NBA Breakfast Special: Memphis Grizzlies Ascendant

by Fox Doucette

What if I told you that of all the NBA teams with at least three games played in the first week of the season, which is 27 of them, there would be only three teams that emerged still undefeated?

Then what if I told you that those teams were the Wizards, Spurs…and the Memphis Grizzlies, and that Memphis would own wins over Houston and Golden State? You’d think I was high, wouldn’t you?

Well, behold. Because I am high as a kite on the love of the National Basketball Association.

Memphis beat Houston in Texas on Monday, 98-90, and the only thing more impressive than the win was the score. The Rockets score points like it’s the 1980s (the ’86 Rockets scored 114.4 a game and only ended up sixth.) Holding them to 90 points and grit-and-grinding them off the map? That is defense and slowdown basketball worthy of being feted in basketball Valhalla by the gods.

How ugly was this game? Memphis only attempted 68 shots from the field, but they went 34-of-37 from the free throw line. Houston took 38 three-pointers and 39 two-pointers. They made 23 of the deuces and nine of the threes, and Memphis’s ability to defend without fouling meant the Rockets shot only 23 charity tosses.

And when they did get to the line, those same basketball gods blew the ball wide; James Harden, a career 85 percent shooter from the charity stripe, went 4-of-8.

Usually it’s the home team draining shots like these:

Or this lead-extender late in the game:

Marc Gasol is officially out from his brother Pau’s shadow:

Memphis is 3-0. Be still, my beating heart.

Trust The Process

Joel Embiid, when he plays, is good at basketball. The Process was 11-of-15 from the floor and ended up with 30 points and nine rebounds in a performance that would’ve been nearly flawless had he not turned it over seven times:

Ben Simmons got himself a triple-double to remind everyone that he still counts as a rookie and would like it to be known that Lonzo Ball is not Russell Westbrook:

And there was one heck of an anniversary in Philadelphia basketball history back on Sunday:

Philly is on the board. They’re 1-3 now with the 97-86 win over Detroit.

He’s Heating Up, He’s On Fire

America’s Greatest Slovenian Goran Dragic had 19 points, Josh Richardson had 21, and Wayne Ellington was the man of the match with 20 off the bench and a team-high 15 to the good on the plus-minus, as Miami had a no-Whiteside-no-problem game against the downgraded Atlanta Hawks, who are to the 60-win team a few years ago what a rainy day in Canada is to a Category 4 storm on the Gulf Coast. Remnants, leftovers, and nowhere near as powerful.

It’s not that the Hawks were awful—a .474/.412/.778 slash line isn’t bad—it’s that a team that doesn’t have Kyle Korver anymore just got too many of its points two at a time. Atlanta was 7-of-17 from three. Miami was 14-of-37. That adds up to a 104-93 Heat win.

Seriously, folks, America’s Greatest Slovenian:

The 70s called, they want Josh Richardson’s hair back:

And Justise Winslow took family matters into his own hands:

Your Breakfast Special MVP

Giannis Antetokounmpo, ladies and gentlemen:

He pretty much decided to beat the Hornets by himself. Sure, his teammates helped; Greek Freak did not score 103 points, as in a 103-94 win, because he is not Wilt Chamberlain…yet…

But 32 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists? Yeah, that’ll do.

Khris Middleton added 20 on an inefficient 8-of-19 shooting and Mirza Teletovic added 15 off the bench on 5-of-9 from long range.

And Charlotte? Shooting 21-of-36 from the line isn’t going to win you many ballgames.

#GoSpursGo

San Antonio and Toronto faced off with one of those slots at 3-0 that I mentioned at the top of the broadcast guaranteed to go to the winner.

And it was LaMarcus “Modern Basketball Is For Chumps” Aldridge who two-pointed his way into the book with a big clutch shot:

That opened up a 10-point lead, the cushion San Antonio needed to hold off a late charge and beat the Raptors 101-97.

Did we mention that Toronto shot 10-of-37 from three, including 2-of-5 from (seriously) DeMar DeRozan? Dear Toronto coach. WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE REAL DWANE CASEY?

Oh, and Pau Gasol had one point. So…yeah.

You want more? OK, here’s more:

This Got Out Of Hand Fast

My phone sends me score alerts, which is useful when I’m at work at my support-the-writing-habit second job. Golden State and Dallas were in a fun little tussle, the Warriors leading by just three at the half and by as little as two early in the third.

Then…well, all hell broke loose. It was 68-66 through 25 minutes of play. It was 65-37 through the other 23. 133-103, your final, Dallas now 0-4, the Dubs knot the record at two wins and two defeats.

The Warriors shot 55.8 percent from the field for the game despite Steph Curry laying bricks left and right and going only 2-of-10 from three-point range. Unfortunately for Dallas, Steph was 5-of-5 on deuces and 13-of-13 from the line, and that’s how 29 points on 7-of-15 happens in strange un-Steph-like ways.

This is what Klay Thompson does at his best:

And this is the Mavs’ defense, ready for their close-up on Shaqtin’ a Fool:

I am really enjoying the Swaggy P Era in Oakland:

The Nuggets Need Eric Bledsoe

Now that Bledsoe’s on the outs in Phoenix, there’s wild speculation where he’ll end up.

Denver’s point guard play is a trash fire. If they trade Emmanuel Mudiay and a future draft pick, you think Phoenix will bite?

The Wizards had a total team effort in the 109-104 win. Six of the ten guys who played scored in double figures, including all five starters. The other four all scored at least one basket. John Wall couldn’t make a shot to save his life from the field (3-of-13) but went 13-of-15 from the line to salvage a 19-point game on those 13 attempts.

The Wizards overall shot 92.9 percent (26-of-28) from the line; everyone not named John Wall made all their charity tosses, 13 for the squad.

This is how you survive a .488/.384/.783 slash line:

That, and one of Wall’s three makes:

Just pointing it out…

It helps when you beat buzzers:

The Wiz have their first road win.

And Finally…

OK, sure, I pick the Kings as my dark horse West contender, and they go and lose to Phoenix, the same Suns team that made Lonzo Ball look like an MVP candidate last week:

Mike James, looking more like LeBron James.

De’Aaron Fox, my new favorite NBA rookie, had 19 points off the bench for the Kings.

Please do not introduce Suns Dad to Warriors Mom unless you want a giant marshmallow man to walk down the street at the end of it:

The Suns led this one by 19 in the first quarter. They almost lost. No lead is safe.

We’ll have more highlights and more breakfast for you tomorrow, and the return of my weekly pontifications on the Pacers as well, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!