Three things to know: Bulls, Warriors handed first losses of season
Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.
Bulls are Back? While they lose game, they look legit in first real test
Last season, we learned the Knicks are back — and they are better this season, with a deeper roster and honest-to-god 3-point shooters to fear.
This season, the Bulls are back… maybe.
Chicago still has a lot to prove, but Thursday night was a step in the right direction. In the Bulls’ first real test, New York came into the United Center and outplayed Chicago much of the night in front of Joakim Noah (he was honored at the game). The Knicks led the majority of the second half comfortably — the Bulls shot 7-of-24 (29.2%) in the third quarter —.and New York took a 104-91 lead on a Julius Randle bunny with just under three minutes left in the game.
Then came the furious comeback, a 12-0 late run that gave Chicago a chance to steal a win on a DeMar DeRozan midrange jumper at the buzzer. Which hit nothing. (Watch the play, it was clearly designed for Zach LaVine to inbound the ball to DeRozan then get the ball back on a dribble hand-off, except DeRozan kept it and drove, but with Nikola Vucevic in that strong-side corner the Knicks had plenty of defenders to contest DeRozan’s shot.)
New York held on for the 104-103 win, and the Bulls got handed their first loss of the season. Both teams are now 4-1.
Zach LaVine finished with 25 points on 7-of-17 shooting in his first game playing with a thumb injury on his non-shooting hand, saying after the game, “It wasn’t pleasant, but it’s doable.” Vucevic added an efficient 22 points and DeRozan had 20. The Knicks’ size and physicality were a challenge for Chicago, which struggled to get to the rim much of the night. Also, Patrick Williams went out with a sprained wrist. Still, the Bulls did not go away, a good sign.
One of the highlights of the night: Bulls fans showed their love for their own, with MVP chants for Derrick Rose (who had a dozen points off the bench).
Chicago lost but looked like they belonged in the end, a good sign for a team trying to show they are back and one of the top teams in the East. Exactly where they stand in the conference is something we will have a better sense of in a couple of weeks as they work through a gauntlet of an upcoming schedule: undefeated Utah, Boston, two against Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Dallas, then a West Coast road trip.
2) Play-in history repeats itself: Memphis goes into Golden State, wins in OT
We’ve seen this movie before.
It felt like a remake of last season’s play-in game, because some things were different, but it ended the same way, with an up-and-coming Grizzlies team going into the Warriors building and beating Stephen Curry and company in overtime, 104-101. It was Golden State’s first loss of the season.
The Warriors go as Curry goes, and through three quarters he racked up 36 points and was his usual walking highlight show (scroll down to the Highlight of the Night for his best shot).
But Curry went scoreless in the fourth quarter and overtime, shooting 0-of-6 from 3 in that stretch.
These Grizzlies are feisty. On the second night of a road back-to-back, they got 30 points in 42 minutes out of Ja Morant (who had a key bucket in overtime), plus they played some of their best defense of the season down the stretch. Desmond Bane added 19 points and was 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.
That defense had the Warriors playing more isolation and simple basketball in the second half, getting away from the player and ball movement that have been back with them this season (and has them looking more like the championship Golden State teams). These are not the peak Warriors in the sense they don’t have the personnel or the margin for error to get away from that ball movement, and when they did the Grizzlies took advantage and handed the Warriors a loss.
Just don’t expect a lot of cold Curry fourth quarters this season.
3) The Wizards are 4-1 and can thank the Russell Westbrook trade for that
It’s far too early to judge the Russell Westbrook trade accurately — he and the Lakers are still finding their fit, but if/when he does next to LeBron James that team will be a contender.
However, so far, that trade has worked out for the Wizards. Thursday night Montrezl Harrell had a monster game off the bench — 25 points, 13 rebounds — and sparked a 122-111 win over a good Hawks team. Washington is now 4-1.
Certainly, all things Washington start with Bradley Beal, and he had 27 points in the win and had the play of the night dunking all over John Collins.
But it’s the three key players the Wizards added in the Westbrook trade — Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Harrell — who made the difference in this game and Washington’s season. Those three had 66 points against Atlanta, and for the season average 45.4 points a game. The trio also provides depth and versatility that Washington has lacked in previous years.
Don’t leave Spencer Dinwiddie off the list of big changes in Washington — he’s been exceptional, averaging 19.8 points and 4.5 assists a game — but it’s what came back in the Westbrook trade that has set the stage for a potentially impressive season in the nation’s capital.
Highlights of the night:
Come on Curry. This isn’t even fair. A one-legged running three?
The reactions to the shot are the best.