After Tuesday's three-game soft open, the NBA calendar kicked into full gear on Wednesday with a mammoth 14-game slate that saw 28 of the league's 30 teams in action. (The lone resters? The Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers, who played Tuesday and will take part in TNT's Thursday double-header.)
A lot of stuff happens in all those hours of NBA basketball, including a number of cool plays and occurrences that tend to mirror one another other, pop up in pairs and invite direct comparison. So let's play a little game of This or That? — we'll look at a pair of clips tied together by a thematic thread, I'll pick one I like better, and then you can agree (and we can bro down) or disagree (and we will never ever be friends again).
Sound good? Great. Leggggo:
LONG-AWAITED COMEBACK BY PLAYER ABOUT WHOSE COMPELLING TALENTS YOU MAY HAVE FORGOTTEN
THIS: Andrew Bynum making his Cleveland Cavaliers debut in a 98-94 win over the Brooklyn Nets:
THAT: Kevin Love making his first in-game appearance in 300 days for the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 120-115 overtime win, which featured this rather handsome game-tying triple late in regulation:
Devine's Verdict: THAT. I was as excited to see Bynum take the floor as anyone who doesn't root for the wine and gold, but while seeing Bynum check in after a full year away did feel sort of like watching suspiciously well-doctored Sasquatch footage, it was Love who was an honest-to-goodness, real-life monster — 31 points (including 12-for-16 from the line, which is the kind of thing that could help Minny's offense become an efficient monster), 17 rebounds, four assists and one turnover in 41 minutes.
I'm not hating on Bynum's output — three points, three rebounds, two assists, two blocks, some rim protection and, most of all, no injuries in 7:34 of floor time — but while he offered a mere glimpse of what could make him such an important pick-up for a Cleveland team with playoff hopes, Love provided a full-fledged reminder of why, with him back in the fold, the Timberwolves expect to be there. Still: Welcome back, you two. Stick around a while, huh?
PICK-AND-ROLL ALLEY-OOPS PUNCTUATED BY INTRIGUING BIG MEN
THIS NO. 1: Brian Roberts to Anthony Davis:
THAT NO. 1: Eric Bledsoe to Miles Plumlee:
THIS NO. 2: Raymond Felton to Tyson Chandler:
THAT NO. 2: Kyrie Irving to Tristan Thompson (more of a dribble handoff, but hey, let's not be sticklers):
Devine's Verdict: THIS. It's neat that Kyrie and Tristan hooked up on that elbow handoff; the more Thompson's game expands as a screener, roller and someone who can operate well from multiple spots out away from the block, the more it'll open up the frontcourt combinations that Mike Brown can use when he's got everyone healthy. It was good to see Chandler looking healthy enough to be ferocious in the New York Knicks' closer-than-it-should-have-been win over the Milwaukee Bucks, given the way he struggled with injuries late last season. It was great to see Plumlee extend his strong preseason into real NBA life, putting up 18 points, 15 rebounds and three steals in 40 minutes of play in the Phoenix Suns' impressive home-opening win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Good stuff, all around.
But Davis — 20 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, some lovely face-up work and a clearly improved all-around floor game, albeit in a five-point loss to the Indiana Pacers — might be the only thing more terrifying than Pierre, the New Orleans Pelicans' new mascot. He is going to be marvelous to watch this year.
DOPE SHOT-BLOCKS BY MERCURIAL CENTERS
THIS: Bynum denies Deron Williams.
THAT: JaVale McGee basically catching Marcus Thornton's short jumper.
Devine's Verdict: THAT. Sorry, Turner bros, but you got this one wrong. JaVale's denial might not have been as impressive as the time he literally took the ball away from Wesley Matthews, but it's still pretty awesome; if he'd completed the catch, we'd be freaking out over it, but we should reward process rather than simply result here.
SLICK INTERIOR MANEUVERS BY THIRD-YEAR PROFESSIONALS
THIS: Alec Burks with the bananas reverse layup.
THAT: Kyrie drawing and dishing to Anderson Varejao for the deuce.
Devine's Verdict: THIS. We never talk about Burks, the 22-year-old guard out of Colorado whose presence as part of the Utah Jazz's young core has taken a backseat (in the national conversation, at least) to the development or just-extended power forward Derrick Favors, about-to-be-extended small forward Gordon Hayward and emerging center Enes Kanter. Well, when you do stuff like this — and score 24 points on 50 percent shooting, go 8 for 9 from the line, grab six rebounds and dish six assists in 32 minutes off the bench against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, we talk about you (even when you lose). Big up yourself, Alec. More, please.
At least, that's what I think. Let's hear your This or That? choices, whether in the comments or in one of the multiple social options below.
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