Basketball

Gators in the NBA: Week 2

Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers are off to a scintillating 5-1 start to the 2019 season, and a big reason why is the addition of a five-time All-Star big man.

Al Horford (center/power forward, Philadelphia 76ers) has brought much needed three-point shooting, an inside offensive presence alongside Joel Embiid and extra length on the defensive end.

Horford is tied for the team lead in three pointers made per game (1.8, Furkan Korkmaz), a key area of need for a 76ers team that struggled behind the arc a season ago and lost its best sharpshooter, J.J. Reddick, to the New Orleans Pelicans in free agency.

With his shooting ability, Big Al is third on his squad in points per game (18.8), and he stepped up in the absence of Embiid, who was suspended for the last two games due to a fight with Karl Anthony-Towns on Oct. 30. Horford dropped 25 points in a 129-128 win at the Portland Trailblazers on Saturday, and he scored 32 in Monday’s 114-109 loss at the Phoenix Suns.

When he’s not scoring the ball, Horford has brought balance to the Philly offense with his ability to pass and rebound. He is second in assists (4.2) behind only Ben Simmons, and leads the team in offensive boards (16).

On the defensive side, the 13th-year player uses his sneaky athleticism to protect the rim. He leads the 76ers with seven blocks on the season and is fourth on the defensive glass (5 rebounds per game).

Bradley Beal (guard, Washington Wizards) continues to score at elite level even though his team (2-4) continues to lose.

The two-time All-Star leads his ball club with 26.5 points per game, almost 12 more than its second leading scorer, rookie center Rui Hachimura.

With point guard John Wall sidelined for the season due to a ruptured achilles suffered in February, Beal needs to be a more balanced offensive player, and he was exactly that in his last game against the Detroit Pistons. He netted 22 points in addition to five rebounds and six assists in the 115-99 victory on Monday.

The eighth-year player is second on the Wizards in assists (6.3), only trailing squad newcomer Isaiah Thomas (7.0). Beal and Washington will take on the Cleveland Cavaliers (2-5) on Friday.

Also playing at a high level is Dorian Finney-Smith (forward, Dallas Mavericks), who has been an on-and-off starter.

In his fourth season with Dallas, Finney-Smith is averaging a career-high in both points and rebounds per game (8.7 and 6.5, respectively). He’s shooting a career-high .450 from the field, and leads the Mavs in offensive boards with 2.7 per game.

In Sunday’s 131-111 victory at Cleveland on Sunday, Finney-Smith had his third double-digit scoring game of the season, dropping 10 points.

Note: Chris Chiozza (guard, Washington Wizards) and forward Chandler Parsons (forward, Atlanta Hawks) did not play over the past week. Chiozza played in Washington’s first two games, while Parsons has yet to make an appearance for Atlanta.

*Accurate through November 5.

Mark Stine is a contributing writer for Chomp Talk. Follow him on Twitter @mstinejr.

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