Behind the Boxscore: Jimmy Butler's on the Sixers now


Orlando 111, Philadelphia 106

The Sixers let a road win get away from them and too many crawling hallmarks were there. Nothing that can’t be fixed.

It looked like a quiet bench, plus the team certainly could have used more capable rotation parts in its attempt to keep Orlando from what it wanted, and PHILA clearly has a lot of talking to grit through, on both ends. Jimmy Butler is a shooting guard, not a small forward you can punch up in post.

He was trying to explain as much to new teammate Wilson Chandler just before tip. Butler is tired, both sides of his proverbial ball, this season has already been a lot to think about, even more to explain, and Americans haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet. Butler looked good, like a fit, rolling in 14 points on 12 shots in 33 minutes. He wasn’t the problem.

Orlando was, Jonathan Simmons doesn’t give a fuck on most nights and Butler’s debut was no exception, the Magic swingman stalked in like a dad stepping through a party that had trended too rowdy — sniffing at the rim of a Solo cup, squinting at the light above sliding glass door in the search for remaining wafts of Juul, hands where we can see them.

A dozen points on four shots in 19 minutes for Simmons, comes right off the bench to correct things, doesn’t care about your feelings and he can’t remember your friend’s boyfriend’s name, all that matters is returning the game to its professional level.

Orlando took a 17-0 run toward the lead before PHILA came back with its own 13-3, but home courts count. Nikola Vucevic put up enough (30 points in 39 minutes) to keep the Magic in shouting distance, Terrence Ross (15 points) missed two banked-in three-pointers but made his three other attempts, Terrence Ross won your game for you, Orlando.

The 76ers have a lot to figure out but not nearly as much to worry about.

Magic: 7-8, 76ers: 9-7

Timberwolves 107, Pelicans 100

The Pelicans gotta be reminded that they need to act crazy in order to pull this whole thing off, whatever this mess is, whatever they want to do. The team has to leak out and take chances and commit to performing as the teetering domino, the thrust that eventually awakens the rolling boulder.

Good on the Timberwolves for taking advantage of NOLA’s slow starts to each of the first two quarters, before holding off the late Pelican comeback. Karl-Anthony Towns put shots up before the rest of the Pels conspired to conclude what KAT capable of, his quick and dirty play (25 and 16, five fouls) stood out.

Towns rejected an Anthony Davis up-close attempt with two minutes to go and the Pelicans down only four, up the floor (a few seconds later) Andrew Wiggins kicked Nikola Mirotic in the dick while vaulting into a three-point play, this waaaas your ballgame.

Robert Covington debuted in time to watch E’Twaun Moore (31 points) squirt all around him, 13 points on 4-11 shooting for Da Cov (nobody calls him that). Dario Saric enjoyed nine points in 21 minutes off the bench.

Timberwolves: 6-9, Pelicans: 7-5

Washington 119, Cleveland 95

Washington enjoyed a 20-point lead almost immediately, but it was fun to click over and watch Collin Sexton playing like a teenager while also in the NBA (but this time, kinda OK at it).

Wizards: 5-9, Cavaliers: 2-12

Detroit 106, Toronto 104

The exceptionalism that Dwane Casey brings to the Pistons reads as such: Detroit isn’t going to be the sort of team that gets its edge handed to them by Toronto Raptor, Greg Monroe. Some other junky bench is gonna deliver your “oh, and even Monroe played pretty well on both ends, the other night”-anecdote this season, just not goddamn Detroit.

Monroe played pretty well on both ends, against Detroit, until the Pistons started going at the reserve center on DET’s way toward erasing a double-dig. fourth quarter disadvantage. Jonas Valanciunas was admitted re-entry but by then his stamp had worn off, the Pistons were rolling past what counted as Toronto’s talkative outside defense, Reggie Jackson and Stanley Johnson each had eight points in the final quarter, Langston Galloway hit a three-pointer, the Pistons had a lot of reading suggestions for the Raptors, lotta stuff they wanted Toronto to work through on flights.

Toronto didn’t fall asleep, in its defense of what used to be a 19-point lead, the home club just didn’t have it in them to play expertly down the stretch (and also a ton of threes wouldn’t stay down). Kawhi Leonard developed a boner with two seconds left, dribbling the ball off his left foot on the occasion of a game-winning drive, his sixth turnover inside an otherwise stellar offensive (26 points and four assists) night.

This was Dwane Casey’s first contest back in Toronto as Pistons coach and the Raptors crowd responded by sneaking in an ovation before the video tribute could even hit, they understand what Casey has worked through because Toronto has always, always been with its Raptors.

Casey responded by drawing up a game-winning play for Reggie Bullock (1-8 shooting, before the game-winning play) to toss in off a soft inbound feed from Jose Calderon. It was the second game-winner Casey had to squeak out on the board, Pascal Siakum snuffed out what was going to be a winning basket from Glenn Robinson III on DET’s first attempt after Kawhi’s misstep, Dwane’s got a bunch more in that pen.

Greg Monroe finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, Raptor Serge Ibaka sat with an achy knee.

Pistons: 7-6, Raptors: 12-3

Oklahoma City 128, New York 103

This was pretty rough, the Knicks probably should have scored a lot fewer points.

Noah Vonleh shoots the basketball like a 46-year old visitor to the NBA TV set. Like this is his reward for having to play on the 1996 Atlanta Hawks. Noah shoots the basketball like he just bought these shoes.

Enes Kanter plays defense like he’s trying to avoid someone at the grocery store.

Weird birthday, Zack.

Thunder: 9-5, Knicks: 4-11

Dallas 118, Utah 68

It’s impossible to dismiss this in full, Dallas was handing it to the Jazz way before things got out of hand, before the cork popped out and Devin’s first wife showed up with whatever was in that Crown Royal bag.

Dallas runs its sets well and sometimes the Jazz can’t hack it when the rotgut sets in, shots would miss and the Mavs would run it back like we were watching practice. Utah appeared too pained to try to do anything about locating a flow after the Mavs’ last score touched net, the night just got away from Utah, and also Utah can’t shoot.

This was still one in 82, though, the Jazz aren’t near championship-level and most teams in this league have to put up with blowouts at some point or another. Nothing about Wednesday felt like it was hinting at a 50-point defeat for the visitors, the Mavs just kept piling on until the stack of soil stood taller than the tombstone.

Mavericks: 6-8, Jazz: 7-7

Miami 120, Brooklyn 107

I don’t know if Tyler Johnson brought along a few cases of his favorite can of Monster, the ones we’re definitely sure Tyler isn’t supposed to go through airports with.

Whatever it was, worked. The Heat were perky, interested, available to play outside themselves while still retaining control over the action. This was a fast game and Miami was able to look down on the Nets, returning to Brooklyn after its Phoenix-to-Denver-to-Oakland-to-Minnesota creep, itinerary reads like a Leon Russell tour.

Allen Crabbe’s ankles were no match for what his starting position called for, the Nets swingman only figured six points and six fouls into this Wednesday and his reserve (DeMarre Carroll) was no quicker.

Miami’s band of runners were a curl ahead, all night, and in the backcourt Mr. Johnson (24 points, two blocks, four defensive rebounds) was foaming all over the dance floor.

The Nets made a late comeback in attacking Heat center Kelly Olynyk with a smaller lineup, but Miami had answers.

The Heat is good enough to win a bunch of games this season. They just have to dig into the actual act of it, absent someone else’s tired act flying in to save things.

Heat: 6-8, Nets: 6-9

Phoenix 116, San Antonio 96

The Suns absolutely racked the Spurs in this win, the kids either sprung ahead of what San Antonio tried to stick in front, or it impressed wildly in holding off the best of what the Spurs still have.

Josh Jackson was the straw to start, lofting softballs toward teammate DeAndre Ayton because Josh is the closest thing PHX has to a pro quarterback, the thumpiest thing it will keep in its hearts after breaking huddle: Josh is the only guy willing to take chances in the face of what the NBA is gonna throw these youngsters, night after night.

It was his best game of a terrible season, 14 points on 13 shots and three assists, this has been a miserable campaign for Jackson thus far.

The Spurs were slow, Quincy Pondexter wears a headband (because he was on the 1999-00 Portland Trail Blazers) but he had to take it off in the fourth quarter because the Suns kept going at The Guy With the Headband.

DeAndre Ayton had three assists as well, with 17 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes, sitting most of the blowout down the stretch.

Ayton (1-1 at the stripe in the win) doesn’t shoot enough free throws and I don’t want to hear about how his footwork is green and that he’s due to maim a man with those elbows, balderdash, just throw the ball to a point where only he could reach it and let the referees decide who the real disappointments are.

T.J. Warren led the Suns with 27 and Jamal Crawford offered four dimes and 11 points on five shots off the PHX bench.

Crawford was superb down the stretch of Chicago’s 2002-03 campaign at darting lobs to Eddy Curry, who graduated high school less than three years after DeAndre Ayton was born.

Suns: 3-11, Spurs: 7-6

Boston 111, Chicago 82

The Bulls are the sort of bad that leads you to worry about injuries to the other club, something stupid happening because opponents aren’t used to this sort of, let’s call it, CHI footwork. This isn’t a drip about starters being left to rot out there while lording 20-odd points over Chicago, we just worry about the other parts of the game. When the starters are out and the contest is “close.”

Nothing reasonable to glom from Boston, and Chicago is where it wants to be.

Here’s where the Bulls used to be, 20-odd years ago today:

Celtics: 8-6, Bulls: 4-11

Los Angeles Lakers 126, Portland 117

When LeBron James has the space to bust out his Jamal Mashburn impression, opponents are typically toast. Portland passively picked through its dinner on Wednesday and James was set to take advantage once the ball rolled the other way.

The Laker star managed 44 points, helping stomp over an early Portland advantage after studying the flow during James’ first trip to the bench. An hour after that comeback, the fourth quarter Blazers could not streamline its attack once the game called for it, when the win demanded it.

You can un-tuck a shirt on the fly without blinking but it is much, much harder to tuck it back in at the same speed, especially when you’re supposed to be using those same two hands to do your damn job.

Lakers: 8-6, Trail Blazers: 10-4

Memphis 116, Milwaukee 113

The Grizzlies got in the chest of this one, it did wonderful work getting back defensively while providing similarly-potent form in slowing things down. The game wasn’t a drag, though.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was ejected for protesting several shitty calls and assistant coach Darvin Ham was moved over a seat to stand, in a tie he thought would suit him sitting down.

From Ernie Grunfeld, nearly 19 years ago:

“Darvin is a player with high energy; he's very active. He's also a good defender and good rebounder. This could turn out to be a good opportunity for him.”

And Giannis Antetokounmpo was good, 31 points on 17 shots with nine boards, the Grizzlies just have enough sticks in the mud to stay with the guy. If the Garrett Temple won’t get you, man.

Shelvin Mack always kills Milwaukee.

(At least that’s what the note on the counter said.)

Grizzlies: 8-5, Bucks: 10-4


Thank you for reading, and consider contributing to get this stuff in your email every day, a few bucks more gets into our Slack during games, where we shoot rude jokes across the kitchen table.

Subscribers are going to read one of these on Friday morning, and Saturday morning, and on a bunch of other mornings they already happily paid for. Come on in, people, we have fun.

(More to come.)