NBA

No Simmons, no worries for Embiid's 76ers as Suns lose NBA opener to Jokic's Nuggets

By Sports Desk October 20, 2021

The Philadelphia 76ers put aside the Ben Simmons drama for 48 minutes as the championship-chasing team opened their NBA season with a 117-97 win at the New Orleans Pelicans.

Simmons was nowhere to be seen in New Orleans after the disgruntled All-Star – demanding a trade – was suspended on Tuesday for "conduct detrimental to the team" following reports he was ejected from practice by head coach Doc Rivers.

The 76ers – last season's Eastern Conference top seeds – played without Simmons on Wednesday and made light work of the Zion Williamson-less Pelicans behind Joel Embiid (22 points), Furkan Korkmaz (22 points), Tobias Harris (20 points and 12 rebounds) and new starting point guard Tyrese Maxey (20 points, seven rebounds and five) for their first season-opening road win since 2004.

Korkmaz sizzled in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points on four-for-four shooting from three-point range – the most points in a quarter by a Sixers bench player since Lou Williams in 2011.

 

 

LaMelo leads Hornets rally, Brown has career night

LaMelo Ball put on a show as he helped the Charlotte Hornets come back to pip the Indiana Pacers 123-122. The reigning Rookie of the Year put up 31 points, including seven three-pointers – tying a career high, nine rebounds and seven assists to fuel Charlotte's rally. The Hornets used a 24-0 run – in which Ball scored 12 points – in the third period to the stun the Pacers. Chris Duarte (27 points, six three-pointers and five rebounds) became the first Pacers rookie with 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus threes in a game since Jamaal Tinsley in 2002.

A career-high 46 points from Jaylen Brown was not enough as the Boston Celtics lost a wild showdown with the New York Knicks 138-134 after double overtime. Brown's tally was the most points ever by a Celtics player in a season opener. The Knicks withstood the Celtics thanks to Julius Randle (35 points) and debutant Evan Fournier, whose 32 points were the most by a player on debut in franchise history.

Jo Morant had 37 points – the second most on opening night in franchise history, behind only his 44-point haul last season – in the Memphis Grizzlies' 132-121 win at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Memphis posted 73 points by half-time – tying the fifth-highest first-half scoring total in their history.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic's 27 points and 13 rebounds guided the Denver Nuggets past last season's NBA Finals participants the Phoenix Suns 110-98.

CJ McCollum (34 points), Damian Lillard (20 points and 11 assists) and Jusuf Nurkic (20 points and 14 rebounds) combined for 74 points but the Portland Trail Blazers still lost 124-121 to the Sacramento Kings, who were led by Harrison Barnes' 36 points and eight three-pointers.

 

Forgettable debut for Rockets rookie

The second pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Jalen Green endured a baptism of fire midweek. The Houston Rockets rookie finished with nine points on four-of-14 shooting from the field, while he made just one of six three-pointers. His minus-37 was the worst plus-minus by a Rockets rookie in a game in the last 20 seasons – tied for the fourth worst by any Rocket in that span. The Rockets were taken down 124-106 by Minnesota Timberwolves trio Karl-Anthony Towns (30 points and 10 rebounds), Anthony Edwards (29 points) and D'Angelo Russell (22 points).

Back on home court for the first time since February 2020, the Toronto Raptors' long-awaited return to Canada ended in a disappointing 98-83 loss to the Washington Wizards. Toronto missed 19 of their first 21 three-pointers, finishing seven of 34 from beyond the card. They were just 30.9 per cent from the field overall.

Suns star Devin Booker was far from his best against the Nuggets, finishing three-of-15 shooting for 12 points in 30 minutes of action.

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  • Knicks remove struggling Kemba Walker from rotation Knicks remove struggling Kemba Walker from rotation

    The New York Knicks have removed struggling star Kemba Walker from the rotation, head coach Tom Thibodeau announced on Monday.

    Walker joined the Knicks on a two-year, $20million contract at the start of the season after being bought out by the Oklahoma City Thunder following a trade from the Boston Celtics.

    The four-time All-Star, who struggled to reach his lofty heights with the Celtics, has been averaging career lows in points (11.7), assists (3.1), rebounds (2.6), field-goal attempts per game (9.8) and minutes per game (24.5).

    Not only has Walker been removed from the starting line-up, but the 31-year-old guard is also not part of the rotation heading into Tuesday's clash with crosstown rivals the Brooklyn Nets.

    "It's a tough decision to make, but you always have to do what you think is best for the team," Thibodeau told reporters, with the Knicks turning to Alec Burks.

    "I view Kemba as a starter, and so it'd be tough to play three small guards together. I gave it consideration, and I've got great respect for who Kemba is as a person and all he's accomplished in this league.

    "But I have to do what I think is best for the team."

    The Knicks have struggled for form since ending their playoff drought last season, 11-9 in 2021-22 – three games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Nets and one ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers in 11th position.

  • Curry, Paul lock horns again as Warriors and Suns meet in historic matchup Curry, Paul lock horns again as Warriors and Suns meet in historic matchup

    It is very early in the season to describe any game as being akin to a playoff matchup but Tuesday's meeting between the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns has an extremely compelling case for receiving such a label.

    The Warriors have been the class of the NBA to this point, their record of 18-2 the best in the league.

    However, their title credentials will be sternly tested in Phoenix, where they will face a 17-3 Suns team looking excellently placed to go one better in 2021-22 after losing in the NBA Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks last season.

    The matchup between the two Pacific Division rivals will mark the first time in NBA history that two teams with a winning percentage of 85 or higher after a minimum of 20 games have faced each other.

    In that sense, it is big as stages get in late November in the NBA, and the Warriors boast a player born to dominate such arenas in Stephen Curry.

    Curry is enjoying another remarkable year, compiling a superb MVP resume after finishing third in the voting last term.

    He is tied for the league lead in points per game (28.6) with former team-mate Kevin Durant, while his season-long plus-minus of 283 is comfortably the best in the NBA. Reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is a distant second on 197.

    Curry's 105 made three-pointers are 20 more than nearest challenger Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings, seven of those coming on Sunday in another spectacular showing to propel the Warriors past the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.

    He will be the lead protagonist in what is likely to be a fascinating encounter between two excellent backcourts. With Klay Thompson still yet to return after two seasons lost to injury, Curry has received magnificent support from the emerging Jordan Poole, who has averaged 19.8 points per game this month and is one of five Warriors in the top 10 in plus-minus for November, illustrating the depth at their disposal.

    Three Suns also reside in the top 10 of that list, including their two guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker.

    Eleven-time All-Star Paul continues to defy Father Time and is again the Suns' chief creative force after helping them come within two wins of an NBA title.

    Meanwhile, shooting guard Booker is hitting a career-high 41 per cent of his three-point attempts, perhaps setting things up for an absorbing back and forth between him and the man most regard as the greatest shooter of all time.

    PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

    Golden State Warriors - Draymond Green

    With the vast majority of the attention on the enduring brilliance of MVP favourite Curry, it would be easy to overlook the contribution of Green, who has served as chief facilitator for the Warriors' talisman.

    Green has 106 assists to his name in the month of November. No other non-point guard has registered more.

    Shooting a career-high 55.5 per cent from the field this season, Green is once again proving he can be a critical part of a potential championship team, and the Warriors will need him at his best on both ends of the floor to maximise their hopes of seeing off Phoenix.

    Phoenix Suns - Chris Paul

    From his time with the Clippers, through his prominent role in engrossing playoff battles between the Houston Rockets and the Warriors to his increasingly impressive spell with the Suns, matchups that see Paul go against Curry have long since been must-watch affairs.

    The 'point God' has consistently been overshadowed by the shooting magic of Curry but, among your more conventional point guards, there is still arguably nobody better.

    Paul leads the league with 10.1 assists per game this season, justifying the Suns' decision to bring him back on a lucrative contract after their Finals agony of the previous campaign.

    He must ensure the Suns' offense outshines Curry and the Warriors this time around if Phoenix is to send an early message by knocking off Golden State.

    KEY BATTLE - Can Warriors beat Ayton on the boards?

    The Warriors have been among the best rebounding teams in the NBA this season.

    Golden State have registered 47.1 rebounds per game, good for fifth in the league.

    Meanwhile, the Suns rank 15th in the same category with 45.7, but do possess one of the top rebounders in the league in Deandre Ayton.

    The Suns center is averaging 11.4 boards per game, the sixth-most in the NBA.

    If the Warriors are to have the advantage on the glass in this one, they will need to find a way to mitigate Ayton's impact.

    HEAD-TO-HEAD

    The Warriors prevailed 122-116 in the last meeting between the two teams, however, Golden State have won only one of their last four games against the Suns in Phoenix.

  • Warriors' Curry fired up by non-call in win over Clippers: I let my emotions go Warriors' Curry fired up by non-call in win over Clippers: I let my emotions go

    Angry and frustrated, Stephen Curry said a non-call fuelled him in the Golden State Warriors' comprehensive victory at the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

    Curry posted a game-high 33 points to guide the NBA-leading Warriors (18-2) to a 105-90 win over the Clippers – Golden State's eighth in a row.

    The two-time MVP scored 13 points in a final quarter, which saw Curry lose his cool after not receiving a foul call at Staples Center.

    Curry thought he had been fouled by Clippers small forward Terance Mann, leaving the Warriors superstar outraged.

    "I thought I got fouled, so I let my emotions go," Curry said afterwards. "And definitely fired me up, fired our team up -- you have to be able to direct that energy into just putting the ball in the basket, obviously, after that.

    "So that's where I feel like we do it well, where you don't let it become a distraction for the rest of the game, and it obviously helped open up the game."

     

    Curry is averaging 28.6 points, a career-high 5.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists (his best since 2014-15) per game in 2021-22, while shooting 46.6 per cent from the floor and 42.3 from beyond the arc.

    Warriors head coach Steve Kerr: "It was as upset as I've seen Steph in a long time. And it was as upset as I've been in a long time, too. It's kind of a miracle that I didn't get a technical, but it seemed to get him going.

    "Whatever it takes, I guess ... he clearly got fouled. Steph is a guy who, he's just so competitive, and when he knows he got fouled -- especially in a play like that in transition where it's right out in the open, easy to see, and he doesn't get the call, every once in a while he's going to snap.

    "He doesn't do it often, but when he knows he's right, the competitor in him comes out and he'll kind of lose his mind a little bit, but it often spurs him, like it did in this instance."

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