From the best and worst of the week to social media highlights to a weekend preview, SEN’s Friday Fadeaway gives you all you need to know about the past seven days in the NBA world.
Make: Toronto’s mentality
Toronto’s mindset is different this season.
After five straight playoff appearances have yielded no finals berths, there’s only one thing on the Raptors’ minds as they hold down the top of the Eastern Conference.
In an early-week win over the Lakers, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst revealed on a recent Hoop Collective podcast he spoke to Kyle Lowry after his strong performance - but Lowry wasn't having any of it.
“I don’t care. Never too high, never too low. I just care about how I feel in June.”
That answer provides a glimpse into how Toronto is approaching this season. They know they’re good enough to finish atop of the east. After all, they did it last season, but were then swept by Cleveland in the second round.
There are tangible differences in this season’s edition of the Raptors, though, most notably Kawhi Leonard. The former Spur is playing like his MVP self, and even in the games he has missed as part of a management plan to keep him healthy, Toronto has been able to win.
Head coach Nick Nurse has infused a fresh feeling into the ball club, Serge Ibaka is enjoying a resurgence playing predominately as a centre and the Raptors are the second best offence in the league, posting 114.8 points per 100 possessions.
Trying to compartmentalise what’s ‘real’ and what’s ‘fake’ during the first month or so of the NBA season is always a tricky experiment.
However, we can be certain the Raptors are focused on one destination this campaign, with anything short of an inaugural Toronto title set to be deemed a failure.
Miss: Jimmy Butler
Ignore Jimmy Butler’s stat line. He is still putting up 22.2 points a game, and leads the NBA in fourth quarter scoring, but the reality is, the longer he remains a Minnesota Timberwolf, the drama and angst surrounding the team will grow.
It’s somewhat mindboggling how Butler’s trade request still hasn’t been granted, considering he has publicly criticised Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, and is now choosing which games he does and doesn't want to play.
Heck, Butler was waving his towel with the Golden State Warrior fans while sitting on the Timberwolves bench.
Jimmy Butler is waving a towel with Warriors fans.— ThePostGame (@ThePostGame) November 3, 2018
Jimmy Butler does not play for the Warriors. pic.twitter.com/tKbzpm7loH
It’s hard to find a situation as bizarre as this one. The longer Butler remains in Minnesota, the distraction he causes will enlarge, Towns’ progression will probably hit a halt or regress, and the Wolves’ playoff hopes will decline.
A trade is long overdue, and waiting any longer will add poison to an already toxic scenario.
Patty Mills has hit his stride, scoring a season-high 20 points in Thursday’s loss to Miami. Over the past week, Mills made four three-pointers in three games, after failing to reach that mark in the season’s first seven matches.
Patty Mills just dropped a season-high 20 points, in a loss to the Heat.— Olgun Uluc (@OlgunUluc) November 8, 2018
Over the last 3 games, Mills is averaging 17 ppg, on 14.3 attempts a game. In October, he averaged just 6.6 FGA a game.
Ben Simmons had another steady week, highlighted by a 16 point, 10 rebound and eight assist performance against Indiana. Jonah Bolden didn’t log any minutes this week.
Joe Ingles suffered a scare when he dislocated a finger during Utah’s loss to Toronto on Tuesday. However, he didn’t miss any games with the ailment. Ingles had another rough shooting week from long-distance, his three-point percentages in four games coming in at 37.5, 25, 33.3 and 25.
Apart from a small shoulder concern that didn’t sideline him, it was a relatively uneventful week for Dante Exum.
In Boston, Aron Baynes has worked his way back into the Celtics’ regular rotation after injury. He hit a pair of three-pointers in the loss to Indiana on Sunday.
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Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker are out of Milwaukee’s rotation and Ryan Broekhoff remains at the end of Dallas’ bench.
What they’re saying…
“The ball deserves to go in the crowd after a bullsh-- move like that. So I threw it in the crowd.” – Kyrie Irving after Jamal Murray attempted a late three-pointer to try and score 50 points
“I felt disrespected after the game. So your career-high ball goes in the stands.” – Irving, a day later.
The ‘unwritten rule’ among NBA players is once the shot clock has elapsed and there are under 24 seconds left in a game where the result is evident, you simply dribble out the clock.
However, with Denver’s Murray on 48 points and dribbling the clock out, he shot a three-pointer at the buzzer, after everyone else was standing around waiting for the clock to expire.
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It didn’t please Irving, who was fined $25,000 for tossing the ball into the grandstands after the game.
Play to the buzzer or play to the ‘unwritten rule’? We all knew how Murray, and Irving, felt in this case.
Joel Embiid, Master Troll, continued his beef with Andre Drummond after Philadelphia’s win over Detroit earlier in the week.
Circle December 8 and 11 in your calendars, folks – those are the next two dates the Sixers and Pistons meet.
For the ‘Gram
LeBron James’ former Cavalier teammates J.R. Smith and Richard Jefferson didn’t hide their thoughts about James going back to his headband.
Weekend watch list
Saturday: Boston @ Utah 1:30pm AEDT
The Jazz haven’t reached the form that saw them blitz the NBA in the second half of last season, while an argument could also be made for the Celtics being slightly disappointing in the early stages of the campaign.
Both clubs are still quality outfits, and with Boston in the midst of a five-game road trip, an opportunity presents for Utah to snatch a victory.
Tip: Jazz by 6
Sunday: Houston @ San Antonio 12:30pm AEDT
Any concerns around the Rockets are alleviating after their 1-5 start, with Mike D'Antoni’s club beginning to discover their rhythm.
The Spurs are also chugging along nicely, which should surprise nobody, but could face some problems running into one of their Texas rivals.
Tip: Rockets by 13