The Lakers picked up narrow wins over the Grizzlies and Bulls this week, while a loss to the Spurs on Thursday prompted Anthony Davis to publicly criticize the team’s defensive effort. They capped things off with an emphatic victory over the Rockets in Houston, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope rejoined the fray after missing four games with an ankle injury. Davis and LeBron James continue to do the heavy lifting offensively as Frank Vogel figures out how all of his new pieces will fit.
It was a whirlwind week for the Celtics, who beat the Raptors and Heat before losing half their team to COVID-19 protocols. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown managed to power the depleted roster to victory over the Wizards before Sunday’s game against the Heat was postponed. It’s unclear how long Boston will have to wait for a full roster to return, but they have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA, winning six of their last seven games.
Phoenix blew a 23-point lead in Friday’s overtime loss to the Pistons, but picked up wins over the Raptors and Pacers this week to maintain one of the best records in the Western Conference. Devin Booker averaged 24 points for the week, while Mikal Bridges continued his hot start to the season by hitting 47 percent of his 3-pointers, including 6-of-8 en route to a career-high 34 points in Saturday’s win over the Pacers.
The Bucks got back on the winning track this week, beating the Pistons twice and the Cavs on Saturday. Their home loss to the Jazz was a bit concerning, however, as they allowed 131 points while Utah hit a franchise-record 25 3-pointers. The Bucks defense has never been afraid to allow 3-point shots, but the Jazz attempted 30 “wide open” 3s (closest defender six or more feet away) according to NBA.com, which is not a recipe for Milwaukee success. Giannis Antetokounmpo missed Saturday’s win over the Cavs, but was brilliant in the other three games, averaging 34.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and four assists.
Well, well, well. After an abysmal start to the season, the Warriors have begun to figure some things out. They blew out the Kings and launched an epic comeback against the Clippers to erase a 22-point third-quarter deficit and win by 10. Even in their loss to the Clippers earlier this week, the Warriors held a 6-point lead in the fourth quarter. We’ve seen that the Warriors can win when Steph Curry goes ballistic, but they were able to beat the Raptors on Sunday with their fearless leader going 2-for-16 from the field and finishing with 11 points. That has to boost the confidence of Steve Kerr’s squad moving forward.
Rick Carlisle changed up his starting lineup after a 2-4 start, inserting Willie Cauley-Stein and Maxi Kleber while moving Dwight Powell and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the bench, and so far it’s working. The Mavs had a 3-0 week, including an impressive win over the Nuggets in Denver, as Luka Doncic emerged from his relative early-season funk to average 30.3 points, 12 rebounds and 11.3 assists during the winning streak. Hardaway thrived in his bench role and in one start due to missing players on Saturday, scoring 25.7 points per game on scorching 19-for-31 3-point shooting in the three games.
Malcolm Brogdon kept up his career season, averaging 26 points, nine assists and five rebounds on 52 percent 3-point shooting in a 2-1 week for the Pacers. Domantas Sabonis was no slouch himself, putting up 23 points, 15 rebounds and five assists for the week. The Pacers look rock-solid on both ends of the floor to start the season.
Denver took care of business against the Wolves, Knicks and a shell of a 76ers team this week, while losing a tight one with the Mavericks. Jamal Murray had a rough week in terms of scoring, but Nikola Jokic was in top form, averaging 27.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists while making 43 percent of his 3-pointers. They didn’t play against the world’s best offenses, but the defense took a step in the right direction.
The Clippers lost to the Spurs to start the week, but the real eyebrow-raiser came Friday in San Francisco, when they squandered a 22-point second-half lead and wound up losing by 10 to the Warriors. It’s just a regular-season game, but it was eerily reminiscent of the Clippers’ playoff collapses a couple months ago. They needed a comeback of their own to beat the Bulls on Sunday, as Kawhi Leonard went bonkers with 35 points on 7-for-9 3-point shooting. Marcus Morris also made his season debut on Wednesday after coming back from a knee injury, and he’ll add to the team’s frontcourt depth next to Nicolas Batum, who has played well to start the year.
Utah started off the week with two bad losses — one to the Kevin Durant-less Nets and the other to the Knicks — but bounced back for an impressive victory over the Bucks in which they made a franchise-record 25 3-pointers, before beating the Pistons on Sunday. Donovan Mitchell led the way with 27.3 points and 4.5 assists per game for the week, while Jordan Clarkson chipped in 18.8 points per game on 45 percent 3-point shooting.
The Sixers learned how fast life can come at you in the COVID-era NBA this week, improving to a league-best 7-1 with wins over the Hornets and Wizards before losing to the Nets and Nuggets in two games affected by the virus. First they were dominated by a short-handed Nets team without Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, then Philly was forced to play seven guys against Denver due to Seth Curry’s reported positive test. The loss to Brooklyn was bad, but it may be hard to gauge the 76ers for a while as they slowly get their full roster back. One high note: Tyrese Maxey had a great end to the week, averaging 27.5 points in the two Sixers losses, including a career-high 39 against the Nuggets.
San Antonio had a chance for an undefeated week, but lost to the Timberwolves without DeMar DeRozan on Sunday. Even so, beating the Clippers and Lakers in back-to-back road games is no small feat, making this an impressive stretch for the Spurs. DeRozan has embraced the playmaker role, averaging a career-high seven assists per game, while Dejounte Murray may finally be taking the leap many have been expecting. When Derrick White returns to the lineup, San Antonio should become even more dangerous.
Miami beat the Thunder and had a comeback bid spoiled in a loss to the Celtics, then needed 31 points from Tyler Herro and a near triple-double from Jimmy Butler to beat the Wizards without Bradley Beal or Russell Westbrook. It’s clear that the Heat haven’t found their rhythm yet this season, and it’s going to get even harder to do so after Sunday’s game was postponed due to Miami not having the required eight players after COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
The Blazers offense had the good fortune of playing the three worst defenses in the NBA this week, so they must be somewhat disappointed to only come away with two wins. Carmelo Anthony was unable to hit a game-tying 3-point attempt in the closing seconds against the Bulls in their only loss of the week. CJ McCollum continues his career campaign, scoring 27.7 points per game on 47 percent 3-point shooting in the three games.
OKC was blown out by the Heat to start the week, but rattled off three straight wins against the Pelicans, Knicks and Nets. In what was supposed to be the first year of a rebuild, the Thunder are sitting above .500 behind the outstanding play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who averaged 23.8 points, 6.8 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game this week on 45 percent 3-point shooting. They’ve also seen strong development from Darius Bazley and Hamidou Diallo to go with consistent play from veterans Al Horford and George Hill.
The Nets were without either Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant for every game this week, including two without either, so going 2-2 isn’t the worst outcome. They destroyed the Jazz without Durant and then handled the 76ers without either of their stars, but they appeared to run out of gas in losses to the Grizzlies and Thunder to close out the week. Caris LeVert was tremendous in an expanded role, averaging 27.5 points, six rebounds and five assists for the week, while Durant put up 36 points and 11 rebounds in his return on Sunday.
The Knicks picked up two more wins to start the week, but lost to OKC and Denver to close things out. The defense remains solid under Tom Thibodeau, but their offense betrayed them in their losses, putting just 89 points on the board in each game. Julius Randle continues to be the engine on that end, averaging 26.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and seven assists for the week. Austin Rivers has become a mainstay in the rotation, averaging 30 minutes over the last four games while making 11 of his 21 3-point attempts.
LaMelo Ball narrowly missed making history against his brother on Friday, then completed his unfinished business the next night by becoming the youngest NBA player in history to record a triple-double. He averaged 14.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.5 assists for the week and, more importantly, the Hornets have now won three straight games. Gordon Hayward averaged 25.3 points on 41 percent 3-point shooting, continuing to prove he’s more than capable of once again being a team’s top offensive threat, like he was in Utah.
The Magic suffered a devastating blow this week with Markelle Fultz lost for the season with a torn ACL, and they struggled mightily in two losses following the injury. Offense was a problem, as expected, and they ran into two high-powered offenses in the Rockets and Mavericks which made it impossible for the Magic to keep up. Nikola Vucevic continues to be as reliable as a metronome, averaging 22.8 points and 10.5 rebounds for the week.
Rough week for the Pels, who dropped three straight home games, the final two against the Thunder and Hornets. The defense, which had been so good to start the year, looked more like last year’s Pelicans this week, and the offense couldn’t keep up. Zion Williamson had a monster week with 26.3 points and eight rebounds per game while Brandon Ingram went ice cold from 3-point range.
The Cavs offense continued to struggle this week without Darius Garland and with Collin Sexton missing two games. Cleveland was able to beat the also short-handed Grizzlies on Saturday behind a strong performance from Andre Drummond, who averaged 24 points and 19.5 rebounds in the two games that Sexton missed to close out the week. The defense looks vastly improved, and the Cavs should be confident that the offense will receive a major boost when SexLand is back to full strength.
Those thinking James Harden might coast through the season waiting for a trade received some supporting evidence this week, as the perennial MVP candidate averaged just 17.8 points per game and, more alarmingly, attempted fewer than five free throws per game. Harden hasn’t averaged fewer than nine free throw attempts per game since he joined the Rockets in 2012. Christian Wood looks great in his new surroundings (22.7 points, 8.3 rebounds per game this week), but there’s clearly something off with this group, and it’s not hard to figure out why.
Chicago played four close games this week, but only was able to come away with a win against the Trail Blazers, with losses to the Kings, Lakers and Clippers. Zach LaVine is in the middle of one of his signature hot streaks, averaging 38.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists over his last three games, while making a blistering 17-of-34 3-pointers during that stretch. Billy Donovan won’t like the results, but he has to be happy with the way his team is competing.
Three more losses for the Raptors this week brings their record to 2-7, one of the bigger surprises in the NBA. The offense has broken out a bit, led by Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, but they continue to struggle defensively, allowing 118.6 points per 100 possessions in four games this week. They appear to be missing Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, as their defense at the rim has slipped considerably. Coach Nick Nurse started Pascal Siakam at center in Sunday’s loss to the Warriors, and said he’ll keep tweaking different parts of the game plan until Toronto hits its stride.
Three more losses for the Pistons this week, but the win was an exciting comeback overtime win over the Suns in which Jerami Grant tied a career-high with 31 points. He averaged 7.5 free throw attempts per game this week, sinking a career-high 11 against the Bucks on Monday, a positive sign as Grant unlocks his offensive potential in Detroit. Unfortunately so far, however, it hasn’t led to many wins.
Continuing their struggles without Ja Morant, the Grizzlies lost close games to the Lakers and Cavs before beating the short-handed Nets on Friday. The defense has been solid, but the offense has expectedly struggled with Dillon Brooks pretty much the only perimeter player left who can create his own shot. Brandon Clarke played well this week, averaging 15.7 points and 6.3 rebounds on 44 percent 3-point shooting.
The Wolves snapped a seven-game losing streak with a gritty victory over the Spurs on Sunday, but the big news is that Karl-Anthony Towns made a much-needed return to the court on Saturday, posting 25 points and 13 rebounds in 37 minutes. Minnesota was 2-0 before Towns missed six games with a wrist injury, so they’ll hope to return to that form as the franchise big man gets his legs back underneath him.
Atlanta’s high-powered offense from the first two weeks of the season has sputtered to a halt, with reported frustration from John Collins about the way Trae Young is running the show. Teams that expect to make the playoffs can’t lose to the Knicks and Hornets at home. Lloyd Pierce switched things up on Saturday by inserting Bogdan Bogdanovic into the starting lineup, but the experiment was short-lived as Bogdanovic exited in the second quarter with a knee injury that Pierce says will keep him out “a while.” With Danilo Gallinari expected to be out for a few more weeks, the Hawks’ young players have to step up to right the ship.
You don’t have to be an analytics wizard to know that the Kings’ 127.1 defensive rating this week is probably not ideal. When you mix in their 109.9 offensive rating, that results in a terrible four-game stretch. They were able to pick up a close win against the Bulls, though they still allowed 124 points, but the three losses were all of the blowout variety. A silver lining is that Tyrese Haliburton returned from a wrist injury to average 14.7 points and 7.3 assists on 50 percent 3-point shooting in Sacramento’s last three games.
It must have been a frustrating week for Bradley Beal, who averaged over 50 points in two Wizards losses and was then held out of Saturday’s game due to the league’s contact tracing protocols. Things got even worse for Washington when it was announced that Thomas Bryant will miss the season after tearing his ACL in Saturday’s game. Moe Wagner and Robin Lopez will have to step up in the middle for the struggling Wiz.