Preview: Clippers at 76ers

The Los Angeles Clippers made a pit stop on the way to the East Coast in Oklahoma City and put together one of their worst quarters of basketball en route to a 128-110 setback. The Clippers will try to lock in for the full 48 minutes and avoid suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season when they visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

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Los Angeles appeared to be on its way to a quality road win on Tuesday before being outscored 39-10 in the third quarter. “The first half we couldn’t have played a more beautiful offensive or defensive game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers told reporters. “Second half, it was like we forgot all about it. We came out and one pass, shot, one pass, shot, no dribble penetration, all jump shots, all contested shots. Fouled a lot. It was 11-0 in free throws. That happens, you’re going to lose.” The 76ers displayed their own formula for losing by committing 23 turnovers and allowing the Toronto Raptors to shoot 51.1 percent from the floor in a 129-112 setback on Tuesday. “We didn’t shoot well, we turned the ball over and we didn’t play great defense,” Philadelphia shooting guard JJ Redick told reporters. “So, that’s the formula that’s normally going to turn into a loss against a team like Toronto.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Prime Ticket (Los Angeles), NBCS Philadelphia

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (4-3): Los Angeles point guard Patrick Beverley managed four points on 2-of-6 shooting Tuesday but came out of the contest the source of much controversy after he was assessed a flagrant 1 foul for diving at the knees of Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook while chasing a loose ball. “I don’t know how that was a flagrant,” Rivers told reporters. “They have bad blood. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as they keep it clean. I thought both of them did. All that talk, you know, whatever. But there’s nothing wrong with not liking someone in the league. It’s allowed in this day and time.” One bright spot for the Clippers was small forward Danilo Gallinari, who scored a team-high 27 points for his fourth outing this season of 20 or more.

ABOUT THE 76ERS (4-4): Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons committed 11 turnovers on Tuesday to go with 11 points and 10 assists and knows he has more to learn in this league. “Forcing too much,” Simmons told reporters. “They’re good defenders, and it’s a learning experience for me. … You just have to take care of it, be more assertive when you have the ball.” Simmons is averaging 2.3 turnovers in four games at home, and the 76ers are 4-0 in their own arena while dropping to 0-4 on the road with Tuesday’s setback.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Clippers PF Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) missed the last three games and is questionable for Thursday.

2. 76ers C Joel Embiid recorded 31 points and 11 rebounds on Tuesday – his fifth game with at least 30 and 10.

3. Philadelphia took both meetings last season with Simmons averaging 18 points, 8.5 assists, seven rebounds and 4.5 turnovers.

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Preview: Pelicans at Warriors

Klay Thompson began the season in a massive shooting slump, but it only took one game to break out in a big way. Thompson will try to follow up a record-breaking performance as the Golden State Warriors return home to host the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.

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Thompson, who went 5-of-36 from beyond the arc in the first six games, buried an NBA-record 14 3-pointers and scored 52 points in a 149-124 win at the Chicago Bulls on Monday. “It’s the best feeling,” Thompson told reporters of finding his shooting stroke. “Something I haven’t felt in the first six, seven games. To snap out of a slump with the record, I couldn’t ask for a better way to do it. And I’m just going to continue this momentum on Wednesday, and it’s one of the best feelings in basketball when you touch the ball and feel like it’s going in every time.” The Pelicans might have to stop Golden State without their best defender if star forward Anthony Davis (elbow) is forced to miss a third straight game. New Orleans got off to a 4-0 start with Davis leading the way but dropped the last two contests without him in the lineup.

TV: 10:30 p.m. FS New Orleans, NBCS Bay Area (Golden State)

ABOUT THE PELICANS (4-2): New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry refused to blame the absence of his superstar for a 116-111 loss at Denver on Monday in which his team turned the ball over 22 times. “I don’t think it’s ever understandable to turn the ball over 22 times,” Gentry told reporters. “I think what happened is that some of our turnovers came because we were trying to play in really tight, confined spaces. Against that team, you can’t do that.” Five of those turnovers belonged to reserve power forward Julius Randle, who otherwise played a solid game with 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 27 minutes.

ABOUT THE WARRIORS (7-1): Golden State leads the NBA in team field-goal percentage (52.3) and assists (29.6), and coach Steve Kerr remains in awe of the unselfish nature of his team.” I can’t even tell you how lucky I am and how I feel every night just watching these guys and how unselfish they are,” Kerr told reporters. “They basically take turns, they encourage each other, they want each other to do well, and we have all this talent, but the key is these guys are committed to each other, they play hard for each other, and they want each other to have success, and that’s why it works, and it’s been amazing to be along for the ride.” Thompson broke the record of 13 set on Nov. 7, 2016 by teammate Stephen Curry, who went 13-of-17 in a 116-106 home win over New Orleans.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Pelicans PG Elfrid Payton (ankle) sat out Monday and is day-to-day.

2. Warriors PG Shaun Livingston (foot) missed the last two games and is questionable to play Wednesday.

3. The teams are meeting for the first time since Golden State knocked New Orleans out 4-1 in last season’s Western Conference semifinals.

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Preview: Clippers at Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder finally left the ranks of the winless with a 117-110 home win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday and intend to continue an upward trajectory. The Thunder will try to make it back-to-back victories when they host the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

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Oklahoma City’s uneven start had a lot to do with Russell Westbrook missing the first two games and most of training camp following knee surgery, and Sunday’s performance looked more like the Thunder team the front office envisioned. “We’re going to keep building off that win and we’re going to keep getting better,” point guard Dennis Schroder, who shared the court at times with Westbrook and Paul George on Sunday as part of a package designed to let Westbrook work off the ball, told reporters. The Clippers, who breezed to a 108-92 home win over the Westbrook-less Thunder on Oct. 19, come in hot after averaging 134.5 points in back-to-back wins. “Unselfishness,” Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers told reporters. “They don’t care. No one’s hunting points, you know, they’re hunting the open guy and that’s a good way to play; it’s the only way we can play, it’s the only way we’ll be good.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, FS Prime Ticket (Los Angeles), FS Oklahoma

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (4-2): Los Angeles’ offensive surge over the last two games has a lot to do with the improved play of shooting guard Avery Bradley, who averaged 4.3 points on 25.8 percent shooting in the first four games before combining for 29 points on 12-of-22 in the last two contests. “I’m starting to pick my spots and try to find out how to play off Tobias (Harris), (Danilo Galliniari), Pat (Beverley); we’re trying to learn how to play with each other,” Bradley told the Los Angeles Times. “We knew it would take time but it’s good it’s flowing a little better now.” Nine players scored in double figures in Sunday’s 136-104 win over the Washington Wizards, led by Harris’ 22 points.

ABOUT THE THUNDER (1-4): Schroder is one of a few newcomers to Oklahoma City this season and is joined by power forward Nerlens Noel, who is trying to resurrect his career after a pair of down seasons with Philadelphia and Dallas. Noel, 24, got the start on Sunday in place of injured center Steven Adams (calf) and responded with 20 points, 15 rebounds and four steals in 26 minutes. “It’s just being a professional, ready for whatever is thrown at me in this position,” Noel told reporters. “It’s being able to be ready no matter what.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Adams, who is averaging 14 points and 12.3 rebounds, is day-to-day.

2. Los Angeles PF Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) sat out the last two games and is questionable for Tuesday.

3. Oklahoma City won both meetings at home last season by an average of 8.5 points.

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Preview: Warriors at Knicks

Stephen Curry has settled into a consistently excellent level of play over the last several years and is capable of looking like the best player on the planet on any given night. Curry will try to follow up a 51-point effort when the Golden State Warriors begin a three-game road trip by visiting the New York Knicks on Friday.

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Curry sat out the entire fourth quarter and ended up 11-of-16 from 3-point range in a 144-122 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. “Everything felt in rhythm,” Curry told reporters. “You start to get good looks, you don’t have to force anything to find them and you can just repeat that same motion and it’s going in. The crowd gets into it, my teammates are encouraging me.” The Knicks are losers of four straight and did not look like a team that could keep pace with the Warriors while getting crushed 110-87 at Miami on Wednesday. “It was just so many holes in that dam,” New York coach David Fizdale told reporters. “We just, we let go of the rope tonight. This is the first time I felt like we let go and it got to us mentally and broke us in the third (quarter).”

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBATV, NBCS Bay Area (Golden State), MSG (New York)

ABOUT THE WARRIORS (4-1): Curry’s big night on Wednesday overshadowed another stellar effort from Kevin Durant (30 points on 13-of-18 shooting, eight rebounds, seven assists), who was happy to let Curry keep shooting. “A professional scorer like that, you’re just kind of in the zone at that point,” Durant told reporters. “You know exactly where your points need to come from. It was a joy to be on the same court with that. That was sick.” Golden State shot 57.6 percent from the floor in the win and is averaging 119.4 points.

ABOUT THE KNICKS (1-4): Center Enes Kanter had a streak of four straight double-doubles to begin the season come to an end when he was held to eight points and five rebounds on Wednesday, and he was not happy with his team’s effort. “We just put our head down and we stopped competing,” Kanter told reporters. “Especially on the road it doesn’t matter if you’re down 15, up by 20, whatever. You just have to stay competing and just stay together, that’s the most important thing.” The bright spot came from second-year guard Damyean Dotson, who scored a season-high 20 points off the bench.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Knicks SG Tim Hardaway Jr. was held to a season-low 14 points on Wednesday and is shooting 41.6 percent from the floor.

2. Warriors SG Klay Thompson is off to a slow start at 4-of-27 from 3-point range.

3. Golden State took the last eight in the series and won the two meetings last season by an average of 13 points.

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Preview: Celtics at Thunder

Star point guard Russell Westbrook looked pretty solid in his season debut but there wasn’t a victory attached to the performance. Westbrook looks to get the Oklahoma City Thunder into the win column for the first time this season when they host the Boston Celtics on Thursday.

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Westbrook had 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in 35 minutes in Sunday’s 131-120 loss to the Sacramento Kings in his first game since undergoing knee surgery on Sept. 12. “I thought Russell really played well,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told reporters. “I give him a lot of credit. He worked really hard the last five to six weeks to try to get himself ready. For him to come back, being out as long as he was and play like he did – I thought we were faster, I thought we got downhill more, I thought the ball was moving.” The Celtics are beginning a stretch in which seven of nine games are on the road, and they also look to rebound from a disappointing 93-90 home loss to the Orlando Magic on Monday. “I thought we tried to move the ball and get better looks,” Boston small forward Gordon Hayward told reporters. “We’ve gotta be able to get to the line a little bit better, get some stuff at the rim. But they were giving us the 3-ball and we just didn’t have it.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Oklahoma

ABOUT THE CELTICS (2-2): Boston recorded a season low in points against Orlando, but coach Brad Stevens praised the ball movement – odd with the team hoisting up 40 3-pointers and making just nine. But point guard Kyrie Irving wasn’t dismayed over the low production in a game in which he shot well (22 points on 10-of-19 shooting). “Everyone can get a basket anytime they want,” Irving told reporters. “Anybody can go get it. But if we do the little things and we commit to that, think of how special we could be.”

ABOUT THE THUNDER (0-3): Westbrook said his right knee held up in his season debut but his mood was certainly testy after the double-digit home loss to the Kings. “I was OK,” Westbrook told reporters. “It wasn’t my best night, but I’ve got however many more games left to play, so I’m not worried. It was my first time. I just hate losing. Honestly, I don’t really care to talk about how I played.” Small forward Paul George scored 29 points against Sacramento and is averaging 25.3 points.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Celtics won both of last season’s meetings after the Thunder won 10 of the previous 12 matchups.

2. Boston C Aron Baynes (hamstring) is listed as questionable and could miss his second straight game.

3. Oklahoma City G Alex Abrines (eye) is questionable after being injured against the Kings.

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Preview: Wizards at Warriors

The Golden State Warriors bounced back from their first loss in impressive fashion on Monday while showing off the full range of their offensive gifts. The Warriors will try to make it two in a row on Wednesday, when they host a Washington Wizards squad coming off their first victory.

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Golden State came out flat and committed 19 turnovers in a 100-98 loss at Denver on Sunday but was a different team at home the next night, shooting 51.1 percent from the floor and cutting the turnovers to 14 in a 121-103 rout of the Phoenix Suns. “That looked like our team,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. “The purpose of each possession, just driving and kicking and trying to get guys better shots and playing together. It was a good night.” The Wizards began their five-game road trip by outlasting the Portland Trail Blazers 125-124 in overtime on Monday to earn their first win. “It was a great win for us,” Washington coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “A lot of good plays, and finally, the ball bounced our way.”

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCS Washington, NBCS Bay Area (Golden State)

ABOUT THE WIZARDS (1-2): Washington rode a small-ball lineup featuring Markieff Morris at center to the win on Monday and plans to stick with that group whenever it needs a spark. “I think that’s the best basketball we played, obviously all year, but just for a while,” shooting guard Bradley Beal told reporters. “Because it’s fun out there. It’s fun. Everybody touched it. Everybody was involved and everything was clicking on both ends.” Morris ended up scoring 28 points while going 6-of-10 from 3-point range in 25 minutes.

ABOUT THE WARRIORS (3-1): Golden State has no problem going small and regularly uses power forward Draymond Green at the center spot, though the team is committed to working center Damion Jones into the mix. The 23-year-old Vanderbilt product scored 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting in Monday’s win and is shooting 85 percent from the floor while averaging 21 minutes through the first four games. Superstar point guard Stephen Curry is off to a hot start as well and is averaging 30.5 points on 52.9 percent shooting, including 46.8 percent from 3-point range.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Washington C Dwight Howard (back) has yet to make his team debut and is not traveling with the team.

2. Warriors PG Shaun Livingston (knee) sat out the last two games and is questionable for Wednesday.

3. Golden State took both meetings last season and seven of the last eight in the series.

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Preview: Clippers at Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans averaged 140 points while winning their first two games and look for another scoring splurge when they host the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. The Pelicans scored 131 points in their season-opening pounding of the Houston Rockets and followed up with a franchise-record 149 in a rout of the Sacramento Kings.

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Forward Nikola Mirotic is averaging 33 points and 9.5 rebounds while big man Anthony Davis is contributing 28.5 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists as New Orleans won its first two games by an average of 19.5 points. “We’ve been just playing fast, sharing the ball, playing very unselfish,” Mirotic told reporters. “I think we’re going to be big trouble for the rest of the teams.” The Clippers went 2-1 on a season-opening three-game homestand and are starting a stretch in which six of eight games are on the road. Los Angeles established a franchise record by making all 26 free throws during Sunday’s 115-112 win over the Houston Rockets.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, FS West (Los Angeles), FS New Orleans

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (2-1): Rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is displaying that he will be an immediate contributor as he reached double digits twice while averaging 8.3 points during the homestand. The 20-year-old had a solid all-around game in the win over the Rockets with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists and also is an asset on the defensive end. “We’re all composed and not fazed by the moment,” Gilgeous-Alexander told reporters. “I’m always really confident in myself. I know how hard I work and it pays off.”

ABOUT THE PELICANS (2-0): Mirotic is a scorching 11-of-17 from 3-point range and has tallied 30 or more points in both games, including a career-high 36 in the triumph over the Kings. “I had all of preseason to understand where I need to be, where are my best spots,” Mirotic told reporters, referencing his February arrival last season in a trade from the Chicago Bulls. “I think this is going to be a great year, but I want to be solid on both sides of the court. I know defensively I can step up, be better and rebound the ball. Those are my goals.” Davis registered double-doubles in both games and has made 21-of-33 shots from the field.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Davis averaged 29.8 points and 11.5 rebounds as the Pelicans went 3-1 against the Clippers last season.

2. Los Angeles F Danilo Gallinari has scored at least 20 points in consecutive games for the second time since joining the team last season.

3. New Orleans PF Julius Randle is averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds in his first two games since being signed as a free agent in the offseason.

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Preview: Spurs at Lakers

The fightin’ Los Angeles Lakers are ready to scuffle in LeBron James’ first season with the team, but that isn’t translating to many wins. The Lakers will be missing two key players due to suspension when they go for their first win against the visiting San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

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James made his home debut on Saturday against the Houston Rockets but the game was marred by an ugly incident in the fourth quarter, began when Los Angeles small forward Brandon Ingram shoved Rockets star James Harden. The scuffle escalated to punches, with Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo and Houston point guard Chris Paul trading shots, and Ingram was hit with a four-game suspension while Rondo will sit three games. The Spurs aren’t getting into any on-court melees but are also not off to the best start on the two-game west coast trip, which began with a 121-108 loss at Portland on Saturday. “We’re not disciplined defensively yet,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. “It’s going to take a while with a new group, basically. They run a really nice offense. It’s geared for their players and it’s hard to guard. We’re just not ready for that.”

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, NBATV, FS Southwest (San Antonio), Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles)

ABOUT THE SPURS (1-1): San Antonio allowed the Trail Blazers to shoot 53.6 percent from the field and is getting used to new teammates and new defensive responsibilities. “It’s all about communication,” star forward LaMarcus Aldridge told reporters. “We were a little late on some rotations and some schemes. We have to keep drilling it and get more familiar with each other.” All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan is not having any trouble adjusting offensively and scored 28 points in each of the first two contests.

ABOUT THE LAKERS (0-2): James knew it was going to be a process to mold the Los Angeles roster into a championship contender, and he was not upset about letting a one-point game get out of hand due to the late skirmish. “I’m not disappointed at all,” James told reporters after the 124-115 setback. “I understand that we’re going to have some early struggles. Nobody said it’s going to be easy. I’m not disappointed in nothing we did tonight.” James is averaging 25 points through two games but is still searching for his touch from long range while going 1-of-11 from beyond the arc.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Lakers are shooting an NBA-worst 24.2 percent from 3-point range.

2. DeRozan is averaging 6.5 assists – more than twice his career mark (3.1).

3. Los Angeles took all three meetings last season and four straight in the series.

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A look at how the Western Conference teams match up

1. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

2017-18 finish: 58-24, second

Coming: DeMarcus Cousins (FA), Jonas Jerebko (FA)

Going: JaVale McGee (FA), Zaza Pachulia (FA)

The NBA’s defending champions added another offensive weapon in Cousins, one of the most skilled big men in the NBA. The Warriors landed him on a one-year, bargain deal as he works back from a torn Achilles tendon. If he regains form, the best team in the NBA should be even better and on their way to a three-peat.

2. HOUSTON ROCKETS

2017-18 finish: 65-17, first

Coming: Carmelo Anthony (FA), Brandon Knight (trade)

Going: Trevor Ariza (FA), Ryan Anderson (trade)

The Rockets were four quarters away from the conference finals — even with Chris Paul dealing with a hamstring injury. They re-signed the star point guard, but they lost Ariza — a valuable two-way player — along with top-tier defender Luc Mbah a Moute. Anthony could bounce back in Houston’s isolation offense, but who is going to defend on the wings?

3. LAKERS

2017-18 finish: 35-47, 11th

Coming: F LeBron James (FA), G Rajon Rondo (FA), C JaVale McGee (FA), G Lance Stephenson (FA)

Going: F Julius Randle (FA), C Brook Lopez (FA)

There might not be a team with the biggest difference between worst- and best-case scenarios. On one hand, the Lakers will be counting on players such as Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo. And no one is sure how they’ll guard centers. But on the other hand, they added LeBron James. He’s simply too good for this group not to contend and could lift the Lakers’ young core — Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and the underrated Josh Hart — with him.

4. UTAH JAZZ

2017-18 finish: 48-34, fifth

Coming: G Grayson Allen (draft)

Going: F Jonas Jerebko (FA)

No big changes for Utah this summer, and that’s not a problem. The Jazz found their star, Donovan Mitchell, last year and have a defensive eraser in Rudy Gobert. They’ve got a pass-first point guard who is an excellent defender in Ricky Rubio, an agitator in Joe Ingles (and one in waiting in Grayson Allen) and plenty of other role players at coach Quin Snyder’s disposal. Utah might have the best defense in the NBA.

5. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

2017-18 finish: 48-34, fourth

Coming: G Dennis Schroder (trade), Nerlens Noel (FA)

Going: F Carmelo Anthony (FA), F Nick Collison (retired)

Paul George and Russell Westbrook are as good as any superstar duo in the NBA not playing for the Warriors, but Westbrook’s recent knee surgery is a good reason to be concerned. Without Westbrook, the Thunder are fairly ordinary — with him, they’re incredibly dangerous and on the fringe of contending for a title. Getting Schroder in a trade with Atlanta was already a key move, but with Westbrook’s early-season status up in the air, the acquisition was a must.

6. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

2017-18 finish: 49-33, third

Coming: G Seth Curry (FA), G Anfernee Simons (draft)

Going: F Ed Davis (FA)

The good news: Portland proved its nucleus can play with any team in the Western Conference last season, when Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum led Portland to a third-place finish. The bad news: It wasn’t that surprising to see the Trail Blazers upended in the first round by the lower-seeded Pelicans. Portland basically is running back the same roster, hoping continuity and growth matters more than big-name talent.

7. DENVER NUGGETS

2017-18 finish: 46-36, ninth

Coming: G Isaiah Thomas (FA), F Michael Porter Jr. (draft)

Going: F Wilson Chandler (trade), F Kenneth Faried (trade)

Nikola Jokic is one of the best players in the NBA, a center with incredible skills that go beyond statistics. The young backcourt of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris is getting better each year. And, the Nuggets might own one of the truest home-court advantages by playing at altitude. Murray is the key — a player who could make a big jump this season — to Denver cracking the playoffs.

8. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

2017-18 finish: 48-34, sixth

Coming: F Julius Randle (FA), G Elfrid Payton (FA)

Going: C DeMarcus Cousins (FA), G Rajon Rondo (FA)

It’s hard to imagine scenarios where do-everything superstar forward Anthony Davis plays his entire career in New Orleans, but while he’s there, the Pelicans will be a playoff contender. Point guard Jrue Holiday elevated his game last season, and Randle should be a good fit. But it comes down to Davis, who might have put his injury problems behind him by playing 75 games for the second consecutive season.

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9. SAN ANTONIO SPURS

2017-18 finish: 47-35, seventh

Coming: G DeMar DeRozan (trade), C Jakob Poeltl (trade), G Marco Belinelli (FA)

Going: F Kawhi Leonard (trade), G Manu Ginobili (retired), G Tony Parker (FA), F Kyle Anderson (FA)

The golden era of Spurs basketball is gone, with only Gregg Popovich left standing. The talent cupboard isn’t bare, and DeRozan is an All-Star. But with Leonard traded, Parker in Charlotte and Ginobili retired, the Spurs could miss the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. Losing starting guard Dejounte Murray, a tremendous young defender, for the season because of a knee injury could push the Spurs out in the West.

10. CLIPPERS

2017-18 finish: 42-40, 10th

Coming: G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (draft), Jerome Robinson (draft), C Marcin Gortat (trade),

Going: C DeAndre Jordan (FA), G Austin Rivers (trade)

Lob City is dead and the Clippers’ rebuild is in full swing, though this team is way too talented to fully bottom out. They have depth all over the court and should play with an aggressive, defensive mind-set. Gilgeous-Alexander was one of the stars at Summer League. They’ll play hard, but this season is still just a precursor to the real challenges the team faces next offseason when they’ve got plenty of cap space to chase a star.

11. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

2017-18 finish: 47-35, eighth

Coming: F Luol Deng (FA), G Josh Okogie (draft)

Going: N/A

Minnesota has a young star — Karl-Anthony Towns. The Timberwolves have a high end two-way wing — Jimmy Butler. The pieces are there — they’re just from different puzzles. Butler wants out, and depending on the return, Minnesota could see its stock fall further. And if the Timberwolves can’t move him, they’ll have a massive in-house issue in their locker room. It probably won’t happen with this roster.

12. DALLAS MAVERICKS

2017-18 finish: 24-58, 13th

Coming: C DeAndre Jordan (FA), G Luka Doncic (draft)

Going: G Yogi Ferrell (FA), F Doug McDermott (FA)

The Mavericks added two big impact players this season. In Jordan, they get a starting center who can protect the rim on one end and rock it after lobs on the other. A great communicator, he should flourish under coach Rick Carlisle. In Doncic, already an accomplished player in Europe, there’s a chance they have the best player in the rookie class. It’s not impossible to think the Mavericks could challenge for a playoff spot in what could be Dirk Nowitzki’s last season.

13. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

2017-18 finish: 22-60, 14th

Coming: F Kyle Anderson (FA), F-C Jaren Jackson Jr (draft)

Going: G Tyreke Evans (FA)

There was a time when the Memphis Grizzlies were consistently the toughest team in the NBA, a modern-day Bad Boys who would win sumo matches against whoever they played. Time’s been cruel to Memphis, though, with injuries costing Mike Conley almost all of last season. Marc Gasol is still effective, with his game moving farther and farther from the basket, but the Grizzlies need their new generation of players, including potential defensive star Jaren Jackson Jr., to forge a new identity.

14. PHOENIX SUNS

2017-18 finish: 21-61, 15th

Coming: C Deandre Ayton (draft), F Mikal Bridges (draft), F Trevor Ariza (FA)

Going: G Brandon Knight (trade), F Marquese Chriss (trade)

The Suns hit reset again for what feels like the fifth time since the Steve Nash era, trading Knight and a former lottery pick in Chriss. They’ll move forward with the No. 1 overall pick, Ayton, as the centerpiece up front, Devin Booker as the perimeter star and Ariza as the veteran leader. They need a starting point guard, though, to really make strides with this group.

15. SACRAMENTO KINGS

2017-18 finish: 27-55, 12th

Coming: F Marvin Bagley III (draft), G Ben McLemore (trade)

Going: G Garrett Temple (trade), G-F Vince Carter (FA)

Who knows what the Kings are thinking? They passed on Luka Doncic for Bagley, which seems like a major risk since a lot of people considered Doncic the best player in the draft. They reacquired McLemore, a whiff of a lottery pick in 2013. Their best hope, outside of Bagley, could be Harry Giles, a 6-10 first-round pick in 2017 who missed all of last season. There are young players here, but no one has looked like a definite part of the Kings’ plans, which are always subject to change.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

A look at how the Eastern Conference teams stack up

1. BOSTON CELTICS

2017-18 finish: 55-27, second

Coming: F-C Robert Williams III (draft)

Going: N/A

The Celtics made the conference finals and went toe-to-toe with LeBron James despite playing without Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Both are expected to be healthy for the new season, when they’ll be joined by young players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who had to take on expanded roles last season. Coach Brad Stevens is one of the best around, and the Celtics have the talent, depth and experience to make it to the NBA Finals.

2. PHILADELPHIA 76ers

2017-18 finish: 52-30, third

Coming: F Wilson Chandler (trade), G Zhaire Smith (draft)

Going: G-F Marco Belinelli (FA), F Ersan Ilyasova (FA)

There was a feeling by some that the 76ers were one of the losers this offseason after failing to land Paul George or LeBron James. Few teams have their combination of potential and capabilityThe 76ers re-signed J.J. Redick and they’ll get improved versions of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Last year’s No. 1 pick, Markelle Fultz, is a massive X-factor after a lost season. If he plays to potential, it could propel the 76ers deep into the playoffs.

3. TORONTO RAPTORS

2017-18 finish: 59-23, first

Coming: F Kawhi Leonard (trade), G Danny Green (trade)

Going: G DeMar DeRozan (trade), C Jakob Poeltl (trade)

The Raptors had the best regular season in franchise’s history and celebrated by firing the NBA’s coach of the year and trading the organization’s all-time leader in points and games. The Raptors and president Masai Ujiri knew they had plateaued, and they made the biggest bet of the offseason. By trading for Kawhi Leonard, who missed almost all of last season with an injury, the Raptors got the game’s best two-way player (if healthy). But no one knows if it will last more than one season.

2017-18 finish: 48-34, fifth

Coming: G Tyreke Evans (FA), F Doug McDermott (FA)

Going: G Glenn Robinson III (FA), G Lance Stephenson (FA)

One of the surprise stories in the NBA last season, the Pacers quickly morphed after dealing Paul George to the Thunder. The return — Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis — blossomed and the Pacers should be considered a sleeper pick for a run to the Eastern Conference finals. Evans, who had a terrific season last year in Memphis, was one of the best under-the-radar signings of the summer. There’s a lot of young talent here that should continue to grow together.

5. MILWAUKEE BUCKS

2017-18 finish: 44-38, seventh

Coming: C Brook Lopez (FA), G Donte DiVincenzo (draft)

Going: F Jabari Parker (FA)

The Bucks open a new arena this season and they do it with the best roster of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s time as a pro. He’s still not a finished project, which is scary because no one in the NBA has his combination of skills, physicality and vowels. Getting Mike Budenholzer on the sidelines is a big deal, as is adding Lopez, who should get a lot of open looks in the pick-and-pop game with Antetokounmpo. The Bucks haven’t shot a lot of three-pointers in the past, but to win in the modern NBA you need to launch. Expect that to change.

6. WASHINGTON WIZARDS

2017-18 finish: 43-39, eighth

Coming: C Dwight Howard (FA), G Austin Rivers (trade)

Going: C Marcin Gortat (trade), F Mike Scott (FA)

You wonder when the Wizards will reach a breaking point with this roster. They’ve been unable to crack 50 wins or get past the second round of the playoffs with John Wall and Bradley Beal in the backcourt. To get over the hump in a LeBron-less East, they turned to Austin Rivers to give them scoring and defense off the bench and Dwight Howard, who is playing for his fourth different team in the four seasons.

7. MIAMI HEAT

2017-18 finish: 44-38, sixth

Coming: N/A

Going: N/A

The Heat bring everyone back thanks to being strangled by the salary cap. Coach Erik Spoelstra is one of the best in the NBA and should get the group back in the fight for a playoff spot, though the Heat probably can’t get better than that for a few years. The big story this season will be Dwyane Wade’s final trip around the league before retiring.

8. DETROIT PISTONS

2017-18 finish: 39-43, ninth

Coming: G Jose Calderon (FA), C Zaza Pachulia (FA)

Going: F Anthony Tolliver (FA), F James Ennis (FA)

Detroit hopes that Blake Griffin, who they acquired for a lottery pick for last season, and Andre Drummond can be a better pairing after a full offseason together. Guard Reggie Jackson is the third piece of the puzzle, though his health always is a question — he’s missed at least 30 games the last two seasons. New coach Dwane Casey gets a crack to figure out what Stan Van Gundy couldn’t.

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9. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

2017-18 finish: 50-32, fourth

Coming: G Collin Sexton (draft), G-F David Nwaba (FA)

Going: F LeBron James (FA), F Jeff Green (FA)

The post-James Cavaliers move forward with Kevin Love as their best player and centerpiece, signing him to a contract extension this summer. The hope is Sexton, one of the top point guards in the 2018 draft, can develop quickly and keep Cleveland around the playoff race. If it’s going to happen this season, Cleveland will need to get more consistent play from Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, two players they traded for last season.

10. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

2017-18 finish: 36-46, 10th

Coming: C Bismack Biyombo (trade), F Miles Bridges (draft), G Tony Parker (FA)

Going: C Dwight Howard (trade)

The Hornets’ path under Mitch Kupchak will soon be carved, with the organization facing a big decision with Kemba Walker, their best player by a longshot, who has one year left on his deal. A trade is definitely a possibility, with Charlotte stuck in NBA purgatory right now — maybe good enough to crack the playoffs if everything goes right but definitely not talented enough to contend. A reset could be coming soon.

12. CHICAGO BULLS

2017-18 finish: 27-55, 13th

Coming: F-C Wendell Carter Jr. (draft), F Jabari Parker (FA)

Going: G Jerian Grant (trade)

The Bulls’ biggest move of the summer — matching the Kings’ $78-million offer for Zach LaVine — is a gamble considering the athletic guard is coming off knee surgery. But, it seems for the second draft in a row, the Bulls added a future pillar to their roster. After taking Lauri Markkanen a year ago, the Bulls got Carter, an Al Horford clone, to hold down the middle. If Parker thrives in his hometown, the Bulls could surprise people. If not, it might be time for massive organizational changes.

12. BROOKLYN NETS

2017-18 finish: 28-54, 12th

Coming: F Kenneth Faried (trade), C Ed Davis (FA)

Going: G Jeremy Lin (trade), C Jahlil Okafor (FA)

The Nets are counting on D’Angelo Russell to take a major step this season as they’re finally unshackled from the horrors of the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade that stripped the team of top draft picks for multiple seasons. Brooklyn has done a nice job putting together a stable of role players and have pieces to deal to contenders, but they’re still waiting for someone to become a star. Russell has the best shot.

13. ORLANDO MAGIC

2017-18 finish: 25-57, 14th

Coming: C Mohamed Bamba (draft), G Jerian Grant (trade)

Going: C Bismack Biyombo (FA), Mario Hezonja (FA)

The bottom of the Eastern Conference is filled with teams looking to the future, and the Magic are definitely in that group. The long-term hope is Aaron Gordon, who they signed to a four-year, $76-million deal this summer, will be a good fit with ultra-raw and imposing big men Jonathan Isaac and Bamba. The future feels very far away for Orlando, though.

14. ATLANTA HAWKS

2017-18 finish: 24-58, 15th

Coming: G Trae Young (draft), G Jeremy Lin (trade), G-F Vince Carter (FA)

Going: G Dennis Schroeder (trade), F-C Mike Muscala (trade)

The Hawks are set to try to do the impossible — replicate Golden State’s path to the top of the NBA — with former Warriors exec Travis Schlenk providing the blueprints. Trading Luka Doncic for Trae Young was step one for Atlanta, a huge risk that, at times, looked disastrous this summer. By trading Schroeder, Young will get the chance to learn right away what it takes to play point guard in the NBA.

15. NEW YORK KNICKS

2017-18 finish: 29-53, 11th

Coming: F Kevin Knox (draft), Mitchell Robinson (draft), F Mario Hezonja (FA)

Going: F Michael Beasley (FA), F-C Kyle O’Quinn (FA)

The Knicks seem to be headed toward making a major push in free agency after the season, giving them little incentive to try to win this year. Kristaps Porzingis is recovering from knee surgery and will miss the beginning of the season. The Knicks will be patient with him, keeping their eyes fixed to top names in the 2019 free-agency class such as Kyrie Irving.

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Warriors at Cavaliers Game 4 Preview

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had their opportunities to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. There was LeBron James’ masterful 51-point performance in Game 1, and then Stephen Curry’s 3-16 shooting display in Game 3. Neither contest resulted in a victory for the Cavs, making it hard to believe that the series will last beyond Friday night’s Game 4.

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Golden State took a commanding 3-0 lead Wednesday night with a 110-102 victory at Quicken Loans Arena. The Warriors survived Curry’s worst game of the postseason. Klay Thompson scored just 10 points on 11 shots, and Draymond Green was a minus-two in 40 minutes.

Kevin Durant was unstoppable in Game 3, scoring 43 points on 15-23 shooting, including a 33-foot three-pointer with 49.8 seconds remaining that put the game away. He outplayed James, who had his worst shooting night of the series but still managed to record a triple-double with 33 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

When James isn’t by far the best player on the court, Cleveland has no chance. If he is able to outperform Durant and Curry by a wide margin, he still needs some help from a supporting cast that hasn’t offered all that much support this postseason. Golden State learned that in the series when they overcame James’ 51-8-8 for an overtime win.

Durant didn’t have it in Game 1, but the Warriors picked him up. When Curry, Thompson and Green underperformed in Game 3, the NBA’s second-best player led them to victory.

Why would Game 4 be any different?

Cleveland’s role players performed a little better at home like they have for the entire postseason. Kevin Love recorded another triple-double, while Rodney Hood finally contributed with 15 points off the bench. But J.R. Smith still had more shots than points after a strong first half, and George Hill was nowhere to be found with five points and four assists. Kyle Korver went scoreless and Jeff Green made one shot.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, one or two role players stepped up in Cleveland’s wins, giving James enough assistance to get the Cavs over the hump. That’s not nearly enough against an all-time great team.

The Cavs didn’t go away quietly last year when they fell into a 3-0 hole. They defeated the Warriors 137-116 in Game 4 behind 40 points from Kyrie Irving and 24 made three-pointers.

Without Irving and the same kind of three-point shooting they had in 2017, Cleveland’s chances of pushing the series back to Oracle Arena are not looking good.

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Warriors at Cavaliers Game 3 Preview

The Cleveland Cavaliers badly need a victory if they plan on turning the NBA Finals into a true series. The Golden State Warriors won the first two games of the best-of-seven series and look to place Cleveland in a major hole when they visit the Cavaliers on Wednesday.

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Cleveland forward LeBron James averaged 40 points in the first two games – including his epic 51-point outing in the opener – and it still wasn’t enough to get his squad a victory. “I don’t like the way I feel, the mood I’m in right now,” James told reporters at his Tuesday media availability. “When you’re down like this, a deficit like this against a team like this, there’s no good feeling. I personally don’t feel good today about the deficit we have. I feel great about (Wednesday), the opportunity we have.” Warriors guard Stephen Curry made an NBA Finals-record nine 3-pointers in Game 2 and is averaging 31 points in the series but he said his team has a lot of work still to do. “We understand how hard it is to win in this building,” Curry told reporters. “No matter what’s gone on in the series, when you change venues, you’ve got to reassert your dominance and try to find that right momentum to start. We have a great opportunity (Wednesday) to do that.”

TV: 9 p.m. ET, ABC

ABOUT THE WARRIORS: Swingman Andre Iguodala (left knee) was termed questionable for Game 3 and it will be decided Wednesday whether or not he plays for the first since May 20. “He’s doing better,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said at his Tuesday press conference. “He told me he’s feeling better, so I would upgrade him to questionable. But I think he’s getting closer, and I’m hopeful that he can play.” Meanwhile, forward Kevin Durant is getting it done on the offensive end with back-to-back 26-point outings and he has topped 20 points in all 19 postseason games.

ABOUT THE CAVALIERS: Playoff disappointment Rodney Hood will receive some minutes in Game 3 as Cleveland searches for anybody who can provide scoring punch to complement James and power forward Kevin Love. Hood was acquired from Utah Jazz in February and hasn’t fit in and is averaging just 4.4 points in the postseason but coach Tyronn Lue said “we’re going to give Rodney a chance” and Hood proclaims he is ready. “I don’t know when it’s going to come or what stage of the game, but just being ready,” Hood, who has played just four minutes in the series, told reporters. “I’ve been preparing, I’ve been working hard, so if I get the opportunity, just go out there and play. Just have fun.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Warriors averaged 123 points while winning the first two games.

2. Golden State G Shaun Livingston has made all nine of his field-goal attempts in the series and C JaVale McGee is 8-of-9 shooting.

3. Love is averaging 21.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the series.

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Cavaliers at Warriors Game 2

The Cleveland Cavaliers got two days off to digest the mistakes made down the stretch that allowed the Golden State Warriors to escape with a win in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals and put it behind them. The Cavaliers will get another chance to steal homecourt advantage when they visit the Warriors for Game 2 on Sunday.

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Cleveland had a chance to take the lead at the end of regulation, but JR Smith dribbled out the clock instead of putting up a shot after securing an offensive rebound and the Cavaliers went on to suffer a 124-114 defeat in overtime to heavily-favored Golden State. “We lost a tough game. It’s over. It’s behind us,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. “We did a lot of great things in that game, so we’ve got to carry it over. We’ve got to play better on Sunday. We’ve got to expect that they’re going to play better, so we have to play better on Sunday. I know we’re capable of doing that.” The Warriors were never publicly among those that thought the series would be a runaway victory and keeping their collective feet on the gas in Game 2 is a priority. “I know their goal is to come to Oracle and just get one (game),” Golden State guard Klay Thompson told reporters. “So, we have to have it in the back of our minds that we want to protect home court. And if we don’t take care of business Sunday, we obviously lose that advantage. Game 1 is over with. I do not expect them to still be deflated. I expect them to play with great energy out of the gate on Sunday.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ABC

ABOUT THE CAVALIERS: Cleveland superstar LeBron James turned in one of the great performances in NBA Finals history in Game 1 with 51 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but he might have to play even better going forward. “I hope so,” Lue joked when asked if James could play any better. “I know that’s asking a lot. But we need him to lead by example, being aggressive, attacking the basket. We know they’re going to come and help. They’re a help team, and guys are going to get shots. If you don’t have a shot, you’ve got to put it on the floor and make another play. He did that last night, and he has to keep it up.” James could use more help on the offensive end after being joined in double figures by just Kevin Love (21 points) and Smith (10) in Game 1.

ABOUT THE WARRIORS: Golden State shot 51.1 percent from the floor and 95 percent from the free-throw line while committing just eight turnovers in Game 1 but was still pushed to overtime, in part because Cleveland dominated on the boards with 19 offensive rebounds. “The glaring weakness on film was our lack of aggression on the boards,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. “That’s something we’ve got to clean up.” Stephen Curry led the offense with 29 points and nine assists while Draymond Green turned in a strong all-around performance with 13 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, five steals and a pair of blocks.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Warriors SF Andre Iguodala (knee) is doubtful for Game 2.

2. Love will not be suspended by the league for coming off the bench and stepping onto the floor during a skirmish at the end of overtime in Game 1.

3. Golden State SF Kevin Durant went 1-of-7 from 3-point range in Game 1 and is shooting 31.7 percent from beyond the arc in the postseason.

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Posted in NBA