Viewers' Guide: Closer look at NBA TV's first Fan Night of season
Rockets vs. Cavaliers (6 p.m. ET, NBA TV)
The King Still Reigns
After leading the Cavs back from a 3-1 Finals deficit and winning his third NBA championship, you might think LeBron James has nothing left to prove. Think again. James came out last week for the start of the new season and picked up where he left off last season, nearly averaging a triple-double (21.0 points per game, 10.0 assists per game and 8.3 rebounds per game) on his way to winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. The Cavs jumped out to a 3-0 start, and with James facilitating for everyone else — his 10 assists per game are a career high, and rank him fifth in the NBA — the Cavaliers are perhaps even more dangerous than last season. That’s a scary thought.
Harden Getting To The Point
New Houston coach Mike D’Antoni is known for his offensive mastery, and thus far in Houston he’s asked for more of the offense to run through James Harden, even starting Harden at the point guard position. Through three games, Harden has been crucial to the 2-1 Rockets, averaging 29.7 ppg and 10.7 apg. Meanwhile, opponents have averaged 103.3 ppg against Houston, which the Rockets will hope to improve upon as the season progresses.
Why the 6 p.m. tip-off, which is way earlier than most weeknight games get going? Because literally just a few feet away from the Cavs/Rockets in Quicken Loans Arena, the Cleveland Indians will be hosting the Chicago Cubs in Game 6 of the World Series. The Indians will attempt to close out the Cubbies and win the Indians’ first World Series title in almost 70 years. The Cavs have been big supporters of the Indians’ playoff push — Kyrie Irving has talked about walking over to watch Game 6 following the Cavs game. For a city that for so long was known for losing, the last few months in Cleveland have seen a sea change, in large part thanks to James returning home and leading the Cavs to last summer’s championship.
Warriors at Trail Blazers, (10 p.m. ET, NBA TV)
We knew the Warriors would have some adjustments to make this season, as they not only attempt to assimilate Kevin Durant into what’s now a Big Four, but they also have basically a new starting center (Zaza Pachulia) and bench rotation to figure out. Through three games, Durant is averaging 31.3 ppg, including a 37-point performance in Golden State’s win Sunday in Phoenix. And while Durant looks increasingly comfortable, thus far it’s been Klay Thompson who has struggled from deep, connecting on just 14 percent of his 3-point attempts.
New Era Blazers
Last season the Portland Trail Blazers surprised many NBA watchers, when after losing LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews in free agency they still managed to win 44 games and make it to the Western Conference semifinals (where they were eliminated by the Warriors). Much of that was due to the leadership of Damian Lillard, who once again this summer organized a player’s-only camp to get everyone on the same page before they actually arrived in Portland. That sort of top-down leadership is one reason why Golden State coach Steve Kerr made a case earlier this season for Lillard’s MVP candidacy.
Get to the points
Another reason Lillard should probably be in the MVP conversation? He’s playing incredible this season. Through three games, Lillard is averaging a career-high 35.0 ppg while shooting a career-best 54.9-percent. Of course, tonight Lillard matches up against two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry, who despite the addition of Durant is still averaging 25.7 ppg and remains the league’s most lethal scorer from deep.
Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here or follow him on Twitter.
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