Sports Illustrated

Murray, Nuggets escape with OT win over Suns

Associated Press

DENVER — Jamal Murray scored seven of his 27 points in overtime and the Denver Nuggets beat Phoenix 108-107 on Friday night after the Suns’ Ricky Rubio tied it in regulation after he was fouled on a half-court shot.

Rubio dribbled up the court and launched a 3-pointer as Malik Beasley grabbed his arm with 1.8 seconds remaining. The Phoenix newcomer made all three free throws.

Murray hit two free throws with 19.4 seconds remaining in OT to give the Nuggets the lead. Devin Booker took a last-second shot for Phoenix, but it was blocked by Torrey Craig.

Nikola Jokic finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.

In overtime, Murray took over. His winning free throws came soon after Gary Harris swatted the ball away from Frank Kaminsky down low.

Phoenix’s Rubio, Aron Baynes and Kelly Oubre Jr. fouled out in OT. Oubre had 23 points.

Suns big man Deandre Ayton missed the first of 25 games after being suspended Thursday for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program after testing positive for a diuretic.


BOSTON — Jaylen Brown had 25 points, hitting a key 3-pointer in the closing minutes, to help Boston hold off Toronto.

Jayson Tatum had 25 points and nine rebounds, and Kemba Walker scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter.

Pascal Siakam had 33 points to lead the defending champion Raptors. Kyle Lowry finished with 29 points, including six 3-pointers.

There were 12 ties and 19 lead changes, with neither team holding more than a seven-point lead.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in Minnesota’s victory over Charlotte.

Towns was 13 of 18 from the field, hitting four 3-pointers.

Andrew Wiggins added 16 points for Minnesota. Devonte Graham had 24 points on 6-of-9 3-point shooting for Charlotte.


NEW ORLEANS — Luka Doncic highlighted his triple-double by scoring eight of his 25 points in the final five minutes in Dallas’ victory over New Orleans.

Doncic also had 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and Kristaps Porzingis added 24 points and five blocks.

Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 25 points.

NETS 113, KNICKS 109

NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving scored 26 points and made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 22 seconds left and Brooklyn held off New York.

Irving, who scored 50 points in an overtime loss to Minnesota in his Brooklyn debut, scored five straight points down the stretch after New York took a three-point lead. Spencer Dinwiddie added 20 points.

Allonzo Trier scored 22 points for the Knicks.


OKLAHOMA CITY — Thomas Bryant had 21 points and 11 rebounds to help Washington beat Oklahoma City.

Rookie forward Rui Hachimura scored 19 points and Bradley Beal added 17. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored a career-high 28 points for the Thunder.


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Zach LaVine scored 37 points and rookie Coby White had 21 of his 25 points in the second half in Chicago’s comeback victory over Memphis.

LaVine was 13 of 23 from the field, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range. Jaren Jackson Jr. led Memphis with 23 points and 11 rebounds.


SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Damian Lillard scored 13 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter and Portland pulled away to beat Sacramento.

Lillard added five assists and five rebounds, Hassan Whiteside had 22 points and nine rebounds despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter, and C.J. McCollum scored 19.

De’Aaron Fox had 28 points, five assists and six rebounds for Sacramento. Buddy Hield added 21 points but the Kings remained winless in two games under new coach Luke Walton.

Anfernee Simons added 15 points off the bench for Portland.


LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis had 21 points and seven rebounds during his home debut, and LeBron James had 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in Los Angeles’ victory over Utah.

Troy Daniels hit four 3-pointers and scored 15 points for the Lakers, who forced 23 turnovers by a talented Utah team and won comfortably behind that gritty defense.

Donovan Mitchell scored 24 points for the Jazz, who played without injured newcomer Bojan Bogdanovic.

Lakers turning to Rajon Rondo as starting point guard

Dave McMenamin | ESPN

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Lakers‘ experiment starting LeBron James at point guard will be short-lived. Rajon Rondo is coming for the No. 1 spot.

“I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think he’ll be in the starting lineup a lot,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of Rondo after practice Thursday. “I definitely envision a lot of games where he’ll be the starting point guard.”

Rondo missed the Lakers’ season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, sitting out with a sore calf, and the offense sputtered. The Lakers shot 43.5 percent from the floor and had 14 turnovers against 20 assists.

James started as the de facto point guard, flanked by two off-ball guards in Avery Bradley and Danny Green, along with Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee in the frontcourt.

Rondo, who said he first experienced discomfort in his calf the day before the Lakers’ preseason finale in Golden State, went through Thursday’s practice at “full speed” and “didn’t look impaired at all,” according to Vogel, but his availability for Friday’s game against the Utah Jazz is to be determined.

“He looked really good,” Vogel said. “He looked fresher than everybody else. A little bounce in his step, which is good. But, you know, it’s not how he feels today, it’s how he feels after today’s workload. Right? So we’ll see how he responds to what he’s doing today and make that decision tomorrow.”

Bradley impressed the coaching staff with his fit with the starting unit, sources told ESPN, in the Lakers’ dominant 126-93 preseason win over the Warriors on Oct. 16, scoring 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting. With Rondo injured, the natural choice was to go back to that group for the opener, sources said.

James finished with 18 points on 7-for-19 shooting, 10 rebounds and 8 assists against the Clippers, but shot just 1-for-4 in the fourth quarter and committed three of his six turnovers in the final frame.

James spent much of the night targeting Davis with post feeds — something that worked for the offense, to be sure — but became less effective as the game wore on.

“I think if there’s one thing that stands out, is when they started bringing soft help in the post, we didn’t respond to that well enough in terms of our spacing,” Vogel said. “There’s simple counters, and if they’re going to sit in AD’s lap, with the shooters that we have out there, we should be shooting open 3s, if we’re spaced appropriately in those situations.”

Rondo, entering his 13th season, averaged 9.2 points on 40.5% shooting (35.9% from 3) with 8.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds last year, his first with the Lakers. He said that a starting role isn’t something he is pushing for, necessarily.

“My preference is what coach Vogel wants me to do,” he said. “I’ll be cool with that.”

Vogel said there still could be games where Rondo comes off the bench and Bradley starts, depending on matchups.

Should Rondo start Friday, his matchup will be Utah point guard Mike Conley, who is coming off a 1-for-16 shooting night in the Jazz season opener. “It’s the worst thing that could’ve happened,” James said, referring to Conley’s motivation level heading into the Lakers game.

You Can’t Turn Steph Curry Into James Harden

Ray Ratto | DEADSPIN

Stephen Curry is one of the leading conduits of migraine headaches in modern American sports. That is to say, his name is invoked when migraines are inspired, which is correlation rather than causation.

Monday, for example, he was an innocent bystander when Michael Jordan said on the Today show that Curry wasn’t a Hall of Famer. This immediately caused the internet to vomit upon itself even though (a) Jordan was pretty clearly joking and (b) is technically correct in that one is not a Hall of Famer until elected to the Hall of Fame. Jordan may not be much for team creation (see Hornets, Charlotte, Freefall) but he knows the difference between the present and the future.

Tuesday, though, and more to the point, his head coach Steve Kerr downgraded Curry’s running mate Klay Thompson to “unlikely to play this season” after amateur doctors across the land with neither knowledge nor access had projected his return at around the all-star break. This exacerbated the running analysis that Curry’s already-high usage rate should spike beyond Hardenesque levels for him to win the Most Valuable Player award in an otherwise difficult year for the company. Some even postulate that a ball-dominant Curry makes them better, which is wrong for reasons that those of you stupid enough to continue will see below.

(Here is the point at which someone must surely say soon that Jordan makes the most sense of anyone on the subject of Steph. Everything else on the subject is either confusing, wrongheaded or flies in the face of everything that made Curry Curry.)

Thompson’s adjusted recovery timeline makes the Warriors significantly worse, since the optimistic view of their season assumed Thompson’s full return in time for a late-season return to full Warrior-hood. In other words, they’re likely to be worse, both individually and collectively. Bet the under on the 48.5 win total, based on: the time it will take D’Angelo Russell to acclimate himself as Curry’s new Thompson; Draymond Green’s ability to guard multiple people at once rather than merely alternately; Kevon Looney’s amiable work ethic vs. his physical limitations; and Willie Cauley-Stein’s eventual return to whatever the Willie Cauley-Steins of the world do.

As for Curry, though, the speculation that his usage rate could skyrocket and that he would therefore be more likely to put together a dazzling individual season of numbers flies in the face of the fact that removing quality teammates typically makes one worse rather than better. Defending Curry as teams are likely to defend him will probably help Russell’s numbers, but nobody is clamoring for that one way or another.

But even if Curry’s numbers did spike as some people expect, that would make him less appealing as a player because a ball-centric Curry is antithetical to the Curry that resides atop Jordan’s Not-A-Hall-Of-Famer-Yet list. Curry lives in a ball-movement universe and made his reputation not as a stand-alone consumer of the shot clock but as the most electric moving part in a gearbox full of them. The NBA is clearly getting away from the one-option-fits-all ball that once made Carmelo Anthony a thing, and Curry was a prime example of the game’s aesthetic advancement. And now people think he should regress for the glory of his own stat line because winning an MVP and missing the playoffs is somehow an equitable trade?

No. Curry is … well, was the heart of one of the great ensemble shows in sports history, and even wanting him to be something else (which is to say something worse) is either the heartfelt plea of a fan of another team or the yowling of an idiot. He shares with his teammates and his teammates share with him for a loftier goal, or there’s no real point to the exercise. Thompson is the key to that ball movement because he needs the ball in his hands less than any other person in the sport; he holds the NBA record for shots made before touching the ball, that’s how quick his release is. Without him, the meh washes over you like room-temperature high tide—you don’t notice you’re drowning until this seaweed plugs your nostrils.

Put another way, Stephen Curry as James Harden is simply not worth the minimal benefit of being a slightly more appealing MVP candidate.

But if you don’t believe that, remember that no city throws a parade for an MVP winner, and without the possibility of drinking straight from the bottle on a raucous city street while the cops do nothing except smile, sports may as well be insurance adjusting.

Ray Ratto only watches the NBA to see how many experts can be wrong simultaneously about anything.