Here are some random observations from the first batch of NBA League Pass games I watched.
For a recap of what this project is all about, be sure to check out the intro article.
Game 1: Pacers at Nets
October 30, 2019
Game 5/11 on the NBA.com schedule
Coin flip landed on Heads: Nets broadcast
(YES: Ian Eagle, Sarah Kustok, Michael Grady)
FINAL: Pacers 118, Nets 108
I feel very blessed that I received one of my favorite broadcast crews for my first game. Ian Eagle has long been tops on my play-by-play list for his dry wit, energy, and knowledge of the game. Sarah Kustok has also proven to be a smart analyst, and I have been familiar with her since her Comcast SportsNet Chicago days.
They were a delightful listen, as expected. As someone jumping in randomly, they helped me to get the context of where Brooklyn and Indiana were at that point in the season. But they also kept things light, including an extended stint of the two volleying puns to each other about Jeremy Lamb’s name.
Myles Turner went down early in the game with a sprained right ankle. He would go one to miss the next eight games. Caris LeVert‘s play also caught my eye, and not in a good way. When he had the ball, it felt like he was trying to be like teammate Kyrie Irving. However, since he doesn’t have that level of handle, he looked like a lankier, more awkward version of him.
Gold Star: Domantas Sabonis, Indiana
I haven’t paid much attention to the Pacers this season, but I saw firsthand how Sabonis would earn his first career All-Star appearance. Much of the offense ran through him, and he delivered. Once he got the ball on the block, he couldn’t be stopped. Sabonis would end the night with a game-high 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting, including 9-of-12 in the paint.
Silver Star: Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana
Brogdon also had a great night, putting up 21 points and dishing out a career-high 13 assists. The thing is, I didn’t even notice how big of a night he was having until his numbers were mentioned towards the end of the broadcast. I was admittedly distracted by Sabonis’ more overt dominance. Nevertheless, Brogdon had a highly impactful performance in the Pacers’ victory and it deserves recognition.
Bronze Star: Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn
Irving played in just 20 of the Nets’ 64 games, and I just so happened to catch one of them. What luck! Irving was the offensive engine that kept Brooklyn afloat for much of the game, as he finished with a team-high 28 points and six assists. He also had several dope crossovers throughout the game that reminded me that he is one of the league’s top showmen.
Just-Not-His-Day Award: DeAndre Jordan, Brooklyn
Jordan finished with eight points, 17 rebounds, and only one turnover. However, he couldn’t do much with Sabonis all night. He also had three fouls and two defensive-three-second calls. Those defensive struggles had him pleading with the referees often. They were willing to listen for awhile, but eventually gave him a technical foul when the complaining became too much.
Game 2: Mavericks at Thunder
December 31, 2019
Game 7/7 on the NBA.com schedule
Coin flip landed on Tails: Mavericks broadcast
(Fox Sports Southwest: Mark Followill, Derek Harper)
FINAL: Thunder 106, Mavericks 101
This just so happened to be the final NBA game of the 2010’s. It was also the third consecutive season the Mavs and Thunder were meeting up on New Year’s Eve. If the games continue to be competitive like this was, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this become an annual tradition.
It was another solid broadcast overall. Mark Followill is really good, and I definitely tend to overlook him when I think of top NBA announcers. He was particularly adept at weaving his play-by-play with contextual stats that always seemed to fit the situation. Very prepared.
His chemistry with Derek Harper was also solid. Unfortunately, Harper, despite being a NBA point guard for 16 years, didn’t offer any deep or insightful analysis during the broadcast.
Maxi Kleber started in place of Kristaps Porzingis — who was a late scratch due to knee soreness — and ended up getting his first double-double of the season (14 points, 14 rebounds). He was one of five players to get double-doubles, including the amazing, exciting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (19 points, 10 rebounds). These are two players that I find myself constantly rooting for in general, so it was good to see them have solid games.
Also, Dennis Schroder had 20 points, but it felt like there was a lot of “geekballing” (i.e. over-dribbling, bad shot selection) to get to that point. I also found out that “Doe-Doe” is one of Dorian Finney-Smith‘s nicknames.
Gold Star: Chris Paul, Oklahoma City
Paul has turned out to be a much more impactful acquisition for the Thunder than expected. That was incredibly apparent in this game, where his 13 points in the fourth quarter helped OKC just get past the Mavericks. He had just four points in the first three frames, but still remained involved by dishing out six assists. Then, when it was clear the team needed that extra push, the veteran took things into his own hands.
Silver Star: Luka Doncic, Dallas
If it wasn’t for OKC’s 14-2 run to close out the game, Doncic would have ended up with the Gold Star for this game. He was phenomenal! 35 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists! On the downside, he went 3-of-16 from three-point range. Also, within the final 30 seconds, he made a costly turnover and missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer. Still, there were plenty of stepbacks and wizardry along the way that deserve to be commended.
Bronze Star: Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City
Paul came up big in the fourth quarter, but it was Gallinari that kept the Thunder in business in the third. Danilo dropped 13 points of his own in the third period, including knocking down three treys. He finished the victory with 20 points — tying Schroder for the team-high — and basically showed why he is one of the most underrated power forwards in the league.
Just-Not-His-Day Award: Delon Wright, Dallas
It wasn’t the best way to close out the decade for Dallas’ backup big guard. Seven points on 2-of-7 shooting, three turnovers, three fouls, and he got muscled in the paint by CP3 on a possession. Luckily, it was just a blip in what has been an overall solid season (7.3 ppg, 3.4 apg, 1.0 tpg, 47.0 FG%, 38.5 3P%).
Game 3: Wizards at Hornets
December 10, 2019
Game 1/4 on the schedule
Coin flip landed on Heads: Hornets broadcast
(Fox Sports Southeast: Eric Collins, Dell Curry, Ashley ShahAhmadi)
FINAL: Hornets 114, Wizards 107
This game is essentially the reason I’m doing this series. Think about it, unless you’re a fan of these teams, are you really going to watch a Wizards-Hornets game in mid-December? On top of that, would you with the Nuggets and 76ers playing on TNT? Nah, probably not. But, man, this was a fun-filled game with a number of crazy plays.
The broadcast was decent. Eric Collins has long been a solid announcer, and he’s always just been around: Big Ten Network, Chicago Sky, select Los Angeles Dodgers road games, baseball at the Beijing Olympics, and so on. But he’s held the post of TV voice in CLT since 2015. On this game he had excitement and phrases for days; cheesy but good fun.
I also have to give some props to Dell Curry. He was dropping way more knowledge than I expected. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised that a top 50 shooter of all-time that is the father of the greatest shooter of all-time may know a thing or two about the game and be able to convey the knowledge concisely and consistently. But I was. Pleasantly.
Special shoutout to Cody Zeller: he seems to have been put on the Brook Lopez Three-Point Plan this year. He averaged 0.1 three-point attempts through the first six seasons of his career. But this year he began chucking up two per game. He let a couple fly in this game: one make and one airball.
Gold Star: Devonte Graham, Charlotte
This game was a step in the ladder of Graham’s ascendance this season. He had 29 points, including six three-pointers, six assists, two steals, and a block. His night was punctuated by a crazy flip-shot And-1. I’m sure there are some Jayhawk fans that aren’t surprised by Graham’s sophomore season, but this game was an example of why he’s in the running for Most Improved Player.
Silver Star: Davis Bertans, Washington
Bertans had a career-high 32 points and hit a career-high eight three-pointers, each one more insane than the last. His sixth trey was an absurd four-point play from 28 feet out. The Latvian put on a show, taking full advantage of the green light that Scott Brooks gives his shooters in the Nation’s Capital. He would go on to match his career-high in made threes twice more in March.
Bronze Star: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte
Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t fill up the box score, only coming away with four points and three rebounds off the bench. However, he deserves commendation for the energy and professionalism he brought despite his circumstances and ultimate fate with the franchise.
MKG made a couple of great defensive plays in this game. In one instance, he jammed up a handoff play intended for Bertans that led to a wedgie-3. The following quarter, he locked down Troy Brown, forcing him into a contested layup.
He was one of several veteran Hornets cast to the wayside in favor of the youth movement. It’s unfortunate, but part of the business of basketball. He’ll be a free agent this offseason, so we’ll see if Dallas will utilize him more if this season resumes, or if he will find a new home that suits him next year.
Just-Not-His-Day-Award: Bradley Beal, Washington
Beal was held to 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting, including 0-of-7 from three-point range. He also committed four turnovers, three fouls, and got a technical foul for yelling at the ref after a made layup.
He also was ineffective down the stretch of this game. In one of the final consequential possessions, Beal attacked the basket twice, only to dish it off to teammates that weren’t in the position to make any plays. That second pass went to Rui Hachimura, who hesitantly put up a free-throw line jumper while dragging his pivot foot. Plenty of stars have rough games, but this definitely wasn’t put in the file to show he was snubbed from the All-Star Game.