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Atlantic Division Roundup: Week of 10/16-10/22

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       –  TORONTO RAPTORS – 2-0
vs Chicago W 117-101, vs Philadelphia W 128-94

Toronto began their season without much national fanfare, as they hosted the worst team in the East and then Philly without Embiid. Anything other than 2-0 would be newsworthy, so this was just as expected.

Game 1 saw newcomer CJ Miles make a splash (literally) going 6-9 from 3pt for 22 points, as well as a monster double-double from Jonas Valanciunas (23 pts, 15 rebs).  Norm Powell started both games at SF, with Miles coming off the bench. Also making an appearance in both games off the bench was rookie forward OG Anunoby.

I expected Anunoby to be ready to play as a rookie but was surprised that he was the next wing off the bench after Miles. Bruno Caboclo, who Toronto has been developing for 3 years now, didn’t see any action against Chicago and played just 6 minutes in the blowout win over Philly.

After getting off to an uneventful start in the season opener, the All-Star tandem of Derozan and Lowry bounced back with strong outings against the Sixers. Derozan poured in 30 points in just 26 minutes, and Lowry added a well rounded 17 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds.

       –  BOSTON CELTICS – 1-2
@ Cleveland L 99-102, vs Milwaukee L 100-108, @ Philadelphia W 102-91

The first game of this NBA season arrived with about as much excitement as possible. Kyrie’s return to Cleveland. Eastern Conference Finals rematch. Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas against their former team (except IT didn’t play).

But all that excitement in the air was soon replaced with tension and heartache. When just six minutes into the game, his first as a Celtic, Gordon Hayward went down with a gruesome ankle injury. For those who haven’t seen the clip, his foot was straight sideways. That’s all you really need to know. If you wish to see, check out @NBALEAD on Twitter and Instagram.

Hayward’s season is likely over, and Boston struggled to replace his expected contributions in this first week. Jaylen Brown looked good, scoring and guarding the ball, and Jayson Tatum appeared to be as NBA ready day one as Ainge predicted when they drafted him.

Boston suffered two L’s to two of the best in East but bounced back Saturday at Philadelphia. The Celtics trailed entering the 4th but outscored the 76ers by 13 in the final period. Game 3 was Kyrie’s first leading the team in scoring. Also worth noting, Terry Rozier played 30 minutes against Philly and should continue to see a large role off the bench as he’s the most suited to replace Hayward’s playmaking abilities.

       –  BROOKLYN NETS – 2-1
@ Indiana L 131-140, vs Orlando W 126-121, vs Atlanta W 116-104

Brooklyn started their season on the wrong side of a record breaking scoring performance, despite putting up 131 points themselves. More importantly though, much like the Celtics, they lost their best player for the season. Jeremy Lin ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee during the 4th quarter of Brooklyn’s loss to Indiana.

Luckily for the Nets, the offseason acquisition of D’Angelo Russell will give this team a chance to continue to compete without Lin. Russell exploded for 30 points in his first game as a Net and posted his first double-double with the team, 16 points, and 10 assists, Sunday against Atlanta. D’Angelo should be considered a candidate for Most Improved Player as this season progresses. I’m excited to see how he progresses with the keys to Head Coach Kenny Atkinson’s offense.

Another bright spot for the Nets and a prime candidate for a regular season award is Trevor Booker. I thought Booker might start at PF, but instead, he has been coming off the bench and has proven to be extremely valuable in that role. He posted back to back double-doubles in the first two games and is shooting 19-32 (59%) from the field so far. Booker has put his name into early consideration for 6th Man of the Year conversations.

This is the first time the Brooklyn Nets have been above .500 since November of 2014!

 

       –  PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – 0-3
@ Washington L 115-120, vs Boston L 91-102, @ Toronto L 94-128

Philadelphia entered this season with a renewed hope, and lofty expectations for such a young team. They had some bright moments in the opener at Washington, and their home opener against Boston, but finish the first week a familiar 0-3.

Ben Simmons is the early front-runner for Rookie of the Year after posting three straight double-doubles and finished just 2 assists shy of a triple-double against Toronto. Simmons is the primary playmaker for the Sixers and has the ball in his hands much of the game. Whereas their other high-profile rookie, Markelle Fultz, has been put in more of a 6th man “spark plug” type of role off the bench.

Joel Embiid played well in the opener, but struggled from the field (4-16) against the Celtics. He is also 0-10 from 3pt so far this season. As previously stated by Philadelphia’s coaching staff, Embiid will sit out on back to backs – which he did Saturday at Toronto.

Sixers’ fans should feel encouraged though as the season goes on, both by their young stars and the well-rounded lineup Philly has shown. Along with Simmons and Embiid, the other three starters all shined from 3pt range. Robert Covington shot 10-18 from 3pt for the week, including a 7-11 outburst in game one; while JJ Redick and Jerryd Bayless went 8-17 and 9-16, respectively, from downtown.

       –  NEW YORK KNICKS – 0-2
@ Oklahoma City L 84-105, vs Detroit L 107-111

Life after Melo for the Knicks began ironically with a trip to Oklahoma City to play Anthony and his new team. And Carmelo got the last laugh, as the Thunder thumped the Knicks handing them a 21 point season opening loss. An 0-2 first week along with some head-scratching coaching decisions prove that some things never change in New York.

Rookie Frank Ntilikina, who New York chose to draft ahead of ROY favorite Dennis Smith Jr, played only 7 minutes in the season opener. The Knicks started Ramon Sessions at the point and played Ron Baker as his primary backup. After the game, Head Coach Jeff Hornacek stated that Ntilikina was dealing with a knee injury – but if that were the case, why play him 7 minutes in a blowout loss?

Also worth questioning is the lack of playing time given to last year’s standout rookie Willy Hernangomez, who saw just 4 minutes against OKC and never left the bench in the home opener. Hornacek cited defensive inconsistency as the reason for Willy HG’s minutes, but yet New York is starting Enes Kanter – one of the worst defensive center’s in the league.

Fittingly for the Knicks, the negative drama ends up being the headlines, rather than the positive play of Kristaps Porzingis. The Unicorn turned in 31 points and 12 rebounds against the Thunder and followed it up with 33 points at home versus Detroit. New York still needs to figure out their front office and head coaching issues if they want to keep Porzingis around longterm.

     

About Preston Dubey

Lifelong basketball fanatic and Bucks’ supporter

I coach basketball; but I eat, sleep, and breathe the game.

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