Warriors

Nash injured as Lakers fall to 0-2

929815.jpg

Nash injured as Lakers fall to 0-2

From Comcast SportsNetPORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- This was not the start the Los Angeles Lakers envisioned.The talent-laden Lakers have dropped two straight to open the season -- their opener at home against the Dallas Mavericks followed by a 116-106 thumping by the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.To make matters worse, two-time MVP Steve Nash, brought in by the Lakers in the offseason along with six-time All-Star Dwight Howard, was injured late in the first half against Portland."We've got to learn how to play together," said Howard, who had 33 points and 14 rebounds in the loss to Portland. "You've got to be good before you can be great."The Lakers' stockpile of stars lacked a sense of urgency against the Blazers, who led by as many as 19 points. Nicolas Batum had 26 points and Damian Lillard, the sixth overall pick in the June draft, had 22 points and 11 assists in his NBA debut.Kobe Bryant had 30 points and Howard's output Wednesday night was a vast improvement over his debut the night before against the Mavs, when he had 19 points and 10 rebounds but made just three of 14 free throws before fouling out. The Lakers lost that one 99-91.But it was apparent for the second night in a row that the Lakers were still getting used to each other. The starters rarely played together during an 0-8 preseason."We didn't expect to just come together and be awesome," Howard said. "It's always a process. We've got to stick with it so that at the end of the year we can have a trophy."Nash collided with Lillard and limped to the locker room. Although the team initially reported he was fine, Nash struggled when he returned for the second half and left the game for good a short time later.The team said he had a bruised left leg. He said after the game he hopes to play Friday when the Lakers host the Clippers."We're not sharp," Nash said. "I think the guys are trying, we just didn't live up to what we're trying to do."The Blazers, who finished 28-38 last season and out of the playoffs, opened their season with eight newcomers on the roster after an offseason rebuilding effort around All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Batum."People probably didn't expect us to come out and beat that type of team, but we've been competing very hard in practice, and we did that same thing tonight," Lillard said. "We were flying around, lots of energy. I think our activity kind of wore on them."Portland pulled out to a 30-26 lead late in the first quarter after Matthews' 3-pointer. Lillard extended the lead to 35-26 with a running bank shot in traffic.J.J. Hickson's jumper made it 41-34 for Portland, but Bryant answered for the Lakers with a 3-pointer. Batum's fast-break jam gave the Blazers a 46-40 lead and Portland went into halftime with a 62-57 lead.Portland took its momentum into the second half, going up 72-64 on another dunk by Batum. Sasha Pavlovic's 3-pointer gave the Blazers an 88-76 lead just before Howard was called for his fourth foul.Matthews' jumper made it 102-83 in the fourth quarter. Batum had a 3-pointer to make it 108-94 as the game slipped out of reach for the Lakers.Batum's opener comes after an uncertain offseason as a restricted free agent. The Blazers got into a poker match with the Timberwolves over the 23-year-old Frenchman, eventually matching Minnesota's four-year offer sheet worth more than 45 million.Batum, like the rest of the Blazers, was trying to keep the victory low-key."This was just one game, just one game," he said. "It was a really good win, but we've got to focus on the next game on the road."Portland visits Oklahoma City on Friday night.The Blazers wore new red uniforms for the opener and encouraged fans to wear red, but the crowd was nonetheless sprinkled with plenty of Lakers gold. Among them was a fan that lifted a sign reading, "I love Steve Nash.""The morale is fine, but nobody wants to lose," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "We've just got to focus on what it will take for us to get a win. That's defense, first, and then, obviously, we've got to take care of the basketball."NOTES:The Blazers declined team options for next season on guards Elliott Williams and Nolan Smith, and forward Luke Babbitt, to maintain salary cap flexibility. All three will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, but the Blazers will retain their Bird rights. ... Portland added 10 players to the roster of the team's NBA D-League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede, including training camp participants Coby Karl, Justin Holiday and Dallas Lauderdale.

Gameday: Curry out for payback against Conley, new-look Grizzlies

curry-conley-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Gameday: Curry out for payback against Conley, new-look Grizzlies

When the Warriors set foot in FedEx Forum on Saturday, they’ll find a very different atmosphere as well as a barely recognizable team of Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grindhouse is not the same. Zach Randolph and Vince Carter have left the building. So, too, has the “Grindfather” himself, Tony Allen.

So in their only trip to Memphis this season, the Warriors will focus mostly on point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol, the remaining core members of the team that reached the playoffs in each of the last seven seasons.

The Warriors (1-1) will be playing for the second night in a row, while the Grizzlies (1-0) have not played since their season opener Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.

BETTING LINE:
Warriors by 8.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Stephen Curry vs. Mike Conley: Curry has a long memory, and he will remember not only that the Warriors last season lost twice to the Grizzlies but also that Conley’s 27 points and clutch play offset Curry’s 40 points and led Memphis to an overtime win in Oakland. It won’t matter to Curry that the Warriors posted double-digit wins over the Grizzlies in the last two meetings last season. He may want to take over.

INJURY LIST:
Warriors: F Omri Casspi (L ankle sprain) is listed as questionable.

Grizzlies: F JaMychal Green (L ankle sprain), G Ben McLemore (R foot surgery) and G/F Wayne Selden Jr. (R quad injury) are listed as out.

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:
The Warriors have won five of the last seven in Memphis and 10 of the last 13 meetings overall.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
BREEZE OR WHEEZE: Coach Steve Kerr has expressed some concern about the team’s conditioning level. On the second night of their first back-to-back set -- with the Warriors arriving at the hotel at 2:30 a.m. -- it could provide a glimpse of their progress. Kerr said he would consider resting one or two players. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, both coming off injuries, would seem logical candidates.

GEORGIA VS. SPAIN: The Republic of Georgia’s Zaza Pachulia and Spain’s Marc Gasol know each other well, having spent years battling internationally and in the NBA. There will be no surprises, but Pachulia will have to avoid foul trouble to remain a part of his team’s defensive rotation against one of the league’s best big men.

HOT KLAY: Klay Thompson is off to a torrid start, shooting 11-of-18 from beyond the arc through the first two games. And now he won’t have to worry about Allen, who relished in opportunities to defend the Warriors All-Star. Memphis replaced Allen with Andrew Harrison, who is not in the Grindfather’s class as a defender.

Gameday: Big underdogs, Kings face Nuggets looking for second straight win

cauley-stein-jokic-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Gameday: Big underdogs, Kings face Nuggets looking for second straight win

With a win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night, the Sacramento Kings are feeling good heading into their first back-to-back on Saturday. They’ll face a Denver Nuggets team that lost their season opener to the Utah Jazz and is looking for their first victory of the season.

The combination of George Hill and De’Aaron Fox at the point guard position was too much for Dallas to handle on Friday. Hill poured in 21 points, including two huge shots down the stretch and Fox came away with his first 10-assist game of his career.

Denver added veteran Paul Millsap in the offseason to match with rising star Nikola Jokic. Jokic struggled in the opener, but still managed to post seven points, eight assists and 12 rebounds. The Kings will have their hands full trying to slow the 7-footer.  

OPENING LINE:
Nuggets by 11

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Nikola Jokic -- Cauley-Stein has posted back-to-back double-doubles to start the season and comes in averaging 15.5 points, 10.5 rebound and two blocks in 29 minutes per game. Jokic is one of the more versatile bigs in the game. He picks and chooses his spots to score, but his passing ability makes him a dangerous player.

WHERE THEY STAND:
Kings: 1-1

Nuggets: 0-1

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: SG Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle sprain) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out

Nuggets: No injuries to report

SERIES HISTORY:
These two teams split the season series last year and hold an identical 86-86 record against each other all-time. The Kings lead the Nuggets 65-63 during the Sacramento-era.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
MORE TIME FOR FOX - The Kings speedy young guard is showing that he’s ready to carry more of the load. In his first game, he posted 14 points and five assists. In Game Two, he set up his teammates for a team-high 10 assists while adding nine points and six rebounds. He’s averaged 25 minutes a game in the first two, but his play is already commanding more.

GIVING BUDDY SOME LOVE - Lost in the shuffle of the team’s first win was an nice all-around performance from Buddy Hield. The second-year guard was one of eight Kings to grab five rebounds or more against the Mavs, but Hield’s late board in traffic was probably the play of the night. If he can post more 13 point, six rebound, three assist games early in the season, he’ll find himself on the court more often than not.

MORE FROM SKAL NEEDED - Skal Labissiere has all the potential in the world, but he’s off to a quiet start through two contests. He needs to be more aggressive calling for the ball and continue to hit the glass hard. He’s averaging 10 points and 7.5 rebounds in 23 minutes per game, but one of those came with Zach Randolph on the shelf. He’ll need to earn minutes like everyone else on this team.

QUOTE:
“My coach has that much confidence in me, a 19-year-old kid to stay on the floor in crunch time, and when he has that confidence in me, my confidence goes up that much more.” -De’Aaron Fox on coach Dave Joerger sticking with him down the stretch in the Kings’ first win.