The NBA Warriors are looking like themselves again, after splitting their first game of the new season with the 76ers in their first game back from the All-Star break. Golden State got 24 points from Klay Thompson, and a 19-point effort from Kevin Durant in a 112-98 victory, to bounce back from their surprising fifth place finish in the Western Conference last season. It’s not just a return to form for the defending champions, however, as Golden State kept the ball moving and were efficient, hitting 11 of 26 from three point range in the first half to set the tone early. Stephen Curry also scored 19 points, marking the second game this season that he’s posted 20 points, five assists and five rebounds. The Warriors didn’t seem to miss Draymond Green, who missed his second game of the season after dislocating his finger in pre-season, but they still won without him, and it shows why this team has an even longer shot of being back in their own world.
In Mexico City, the Rockets stormed back from a sloppy first half to beat the Timberwolves 104-93 and avenge a one-point loss to Minnesota in San Antonio. The Rockets were sloppy with the ball in the first half, turning it over 21 times, including 10 in the first quarter alone. However, that changed after Houston used an impressive third quarter to take a 64-56 lead into the final eight minutes of the game. The Rockets couldn’t shoot it better than Minnesota, going 12-for-26 in the quarter (56%), and connecting on 10 of their 12 free throws, a 14% conversion rate. It paid off for Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, who prefers to run a style of offense that involves making as many passes as possible and maximizing opportunities at the rim, rather than forcing things.
The difference from the Rockets’ first two preseason games was how much their defense carried them when they needed it. Minnesota only shot a respectable 40% from the field, including a particularly horrid 1-for-17 effort from Karl-Anthony Towns in the second half. The Timberwolves turned the ball over nine times in the final quarter alone, allowing Houston to pull away. If this is a sign of things to come, their top defenders might be poised for strong seasons for the Rockets.
Anthony Davis has been put on the trade block and the Pelicans won’t stand in his way, despite the possibility that he could force his way out of New Orleans, in a deal involving several other players including DeMarcus Cousins. Pelicans general manager Dell Demps has a long list of players that he wants to see play one more season, but it isn’t just his star power forward who is in jeopardy of being moved. Demps is reportedly trying to fit players such as Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, E’Twaun Moore and DeMarcus Cousins under the team’s salary cap, which, at this point, seems inevitable.
Meanwhile, wherever Davis may end up next season, teams such as the Mavericks and Pelicans will be hoping that he thrives in his second season, under the tutelage of rookie head coach David Fizdale. Davis was knocked around a bit early in his rookie season, but seemed to find his groove as time went on. If Fizdale has what it takes to get Davis into a new system and play a brand of basketball that suits his skillset, he could be the type of coach who can make Davis an All-Star for years to come.