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Thursday, October 31, 2019
MAGIC VS KNICKS
Venue: Amway Center | Start: 10:00am AEDT
The New York Knicks will look to build upon an exciting comeback victory when they visit the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. Bobby Portis, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle each are coming off double-double performances that helped the Knicks secure their first victory of the season. Barrett in particular has provided a breath of fresh air in New York. In his first four games, the 19-year-old is averaging a team-high 20.5 points to go along with 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Not bad for a player who was in high school a couple years ago. Meanwhile, the Magic will try to avoid their losing streak from reaching three games. They have dropped back-to-back contests against the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors, with both of those defeats coming by single digits. Orlando could use a boost from Nikola Vucevic, who is averaging 14.0 points and 10.3 rebounds but is shooting only 33.3 percent from the field. Teammate Evan Fournier has fared better and will try to improve upon his team-leading 19.0 points per game on 47.8 percent shooting. Orlando is 1-0 at home, where it opened the season with a 94-85 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 23.
76ERS VS TIMBERWOLVES
Venue: Wells Fargo Center | Start: 10:00am AEDT
Only a few unbeaten teams remain in the NBA, and two of them will square off when the Minnesota Timberwolves visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night. Minnesota has won its first three games against the Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat, and it has scored at least 116 points in each of those contests. But now the Timberwolves square off against the 76ers, who boast arguably the best defense in the NBA. Philadelphia also has won its first three games, with victories against the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks. One of the most fun matchups of the evening could be in the paint, where Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns is averaging 32.0 points and 13.3 rebounds in his first three games. Towns will face a much stiffer test against 76ers center Joel Embiid, who has four blocks and three steals in his first two games. Embiid is averaging 25.5 points and 13.0 rebounds and could try to top Towns with his supreme athleticism. The Timberwolves are 2-0 on the road this season, and the 76ers are 1-0 at home.
CAVALIERS VS BULLS
Venue: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse | Start: 10:00am AEDT
A pair of one-win teams will square off when the Chicago Bulls visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. Chicago opened the season with high hopes but has endured a turbulent start, including an ugly 105-98 loss against the New York Knicks that included a fourth-quarter meltdown Monday night. Forward Lauri Markkanen is in sore need of a good game against Cleveland. He had a whopping 35 points and 17 rebounds in his season debut against the Charlotte Hornets, but since then he has averaged 12 points over the last three contests. Another Bulls player looking to improve is Otto Porter, who is shooting 26.5 percent from the field and 21.1 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Cleveland returns home after losing 129-112 on the road to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night. The Cavaliers have won their lone game so far on their home court, a 110-99 decision over the Indiana Pacers. Big man Tristan Thompson leads Cleveland with 19.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, and dynamic guard Collin Sexton complements Thompson from the outside with 17.3 points per contest.
RAPTORS VS PISTONS
Venue: Scotiabank Arena | Start: 10:30am AEDT
The defending NBA champion Raptors have three victories in four games as they explore life without Kawhi Leonard, convinced they can be even better. Toronto’s latest victory was a 104-95 take down of the Magic, who they defeated in last year’s playoffs. Kyle Lowry scored 26 points and was key in the Raptors’ ability to hold off the Magic down the stretch. Toronto already has gone consecutive games holding opponents under 100 points after doing that type of defensive back-to-back just three times last season. Pascal Siakam has averaged 27.5 points in three games while Lowry has 22.0. The shorthanded Pistons have a pair of victories over the Paces already this season. They used a strong first half to win at home over the Paces 96-94 on Monday. After scoring a combined 58 points in his previous two games, new Pistons guard Derrick Rose had an off night Monday but his late layup still sealed the victory. Already without forward Blake Griffin, the Pistons also played without guard Reggie Jackson (back) and forward Sekou Doumbouya (concussion). Rose and fellow guard Luke Kennard, who have combined to average a tick under 40 points per game, combined for 24 on Monday.
CELTICS VS BUCKS
Venue: TD Garden | Start: 10:30am AEDT
Well rested after not playing since Saturday, the Celtics enter the national-televised contest off consecutive victories over the Raptors and Knicks. Kemba Walker has scored 22 points per game, while Jayson Tatum has scored 20.3 points with 9.3 rebounds. Walker’s start with the Celtics has been slow, going 12 of 40 over his first two games, but scored 32 against the Knicks. The debut of Celtics backup center Tacko Fall might have been more of a highlight than the victory. The 7-foot-5 big man scored four points in four minutes and even had Knicks fans chanting his name. The Celtics are expected to be without Enes Kanter because of a left knee contusion, while the status of Daniel Theis (ankle) remains unknown. Like the Celtics, the Bucks are 2-1 and will enter off a 129-112 home victory over the Cavaliers on Monday. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored just 14 points against the Cavs, his lowest scoring regular-season game since Jan. 15 of last season when he had 12 against the Heat. But the Bucks had a balanced attack Monday with all five starters scoring at least 14 points. Seven players finished in double digits. Antetokounmpo also has 13.3 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game and has averaged 19.6 points per game in 20 career contests against the Celtics.
NETS VS PACERS
Venue: Barclays Center | Start: 10:30am AEDT
Defense has shown itself to be an issue for the Nets, who are coming off a 134-133 overtime defeat to the Grizzlies and have given up 123.3 points per game, third worst in the NBA heading into play Tuesday. Offense has not been a problem led by newcomer Kyrie Irving, who has 37.7 points per game and scored 50 in his Brooklyn debut Oct. 23, a game the Nets lost to the Timberwolves when they gave up 127 points in an overtime game. Caris LeVert had 27 points against the Grizzlies and has scored 19.9 per game. The Nets have been all over the map this season. They led by 14 against the Grizzlies and also trailed by eight before losing. They trailed by 18 while losing to Wolves and saw a 19-point lead disappear against the Knicks before they won. The Pacers are 0-3 to start the season, losing twice to the Pistons, who don’t even have injured forward Blake Griffin. The Pacers are also shorthanded with guard Victor Oladipo still recovering from a knee injury from last season. They also were without guard Jeremy Lamb in Monday’s defeat against Detroit. Malcolm Brogdon (22.3) and Domantas Sabonis (20.7) both are scoring more than 20 points per game, but the Pacers score just 104.5 as a team, 25th in the NBA heading into play Tuesday.
WIZARDS VS ROCKETS
Venue: Capital One Arena | Start: 11:00am AEDT
The “Beat Houston” placards that failed Washington’s baseball fans can be put to use for a fourth time in six days when the towns’ basketball teams collide Wednesday night in the nation’s capital. Unlike their baseball neighbors (the Astros), the Rockets have struggled at Washington in recent years, losing their last two visits, including in overtime last season. That’s not consistent with how the Rockets have traveled in general the last three years, when they’ve recorded more road wins (173) than any team other than Golden State (182). While the Rockets will be making their season road debut, the Wizards have done nothing but travel so far, opening 1-2 at Dallas, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. You want the long ball? You got it with these two, who have averaged a combined 84.4 3-point attempts so far. Not that either has been very good at making them. The Rockets rank with the league’s worst so far (28.5 percent), while the Wizards haven’t been much better (32.8). A shootout between James Harden (6-for-40) vs. Bradley Beal (7-for-30) could turn into a pitchers’ duel.
THUNDER VS TRAIL BLAZERS
Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena | Start: 11:00am AEDT
The Portland Trail Blazers conclude a four-game trip when they visit Oklahoma City on Wednesday night, but they’d be wise to keep their bags packed. They open with 13 of 18 on the road, a cruel schedule that hasn’t fazed them so far. In fact, they have a better record on the road (2-1) than at home (0-1) to date. The Thunder, meanwhile, have opened 1-1 at home, but the win came over Golden State, which hardly seems to count anymore. You can’t often apply a whole lot of importance to an October basketball game, but this could be an exception. While the Trail Blazers and Thunder have been separated in the standings the last two years by a total of just five games, they’ve been totally uncompetitive against each other, with the winner of the season’s first meeting going on to a four-game sweep. A Damian Lillard-Chris Paul point guard duel — their first ever in Oklahoma City — can be worth the price of admission all by itself. Lillard burned Paul’s predecessor, Russell Westbrook, for 50 points the last time the Trail Blazers and Thunder met — in Game 5 of last year’s playoffs.
JAZZ VS CLIPPERS
Venue: Vivint Smart Home Arena | Start: 1:00pm AEDT
At 3-1, the Jazz now get a chance to make something of an early statement with a home matchup against the Clippers on Wednesday. Utah will enter off a hard-fought 96-95 road victory Monday over the upstart Suns. Newcomer Bojan Bogdonavic continues to prove himself with a 29-point effort against the Suns and 23.7 points per game so far. Donovan Mitchell scored 25 points but Mike Conley had another rough night going 0 of 7 from the field after missing his first 12 shots in his Jazz debut on Oct. 23. Conley was not the Jazz’s only issue. They had 23 turnovers against the Suns and shot just 38.0 percent from the field. The Clippers bounced back nicely after a surprise defeat against the Suns over the weekend, handling the Hornets 111-96 at home Monday. Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers in points (30), rebounds (seven) and assists (six). The Clippers’ bench scored 50 more points Monday led by Lou Williams’ 23 and 19 from Montrezl Harrell, but that was down from that group’s previous production. “I wouldn’t say we’re there yet. We have to keep going,” Leonard told reporters after the game.
KINGS VS HORNETS
Venue: Golden 1 Center | Start: 1:00pm AEDT
After consecutive defeats at Los Angeles, the Hornets hope other parts of California are more hospitable as they travel to Sacramento on Wednesday. The Hornets have lost three consecutive after edging the Bulls by a point in their season opener. After missing a game last week for personal reasons, the Hornets’ Cody Zeller scored a combined 33 points with 27 rebounds in the two games in L.A. Devonte Graham scored 14 points and had 12 assists off the bench in Monday’s loss to the Clippers. The Kings are having a tough time in a loaded Western Conference so they won’t mind the visit from an Eastern Conference foe. The Kings are 0-4 and have scored under 100 points three times. Their latest defeat came Monday when they were dropped 101-94 by the Nuggets. The Kings showed themselves on defense when they had a 53-47 lead on the Nuggets at halftime, but they contest shifted when Denver outscored the Kings 30-17 in the third quarter. The Kings have been outscored by at least 10 points in all four third quarters they have played. Buddy Hield has averaged just 14.3 points through four games, scoring a combined eight points in his last two games while going 3 of 20 from the field and 2 of 9 from 3-point range.
WARRIORS VS SUNS
Venue: Chase Center | Start: 1:30pm AEDT
The visiting Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors meet Wednesday night in a rematch of one of last season’s most shocking outcomes. A result, mind you, that wouldn’t be nearly as surprising this time around. When the clubs last met, the Warriors were on the way to their fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals, while the Suns were headed to a tie for the league’s second-worst record. Golden State also had an 18-game winning streak in the rivalry before Phoenix rose up for a stunning, 115-111 road win. There’s nothing earth-shaking about the Suns knocking out a heavyweight anymore; they’ve already done it to the Los Angeles Clippers this season. Meanwhile, the Kevin Durant-less Warriors have plummeted to the depths of a club that lost its first two games by a total of 47 points. It’s now a matchup of a team that’s 2-0 this season when hitting half its shots against a club that’s worst in the league in field goal defense (54.4 percent). If the Warriors plan to counter that with a 3-point assault from Stephen Curry and D’Angelo Russell, that’s probably not wise. The Suns have limited foes to just 31.9-percent accuracy on threes so far.