NBA on Sling: Celtics Out to Avenge Loss to Bulls, Clippers and Thunder Battle for Top Spot in the West

Nov 02, 2016 by Sling Staff

Chicago Bulls (3-0) vs Boston Celtics (2-1)
8pm ET Wednesday on ESPN

The Bulls pantsed the Nets on Halloween, beating them 118-88 to improve their record to 3-0, as Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 22, and the power forward duo of Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic kicked in 14-11 and 16-10, respectively. The new-look Bulls are enjoying the post-Derrick Rose Era thus far, with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo providing backcourt support for Butler. The Bulls are getting it done with rock solid shooting from downtown (42.5%, third in the league) and at the charity stripe (84.1%, second in the league), while totally dominating the boards 53 to 38 on average. As always, small samples should be enjoyed with a grain of salt.

The Celtics’ lone defeat this season came Thursday against the Bulls, as they fell behind 30-20 in the first quarter, and never were able to recover, getting outrebounded 55-36, and missed 9 of 24 free throws. The C’s bounced back from that loss by beating the Hornets 104-98 on Saturday, behind a huge night from Avery Bradley, who hit 8 of 11 from 3 on his way to 31 points and 11 rebounds. Bradley’s been a defensive specialist for most of his career, but he’s slowly been putting together a more complete game and it’s paying dividends, as he’s averaging 21.3 points per game, 6.1 more than his career high set last season. Free agent savior Al Horford, however, is still trying to find his place in the offense, as he’s scoring just 12 a game after scoring 16.2 over the previous four seasons.

Oklahoma City Thunder (3-0) vs Los Angeles Clippers (3-0)
10:30pm ET Wednesday on ESPN

Looks like the Thunder have found life without KD to be worth living, starting this new era 3-0. Two of those wins came against cupcakes: their opener against Philly, and Sunday’s 113-96 defeat of the Lakers, in which Russell Westbrook became just the fourth player in NBA history to record two triple-doubles in his first three games. You may have heard of the other three: Magic Johnson, Jerry Lucas and Oscar Robertson. Westbrook is now averaging 38.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 11.7 assists per game, while Victor Oladipo has been a capable second banana, scoring 17 a night. Westbrook won’t average a triple-double, and OKC won’t play two-thirds of their games against teams as bad as the Sixers and the Lakers, but they won’t be circling the drain any time soon.

The Clippers beat the Suns 116-98 on Halloween with Chris Paul leading the way with 24-5-8, as LA took a 12 point lead into the half and coasted home. The win brought their record to 3-0 as they kept themselves a step ahead of the Warriors in the Pacific Division. Will it last? Probably not, but they should enjoy it while it does. The big question for the Clips this year is can they keep Blake Griffin on the floor and productive? Three games in the answer is yes, as he’s averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds in 32.7 minutes per game. If he can do that 70-75 nights this season, they should go far, but if he punches someone in the face, he may get shipped out of town. The Clippers have been playing without Paul Pierce, whose sprained ankle may keep him out tonight, but it did allow him to gift the nation with a pretty sweet Rick James costume on Sunday.

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All stats courtesy ESPN and Basketball Reference.

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