10/19/17 – First Impressions

Before a busy night got underway, the Chicago Bulls suspended Bobby Portis for eight games for landing a punch on teammate Nikola Mirotic. “Both players owned responsibility in the incident itself,” said Bulls VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson, “But only one player threw a punch. And that punch connected and for us that is inexcusable. It’s not who we are. It disappoints us in terms of what happened, and because of that we’ve determined that we’re going to suspend Bobby for eight games.”

“Bobby Portis is not a bad person,” added Paxson, “He’s a good kid. He’s a competitive kid, but in this instance he made a mistake. And as we all know when you make mistakes you got to suffer the consequences.” He also went on to note that Portis’ punch wasn’t a cheap shot. Well thank God for that.

Mirotic suffered a concussion and facial fractures and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT

Almost every team in the league made their season debut last night. Amongst the most anticipated, the Philadelphia 76ers, who are finally playing at full strength. Ben Simmons showed he’s worth the wait, finishing his first NBA game with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists against the Washington Wizards. However, the Wizards backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal carried them to a 120-115 victory over the plucky Sixers, combining for 53 points despite some lackluster shooting. Joel Embiid played 27 minutes, eclipsing his minutes restriction of 15-20 minutes, finishing with 18 points and 13 rebounds. It’s a promising start for the Sixers, who hung tough against one of the better teams in the East.

In Detroit, the Pistons opened their new stadium, the Little Caesars Arena, with a 102-90 victory over the Hornets, despite 0-13 shooting from Stanley Johnson. The Pacers and Nets treated us to a high scoring affair, with Indiana winning 140-131. Eight Pacers scored in double figures, led by 22 points from newcomer Victor Oladipo. D’Angelo Russell scored 30 in his debut with the Nets, but they were dealt a blow, losing Jeremy Lin to what is feared to be a significant knee injury.

DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis combined for 61 points, 28 rebounds and 8 blocks for the New Orleans Pelicans, but the rest of their squad combined for just 30 points, 23 rebounds and 4 blocks in a 103-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. I have a feeling things like this are going to happen a lot to the Pelicans. In another strong game that went for naught, Hassan Whiteside sprung for 26 points and 22 rebounds, coming close to equalling the totals of the entire Pelicans roster aside from Cousins and Davis. However, it wasn’t enough to lead the Miami Heat to victory. They were defeated by the Orlando Magic, 116-109. The Denver Nuggets seemed in control all night, but were then outscored 28-13 by the Utah Jazz in the fourth quarter. Utah came away with a 106-96 victory.

The Phoenix Suns kicked off their 50th season with not only their biggest loss in franchise history, but also the biggest opening night loss in the history of the NBA. The highlight of their night was the pregame video montage of memorable players throughout their history. Apparently uninspired by their legends of yesteryear, the Suns went out and were soundly defeated by the Portland Trail Blazers, 124-76.

Without Kawhi Leonard or Tony Parker, the Spurs still went out and looked like themselves, securing a 107-99 victory over the new-look Timberwolves. LaMarcus Aldridge, fresh off a contract extension that surprised a lot of the league, led the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Aldridge looked like his old self after what’s been, at times, a disappointing first couple of seasons in San Antonio. Whatever him and coach Gregg Popovich talked about at their preseason meeting seems to have made an impact. The game also marked the debut of Minnesota’s new Big Three of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler. Butler was quiet, finishing with 12 points, Towns had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Wiggins led the way with 26 points.

Last but not least, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 37 points and 13 rebounds, leading the Bucks to a 108-100 victory over the Celtics in Boston. Many think Antetokounmpo will be the MVP of the league someday, but that day may come sooner if he can make performances like last night’s a common occurrence. A night after suffering his terrible injury, Gordon Hayward addressed the Boston crowd via a recorded statement before the game. He underwent surgery last night, and it’s unlikely he’ll suit up this season.

THE NIGHT AHEAD

GAME OF THE NIGHT – New York Knicks at Oklahoma City Thunder (8:00 pm, TNT)

There’s only three games tonight, none more anticipated than the Knicks visit to OKC. It marks not only the regular season debut of the Thunder’s Big Three of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, it’s also Melo’s first game against his former team. He recently discussed his departure from New York, saying that “There was no support from the organization…When you feel like you’re on your own and then on top of that you feel like you’re being pushed out,” among other things, including that his own ten year old son advocated for him joining the Thunder. His fresh start begins this evening.

If you feel like staying up late, the second game in TNT’s doubleheader sees Lonzo Ball making his NBA debut as the Lakers take on the Clippers, who begin life after Chris Paul.

LATE BREAKING NEWS

No sooner did I publish this post when the Nets worst fears about Jeremy Lin were confirmed…

Already, Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Lin have been removed from this NBA season, which really sucks. Hopefully we can make it more than a day before the next big injury happens.

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2017-18 Western Conference Preview

Another NBA season is upon us, and after the craziest offseason in recent memory, it’s finally time to see how all of that wheeling and dealing will translate onto the court. Here at The Bonus Headquarters, I’ve purchased NBA League Pass, my first full season with it. There was no way I could go without it after the ruckus of this summer, where instead of deciding to wait out the Warriors, several teams went all in, building super teams, or potential super teams, in an attempt to dethrone them. Furthermore, I am going to do my damnedest to keep this lousy blog active, hopefully by posting on a daily basis. An ambitious goal indeed. We’ll see how it goes…

Speaking of seeing how things go, that’s what the teams in this league will be doing. Many of them find themselves implementing the drastic changes they made over the offseason, some of them geared towards title contention, while others have pushed the reset button. Then there’s the young teams trying to lay the path towards the future, while others are still wandering through the wilderness, caught somewhere in the middle between rebuilding, and the 8th seed in their conference.

With the season starting tomorrow, it’s time to put our predictions out there. Will they come to fruition, or will they be horrendously embarrassing? Only time will tell, so let’s get started. Today we’ll go through the Western Conference, and tomorrow, the East. Also, to commemorate my first full season as a proud NBA League Pass subscriber, I’m going to cite a reason to watch each team. Some might be harder than others.

THE WESTERN CONFERENCE DREGS

15. Phoenix Suns (21-61)

The Suns need to fully commit to their youth movement, and they’re almost there, although veterans like Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler are still on the team, two players that should garner trade interest from playoff contenders. Then there’s Eric Bledsoe, the most talented player on the roster. He’s just enough older than their young core where he might also find himself traded as the Suns search for more assets to build upon. As for their young core, they’ve got 70-point scorer Devin Booker, who is about to turn 21, and rookie Josh Jackson. This team still has a long way to go, and they should be in for another crummy season, which should land them another high draft pick as they continue to try and rebuild themselves. Hopefully they don’t shut their healthy players down for vast chunks of the season like they did last year to Chandler and Bledsoe. If you’re not going to play them, just trade them to a team that will, please.

Reasons to Watch: Devin Booker might score 70 points again.

14. Sacramento Kings (29-53)

The Kings are another team starting over after they finally traded disgruntled franchise player DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans last season. With a vast array of young talent, they’re primed for several more seasons of missing the playoffs and developing/gathering young talent. That’s why it was a little strange that they also added veterans like Zach Randolph, Vince Carter and George Hill in the offseason. Three guys who might do pesky things like helping to actually win games. However, they’ll impart valuable wisdom unto the youngsters, and could become decent trade chips if they find a contender who might want to give up something for a extra help during the playoff run.

Reasons to Watch: I’m a sucker for Zach Randolph’s old-school post game. 40 year old Vince Carter might dunk, one or two of their youngsters might be good.

13. Los Angeles Lakers (34-48)

The Lakers finally might be turning the corner towards a brighter future. Lonzo Ball is in town, along with his brash father, to run the show, and he’s probably actually going to be a good player, and so easy to root against! He’s exactly the kind of person I want to be the Lakers best player. He’s already been a little overshadowed by fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma, acquired along with Brook Lopez from the Nets. Kuzma’s stellar preseason has activated the full ridiculousness of the Lakers hype machine. With these players joining an already solid collection of young players (Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarskon, Larry Nance Jr), and with some helpful veterans in place (Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andrew Bogut, Luol Deng, assuming they let him play), the Lakers won’t be good, but they’ll be competent, and that’s the sort of thing they need to entice the two superstars they clearly intend on signing next summer.

Reasons to Watch: Aside from rooting against them (if you’re a Celtics fan), there’s a lot of intriguing young players here with bright futures. Whether or not those futures will be in Los Angeles, or elsewhere after they shed all their salaries to carve out cap space next summer, remains to be seen.

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THE WESTERN CONFERENCE WILDERNESS

12. New Orleans Pelicans (35-47)

We’ve entered the toughest part of the conference to predict. Any of the next several teams could win between 35-45 games, it seems, so I have to rely on my basketball instincts, and hope for the best, which means the preview’s biggest embarrassments will stem from this group of teams. One thing my basketball instincts tell me is that I do not trust the Pelicans. They’re automatically intriguing with their front court pairing of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, but the rest of the squad leaves a lot to be desired. Jrue Holiday is a solid point guard, but he’ll be paired in the backcourt with Rajon Rondo, who doesn’t provide a lot of shooting, needs the ball in his hands a lot to be effective, doesn’t always decide to care, and is also out with a sports hernia. The rest of the gang bring a similar lack of shooting, or in Jordan Crawford’s case, way too much shooting. I expect a lot of big nights from Cousins and Davis, and not much else. That’s not enough to make the playoffs in a conference as stacked as the West.

Reasons to Watch: Enjoy the Davis/Cousins duo while it lasts. Cousins can be a free agent at the end of the season, and if things go awry, one of them could be traded if the Pelicans decide to give up on the experiment.

11. Memphis Grizzlies (37-45)

This one hurts. I’ve loved the Grit and Grind Grizzlies, but Tony Allen and Zach Randolph have left town, yet the Grizzlies still approach the game with the same gritty mentality. The problem is, the personnel beyond the always great Marc Gasol and Mike Conley is lacking. Presumed third banana Chandler Parsons is a human injury report, and aside from maybe Tyreke Evans (another oft-injured soul), the rest of the roster doesn’t contain many players who should be in a starting lineup. Nevertheless, they’ll always show up to play, and they’ll be a pain in the ass, but I think their days in the playoffs are done for now.

Reasons to Watch: Marc Gasol and Mike Conley leading this noble squad against insurmountable odds each night.

BREAKING NEWS!

As I am writing this, I saw the following tweet!

It looks like Chandler Parsons’ “presumed third banana” days are actually over, though, if he can stay healthy, and show flashes of his pre-injury performance, he could be a helpful bench player this season.

10. Dallas Mavericks (39-43)

Another team that’s past its playoff years, but will always put up a worthy fight, is the Dallas Mavericks. This season, they come in with one of the more exciting rookies, point guard Dennis Smith Jr, who should be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year. It’ll be interesting to see how they use Nerlens Noel, who turned down a four year, 70 million dollar contract from them, became a restricted free agent, then sat around all summer as nobody else came calling, eventually having to come crawling back for the 4.1 million dollar, one year qualifying offer. Hilarious. On top of that, he might not even start, as the Mavs might instead start Dirk Nowitzki at center. Nevertheless, this will be a solid squad, with or without Noel starting. Having Dirk start at center will be detrimental to their defense, but coach Rick Carlisle will ensure that the offense will be a finely tuned machine.

Reasons to Watch: Dirk Nowitzki could move up to fifth place on the NBA’s all time scoring list. It could also be his final season, so get your Dirk viewing in while you can. Dennis Smith Jr is an exciting youngster, Harrison Barnes should be better as he enters year two of being the number one guy, Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrel’s scoring bursts. There’s a lot to enjoy with here. Who doesn’t like the Mavs anyway?

9. Utah Jazz (41-41)

The poor Utah Jazz. They were served a crushing blow when their leading scorer, Gordon Hayward, left for the Celtics, leaving the Jazz without the focal point of their offense. They might want to take a page out of the Grizzlies old playbook, and grit and grind their way through the season. The trouble there is, while the rest of the team is suitable to that approach, they went and traded for Ricky Rubio, a fast paced, razzle dazzle point guard. It will be intriguing to see if Rubio can adapt to a slower pace, or if the Jazz can run with his faster style of play. All is not lost. Rudy Gobert is one of the finest defensive anchors in the league, and should receive a lot of lobs from Rubio. Derrick Favors, likely back in the starting lineup, will have a chance to prove himself, and play for a new contract. There’s a lot of steady, solid players here, and they have a lot of depth. The only problem is, at the end of the day, you still need to put the ball in the basket, and whether or not they have enough firepower is questionable, though perhaps Rodney Hood, if he remains healthy, can approach Hayward’s scoring numbers.

Reasons to Watch: Watching this team fight for a return to the playoffs all year should be reason enough. They also have a potential Rookie of the Year candidate in Donavan Mitchell, stolen in a draft day trade with the Nuggets. There’s an awesome motley crew of savvy players on the Jazz. Joe Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Thabo Sefalosha and Joe Ingles, to name a few. They won’t be flashy, they won’t be high scoring, but if you appreciate watching a team that just works well together, look no further than the Jazz.

8. Los Angeles Clippers (44-38)

The greatest era in Clippers history came to an end when they traded Chris Paul to the Rockets. Now, they’ve committed to Blake Griffin, giving him a big contract extension. They’ve also brought in Danilo Gallinari, forming an intriguing front court of him, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The only problem is, Griffin and Gallinari are constant injury threats. Any significant time missed by one, or both of them, could definitely submarine their season, and since this is the Clippers, this will almost certainly happen. Also no longer in LA is JJ Redick, who signed with the 76ers, and took his fine three point shooting with him. Patrick Beverly will have the unenviable position of having to replace Chris Paul, but he’ll instill a scrappiness that the Clippers haven’t had in a long time, and that they’ll sorely need now that their star power has diminished. They got some sold role players out of the Chris Paul trade, so there is some depth here, and Lou Williams is now on the bench to replace imitate the scoring left behind from the also departed Jamal Crawford. However, after missing just four games in his first four seasons (not counting the season he was drafted, lost to injury), Blake Griffin has missed 83 over the past three seasons, while Gallinari has played in 70+ games just twice over the course of his career. There’s a lot riding on the health of those two players. Too much, if you ask me.

Reasons to Watch: …but if they can stay healthy, this will be a fun team to watch. Beverly, and the others they got in the trade with Houston (Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell) bring an aforementioned scrappiness that I don’t think the Clippers have had in awhile. European rookie Milos Teodosic has already turned heads with his ridiculous preseason passing, and if there’s one thing fans of the NBA can all agree on, it’s that ridiculous passes are often. It will be fun to see Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the receiving end.

7. Denver Nuggets (46-36)

Once the Nuggets finally figured out what they were doing last season, they realized they had one of the league’s best offenses, orchestrated by center Nikola Jokic. In the offseason, they signed Paul Millsap, who should be the perfect power forward to put alongside Jokic. The rest of the roster is littered with intriguing young players, and if one of them makes a leap (Gary Harris, perhaps?), the Nuggets could threaten to become a real force in the Western Conference. They still have a ways to go, and some things to figure out. What are they going to do with Kenneth Faried, who insists he is a starter, but finds himself relegated to the bench by Millsap’s arrival, and potentially even behind Mason Plumlee on the depth chart that is clogged with forwards. Faried’s quotes make it seem like he’s not trying to have it.

I’ll just put it out there for everybody. I’m not a bench player. I’ve been saying that for the longest. I’m a starter…Yes, that’s me. One hundred percent, that’s been my whole life. And I’m going to fight for a starting position. I’m just not going to lay down and let somebody take it.

But, there’s more!

There are 29 other teams. If this team doesn’t want, or respect me enough, to play me the minutes that I think I deserve to play, then I understand that. Hey, there’s 29 others. Maybe I’ll go somewhere else and do what I need to do there.

Also, they have a weakness at point guard, unless the young Emmanuel Mudiay can improve after a shaky start. Needless to say, this team could stand to make a trade.

Reasons to Watch: If you’re a fan of drama. Also, Nikola Jokic is poised to become one of the next big stars of the league, so get on board with him as quick as you can.

6. Portland Trail Blazers (48-34)

After acquiring Jusuf Nurkic from the Nuggets, the Blazers went 14-5 to close out the season and salvaged a playoff spot. Nurkic averaged 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds, giving Portland a real third banana behind their prolific backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The question is, can Nurkic keep it up for an entire season, and if so, just how good will the Blazers be? They’re returning roughly the same squad as they closed out last season with, and while I think they’re going to not quite reach the heights of that 14-5 finish (a pace that would put them around 60 wins over the course of an entire season), I think they’re in for a good year, although, it’s off to a funny start, with McCollum suspended for opening night for leaving the bench during a preseason altercation.

Reasons to Watch: A full season of one of the highest scoring backcourts combined with a gigantic Bosnian center wreaking havoc. Also, Evan Turner sounds kind of like Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, so be on the lookout for any interviews with him during broadcasts.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves (50-32)

The Seattle Supersonics have made the playoffs more recently than the Minnesota Timberwolves have (2005). I am going to miss being able to tell people that. The Timberwolves had one of the splashiest offseasons, trading for Jimmy Butler, bringing him in to join Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. This year will answer a lot of questions about Butler, namely, is he the kind of player that you can bring in and transform your team to a playoff contender. I am leaning towards yes, but even as I’m writing this, I feel like 50 wins might be a little high. It remains to be seen. Other important offseason additions were Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford. There’s certainly a lot of added experience in Minnesota, and with the continued improvement of Towns and Wiggins, this could become quite a team. Either way, it’s nice to see some actual expectations emanating out of Minnesota, though, they could stand to add a little more depth to their top-heavy roster.

Reasons to Watch: Butler, Towns and Wiggins is quite a big three, and of course, the sideline antics of coach Tom Thibodeau are always worth tuning in to.

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THE WESTERN CONFERENCE ELITE

4. San Antonio Spurs (52-30)

Speaking of top-heavy, we’ve made it to the top of the Western Conference. I have a rule: always pencil the Spurs in for at least 55 wins, and I was fully willing to do so again this season, but the news about Kawhi Leonard’s injured quad is scaring me off a bit. He’s out for opening night, and ominously, there is no timetable for his return. Is it standard Spurs cautiousness, or something worse? Even the mighty Spurs can’t last too long without him, with their aging core. Tony Parker himself won’t be back until November as he recovers from his quad injury, suffered in the playoffs. Manu Ginobili is 40, Pau Gasol is 37. Their only big offseason addition, Rudy Gay, is also coming off a season ending injury. With Parker out to start the year, and if Leonard misses more than a few games early on, they are going to need excellent starts from LaMarcus Aldridge, who has at times struggled to fit into his role on the Spurs, and Gay. For the first time in a long time, actual uncertainty is in the air around the Spurs.

Reasons to Watch: They’ll still win at least 50 games, you know they will. Gregg Popovich’s grouchy coach interviews are always worth the price of admission.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (56-26)

The Thunder found themselves at the center of the offseason fun, swooping in to trade for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, teaming them up with the reigning league MVP, Russell Westbrook. What did you do this summer?

That is a lot of firepower, and as we’ve said before here on The Bonus, if Carmelo Anthony can tap into the Olympic version of himself, it could be a legendary year for the Thunder. It probably will be anyway. The only cause for concern is their depth. Beyond a great starting five of Steven Adams, Melo, Paul George, Andre Roberson and Westbrook, the bench is a little thin. Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton were a couple of nice additions, and Jeremi Grant sure can thrown down a mean dunk, but they’re going to be relying heavily on the starters this year. Still though, that starting five should be able to carry the burden.

Reasons to Watch: If you need me to explain the reasons to watch this team, you’re probably not into basketball, and if that’s the case, why have you been reading this?

2. Houston Rockets (59-23)

The Rockets also participated in the summer fun, trading for Chris Paul and teaming him up with James Harden for one hell of a backcourt pairing. There could be some big kinks to work out here, as both players thrive when they dominate the ball handling, and Paul can certainly get ornery, but you have to think that the two of them will be able to come to an understanding, and when they do, it’s going to be fun to watch. Their trademark three point shooting will still surround the perimeter, with Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon patrolling the three point line, awaiting passes zipped their way from Harden and Paul. Clint Capela provides Paul with a new lob partner, and Ariza, PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute are on hand to harass opponents with tough defense on the wings. It’ll be a big year in Houston, particularly for Chris Paul. If he can’t finally make it to the Conference Finals (let alone the NBA Finals), with this squad, it will only embolden rabble-rousers and naysayers, myself included, that like to give him demerits for never making it past the second round.

Reasons to Watch: It’s become a 3 & D league, and this team has taken that to heart. If you like the modern NBA, these guys will be a must watch on a nightly basis.

1. Golden State Warriors (75-7)

I just really want a team to go 75-7 someday. Once again, the Warriors are the team that everyone’s chasing. The offseason chaos was a direct result of other teams doing whatever they think they can to have a puncher’s chance against this juggernaut. It still might not matter, because these guys got even better themselves, adding Omri Casspi and Nick Young, their latest reclamation project after rehabilitating JaVale McGee into a useful NBA player. No team has more weapons, and their chemistry should be even better this season, with a full year of Kevin Durant already under their belt. It’s practically unfair.

Reasons to Watch: You appreciate NBA history and want to be able to tell your grandkids about watching these guys someday. You’re rooting against them and want to see them toppled. You generally enjoy basketball.

That does it for the West. Tune in tomorrow for the Eastern Conference Preview, and the first of what I hope will be daily morning reports right here on The Bonus.

NBA Playoffs Day 19: Game 2 Blowouts

As we did the other night, we’re joining the Cavs and the Raptors at halftime because I don’t get out of work in time for these 7:00 pm starts. Also, who cares about this series, anyway? Just kidding, I care about all of the series, but we do sort of know what to expect from it at this point. For instance, at halftime, it’s Cleveland 62, Toronto 48. Let’s head to Twitter to try and get a feel for what’s going on here…

See what I mean? We know what to expect from this series, right down to the Cavs having the same 14 point lead at halftime that they did in Game 1.

LeBron has 19 points to lead Cleveland, and Channing Frye has come off the bench to score ten. The Cavs are shooting 57.9% from the floor, and they’re a scorching 10-15 on their threes. Again, more of the same.

Not more of the same: Jonas Valanciunas leads the Raptors off the bench with 19 points! Kyle Lowry’s added 15 points, and you’d think this would be good news for the Raptors, but, DeMar DeRozan has scored just one point on 0-7 shooting.  Yuck!

Also, once again, it looks like the Cavs aren’t too worried about this one. Observe LeBron James messing around with the basketball before draining a three…

While we’re here, there was no Bonus for Tuesday’s games because I was at that Celtics game! What can I say about Isaiah Thomas that hasn’t already been said? Simply put, that was one of the most memorable individual performances I’ve ever seen, in one of the most most memorable games. Over the first half, I thought John Wall was going to have one of those games where he just wins it all by himself, and under normal circumstances, he did. Isaiah just outdid him, and it was awesome.

8:24 pm – All right, we’re back to Cleveland for the second half of Game 2 between the Cavs and the Raptors. Marv Albert and Brent Barry will narrate the action. How much do you want to bet that, like Game 1, the Cavs will win this game, 115-104?

8:26 – The second half is off to a horrendous start as it seems Kyle Lowry is injured underneath the basket. A reminder that things can always get worse. We solemnly go into a timeout. During the play, Serge Ibaka goaltended a shot from LeBron James, so our score’s Cleveland 64, Toronto 48 with 11:33 left in the third quarter.

8:29 – Looking at the replay, it seems that a falling Norman Powell careened right into Lowry’s knee. Lowry then dragged himself out of bounds to avoid any further contact with anyone. He walked off to the locker room with a limp, and as action continues, Cory Joseph is into the Raptors lineup to replace him.

8:30 – After Serge Ibaka sends LeBron to the ground with a hard hit, Tristan Thompson steps in and exchanges a few words with Serge. Meanwhile, Kyle Lowry is making his way back to the Raptors bench with an ankle injury, according to sideline reporter Kristen Ledlow. She reports he’ll test it out and see if he can get back into the game. After review, Ibaka gets called for a common foul.

8:33 – Kyle Lowry comes back into the game for the Raptors. Let’s see how effective he is going forward.

8:34 – Lowry immediately gets a layup, but he’s still hobbling around, as Marv Albert points out. Toronto trails, 66-52.

8:35 – Kyle Lowry gets called for a technical foul after he’s called for a foul slapping the ball away from Kyrie Irving. Lowry contends that it was a clean strip, but the refs don’t see it that way. Irving knocks down the technical free throw, plus the two he earned from the original foul, and the Cavs lead is 69-52. Lots of stuff is happening here to start the third, none of it good for the Raptors.

8:36 – LeBron James hits a three, tying him for second all time in NBA Playoff scoring with none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

8:37 – After Lowry’s fouled shooting a three, he knocks down his first two free throws, and before the third, the Cavs call a timeout with the score Cleveland 72, Toronto 56 with 8:52 left in the third quarter. Lowry deserves a hell of a lot of props for staying in the game, but he’s definitely struggling out there, despite how active he’s been since his return.

8:40 – Back from the timeout, Lowry knocks down his third free throw, and he’s up to 20 points, but the Raptors are down, 72-57.

8:43 – And with another three, LeBron is now in sole possession of second place on the NBA’s all time Playoff scoring list.

8:47 – Kyrie Irving finds Tristan Thompson all alone in the paint for one of the easiest dunks he’ll ever get. It leads to a timeout with the score Cleveland 85, Toronto 65 with 5:41 left in a third quarter that I am only half paying attention to.

Kyrie’s only shooting 4-15, but DeMar DeRozan’s at a lousy 0-8 from the field.

8:51 – DeRozan’s now 0-9 after missing a runner, but Serge Ibaka cleans up the mess with an offensive rebound and gets a bucket. Toronto’s down, 85-67.

8:59 – After Jonas Valanciunas tips the ball out of bounds, we’ll have a timeout with the score Cleveland 97, Toronto 73 with 2:40 left in the third quarter. The Cavs are pretty much openly dicking around with fancy passes as their lead continues to grow. The Raptors have started turning the ball over, and they look generally hopeless, I have to say.

9:01 – Back from the timeout, we learn that Kyle Lowry has limped back to the Raptors locker room.

9:03 – Not that it was in question, but, Kyle Lowry’s officially done for the night.

9:04 – The third quarter comes to an end without any Raptors field goals over the last four minutes and ten seconds, according to Marv Albert. As a result, the score’s Cleveland 99, Toronto 73. LeBron James is up to 36 points and seems to be genuinely delighting in ruining the Raptors season. Kyrie Irving, despite lousy 6-19 shooting, is up to 22 points and 11 assists. Meanwhile, the Raptors just lost their most important player to an injury, and their co-most important player is shooting 0-9.

9:07 – DeMar DeRozan kicks off the fourth quarter by making his first shot! Unfortunately, it’s still worth just two points, and the Raptors are down, 99-75.

9:12 – Another Raptors turnover as DeMarre Carroll steps out of bounds, and it’ll take us to another timeout with the score Cleveland 107, Toronto 79 with 8:53 remaining.

9:23 – The Cavs turn the ball over, and it’ll take us into a timeout. You know the game’s gotten bad when it’s turnovers, and not big baskets, that are sending us into timeouts. Anyway, it’s Cleveland 113, Toronto 90 with 5:09 left in the game.

9:29 – Iman Shumpert goes driving to the hoop for a layup, plus a foul, and finally it’s not a lousy turnover taking us into a timeout. Our score’s Cleveland 122, Toronto 97 with 1:39 mercifully remaining.

9:33 – Shumpert hits his free throw, and the Cavs lead goes up to 123-97. Marv Albert and Brent Barry are talking about volleyball movies, and I’m spending more time texting with the groom for the Bachelor Party I’m in charge with this weekend, than I am watching the game.

9:35 – The game comes to a close with a final score of Cleveland 125, Toronto 103. The 125 points set a Cavaliers franchise record for points in a Playoff game.

LeBron James had another great game, dropping 39 points on 10-14 shooting. That’s some efficient work. James also grabbed six rebounds, and shot 15-21 from the free throw line. Kyrie Irving added 22 points and 11 assists as the Cavs shot 54.1% from the floor, including an 18-33 effort from downtown.

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Jonas Valanciunas came off the bench to score 23 and grab 5 rebounds for the Raptors, and his fellow benchman, Cory Joseph, added 22 and 6. Kyle Lowry finished with 20 points and 5 assists, but he of course had to leave the game, and Raptors fans everywhere will hold their breaths until his status going forward is revealed.

I said this after Game 1, but, the Cavs just own the Raptors. Toronto has no answers for anything Cleveland throws at them, and everyone seems pretty resigned to an unfortunate Raptors fate.

9:43 – We’re whisked down to San Antonio for Game 2 between the Spurs and the Rockets. Game 1 was a surprising Rockets blowout, and the Spurs are looking to bounce back. Pau Gasol joins the starting lineup for San Antonio, replacing David Lee. Will this be more of the same like we saw up in Cleveland, or can the Spurs make the right adjustments to get themselves into this series?

9:45 – The Spurs take the opening tip, and Game 2 is underway at the AT&T Center.

9:46 – Kawhi Leonard knocks down a three, and the Spurs strike first. Trevor Ariza comes right back for a layup, and the Rockets are on the board, down 3-2.

9:52 – After Danny Green knocks down a three, we’ll head into our first timeout with the score San Antonio 19, Houston 16 with 6:22 left in a frantically paced first quarter. Obviously, this one’s off to a much better start for everyone than Game 1 was, but we already have a cause for concern…

9:55 – Back from the timeout, James Harden is still on the floor for the Rockets, but we’ll keep an eye on him.

9:58 – Ryan Anderson knocks down a transition three, and it’ll take us into another timeout as Anderson’s already up to ten points. The score’s San Antonio 25, Houston 19 with 3:32 left in the first quarter.

10:07 – David Lee finds LaMarcus Aldridge for a layup a mere 0.02 seconds before the first quarter expires, and it makes the score San Antonio 33, Houston 30 after one. Now this is more like it! Danny Green’s got nine points on 4-4 shooting to lead the Spurs, while Ryan Anderson has ten for the Rockets. The pace has been fast, and it seems like the Spurs are not so much disrupting the Rockets as they are just staying ahead of them. Nevertheless, it’s been awesome, but we’ll see if they can continue to hang at such a fast pace.

10:11 – Patrick Beverly kicks off the second quarter by getting to the bucket for a quick layup, plus a foul. He knocks down the free throw, and we’re tied at 33.

10:14 – Eric Gordon knocks down a shot, and we’ve got a timeout as the game continues in a fast paced, razzle-dazzle fashion. It’s San Antonio 39, Houston 37 with 9:19 left in the first half.

10:22 – The ball goes bouncing out of bounds for a timeout with the score San Antonio 50, Houston 46 with 5:50 left in the second quarter. After struggling in Game 1, LaMarcus Aldridge is contributing nicely for the Spurs here in Game 2.

10:32 – Tony Parker hits a three from the corner, and thanks in part to some sloppy possessions by the Rockets, the Spurs have been able to pull away to a double digit lead. It’s San Antonio 61, Houston 48 with 2:29 left until halftime.

10:40 – We’re here at halftime with a score of San Antonio 65, Houston 55. Kawhi Leonard’s been magnificent with 20 points and 5 assists on 7-9 shooting. Danny Green’s got 12 on 5-5 shooting, and Tony Parker’s added 11. Ryan Anderson has 15 points and 5 rebounds on 6-6 shooting to lead the Rockets, and Eric Gordon’s come off the bench to score 12. James Harden’s shooting just 1-9, and most surprisingly, has yet to attempt a free throw, but Houston is still well within shouting distance. Despite their deficit, the game is being played at their pace, which gives them a great shot at erasing this deficit if they can come out strong in the second half.

10:45 – I think it’s time for tonight’s episode of Today in Playoff History, brought to you by the scholars down at Basketball Reference!

It’s been a great bounce back for the Spurs so far tonight, but back in 1988, they suffered a first round sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, thanks to a 109-107 loss in Game 3.

Walter Berry came off the Spurs bench to lead them with 27 points and 7 rebounds, Frank Brickowski had 22 points and 7 boards, and Alvin Robertson had 8 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists and 4 steals. However, 25 points, 5 rebounds and 11 assists from Magic Johnson led the Lakers to the close victory. He had help off the bench from Mychal Thompson who submitted 23 points and 9 rebounds, while James Worthy contributed 16 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists.

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10:58 – Kawhi Leonard cans a jumper to start off the second half, and the Spurs lead swells up to 67-55.

11:01 – A Spurs turnover leads to Clint Capella, of all people, taking the ball down the court for a layup, and that Spurs lead is starting to shrink. A timeout is called with the score San Antonio 71, Houston 65 with 9:22 left in the third quarter.

11:11 – James Harden misses a three, and then he’s sent to the floor due to an accidental elbow from LaMarcus Aldridge after they both chase after the rebound. It leads into my least favorite aspect of the Playoffs – a long video review, coupled with Reggie Miller’s running commentary. It ends up being a common foul. Also, Harden appears to be okay, and he has one or two things to say to Aldridge as both teams get set to continue the game.

11:18 – After James Harden draws one of those infuriating fouls as he’s shooting a three, we have a timeout with a score of San Antonio 82, Houston 76 with 2:48 remaining in the third quarter. When we return, Harden will have a chance to make this a one possession game with his three free throws.

11:22 – James Harden goes 2-3 from the line, and the Rockets have cut this down to a four point game, trailing, 82-78.

11:24 – James Harden finds Eric Gordon behind the arc for a three, and it’s finally a one possession game with the Rockets behind, 84-81.

11:25 – Jonathan Simmons gets a bucket along the baseline, and the Spurs get their lead to 86-81. Lou Willams then fights his way inside for a layup, and the Rockets get the deficit down to 86-83.

11:26 – After a Jonathan Simmons jumper to close out the quarter, the score’s San Antonio 88, Houston 83. The Rockets are right back in this one, even with James Harden shooting a disgusting 3-15 from the floor. If they can keep the pace to their liking, they’ll have an excellent shot at overtaking the Spurs and heading home to Houston with a 2-0 series lead.

11:30 – Tony Parker misses a short shot, but Manu Ginobili “flies in untouched” as an excited Kevin Harlan puts it, and tips in the miss. It’s the first basket of the fourth, and it extends the Spurs lead to 90-83.

11:33 – Tony Parker finds Pau Gasol with a great bounce pass for a big dunk! The Spurs are on an 11-0 run after the Rockets got to within one possession, and we’ll have a timeout. The score’s San Antonio 97, Houston 83 with 10:07 left in the game after a perfect start to the fourth quarter for the Spurs.

11:38 – Oh dear. Tony Parker is sitting on the ground by himself, holding his knee. Looks like he had an awkward landing after attempting a runner. It’ll bring us into a timeout with the score still San Antonio 97, Houston 83 with 8:42 to go.

11:41 – We’re back, and Tony Parker was indeed carried off the court after taking a few painful steps himself. Kawhi Leonard replaces him in the Spurs lineup.

11:50 – Kawhi Leonard knocks down a three, and we’re getting a virtuoso performance out of the MVP candidate tonight. As we go into a timeout, it’s San Antonio 111, Houston 88 with 4:54 remaining. Kawhi’s up to 34 points on 13-16 shooting.

11:55 – Another timeout with the score San Antonio 114, Houston 88 with 3:57 left in the ball game. At this point, we’re all holding our breaths, waiting for news on Tony Parker.

11:59 – Allie LaForce, our intrepid sideline reporter, tells us that the Spurs say that Tony Parker has a “left leg injury”, and that he will go in for an MRI tomorrow. Eek.

12:04 am – This one draws to a close with a final score of San Antonio 121, Houston 96. Kawhi Leonard finishes with 34 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists on 13-16 shooting. Pau Gasol, inserted into the starting lineup, ended the night with 6 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks.

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Ryan Anderson led the Rockets with 18 points and 8 rebounds, while James Harden struggled mightily, shooting 3-17 and ending up with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 10 assists.

As much as things went well for the Rockets in Game 1, they went equally as bad here in Game 2. The Spurs also made some nice adjustments, starting Gasol and getting a nice spark from Jonathan Simmons. Of course, Kawhi Leonard played much better as well, leading his team to an important victory, tying the series after these teams have swapped blowouts.

Obviously, Tony Parker’s status is looming over an otherwise successful night for the Spurs. If he’s lost, it’ll be a serious blow to a team that doesn’t have a ton of point guard depth. We’ll know more after tomorrow’s MRI, but for now, best of luck to the Spurs veteran.

Each of the series we heard from tonight have been built upon blowouts, but at least the Rockets and Spurs seem equally likely to hand out a shellacking. As for the Eastern half of tonight’s action, it certainly looks like the Cavs are still looking for a worthy challenger in the Eastern Conference.

Remember earlier when I mentioned a Bachelor Party? That’s this weekend, so I won’t be around to cover the Playoff action. On top of that, a cousin I’ve never met before is in town, so I’ll be meeting him tomorrow, and as a result, The Bonus will return next week. Hopefully nothing exciting or interesting happens in the NBA Playoffs between now and then, but I wouldn’t count on it. So, with that in mind, dear readers, keep watching, because it’s been a great Playoffs so far, and keep me in your thoughts this weekend as I try and survive what promises to be a lively bachelor party.