NBA Preview: Unexpected Stars Take Center Stage!

Besides good basketball being played on the court, there’s nothing an avid NBA fan would love more than drama and intriguing storylines. These stories are what gives an emotional attachment to the athletic feats the best players in the world produce day in and day out, and that rings true from then on until today.

us fans need to remember that the league is still in its early days and a lot can happen between today and April. However, it’s hard not to talk about the most compelling stories in the league.

Of course, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks will always make almost every NBA 2018 highlights, but no one would have thought that the Sacramento Kings would be playing exciting, high-tempo basketball.

A franchise that has been one of the biggest running jokes for most of the decade is actually playing winning basketball. The Kings being one of the must-watch teams tomorrow excites the neutral fan.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Charlotte Hornets (Nov 2, 07:00 GMT+8)

The Oklahoma City Thunder are struggling to get things going at the start of the season despite solid production from Russell Westbrook and Paul George. The subpar defensive efforts of the team showcased just how big of a niche Andre Roberson has established as the main defensive cog in OKC.

They will be facing a tough opponent in the Charlotte Hornets, a team being carried by the outrageous offensive start by Kemba Walker. The former Connecticut star is single-handedly leading a Hornets team that has lost its sting, but I don’t think he’ll be able to continuously score in high volumes.

Bookies may favour the Thunder as they have a small winning streak, but everything still depends on how they handle Charlotte’s star guard. If OKC head coach Billy Donovan could craft a game plan to neutralise Walker, the game is pretty much won.

Denver Nuggets @ Cleveland Cavaliers (Nov 2, 07:00 GMT+8)

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The Denver Nuggets are another pleasant surprise to plenty of fans. Outstanding performances from the Denver starting unit did wonders in helping the Nuggets to a 5-1 start and an early second seed in the frustratingly tough Western Conference.

The Northwest Division leaders will be coming to Cleveland with the hopes to cement their position at the top, but these Cavaliers will be coming to the game in high spirits.

They just enjoyed a satisfying first victory of the season under acting head coach Larry Drew. While there’s not one person in this Cavaliers team who is averaging 20 points a game, the club is full of talented players. Kevin Love is close to returning to his Minnesota form, Jordan Clarkson is providing great scoring off the bench, and Cedi Osman is doing just fine at the starting three spot.

This is probably the game that will have the most interesting NBA 2018 odds. It is ridiculously easy to claim the game for the Nuggets, but I don’t doubt the capability of the Cavs’ veterans.

LA Clippers @ Philadelphia 76ers (Nov 2, 07:00 GMT+8)

Both the Clippers and the Sixers are in very interesting situations at the moment. Fans were already spoiled plenty when their respective stars put on incredible games days into the new season, but their inconsistency has also been a source of frustration.

However, there is a huge incentive for Philly to smack the Pistons. Blake Griffin underwent a renaissance during their first game wherein he scored 50 points and led the team in a dramatic overtime victory. I don’t think that bitter pill sits well Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and I fully expect a feisty comeback from these young Sixers.

Sacramento Kings @ Atlanta Hawks (Nov 2, 07:30 GMT+8)

Seriously, I am still appalled with the level of basketball the Kings are playing at the moment.

The Kings, a team that had Zach Randolph leading the team in scoring just last year, is playing high-paced basketball under the leadership of Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, and Willie Cauley-Stein. The Kings’ superb start to the season is a fascinating reminder that their return to form isn’t that far off.

These young Kings will be hoping to extend their win streak to five when they trade blows with another exciting team in the Atlanta Hawks. Trae Young still is far from the perfect point guard, but he has shown enough quality to demand the respect of the now-decent Sacramento defence.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Boston Celtics (Nov 2, 08:00 GMT+8)

If for some reason Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors don’t play the quality of basketball they are expected to produce, this is the other likeliest Eastern Conference Finals.

Boston Celtics’ dismantling of Detroit is a testament to the overall strength of the roster as their bench players were nothing short of outstanding against Detroit. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks hold the honour of being the only team in the league still to lose a game.

Giannis and friends know that Boston have the best chance of toppling their unbeaten record, but Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe will make sure that any potential loss for them will be as hard as possible.

New Orleans Pelicans @ Portland Trail Blazers (Nov 2, 10:30 GMT+8)

Anthony Davis is still questionable as to whether he will be playing against the Portland Trail Blazers, but his New Orleans Pelicans will be preparing for a barrage by one of the most efficient backcourt duos in the league.

While Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are playing great basketball, they do have a tendency to lose games against the supposedly weaker competition. If the Pelicans read their cards right, they might walk away from the Moda Center with the dub.

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Jokanovic eyes strong response

Fulham head coach Slavisa Jokanovic has told his players not to get too downhearted following a tough start to the new season.

The Cottagers have won only one of their ten Premier League games played so far this term, shipping 28 goals in the process, leaving them facing a potential dogfight to avoid an immediate return to The Championship.

They get an evening off from their league struggles on Thursday, but there is no let-up as they face league leaders and reigning champions Manchester City in a Carabao Cup tie at the Etihad Stadium.

However, Jokanovic says there is no reason why the season cannot end positively, as he told reporters: "This is a long process and the situation is in our hands to reach our target at the end of the season.

"We cannot give up, this is completely absurd after a few games in the Premier League.

"We must accept the criticism because we need to be strong enough to understand that negative comments are part of football, we must be brave and push hard to find a solution."

"I believe we are strong enough and have enough quality to change the situation, we cannot change it in three games or two days – we must be able to work for many months and trust we have enough power to reach our targets."

Fulham have lost all six of their most recent meetings with the Citizens, including being beaten 3-0 in Manchester in a league game just over a month ago.

The Cottagers are 12/1 to reach the quarter-finals of the League Cup at the expense of holders City, who are 1/25 to progress to the last eight and 9/4 to lift the trophy once again.

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Nelson focused on the present

Loan striker Reiss Nelson says he will remain focused on continuing to impress with Hoffenheim and worry about his long-term future at a later date.

The 18-year-old Englishman has already scored four goals in four Bundesliga appearances for Die Kraichgauer, having joined Hoffenheim on a season-long loan deal from Arsenal.

And Nelson is content to live in the here and now and not concern himself about what lies ahead, with the talented forward having only made a total of 16 appearances for his parent club.

He told the official Bundesliga website: "At the moment I'm very happy here.

"I'm playing, I'm scoring, but I'm an Arsenal player at the end of the day, so I have to stay and do my job here. Then, wherever football takes me, I'll go.

"For me, it's making me (better) as a footballer and a person, so I'm just happy I'm taking the right steps."

Hoffenheim have made an inconsistent start to the new season, having lost four of their nine league games to lie in eighth place in the Bundesliga standings ahead of the weekend action.

In the Champions League they have drawn with both Shakhtar Donetsk and Lyon, while losing out 2-1 at home to Manchester City.

Last season Julian Nagelsmann's side finished in third place in the Bundesliga to secure a place in the Champions League group stage, having lost out to Liverpool in the play-off round 12 months earlier.

This term Die Kraichgauer are 5/2 to secure a top-four finish, with Bayer Leverkusen 3/1 and Werder Bremen 3/1.

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Bernardo omits United from title talk

Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva omitted rivals Manchester United from the teams he believes can challenge his side for the Premier League title.

Pep Guardiola's reigning champions lead the table on goal difference from Liverpool at the ten-game stage, while Chelsea are also unbeaten and just two points behind the leaders with Arsenal and Tottenham making up the top-five.

United sit down in eighth place and are nine points adrift of the leaders after their worst start to a Premier League season under Jose Mourinho.

Therefore, when quizzed about City's chances of retaining the title this term, United were notable by their absence from Bernardo's list of possible challengers.

The 24-year-old Portugal international said: "I think either Chelsea and Liverpool, they are very strong. Arsenal as well, even Tottenham. Even though they lost [1-0 to City on Monday], they're still contenders.

"I think it will be harder because last season nobody was expecting us to win as many games and to reach that level of points so this season the teams they know they have to do better to beat us.

"Of course it will be very hard, but we will work every game to get the three points and at the end of it try and celebrate winning one more Premier League."

City are 4/9 to win the title this season, take a break from the Premier League on Thursday when they host Fulham in the Carabao Cup at the Etihad Stadium.

The holders are 1/10 to win the tie and book a quarter-final place, while the Cottagers are priced at 33/1 and the draw is 10/1.

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Batth backs Pulis to get Boro up

Danny Batth is confident that Tony Pulis will guide Middlesbrough to promotion this season and that is why he joined the club on loan.

The 28-year-old central defender played a part in helping Wolves win the Championship title last term, but opted to move to the Riverside Stadium in the summer when it was clear that he would struggle to feature in the club's Premier League campaign.

Batth has also found life difficult on Teesside with Daniel Ayala, Aden Flint and Dael Fry ahead of him in the central defensive pecking order.

He made his first and only senior start to date in the Carabao Cup penalty shoot-out win at Preston in the last round, while he is set to feature on Wednesday night when Premier League Crystal Palace arrive at the Riverside in the fourth round.

Batth is aware that Boro have struggled on home soil of late with no wins in the last four league outings, while their only goal in that run was an own goal from Derby's Jayden Bogle on Saturday.

It has resulted in a section of the fans doubting Pulis has the ability to get the team back into the Premier League, but Batth is adamant that the Welsh tactician will get things right.

He said: "There's lots of different ways to win promotion. The manager has been around for years, and he knows what's required.

"He's probably played every formation that's ever been invented. He's tried this, that and the other, so he knows what he's doing. I think the fans should have the peace of mind of knowing they have a manager in charge who knows what he's doing. He's got a proven track record, and he's got a bunch of lads who will run through a brick wall for the badge.

"It's all about consistency. It's a long season, and I think the lads have shown consistently that they can be solid and resolute.

"Then, it's just about that spark, and that final pass that we've maybe wasted one or two times. But I think it will fall good in time."

Boro are 6/4 to be promoted this season, while they are priced at 23/10 to defeat Palace in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.

The Eagles are 27/20 to book a quarter-final place and the draw at 90 minutes is priced at 12/5.

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Striker ‘on right track’ for Popovic

Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic feels star signing Chris Ikonomidis will keep improving, after making the most of his first start for the club.

The six-cap Socceroo scored the winner in injury time to down defending champions Melbourne Victory in Sunday's round two clash.

Popovic believes he can get more out of the former Lazio frontman, who signed in pre-season on a three-year deal.

The 23-year-old is set to be retained in three-pronged attack with Andy Keogh and Joel Chianese, who both also found the net against Victory, for Saturday's home clash with Brisbane Roar.

"He's really knuckled down on improving his game and I think there's still a lot more to come," said Popovic of him. "I think last week was still a better performance from him than (the Victory game), but he's on the right track and he's not alone.

"There's a whole group of players and the players that missed out (against Victory) that are working really hard to try and get better."

The Glory may get star duo Diego Castro and Matthew Spiranovic back from injury soon, but Popovic doesn't seem confident they will be available against Brisbane.

New captain Castro (hamstring) and fringe Socceroos defender Spiranovic (hip) are yet to feature in the A-League this season.

"Matty's training with the team and Diego's running and doing a lot of hard work," said the coach. "We'll have to see whether they're fit enough and ready to be involved."

Striker Brendon Santalab (hamstring) and keeper Jacob Italiano (knee) remain on the sidelines for the Glory.

The Glory are 1/1 to win their next game against Brisbane, who are 12/5, with the draw 11/4.

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Missed target haunts Sky Blues

Head coach Steve Corica admitted his regret in failing to sign Craig Goodwin, after Sydney FC's FFA Cup final defeat to Adelaide United.

The Sky Blues tried to sign the three-cap Socceroo in the off-season, but Goodwin chose to move to the Reds for a second spell.

He scored both goals as United beat Corica's side 2-1 at Coopers Stadium to become the first team to win the FFA Cup twice.

It was Corica's first defeat since he took over the Sky Blues job from Graham Arnold, who is now the Australia national team coach.

He felt his team were better than the Reds and says he won't be changing any of his tactics as it was a positive performance.

Speaking of Goodwin, who netted with a stunning free-kick and a half-volley, Corica said: "We tried to sign him and that's why. To come up tonight and score two goals, congratulations to him.

"He wanted to come home, back to Adelaide. For him he probably thinks he made the right choice."

Goodwin's goals came either side of an Adam Le Fondre penalty for the visitors.

Corica's team go on to face Melbourne City in the A-League on Friday at AAMI Park in what will be their third game in six days.

He doesn't feel they will need to be picked up after the defeat, though, as both the defensive performance and the team's willingness to go forward left him pleased.

"It is a bit tough to take because I believe we were the best team on the night," said the coach. "We looked more like scoring than what they did; yes, it was tight, but we dominated most things."

Corica has revealed he will be without Siem de Jong for up to six weeks after the marquee recruit hurt his hamstring in last weekend's Sydney derby.

The Sky Blues are 17/10 to win their game against Melbourne City, who are 8/5, with the draw 12/5.

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Goodwin grabs final spotlight

Craig Goodwin fired hometown club Adelaide United to FFA Cup success with both goals as they beat Sydney FC 2-1 in the final at Coopers Stadium.

Goodwin, who won the 2016 A-League Grand Final with the Reds in his first spell at the club, grabbed his chance to audition for a Socceroos return.

With new Australia coach Graham Arnold watching on, he scored his goals with a superb free-kick in the first half and a half-volley in the second.

United gained revenge after losing last year's final to the Sky Blues, as they became the first team win the trophy twice, the first time coming in 2014 when three-cap Socceroo Goodwin was cup-tied.

Goodwin, who chose to return to Adelaide in the off-season rather than join Sydney FC, displayed his ability with the dead ball to give his side the lead midway through the first half.

Having been brought down off the ball by Rhyan Grant to earn United a free-kick, he expertly curled a left-foot shot up and over the wall to leave keeper Andrew Redmayne with no hope.

The advantage was short-lived as Sydney FC won a penalty following a poor backpass from Jordan Elsey to keeper Paul Izzo.

Alex Brosque nipped in and Izzo brought him down to concede the spot-kick, with the English recruit converting it to continue his perfect record of scoring in every match he's played for Sydney so far.

United's winner came 16 minutes from time. When Scott Galloway picked out Ben Halloran, his deft touch enabled Goodwin to rifle his right-footed half-volley into the top corner.

The Reds are 1/1 to win their next A-League game against Central Coast, who are 9/4, with the draw 14/5.

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Howe reveals cup target

Eddie Howe is already targeting the Carabao Cup semi-finals after watching his Bournemouth side scrape past Norwich to reach the last-eight on Tuesday night.

The Cherries boss was relieved as his players produced a "disjointed" performance against their Championship opponents at the Vitality Stadium, but they still managed to come out on top.

Junior Stanislas put the hosts in front six minutes before half-time, before the Canaries scored a deserved equaliser through Onel Hernandez on 70 minutes.

However, the Cherries restored their lead two minutes later when Steve Cook fired in from the middle of the penalty area to win the tie.

Afterwards, Howe said: "It was a tough night for us. Norwich played very well so full credit to them. We were below par and rode our luck which made it a difficult game for us.

"We looked disjointed, maybe due to players coming in who haven't had enough games, but we lacked a sharpness and fluency that's usually there. Overall, it was a disappointing performance but we withstood the pressure and found a way to win. It's great to be in the next round."

Bournemouth are now just two matches away from a Wembley final and Howe added: "It would be really nice for us to advance in the competition. We've made this step again and now we want to try to go one more and the motivation is huge to get to the semi-finals."

Bournemouth are priced at 20/1 to win the Carabao Cup, while Manchester City are available at 9/4.

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NBA Recap: Cavs Get First Win, Raptors Dominate in Kawhi Leonard’s Return

‘Let’s Drew it’ is the storyline of what turned out to be another memorable gameday in the NBA.

Larry Drew, the acting—not interim—coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers just guided the team to their first win of the season, showing that he might be the answer the Cavs need after parting ways with former head coach Tyronn Lue.

On the other games out East, the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics proved their title credentials as they took down their top-six opponents in thrilling fashion.

Here’s the full us recap of today’s matches:

Miami Heat 113-125 Charlotte Hornets

The mission for the Miami Heat heading into this rematch with the Charlotte Hornets is to stop Kemba Walker. After all, he dropped 39 points on them in their first meeting and all signs points he could be up for a big game again.

Unfortunately, the Heat forgot Charlotte’s other point guard: Tony Parker.

The former San Antonio Spurs star banked a double-double of 24 points and 11 assists to grab the NBA 2018 highlights and lead Buzz City to a convincing win. Walker finished with 19 points and eight dimes, and that’s just enough for the Hornets.

Miami had Dwyane Wade scoring 19 markers in 24 minutes of action though, so that’s some consolation.

Atlanta Hawks 114-136 Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers, perhaps, have learned from their mistakes after getting blown out by the Hawks two weeks ago.

It might be too late for Tyronn Lue who was axed by the team after a 0-6 start. However, for Larry Drew, it’s the start of something new.

Cleveland still have problems defensively, but they showed against the Hawks they are now on the same page—unlike in their previous match when they showed plenty of defensive miscommunications, particularly during switches.

Seven players scored in double figure for the Cavs, with Rodney Hood leading the way with 26 and Cedi Osman adding 20.

Trae Young continues to impress for the Hawks though, finishing with 24 points on 69.2 percent shooting.

Sacramento Kings 107-99 Orlando Magic

Make it four in a row for the Sacramento Kings.

While the NBA 2018 odds put them as underdogs in their visit to Orlando, the Kings showed those are just mere numbers as they edged the Magic and handed them their third straight loss.

The Kings used a 26-16 third quarter to pull away for good after trailing by as much as 11 points in the game. Buddy Hield bagged a double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds to spearhead the Sacramento victory, while Nemanja Bjelica put up 21 points and eight boards.

Aaron Gordon recorded 18 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and a couple of blocks and steals in a losing effort for the slumping Magic.

Detroit Pistons 105-108 Boston Celtics

Blake Griffin finally broke free of the Boston Celtics’ defence and tallied 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Detroit Pistons. However, it wasn’t enough to beat the Beantown Team who got a season-high performance from All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.

Irving, who has failed to score more than 25 in their first six games of the season, exploded for 31 to pace the Celtics to victory. He also finished with five rebounds and five assists.

Detroit kept the game close and were up by two at halftime, but a 13-point outing in the third canto doomed their chances.

Philadelphia 76ers 112-129 Toronto Raptors

Kawhi Leonard proved he's one of the top NBA players by completely dismantling the Sixers

Kawhi Leonard attempting a shot against Sixers point guard TJ McConnell

After resting in the game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Kawhi Leonard returned to the Toronto Raptors’ starting lineup and once again took over to catapult the team back to winning ways.

The Raptors, who suffered their first loss against the Bucks the last time out, were barely threatened in the game. The Sixers failed to mount a challenge and never led after their 9-4 run in the opening quarter.

Leonard finished with 31 points, seven boards and four assists, though the Raps also got a huge boost from Kyle Lowry (20 points, 12 assists) and Serge Ibaka (16 points, eight rebounds).

Portland Trail Blazers 104-85 Houston Rockets

With James Harden still out due to a hamstring injury, the Houston Rockets lost their fourth straight game and dropped to the bottom of the Western Conference.

The Portland Trail Blazers were expected to win the game, thanks to their superior offence and the Rockets’ porous defence. And Damian Lillard and co. lived up to expectations as they rout last year’s West finalists.

Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic scored 22 points each, while C.J. McCollum added 19. Chris Paul led the Rockets with an all-around performance of 17 points, five rebounds, nine assists and two steals, though to no avail.

Washington Wizards 95-107 Memphis Grizzlies

The fall continues for the Washington Wizards, and not even an efficient performance from John Wall could save them.

Washington were neck-and-neck with the Memphis Grizzlies up until halftime. Nonetheless, it was a different story in the third frame as the Grizzlies exploited the Wizard’s lacklustre defence to hand them their fourth consecutive defeat.

The Grizzlies used an 18-1 run to start the third quarter, and they never looked back from there to pile more misery on the Wiz. Marc Gasol, who was shooting below 40 percent before the game, made 19 points on 70 percent shooting. The big man also had five boards, six assists and five steals.

Mike Conley continued to struggle offensively, but he did end up with 19 points and seven assists. Garrett Temple top-scored Memphis with 20 markers.

LA Clippers 110-128 Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook had a heated match-up with LA Clippers guard Patrick Beverley—they even had to be separated by the police! In the end, however, Westbrook had the last laugh.

Westbrook, alongside Paul George, helped the Thunder claim their second win of the season. The two combined for 64 points (32 each) and were just too much for the Clippers’ defence.

Russell Westbrook and the Thunder finally got their first NBA regular season win

Russell Westbrook battles for the ball against Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Beverley, meanwhile, had only four points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Clips. Danilo Gallinari sparked the LA offence with 27 points, but he didn’t get much help as the team struggled to make their shots from deep.

 

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