It’s official. Every team in the NBA bubble has now played a competitive basketball game against another team. It’s a great sign for the NBA’s experiment that looked like it might not ever happen, but of course there’s still a long way to go until a champion is crowned. The third day of scrimmages in Orlando featured three games, and was highlighted by Ben Simmons doing the one thing that most people say Ben Simmons can’t (or won’t) do.
Here’s a look at the scores from Friday’s action, along with some of the top storylines of the day. Man, it’s good to have NBA basketball back.
NBA scrimmage scores for Friday, July 24
Simmons a new man from 3-point land
Every time there’s a significant break from basketball, we come back with one burning question: Will Ben Simmons finally start shooting 3-pointers? We got our answer (at least for now) on Friday, as Simmons took two corner 3s in the Sixers’ win over the Grizzles, sending NBA Twitter into a frenzy by sinking his second attempt.
We’ve seen Simmons take 3-pointers before, but he’s yet to make it a regular part of his game with just two makes on six attempts this season. The most notable part of the 3s he took on Friday is that he didn’t hesitate whatsoever, and Sixers coach Brett Brown said after the game that Simmons has significantly changed his approach to deep shots.
“I feel like his spirit, his mindset coming down here, him willingly finding space and finding threes, that has been a paradigm shift,” Brown said, via ESPN. “That has been an attitudinal change; a philosophical, internal decision that he has made, because I have just seen a player that is cocky and just playing and when the game says you should shoot because nobody is on you, he does, and he doesn’t blink and his teammates love it and so does his head coach.”
We’ll see how long Simmons’ willingness to launch 3-pointers lasts, but it would obviously open up all sorts of possibilities for the 76ers offense.
Harden and Russ look just fine
Both Russell Westbrook and James Harden arrived to the bubble a few days after their Rockets teammates, but they didn’t take long to get back up to game speed. The MVP backcourt did the bulk of the offensive lifting in the first half of their game against the Raptors, with Westbrook putting up 10 points and nine rebounds before sitting for the entire second half. Harden, the NBA’s leading scorer, put up 24 points dished out 10 assists in 25 minutes. So much for that whole “rust” thing.
You can’t contain Steven Adams
The Oklahoma City Thunder must have known that Steven Adams was due for a big day — after all, on their very first bubble possession they ran a pin-down for him to pop out for a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer.
Adams missed the 3, but that’s about all he missed. He put up 17 points in 15 first-half minutes on 8-for-11 shooting, pulling down seven rebounds in the process.
CP3 gets careless
Chris Paul is an assists machine — so much so, that occasionally he dishes out dimes to the wrong team. We’re not sure what he was going for here, launching the ball in the general direction of Steven Adams’ back, but Celtics guard Marcus Smart was happy to swoop in for the easy steal and layup.
Hey, even All-NBA players occasionally lose their concentration.
The four-month hiatus was supposed to mean a healthy Kemba Walker for the Boston Celtics, but that hasn’t been the case. Walker’s left knee is still bothering him, and he was held out of Friday’s scrimmage as a precaution. Head coach Brad Stevens said Walker recovered “great” from practice on Thursday and is expected to practice again on Saturday, but it’s frustrating that Walker is still less than 100 percent. Walker is averaging 21.2 points, 4.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game for the Celtics, so they obviously hope he’ll be at full strength by the time the playoffs roll around.