NBA

LeBron lights up the NBA preseason, Mitchell debuts for the Cavaliers

By Sports Desk October 06, 2022

LeBron James scored 23 points in the first half and Donovan Mitchell made his Cleveland Cavaliers debut to highlight Wednesday's NBA preseason action.

Against the Phoenix Suns, James shot eight-of-11 from the field, including three-of-six from deep, adding four assists, three rebounds, a steal and no turnovers in his 17 minutes, helping the Los Angeles Lakers to a 69-62 halftime lead.

They would end up losing 119-115 as James would sit out the entire second half while fringe rotation players got a chance for some extended run, with Kendrick Nunn scoring 21 points on eight-of-13 shooting as he prepares for a significant role for the Lakers this season.

Devin Booker scored 22 points on seven-of-20 shooting, and Chris Paul posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 assists.

Meanwhile, Mitchell was impressive in his first action in a Cavaliers uniform, scoring 16 points on six-of-nine shooting before also sitting out the second half of his side's 113-112 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Tyrese Maxey led the 76ers with 22 points on nine-of-11 shooting, while Joel Embiid had 12 points, six rebounds and three assists in his 18 minutes.

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    Brooklyn Nets point guard Ben Simmons could be back on court on Friday after missing recent games with knee and calf issues.

    Simmons exited the win over the Orlando Magic last week due to left knee soreness, while it later emerged he was also dealing with a left lateral upper calf strain.

    Speaking after training on Tuesday, the Australian gave a positive update, suggesting that while he will remain out for Wednesday's clash with the Charlotte Hornets, he is aiming to be back for the Nets' game with the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.

    "I'm excited where I'm at right now," Simmons said. "So I'm looking for Friday to get back on the court.

    "It's a lot of load for coming back from a back injury and then also the knee, so I'm glad I had this time to build some muscle around it, and we'll work on it."

    Simmons, who is averaging 8.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists this season, has already missed games against the Washington Wizards, the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics.

    Having missed a lot of basketball in recent times, the 26-year-old suggested he might have the manage his time on the court.

    "I think we're definitely going to look at it a lot different," he added. "I don't know if it's measuring minutes, maybe not back-to-backs, whatever it is. I think that's going to be a joint thing with the training staff and myself, and letting them know how I'm feeling."

  • NBA Game of the Week: Celtics and Suns clash could be possible Finals preview NBA Game of the Week: Celtics and Suns clash could be possible Finals preview

    The best of the East against the best of the West.

    No, this is not the NBA Finals yet, though it very well could be at the end of the season as the Boston Celtics head to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

    The Celtics have responded to losing last year's Finals to the Golden State Warriors in impressive fashion, made all the more notable given the situation around suspended head coach Ime Udoka.

    With star performers Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown firing on all cylinders, the Celtics have raced out to win 20 of their first 25 (80.0 win percentage) games this season, topping the Eastern Conference by some distance (ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks with 73.9 per cent).

    It has been quite the run since early November, with Boston on a record of 16-2 since their overtime defeat to the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

    The Suns arguably had an even more anti-climactic end to their last campaign.

    Phoenix ended the regular season with a fantastic record of 64-18, comfortably the best in the league, but were eliminated in the Western Conference semi-finals against the Dallas Mavericks, losing 4-3.

    Like the Celtics, though, the Suns have mostly picked up where they left off this year, sitting on a record of 16-8 to narrowly top the West.

    Monty Williams will be hoping his team can get back to their best after losing two of their last three games, with their last outing seeing them haunted by Luka Doncic and the Mavs again, but on Wednesday all they will have to deal with is the form team in the league, including Tatum and Brown.

    Perhaps that defeat in Dallas will focus minds, but the Celtics will be looking to further cement their credentials.

    PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

    Phoenix Suns - Deandre Ayton

    Devin Booker may be the main point-getter for the Suns, recently scoring a total of 136 points across three games, but Deandre Ayton's importance in the big games can never be underestimated.

    The Bahamian is actually slightly down on his usual rebound average, but his 9.6 per game is still comfortably the best on the Phoenix roster and will be crucial against a team as potent as Boston.

    Booker struggled last time out against the Mavs, while Ayton top-scored for his team with 20 points, along with eight rebounds and three blocks.

    Boston Celtics - Jayson Tatum

    Tatum has been an absolute force of nature so far this season, averaging 30.8 points per game from his 24 appearances, the fourth-best in the league behind only Doncic (33.4), Giannis Antetokounmpo (31.9) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31.3).

    The 24-year-old has scored 29 or more points in six of his last seven games, while also averaging the most rebounds (8.3) and assists (4.2) for his team this season.

    KEY BATTLE - Suns must halt the points at the source

    If it were as easy as stopping the opposition from shooting, you would have basketball sussed.

    That is basically what Williams' must encourage his team to try though, with only one team having a better field-goal percentage than the Celtics' 49.4 this season (Denver Nuggets, 50.0 per cent).

    Perhaps more concerning will be from range, with Boston boasting the best three-point success so far, sinking 40.2 per cent of their attempts from beyond the arc. Either prevent shots or at the very least, do not allow the likes of Tatum and Brown to shoot the ball without pressure.

    HEAD-TO-HEAD

    This has been a tremendously even battle in recent seasons, with Boston and Phoenix clashing twice in each of the last four campaigns.

    In every single season, they have both won one each, with the Celtics winning their last meeting at TD Garden 123-108 on December 31 last year.

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    James Harden said he was "all over the place" on his return from injury but vowed to improve once he finds his rhythm for the Philadelphia 76ers.

    The 2018 MVP winner was back in the starting line-up having missed 14 straight games after suffering a tendon strain in his right foot on November 2, with Philly going 4-5 in his absence.

    However, his comeback failed to yield an upturn as the 76ers went down 132-123 to Harden's former team the Houston Rockets following double overtime.

    Harden contributed 21 points but was just 4-of-19 from the field, missing all eight attempts inside the three-point arc. He also chalked up four rebounds and seven assists.

    Philly coach Doc Rivers said Harden would be on a minutes restriction, but he still racked up 39. However, the 33-year-old said it was difficult to find fluidity.

    "I didn't play well, but I've got to be better and I will," Harden said.

    "I was all over the place. I'm not used to it, but I'm not making any excuses. I have to do better." 

    Harden added that he had to fight his cause to play as much as he did in overtime.

    "I had to fight to stay on the court just because there was a certain plan in place before the game started,'' Harden said.

    "But once you go out there as a competitor you want to try to win."

    The 76ers are on a three-match losing streak and sit seventh in the Eastern Conference with a 12-12 record. They next face the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

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