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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  • 'Some joy, some smiles, some hugs' - Jokic return a perfect remedy for ailing Nuggets 'Some joy, some smiles, some hugs' - Jokic return a perfect remedy for ailing Nuggets

    Nikola Jokic bounced back to Denver Nuggets duty as though he had never been away as the win at Miami Heat was described by coach Michael Malone as "a great pain reliever".

    The superstar Serbian, MVP in the NBA last season, had missed four successive games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's six-game slide.

    That was their worst such stretch since 2014-15 and saw them fall away after making a 9-4 start to the season, but prospects for Malone's men are looking up now that Jokic is fit.

    After sinking the Heat 120-111 in Miami, there was a warm mix of emotion and relief in the Nuggets' locker room.

    Jokic posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, and seemingly that effort had changed everything.

    Bones Hyland, the 21-year-old Nuggets point guard, shot a career-high 19 points including five three-pointers, and said: "It felt good going back into the locker room.

    "I felt as though the guys were trying to win so bad just because Nikola was out. We know what he provides, and we were trying to fill his shoes and those are big shoes to fill.

    "Him being back, everybody's a team now, playing through him, and it felt good for sure."

    Malone had to search for the correct terminology to describe the post-game emotion.

    "I don't know if relief is the right word, but there was definitely some joy, some smiles, some hugs," said the coach.

    "As corny as that sounds, man, winning is a great pain reliever. We've all been down in the dumps and to get this win tonight kind of just stops all of that and allows us to get back to feeling good about ourselves."

    He said playing without Jokic had been "a little bit different" to losing any other player.

    Quoted on NBA.com, Malone struck an upbeat tone, saying: "I love the guys in the locker room. I'll go to war with them. Obviously, tonight was just one win. But after losing six in a row, by no means have we said, 'We're gonna change our goals now'. There's 62 games left, so much basketball to be played. So, you move on and play another day."

    Jokic was not given an easy ride by the Miami crowd, facing boos every time he touched the ball due to the dust-up he and the Heat's Markieff Morris had in a November 8 game. Morris has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident.

    He is big enough to handle such hostility though, saying afterwards: "I played in Serbia, so I wish you guys could feel that."

    The 26-year-old Jokic is averaging 26.2 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists this season, so ostensibly this was a par performance. How the Nuggets had missed him at his most routine though.

    Jokic felt there was a collective improvement in the team, adding: "Everybody played well. We had seven players in double figures. So, everybody shared the ball. Everybody touched it."

  • Jokic returns and helps Nuggets snap skid amid boos in Miami, Doncic ties Robertson record Jokic returns and helps Nuggets snap skid amid boos in Miami, Doncic ties Robertson record

    Nikola Jokic's return proved the perfect tonic for the slumping Denver Nuggets after the reigning MVP helped snap a six-game slide in a 120-111 victory over the Miami Heat.

    All eyes were on Jokic, who had missed four straight games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's worst six-game stretch since the 2014-15 season.

    There was also plenty of interest as the Nuggets and Heat renewed hostilities for the first time since Jokic and Miami's Markieff Morris were involved in a dustup on November 8.

    Jokic received a one-game ban after shoving Morris in the back as tempers flared – the Nuggets star reacting angrily after the Heat veteran came in with a hard foul, catching his opponent with a left elbow to the chest.

    While the Heat were shorthanded in the absence of Morris – who has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, Miami fans let their feelings known, booing Jokic every time he touched the ball.

    Jokic, with his two brothers behind the Denver bench, was not fussed as he posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

    Double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (24 points and 13 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (17 points and 14 assists) were not enough for the Heat.

     

    Doncic matches Robertson

    Luka Doncic had 25 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-96 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He tied Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles (38) before turning 23. Mavericks star Doncic celebrates his 23rd birthday in February.

    Lonzo Ball earned family bragging rights after the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 133-119. Up against brother LaMelo and the Hornets, Lonzo's Balls prevailed thanks to Nikola Vucevic (30 points and 14 rebounds), DeMar DeRozan (28 points) and Zach LaVine (25 points). According to Stats Perform, Chicago are the first team to have a starting guard (LaVine), starting forward (DeRozan) and starting center (Vucevic) have 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since the Orlando Magic in January 1994. LaMelo Ball's 18 points and 13 assists were not enough for the Hornets.

    Seth Curry put up 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting as the Philadelphia 76ers held on to beat the Magic 101-96 at home. The 76ers are riding a five-game winning streak against the Magic – their longest such streak against Orlando.

    Jonas Valanciunas nailed seven of his three-point attempts as he torched the Los Angeles Clippers in a 39-point and 15-rebound performance, the New Orleans Pelicans triumphing 123-104.

     

    Lillard struggles in Blazers loss

    Much was said about All-Star Damian Lillard heading into the season amid question marks over his future with the Portland Trail Blazers. Had he outgrown the smalltown market? Well, his topsy-turvy campaign continued after scoring just 11 points on four-of-12 shooting from the floor in the 129-107 defeat at the Utah Jazz.

    Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Giddey had a game to forget as fellow strugglers the Houston Rockets eased past the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-89. In 25 minutes, Giddey made only one of his nine shots from the field, missing his five three-point attempts for two points in total.

  • 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.

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