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The Skip Pass: Blowouts and Buzzer Beaters

The Skip Pass will be your home on Today’s Fastbreak for insights and nuggets on each game played in the NBA. This is different from your regular game recap or box score. We want to take you inside the game and call out things you might have missed.

Focus Games: Hawks at 76ers, Celtics at Hornets, Timberwolves at Kings

Other Games: Grizzlies at Knicks, Magic at Cavaliers, Pacers at Bulls, Pelicans at Spurs, Nets at Bucks, Trail Blazers at Nuggets

HAWKS 104 – 76ERS 72

HAWKS

  • Dwight Howard didn’t have much of an impact in this game due to foul trouble early on and the blowout nature late. However, Howard looks quicker and is moving better than he has in years. He looks like the explosive player from his Orlando days.
  • After struggling last year, Kyle Korver seems to be back. He’s moving better and getting more elevation on his jumper. A return to form is welcomed for a Hawks group that might struggle to shoot it on some nights.
  • Mike Muscala might be one of the more important backup bigs in the league. The Hawks aren’t very deep behind Howard and Paul Millsap. Muscala knows his role and takes and makes good shots.

76ERS

  • Joel Embiid sat for a lot of the second half, as Philly won’t risk its star’s health in a blowout. He has the total package, however. Maybe more so than any other big man in the league not named Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns.
  • Robert Covington and Gerald Henderson were complete no-shows in this one. The 76ers can’t compete when their starting wings combine to shoot 0-10 from the floor.

CELTICS 104 – HORNETS 98

CELTICS

  • Boston won behind a monster night from its starting backcourt of Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas. They shot 20-39 from the field and 10-18 from three en route to 55 total points. Bradley alone was 11-19 and 8-11 for 31 points, to go along with 11 rebounds and four assists.
  • Bradley’s big night wasn’t limited to the offensive end of the floor only. He held Nic Batum to just 12 points on 3-10 shooting.
  • Offensive efficiency and sharing the ball continues to be name of the game for the Celtics with 25 assists on 39 baskets.
  • For all the talk about depth, the Celtics’ bench has struggled to this point in the year. Things should pick up once Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk return from injuries.
  • Rebounding had been a major woe for Boston in its first two games. In this game, the team focused on boxing out and gang rebounding, and it led to a 42-38 overall edge and only six offensive rebounds for the Hornets.

HORNETS

  • Tough loss for Charlotte on the back-to-back night and traveling back home. This is one they might chalk up to a “schedule” loss.
  • Outside of Kemba Walker, the entire team struggled offensively. That is a far too common story for the Hornets when things go south.
  • Cody Zeller returned to the starting lineup and Frank Kaminsky was active for the first time this year. With Roy Hibbert nursing a knee injury, the Charlotte depth at the 4/5 spots will come into play.

KINGS 106 – TIMBERWOLVES 103

KINGS

  • Sacramento got behind by double figures several times in this game, but used a monster 17-0 run in the third quarter to take the lead.
  • DeMarcus Cousins continues to be one of the most frustrating talents in the league. When he’s engaged, he’s a completely dominant player. However, he still spends too much time barking at the officials, especially on plays where the call was made or not made correctly. He fouled out of the game late (on a correct call), and he proceeded to walk 15 or so rows up in to the stands. He was lucky to not get a technical on top of things.
  • Matt Barnes was huge for the Kings with several good defensive plays, including a monster block on Karl-Anthony Towns.
  • For a guy who doesn’t want to be in Sacramento, Rudy Gay isn’t playing like it. He had 28 points and made several big shots throughout the night.

TIMBERWOLVES

  • The Wolves showed their growing pains. They struggled to execute offensively down the stretch. Plays took a long time to develop, especially after Ricky Rubio left with a sprained right elbow.
  • With Rubio hurt, Kris Dunn will need to step up his game. Rubio seems likely to miss at least a handful of games. Dunn was drafted fifth overall for a reason and is the PG of the future in Minnesota. That future is getting accelerated a bit.
  • Andrew Wiggins’ offensive game is making strides. He hit several tough shots from a variety of angles, and he uses his length really well to get good looks for passes or shots.

KNICKS 111 – GRIZZLIES 104

KNICKS

  • It was all about frontcourt domination for the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle O’Quinn combined for 52 points on 15-31 shooting.
  • The Knicks’ shooting overall was good at 52 percent, but they shot poorly from behind the arc at just 28 percent. They also missed a good amount of free throws, finishing only 25-39 for 64 percent. Something to watch for as the season progresses.

GRIZZLIES

  • After falling behind early, the Grizzlies couldn’t quite climb back in the game. They miss Chandler Parsons’ shooting and playmaking quite a bit.
  • Jarell Martin was a bright spot with 13 points off the bench, including 2-2 from three.

CAVALIERS 105 – MAGIC 99

CAVALIERS

  • The Cavaliers played this one out like a regular-season game they just wanted to get over. This will be a theme this year, but it almost cost them here. After racing out to a big lead, they got complacent and let the Magic rally back.
  • After being silent for most of the game, J.R. Smith made two back-breaking triples late in the game to help seal it for Cleveland.
  • Once again, little to no production off the bench for the Cavaliers. As the year goes on, they’ll want to rest the starters some, but without good play off the bench they won’t be able to do so.

MAGIC

  • The Magic fell behind early, and it looked like another bad loss to start the year was on its way. Then the team locked in defensively and started making plays. They lost, but showed good fight at least.
  • The best lineups for the Magic featured Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green at the 4. With so much invested in Nikola Vucevic, Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo, we might not see it often, but playing Gordon and Green up a position is something Frank Vogel will have to consider.
  • Three-point shooting (8-28) and free throw shooting (15-26) were issues for Orlando.

BULLS 118 – PACERS 101

BULLS

  • Chicago broke this one open in the second quarter and coasted to a second consecutive victory to open the year.
  • Unlike the opener where they were hot from three, the Bulls’ starters combined to go just 0-4 from deep. They were picked up by Doug McDermott and Isaiah Canaan off the bench, who combined to shoot 8-11 from behind the arc.
  • Most impressive for the Bulls? The defense. They were flying around and challenging the Pacers all game. Big key for a team that could struggle on offense at times this year.

PACERS

  • Jeff Teague struggled for a third consecutive game. He’s shooting just 7-35 so far after a 0-7 performance last night. He probably has the biggest adjustment to make, as he’s the point guard and on a new team.
  • Only Paul George and Myles Turner showed up to play. They combined to shoot 16-24 for 40 points. The rest of the Pacers regulars all struggled mightily to get anything going.

BUCKS 110 – NETS 108

BUCKS

  • Milwaukee won on a tip-in by John Henson of a Jabari Parker miss at the buzzer. Parker drove it strong to the basket, and Henson was in the right place at the right time to finish the job.
  • After having his third-year team option exercised earlier in the day, Rashad Vaughn thanked the Bucks with the best game of his young career. He had 22 points on 8-17 shooting, including 6-12 from three. Milwaukee needs his production while Khris Middleton is out.
  • Parker missed the would-be game winner, but he’s much improved. He can get to the basket almost at will, and his jumper has come a long way. His defense and rebounding are coming along as well. The Bucks are set at the forward spot for years to come.

NETS

  • With Brook Lopez getting the night off (rest), the Nets’ offense lacked any sort of inside presence. Justin Hamilton is a nice player, but he’s a jump shooter and not an inside scorer.
  • Jeremy Lin missed his pick-and-roll partner and shot just 4-16 from the floor with the increased defensive attention on him.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic picked up the slack with 26 points and several big shots late.
  • Because they are willing to let it fly from three without worry, the Nets will shoot themselves in or out of games all year.

SPURS 98 – PELICANS 79

SPURS

  • The Spurs rested Tony Parker and didn’t miss a beat. With Parker’s role in the offense being lessened, San Antonio can afford for him to sit occasionally without worry.
  • Jonathon Simmons continued his hot start with 11 more points off the bench, including a monster follow dunk.
  • This was a night where the Spurs’ system and depth just dominate and overwhelmed an overmatched opponent. Nothing overly spectacular, but special in its ruthless efficiency.

PELICANS

  • Not much to see here. Anthony Davis can only be spectacular so many nights in a row. With very little help, the Pelicans struggled to get anything going.

TRAIL BLAZERS 115 – NUGGETS 113 (OT)

TRAIL BLAZERS

  • The Blazers won a big road game against a division opponent behind a huge night from their backcourt. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 60 points on 25-52 shooting.
  • The big-man rotation for Portland continues to be somewhat of a concern behind Mason Plumlee. The Blazers spent a lot of time going small in this one, including several minutes where Plumlee was the only true big on the court.
  • Lillard continues his ascent towards becoming a super-duper star. 37 points and a game-winner in overtime will make everyone take notice.

NUGGETS

  • Denver got balanced play with six players scoring in double digits. Youngsters Nikola Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay led the way with 23 and 21 points, respectively.
  • Denver attacked the rim throughout the contest, finishing 31-39 from the charity stripe. This is big for a team that could struggle at times to get easy offense.
  • Defense, especially from the backcourt, continues to be a major concern for the Nuggets. They’ll need to focus a bit more and play with more effort to clean that up.

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