The Game Thread Dude
Tony Delk Memorial Award - Monte Morris. With Jamal Murray out, Monte got the start and immediately provided the same general number Jamal usually gives.
Jason Hart/Andres Nocioni Contributor of the Game - Hassan Whiteside, who spent his time in this game getting outpowered and outran by athletically challenged walking mountain Nikola Jokic and camped out in the midrange on offense for some reason. He did hit a jumper though.
Rafer Alston And-1 - Michael Porter Jr., who pulled off a 30-10 night while also getting cooked so badly on defense that it probably cost his team the game. Hitting every shot only works if you don't let the guy you're defending score on you every time he touches the ball. Also he bit on Bjelica's patented super slow pump fake so hard that I'm pretty sure Bjeli would still be open a full day after the game ended.
Luke Walton Vacuum Cleaner Award - Luke Walton, who largely coached a nice game aside from randomly deciding to replace Fox with CoJo to counter the big Nuggets run in the third. The Nuggets instead managed to increase their lead and De'Aaron wound up coming back into the game a few minutes later and having to drag the Kings back into the contest by himself.
Bruno Caboclo Two Years Away From Being Two Years Away Award - Bol Bol. After a couple of nice games in the bubble, NBA twitter had pretty much crowned the guy as yet another example of the Nuggets outsmarting the rest of the league and finding a star big in the second round. While that still may come to be, Bol spent his short stint in this game getting lost on the perimeter on defense for some reason and airmailing a three so badly that it would have hit Signlady in the face if fans were allowed in the building.
WTF Moment of the Game -
Kings win. Here's how Bleacher Report covered the game:
Tonight we face the Rockets, who have started the season with their star player wanting off the team after chasing another star teammate away and had their roster unable to play due to COVID-19. Also they have no draft picks, no salary space, and a terrible egomaniacal owner. It has not been a great offseason for the Rockets.
They did pick up Christian Wood, who started his NBA career undrafted and behind Richaun Holmes on the Sixers depth chart before bouncing around the league and getting discovered by Alvin Gentry and the Hornets while they were tanking for Zion, going to Detroit for a year, before finally getting a full-on contract with the Rockets and continuing his ascension to stardom.
Boogie and John Wall are reunited again and finally making their season debut against the Kings. Both dudes have had more than their fair share of serious potential career-ending injuries so it will be good to see them playing NBA basketball again. Whether or not both will be even a fraction of the monsters they once were, though, is another question entirely. As is the issue of whether they can mesh with James Harden or not.
This game is not unwindable but winning it won't be easy. Three wins does not a season make.
Christian Wood vs. Richaun Holmes: Richaun is coming off his best game of the season but now comes into the game facing the very early frontrunner for MIP. Wood can shoot from the three and play PnRs like Holmes. Defensively, he provides a lot of what Holmes does without a lot of the dumb fouls. Advantage: Woods.
PJ Tucker vs. Marvin Bagley III: Coming off of an odd end to the best performance of his season thus far, Marvin should be coming into this game hungry. He'll be going against one of the better defenders in the league and former small ball center PJ Tucker. How he does against PJ will show how far Marvin's skills have developed since being drafted. Advantage: Tucker.
Danuel House vs. Harrison Barnes: Coming out of the bubble season with major egg on his face after an unfortunate incident leading to him getting ejected from the bubble early, House has started the season shooting horribly. Barnes, meanwhile, is in the middle of his best stretch as a King. Advantage: Barnes
James Harden vs. Buddy Hield: Out of shape and thornier than ever, the beard has started the season on absolute fire, singlehandedly (with Wood) keeping the Rockets from getting blown out in both their losses. Now, on defense, Harden even cares less than ever before which has helped turn both games into scoring contests more than anything. On the other side of the contest, Buddy has had a rough shooting start to the season, somehow doing better from the three point arc than on two pointers (not ideal) but is contributing in almost every other way. Advantage: Harden
John Wall vs. De'Aaron Fox: This would have been a premier matchup two seasons ago before John Wall's ligaments decided they didn't want to play basketball anymore. De'Aaron came into the league looking like a skinnier John Wall and has since spent the last two years packing on so much muscle that he has turned into John Wall proper. Much like prime John Wall, De'Aaron can affect the game on both ends of the floor. Unlike prime John Wall, I'm not so sure current John Wall can. Advantage: Swipa
Benches: The Rockets bench is actually not half bad, now being led by Eric Gordon and DeMarcus Cousins (who should be making their season debuts tonight) and featuring David Nwaba and ex-Buck Sterling Brown, both 3-and-D guards who fin into the traditional Harden-and-grind offense. That being said, I'm not so sure how that bench is going to look straight away and the Tyborg, Bjeli, Hassan, and even CoJo are no slouches themselves. Advantage: Kings
Final Predictions Kings 117, Rockets 113
The Rockets have three (former) all-stars on their roster and James Harden at his most beardedness. But there will still be major issues and growing pains for the Rockets even if this is finally the collection of players to get them over the hump. Also, with my railing against MPJ's defense done, now should be the time for me to point out that the Rockets are the one team in the league with a worse defensive rating than the Nuggets to start the year. De'Aaron drops 30. The Kings go into the new year winners.