Another crazy day in the NBA to wrap up what has been an insane year.
The Wizards are 0-5 and the pressure is mounting on Scott Brooks. Unfortunately it may only get worse given the horror stretch of games to come for Washington.
Meanwhile, the Knicks went into their clash with the Raptors as the best 3-point shooters in the league and left with an unwanted piece of history.
James Harden also came up clutch late for the Rockets as John Wall made a triumphant return.
Elsewhere, Brandon Ingram was ejected but the Pelicans made a statement without him.
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WIZARDS COACH IN THE HOT SEAT… AND IT COULD GET MUCH WORSE
After trading John Wall to Russell Westbrook during the off-season and gaining rookie first-round pick Deni Avdija, there were seriously high expectations surrounding the Washington Wizards.
But the Washington Post’s Kevin Blackstone put it best when writing that what was “hyped as a thriller” has descended into a “horror show” after Washington’s nightmare start to the season.
The Wizards slumped to a 0-5 start after a 133-130 loss to the Chicago Bulls, who had lost four players to health and safety protocol.
Lauri Markkanen, Chandler Hutchinson, Ryan Arcidiacono and Thomas Satoransky were all missing but it did not seem to bother the Bulls who heaped more pressure on Washington coach Scott Brooks.
Bradley Beal and Westbrook are doing all they can along with Thomas Bryant who had a big night against the Bulls.
The former Rockets star and new recruit is averaging 19 points, 13.7 rebounds and 12.7 assists.
Beal too is powering the offence the best he can with 32 points, 4.5 rebounds and just as many assists.
The two combined for 50 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists in the three-point loss to the Bulls but they can’t do it all.
Beal did have a huge chance to put the Wizards up with less than 15 seconds remaining but dropped the ball as he went for a layup.
Meanwhile, Bryant had 28 points (10-11 FG, 3-3 3PT, 5-7 FT) along with three rebounds, one steal and three blocks.
The Wizards’ bench is leaving a lot to be desired though and is a serious issue that must be fixed.
Brooks’ decision not to play Isaac Bonga, who is one of Washington’s best available perimeter defenders, was heavily scrutinised given Chicago’s success from behind the arc.
“You got to pick somebody,” Brooks said postgame. “
I thought Rui came in and did a good job. We’re trying to find minutes for Troy (Brown Jr.) and Bonga, and tonight it was Troy, but who knows who it will be tomorrow night.”
Questions are being asked of coach Brooks and they could only grow in number if you look at Washington’s schedule to come.
“I’m still confident in our group,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said, via The Athletic’s Fred Katz.
“We’ve got a lot of season left.”
KNICKS’ HORROR PIECE OF HISTORY
Tom Thibodeau likes to preach that an NBA team still can play well even if it’s not shooting well.
Still, the Knicks’ wayward shooting performance in their final game of 2020 was too disastrous for any team to withstand.
The squad that surprisingly began the night leading the league in 3-point shooting (45.9 per cent) connected on just three of 36 attempts from long distance Thursday in a 100-83 loss to the COVID-relocated Toronto Raptors at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.
The Knicks’ starting line-up finished the game an astonishing 0-for-23 from three-point range, including nine straight misses by Reggie Bullock and eight by RJ Barrett.
The 0-for-23 from long range by the starters is the most misses without a make by a starting five in NBA history.
Julius Randle paced the Knicks (2-3) with 16 points and 10 rebounds before he hobbled off the court with what the Knicks said were cramps with 3:24 to play.
Tampa native Kevin Knox, whose parents were among the estimated 3,800 fans in attendance, added 16 points off the bench.
Knox also underwent X-rays on his right hand at halftime, but they came back negative.
With four guards sidelined by injuries, nine-year veteran Austin Rivers totalled seven points and five assists in 21 minutes off the bench in his Knicks debut after missing the entire preseason and the first four games with a groin injury.
All-Star forward Pascal Siakam was a late scratch for Toronto reportedly for disciplinary reasons; he walked off the court directly to the locker room after he fouled out of Tuesday’s loss to Philadelphia.
Fred VanVleet led the Raptors with 25 points and seven assists, while Kyle Lowry scored 20 and Norman Powell added 17 in Toronto’s ninth straight win over the Knicks.
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The Knicks bricked nine of their first 10 shots and shot just 30.4 per cent (7-for-24) from the floor in the first quarter, but Knox nailed a couple of late 3-pointers to draw them within four points (22-18) entering the second.
The Knicks grabbed their first lead on Randle’s three-point play with 1:29 remaining in the second quarter before settling for a 42-42 tie at halftime.
Randle finished the half with a team-high 13 points and Knox added 11, but the latter’s two threes were the Knicks’ only successful attempts among 20 from long range before intermission.
Despite their continued shooting woes, the Knicks led by as many as seven in the third quarter, but Alex Len netted 10 points as the Raptors closed the session on a 26-12 run for a 71-64 lead entering the final quarter.
Rivers’ three 1:33 into the fourth ended a string of 20 straight long-range misses for the Knicks, but 3-pointers by Chris Boucher and VanVleet boosted Toronto’s lead to 14 with under six minutes remaining.
HARDEN HEROICS AS WALL MAKES TRIUMPHANT RETURN
James Harden was front and centre of Houston’s first win of the season as the Rockets edged the Sacramento Kings 122-119 to claim their first win of the season.
Harden had 33 points and eight assists but it was his work late in the fourth quarter that proved invaluable.
He once again proved himself a big-game player by scoring 10 of Houston’s 12 points in a late stretch which saw the Rockets overcome a four-point deficit with four minutes left in the final corner.
He also assisted Christian Wood for the other two points.
“It’s remarkable. What he does on the floor, the way he operates, it’s crazy,” Wood said post-game.
“I couldn’t really explain it to you. I don’t really know what James Harden’s ceiling is. Playing with him, he makes me look great.”
Meanwhile, it was revealed earlier today that John Wall at one point thought he would lose his foot due to infections during his injury rehab.
“I went through three or four different infections. So it got to the point where, OK, are you going to have to cut your foot off or not? That’s where it got real with me,” he said, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Wall is back playing in the NBA and was strong in his return for the Rockets with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
PELICANS POWER PAST INGRAM EJECTION
Brandon Ingram had 20 points, seven rebounds and two assists from 26 minutes before he was ejected late in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But it mattered little as his teammates lifted to outscore the Thunder 28-7 in the fourth quarter on the way to a comfortable 113-80 win.
It was a team effort with all other four starters hitting the double digits in points.
Lonzo Ball in particular impressed, going close to a triple-double (16 points, eight rebounds, nine assists).
Josh Hart was strong off the bench with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
SUNS’ 12-YEAR FIRST
The Phoenix Suns have made their first 4-1 start to a season since 2009 after taking down the Utah Jazz 106-95.
Phoenix had six players score in double figures with Devin Booker leading the way, finishing on a game-high 25 points to go with seven assists.
Donovan Mitchell had 23 points for Utah, who were within five points late in the game before Booker drained five straight to push Phoenix’s lead out to 10.
The Jazz won both preseason games by an average of 16.5 points but it meant little as the Suns rose to second in the Western Conference.
ORLANDO HANDED FIRST LOSS AS SIMMONS NAILS 3-POINTER
Elsewhere, Joel Embiid delivered 21 points and nine rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers sank 15 three pointers to hand the Orlando Magic their first loss of the new season with a 116-92 win.
Embiid scored all his points in just three quarters for the Sixers who sank eight of their first 12 attempts from three-point range in front of 3,000 fans at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
The Magic were the NBA’s last undefeated team, off to a surprising 4-0 start for the first time in franchise history.
Seth Curry added 21 points and five three-pointers, and Tobias Harris chipped in 20 points, nine rebounds and three three-pointers for Philadelphia, who led by as much as 37 points in the first half. The Sixers scored 38 points in the first quarter and boosted that total to 75 by the half.
“We did a good job of moving that ball around and mixing it up with three-point shots off the double teams and driving the basketball,” said Curry.
“We know we have a lot of potential and ways to grow, but to be 4-1 already is good.”
The season-high 15 three pointers included one from Ben Simmons who drained just the third one of his career. Simmons finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Nikola Vucevic finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Magic, while rookie guard Cole Anthony came off the bench to score 16 points.
SABONIS KEEPS GETTING BETTER
The Indiana Pacers improved to a 4-1 start to the season after a 119-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Colin Sexton and Darius Garland went big with 28 and 21 points respectively for Cleveland while Andre Drummond had 13 rebounds.
It was a stronger supporting cast for the Pacers though with six players hitting double digits in points.
Domantas Sabonis led the way with 25 points, seven assists and 11 rebounds.