 18 turnovers and thus escaped Michigan with a 'W'.
Their shortcomings were exposed, though, against a hit-and-miss Utah team that happened to catch fire in short bursts. The Jazz led by as many as 27 as they consistently executed on offense, which is something that couldn't be said for their first two games.
Durant was 4-for-6 from long range against the Jazz. But the rest of the team was just 1-for-14. Unless they can get better looks, they need to start looking inside until they find their range.
Denver Nuggets (2-1)
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The Northwest Division is pretty deep with talent, outside of Minnesota, so it will be interesting to see how far Carmelo and the Nuggets can go.
Anthony has had 71 points over his first three games while Arron Afflalo, who had 22 in the opener, cooled off somewhat against New Orleans and Houston.
It's hard to get a good read on George Karl's team, but here are some early observations. They could get dominated under the basket on a nightly basis and they will get burned often in transition. But they also have a deep bench and a great rebounder in Shelden Williams.
Many teams aren't going to close out games as well as the Hornets did against them, but at the same time teams aren't going to shoot as badly in general (Utah) or from beyond the arc (Houston) as teams they faced in this first week.
Expect Denver to be looking at a 50-win season until Carmelo jumps ship.
Indiana Pacers (2-1)
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The Pacers will put up a ton of points and they will concede just as many. Danny Granger has said the team can contest for a playoff spot and a lot may depend on the team's ability to win the close high-scoring games.
The Spurs burned Indy for 122 in Texas in the season opener, but the Pacers responded with a narrow road win in Charlotte and home victory against the 76ers.
While the Pacers shot well from the field against Tim Duncan and the Spurs, they didn't get to the free-throw line enough. And they tossed in 23 turnovers. Granger and Roy Hibbert combined for 54 points, but Indiana's bigs had no answer for Duncan, who made 10-of-12 shots and pulled down a dozen rebounds.
Against the Bobcats, Granger got the best of Gerald Wallace and Tyler Hansbrough scored 12 off the bench, including four big points in the closing moments, to help the Pacers hang on for the victory.
They didn't leave it as late against Philadelphia on Saturday, mainly because they were able to keep Philadelphia's up-tempo style of play in check. Indy outscored the 76ers on the fast break which was very unexpected. And the Pacers also got a solid contribution from Roy Hibbert, who was a force on both ends of the court. The offseason work for the center looks to be paying off and if Indiana can get 35 minutes out of him every night, they will be in good shape.
San Antonio Spurs (1-1)
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Well, it's one good, one bad so far for the Spurs.
Two average is probably more accurate.
Scoring 122 on the Pacers is all well and good, but the defense didn't exactly wow anybody. Still, a win is a win and it was an ,impressive display of force. The experienced backcourt dominated the duo of Mike Dunleavy and Darren Collison and even though DeJuan Blair was poor, the Spurs can be happy that six players finished in double figures.
Not as inspiring was the fact that the Spurs' reserves outplayed the stars in the fourth quarter up until the end of their nine-point loss to the Hornets.
With Tony Parker and Tim Duncan on the bench, Manu Ginobili and George Hill dragged San Antonio back into the contest. That was before the lack of experience in Gary Neal, Hill and Blair ultimately led to bad choices and worse execution in the final minutes.
Speaking of Blair, when is he going to get his season rolling? Duncan can work through his funks but I'm not convinced Blair is anywhere close to being able to make the quick adjustments he needs to. Still, it's only two games, so no need to worry just yet.
Chicago Bulls (1-1)
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The Bulls are one of the class teams of the Central, but it's probably no surprise that they are 1-1 after the first few days of the season. That record isn't as reflective as what many people may think, though.
They pushed the Thunder all the way before coming up short in the fourth quarter. But they struggled mightily against the Pistons before blowing them out late in the game.
Chicago was tied with Oklahoma City after three quarters, but it shot just 25 percent in the final period, including 1-of-9 in the final five minutes when they also turned the ball over three times.
Still, Bulls guard Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 28 points and center Joakim Noah added 18 points and 19 rebounds. Considering Chicago got killed on the glass in preseason play, this was encouraging.
Not as promising was the fact that Taj Gibson had no rebounds, no assists and no blocked shots before fouling out and the fact that Detroit was able to build up a 21-point lead against the Bulls before the Chicago bench pulled them out of trouble.
The positives here start with the resilience to fight back and include Rose's career-high 39 points and James Johnson's contribution of eight points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes of play
Sacramento Kings (2-1)
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The Kings are 2-1 this year but it's difficult to make any real conclusions about the team. They could, maybe should, be 3-0 considering the mid-to-low tier of competition they have faced. But at the same time they could quite easily have lost all three games.
All three contests have been decided by a combined 11 points, and while they could have defeated the Nets, they could just have easily lost to the Cavaliers and Timberwolves.
A Tyreke Evans-less Kings team went to the free-throw line 47 times against Minnesota and they relied on a 20-2 run to overturn an early nine-point deficit. Francisco Garcia grabbed 22 points in Evans' absence.
The second-year Memphis product returned against the Nets, but his 18 points were not enough to cancel out the team's sloppiness on offense or the dominance of New Jersey's Brook Lopez. The Nets didn't really deserve to win, and the fact that they turned the ball over 26 times and still emerged victorious says just as much about the Kings as it does about New Jersey.
Sacramento was much more efficient against Cleveland, but I'm not sure if the team is good enough to put together any real winning streak when they come up against better opposition.
Phoenix Suns (1-2)
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Few teams had the kind of first week that the Suns had to endure, having faced a trio of 50-win teams in the first four days.
Phoenix was 2-6 in the preseason and a rough schedule hasn't made things any easier.
An awful fourth period condemned them to defeat in Portland where they lost the rebound battle 48-30 in the first game of the post-Amar'e era. But Steve Nash was spot on when he said they were more composed for longer stretches of the game against Utah.
The Suns led tape-to-tape and they came out firing from beyond the arc, nailing seven three-pointers before the interval. Six players scored in double digits and the bench performed well, led by Hakim Warrick's 18 points and 11 rebounds.
For all the momentum Nash and Co. had after beating the uninspired Jazz, the Suns ran into a roadblock in the Lakers. Phoenix isn't going to have to play L.A. every night, and while the Suns held their own, the starting five just wasn't able to keep up with the champs. Had they shot better from downtown (9-for-24) things could have been a little different. But Phoenix still played well enough to beat a lot of teams in the west.
New Jersey Nets (2-1)
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The Nets are still a below-average team, don't get me wrong. But at least they won their home opener. Heck, at least they won at least one of their first 18 games.
The Nets were a perfect 2-0.
Wins may have been against the equally-disfunctional Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings, but New Jersey can't be picky about who they beat, because a 25-win season is still going to be somewhat problematic to achieve.
The game against the Pistons, in which they trailed by seven with just 1:40 to play, was certainly one they would have lost last season. So credit goes to Brook Lopez (25 points, nine rebounds, three blocks) and Devin Harris for refusing to mail it in. Derrick Favors also had a nice start by all accounts, getting eight points and 10 rebounds in his debut. Converting around the rim and boxing-out well in the paint goes unnoticed on the stat sheets, but fans have reason to cheer. For now.
Note to Terrance Williams, though: Next time you miss two free throws to ice the game in the final seconds, you won't be so lucky.
The sight of Jay-Z and Beyonce can do strange things for a team. Over or under on three more sightings this year at the Prudential Center? You could ask me over or under on one more appearance and I'd still guess under.
Let's pretend that battering at home to the Heat didn't happen, shall we? Look, the Nets don't have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with a good team, let alone a potential championship one. Enjoy the modest start while you can.
Cleveland Cavs (1-2)
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LeBron who? Okay, okay, so JJ Hickson probably isn't going to turn the Cavs into a meaningful team, but his 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the season opener helped Cleveland past Boston, something that LeBron struggled with on numerous occasions.
Everyone shared the offensive load and Daniel Gibson contributed big points off the bench. Anthony Parker knocked down a big three-pointer from the top of the key in the final three minutes and Antawn Jamison flipped up two important buckets midway through the fourth quarter, ensuring the Cavs hung onto Boston coattails. I'm pleased for Cleveland fans, but don't read too much into the early-season victory.
The reason why is the 20-point loss in Toronto. The Raptors kinda stink, so letting them put triple-digit points on the board is ugly. Toronto struggled with the three-ball, but they nailed one uncontested shot after another in the paint. And they dominated on the fast break.
The Cavs need to do much better in transition if they want to remain even semi-competitive against teams that like to push the tempo.
Give credit where it's due, though. They matched the Kings on Saturday and it's accurate to say that they deserved their 14-point lead at halftime. The wheels came off in the third, but they can take positives in a losing Week 1.
Utah Jazz (1-2)
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The Jazz are another of those teams that had a torrid schedule in their first week. Their three opponents combined to go 157-89 last year, and there are certainly kinder beginnings than having to face Denver and Oklahoma City on the road and Phoenix at home.
After losses to the two weaker teams of the three, the Jazz upset the Thunder in their own building and I'm sure there can't be too many complaints about being 1-2 right now.
After going a ridiculous 8-0 in preseason play, the Jazz committed 22 turnovers that led to 19 Denver points in their opener. Most disappointing was the play of Andrei Kirilenko, who managed just two points and three rebounds compared with four fouls and as many turnovers in 19 minutes on the floor.
If the forwards can take the blame for the loss in Denver, then the focus should be on the guards in the second game. NBA beat writer Andrew Aragon said that Steve Nash and Jason Richardson dominated Deron Williams and Raja Bell and he was spot on. Utah's backcourt struggled all night, and Bell was barely any better on Sunday against the Thunder.
Luckily for him, the rest of the team was scorching hot. Williams had 16 points and 15 dimes, Paul Millsap dropped 30 points and 16 boards, Al Jefferson added 23 and 10 and C.J. Miles added 21 points off the bench. On defense, Kirilenko plagued Kevin Durant all evening.
This is how good the Jazz can be when things click. They passed the ball, made 7-of-11 three-pointers and really looked in sync. This could be one of the Jazz's best performances all season.
Toronto Raptors (1-1)
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Just two games for Toronto in the opening week, so read into their results what you will.
The Raptors fell behind early to the Knicks in their opener and had Amir Johnson not run into foul trouble, Toronto could have had a reasonable shot at pulling off a big comeback.
As it was, Wilson Chandler lit up the Raptors off the bench and the Knicks scored 52 points in the paint. If you're looking for positives, Reggie Evans dominated the glass despite being a non-factor on offense and Jarrett Jack had 16 points and six assists.
For proper positives, look no further than a 20-point blowout of the Cavs. Five Raptors scored in double figures, they collected 26 easy points on fast break opportunities and everyone went home with pizza. Don't hate, Cleveland, it's pizza.
I'm not sure what to expect from Linas Kleiza this season, but his 19-point game on Friday certainly hints that he is finding his way around the Toronto offense. With Evans (30 rebounds, two points so far) being overlooked when the team has the ball, Kleiza could quickly become an important third choice.
More likely, of course, is that he averages around eight or nine points and goes pretty much unnoticed. Increased minutes in a starting role will help, but he's not exactly prolific in anything he does.
Still, in the post-Bosh era, they are going to have to find a way to get some offensive production out of their forwards, especially Reggie Evans, who had 30 rebounds but only two points through the first two contests.
New York Knicks (1-2)
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Who would have guessed that Mike D'Antoni was funny?
After watching his Knicks hold on to beat Toronto, the New York coach described Amar'e Stoudemire's 22-point, 10-rebound, nine-turnover debut a near "triple double." I like that, Mike.
What else do I like? Landry Fields' debut, for one. New York's dominance in the paint for another. With David Lee gone, easy buckets might not be as easy to come by, but as long as Wilson Chandler (22 points per game) keeps up his hot start, D'Antoni might have that smile on his face for a while. If they find a big third man, they could possibly be a dark horse in the east. And by dark horse, they might be fighting for the ninth spot.
Still, a four-point defeat against Boston had its positives, even if all of the good work was undone by an ugly 12 minutes from Danilo Gallinari, who has struggled so far.
He has 18 points total (after 12 in the opener) and he's missed 9-of-11 three-pointers. It may be worth letting him rest that sore right wrist for a game or two just to get him fully fit.
The book on the Knicks seems pretty clear early on. They will put up a ton of points and they will concede even more. Friday's loss shows that they will fight and that could be more valuable than anything. Amar'e can only do so much, but if Felton can rack up valuable minutes, the Knicks have a chance.
Milwaukee Bucks (1-2)
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With a relatively easy opening week, the Bucks should be better than 1-2. The problem is inconsistency.
While Andrew Bogut looked good in his return, John Salmons did not.
Bogut had 15 points and 15 boards against the Hornets while Salmons shot 2-for-8 for five points. Carlos Delfino had 19 points against New Orleans and 23 against the Bobcats, but just eight in the loss to Minnesota.
Milwaukee lost the rebound battle 74-50 against the T'Wolves, but then dominated the Bobcats on the glass.
The Bucks shot 15 percent behind the arc in their second game, 50 percent in their third. The list goes on. Put it down to early season nerves if you like, but the Bucks aren't as good as many people like to think.
The one consistent threat is Brandon Jennings. He had 15 points and 10 assists in the opener, 14 and seven versus Minnesota and a triple-double on Saturday. He's a beast, and if he struggles, so does the team. The team can lose if he plays well, so it's pretty obvious what will happen when he doesn't show up for a game.
Houston Rockets (0-3)
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If it wasn't for turnovers and a lack of defense, the Rockets may be 3-0, no joke.
They matched the Lakers shot for shot, led by as many as 15 and out-rebounded the defending champs, but a combined 16 turnovers from the starting lineup caused problems, especially down the stretch.
Starting guards Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks combined for 50 points and Yao Ming went 4-for-11 with 11 rebounds in just over 23 minutes of court time before fouling out. Brooks had a chance to tie the game at the horn, but after driving the baseline under the basket, he was unable to get his scooped shot to fall.
When they did cut down on the turnovers in their second game against Golden State, guard Monta Ellis burned them for a career high-tying 46 points. There won't be too many games where they score 128 and lose!
And then the Nuggets game was a combination of both:19 turnovers, 15 percent three-point shooting and no execution down the stretch. They have the pieces to score points under the basket, but poor decision making and a lack of fundamentals are killing the team right now. Yao needs to do more than just thank the crowd to play a role on this team.
Rick Adelman should be slightly worried.
Detroit Pistons (0-3)
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They're 0-3 but they could be 3-0. At the very least, 2-1.
It takes something special to toss away a seven-point lead with 1:40 to play against the Nets. But that is exactly what the Pistons did in their opener. They spread the scoring but couldn't stop Devin Harris and Co. in crunch time.
One person who was pretty cold was center Ben Wallace, who attempted just three shots from the field and went 2-for-8 from the charity stripe. The Pistons are going to need big contributions for their bench until T-Mac is at full strength. But if they can find a way lose in New Jersey when four guys who don't start the game get 10-or-more points, I don't know what the answer for 2011 is.
The Pistons should have opened their win account at home to OKC. But they were very sloppy in the first half and they lost the lead in the closing seconds of the game to a team that did not shoot the ball well for any extended period of time.
To make a lousy week truly miserable, Detroit then squandered a 21-point lead against the Bulls, being outscored 34-9 in the final period to put an exclamation on their futility at closing out games. This team isn't as bad as its record suggests, but c'mon. You lose your first two games by a total of four points, then toss away a 21-point advantage on the road? Ouch.
Washington Wizards (0-2)
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After three wins in the preseason, people may have been confused into thinking that the Wizards could bring more than just a little optimism to the city at the end of 2010. Wins against Dallas, Cleveland and Atlanta and a narrow loss against New York showed the team in good light, and Andray Blatche and Yi Jianlian appeared to be playing well together. Oh, plus there's some guy called John Wall who I've heard is pretty good.
Then the regular season began, Yi was ineffective off the bench, Dwight Howard ripped them apart at the seams and they tossed away an early 11-point lead against Atlanta.
The Wizards shot just 37 percent to Orlando's 56 percent (the Magic starters shot a combined 69 percent), and while the team did force 21 turnovers, they had just no answer to the inside threat of the Magic. Also, getting manhandled 53-25 on the boards pretty much killed their chances of avoiding a blowout.
Things were better against the Hawks, but only because of the promise of the rookie Wall. After 14 points and nine assists in his debut, Wall contributed 28 and nine in 42 minutes in his second start. He can score and he can pass the ball...there's no reason to think he can't average 18 points and seven assists over the entire year.
The forwards, ice cold in Orlando, were much more efficient and Al Thornton will be relied on to lead the low-post game when Blatche struggles.
An 0-2 start is never great, but at least there were some positives to take from the losses.
L.A. Clippers (0-3)
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The Clippers failed to break the 30-win barrier in '09 and the 2010 season has started off almost as badly.
The home losses to Dallas and Portland could have been expected, I suppose, but the fact that they are struggling in every aspect of their game gives fans reason for concern.
They're averaging fewer than 90 points, conceding more than 103, shooting less than 30 percent from three-point land and just 66 percent from the free-throw line.
They have been out-shot and out-rebounded in all three contests, and they have lost the turnover battle twice. Nothing there makes for continued success. The biggest problem is that they have been awful at the start of the third quarter.
Dan Arritt noted they were a combined 2-for-12 from the field in the first three minutes of the third quarter in losses to Portland and Golden State, and they went 2-for-11 in the first five minutes against Dallas, turning a two-point deficit into an 11-point deficit.
Technically speaking, Vinny Del Negro's side had absolutely no clue how to break down the Trail Blazers' zone defense on Wednesday. And while Blake Griffin scored 20 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, he is not going to be able to do it all on his own. Eight points, Baron Davis? Really?
Then against the new-look Golden State Warriors, the Clippers were held to 16.7 percent shooting from the floor in the third quarter, according to NBA.com's Geoff Leppe. During that quarter, the Warriors outscored L.A 32-13 and effectively put the game to bed. While Davis stepped up, the bench was ice cold and Dorell Wright killed the Clippers from beyond the arc.
Minnesota Timberwolves (1-2)
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Minnesota is probably the worst team not playing in New Jersey. But if it can put up points on the board and win the small battles, it will win its fair share of games.
The Timberwolves almost certainly would have topped Sacramento had it not been for foul trouble, but they responded well with a solid win against Milwaukee that wasn't really as close as the 96-85 score suggests.
The T'Wolves out-rebounded, out-blocked, out-stole and out-hustled the Bucks and they thoroughly deserved the victory.
It was a shame that they got ripped apart by Memphis' starting five the following night. But they just couldn't match up with Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo.
A bigger issue is that they don't have a natural go-to guy so far. Only Luke Ridnour and Michael Beasley have scored 20 or more points (once each) this season, and nobody has looked to carry the early scoring load. Or maybe they have and this is as good as it gets.
Oh and Darko Milicic has 14 points and nine turnovers. I'm just saying.
Philadelphia 76ers (0-3)
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Nobody expected the 76ers to beat Miami, but it was surprising to see just how much the starting lineup struggled. Jason Kapono and Spencer Hawes combined for just two points and four rebounds in 27 minutes and no starter scored more than 12. More worrying is that not one of the starters got to the free-throw line.
The 76ers were out of it by the fourth quarter, but a valiant final period made the score respectable to the casual viewer. Louis Williams shone with 15 points and seven assists and Ohio State-product Evan Turner impressed on both ends of the floor stepping in for Jrue Holliday and Kapono.
I'm not convinced they can be considered a playoff sleeper in the East, but Turner's play will go a long way to determine just how much noise they can make in a weak Atlantic Division.
If he was solid in his debut, then he was poor against the Hawks, scoring zero points on 0-for-5 shooting in 19 minutes. The Hawks shot well in this game, but Philly can be encouraged by how well they fought.
Fight alone won't get it done though, and Doug Collins needs to find a starting lineup that will work. He juggled the lineup Saturday, installing Andres Nocioni at forward and de-activating Jason Kapono. The 76ers got just 46 points from their first five and the team dropped to 0-3.
Charlotte Bobcats (0-3)
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The Bobcats are not a great team and they could be in for a world of hurt in 2010. While Michael Jordan thinks he could score 100 points in today's league, it's a pity that the same can't often be said about his own side.
Charlotte managed just 86 in Dallas and 88 in Milwaukee, and it's no real surprise that they are yet to record a win this season.
They had no answer to veterans Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd in the opener, and 20 turnovers led to a whole heap of points on easy looks on the fast break. They also shot just 39 percent and saw Stephen Jackson held to 14 points.
By most accounts, things were better at home against the Pacers—they matched Indiana shot for shot and no team ran out to big leads. But they had 17 more turnovers in a game they lost by three points and had a chance to tie at the horn.
The turnover bug reared its ugly head once more against a revamped Milwaukee team, but that wasn't the biggest downfall. Despite coughing the rock up 18 times (so that's 55 in three games so far) the Bobcats gave up 14 offensive rebounds, including five to 6'8" forward Luc Mbah A Moute, who gave similar-sized veterans Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw trouble under the rim.
Few things are going right for M.J. and the Bobcats, and it all starts with protecting the ball and limiting second-chance points.