The NBA is back! That is fun and makes me happy. This season was full of intrigue after a crazy offseason that saw several all-stars change teams. Most people including myself think the Golden State Warriors are a lock to win the championship. That doesn’t mean the season doesn’t matter. Player growth, injuries, coaching, trades, rookies and breakout players can all change the course of a franchise or a season. Were only two days into the NBA season and there have already been good and bad surprises. Let’s get into it, shall we?
Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers: Gordon Hayward Injury just Devastating, Lebron is Still Ridiculous, but Cleveland is Old.
Gordon Hayward fractured his ankle and broke his tibia five minutes into the NBA season. It was one of the most devastating injuries I have ever seen. He will now miss the entire season. After that, the excitement of the game and the season was just deflated. However, the game must go on, and Boston had to adjust on the fly. You have to credit Boston’s mental toughness.
They were down by 18 points in the third quarter, and they rallied to lose only by three. Boston beating Cleveland was at least a conversation before the season, without Hayward it’s not. Boston likely goes from the two seed to the four seed. Milwaukee and Washinton will probably pass them. On the Cleveland sign of things, Lebron is still incredible. As he said himself after the game, he is out of shape, and coming off an ankle injury. He still had 29 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists.
Wait until he gets 100%. The downside for Cleveland is they are relying heavily on players past their prime. Neither Dwayne Wade or Derrick Rose should be starting at this point in their careers. It’s beyond me why Ty Lue is starting Wade ahead of J.R Smith. Rose had some beautiful drives but finished with the worst plus/minus for the Cavs at -7. He is a turnstile defensively. Also Jeff Green is still Jeff Green. Lebron can make up for a lot, but how much these old timers can contribute is still a question mark.
Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors: New Wing Defenders Pay Off for Houston, For Golden State HOLY SWAGGY P!
Wow, what a fun game! The Rockets pulled off the upset on the road against the defending champions in a thrilling 122-121 comeback win. This is a huge win for the Rockets and a loss that means nothing for the Warriors. Most people had their eyes on the Chris Paul James Harden dynamic. How would two ball dominant players mesh? Paul struggled with his shot and only had four points, but he had 11 assists along with Harden’s ten assists. Unfortunately, Paul banged up his knee and missed Wednesday’s game at the Kings. Enough of Paul, the two new Rockets that stood out was P.J Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah Moute.
Last year Houston was 18th in defense and needed more versatile wing defenders. These guys delivered. Tucker chipped in 20 points and was a +20 for the game, and Mbah Moute had 14 points with a +4 plus/minus. Honestly, the offense is gravy, these guys came to defend, and you could tell they already earned Mike D’Antoni’s trust as they were on the floor for crunch time. Everyone has their eyes on Chris Paul, watch out for these guys they are going to make a big difference. For Golden State they were feeling themselves a little too much after getting their rings, Iggy was out, Draymond hurt his knee and Durant had a rare off game. Don’t read too far into this. What Golden State should be happy with is Swaggy P. Swaggy was swagging hard-hitting six of seven from deep. Watch this!
Draymond starts at the top of the key and Swaggy flares to the corner. As soon as Young gets to the corner, he gets the ball and immediately shoots it. Nothing but net and in the face of Mbah Moute. Young in fearless and now has the ultimate green light. It’s ridiculous that he is on the Warriors like they needed more shooting.
Charlotte Hornets at Detroit Pistons: Hornets Missing too Many Pieces, Detroit With a Nice Balanced Attack!
Charlotte started the season with its back against the wall. They were without two starters in Nicholas Batum and Michael-Kidd Gilchrist and back up point guard Michael Carter-Williams. That led to more minutes for rookies Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon who started. It also led to lineups who have never played together getting thrown into the fire, and it went as expected. Charlotte who never turns it over had 17 turnovers, and there were several defensive breakdowns. Both rookies struggled, especially Monk who went 1 for nine from the field. These two will take their bumps, but they will have to grow up quickly without Batum.
Luckily MKG and Carter-Williams will be back relatively soon. On the Detroit side of things, this was a good win. Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson played with a good motor, and lots of Pistons got involved. Detroit had five players in double figures led by Tobias Harris dropping 27. Harris also hit four threes, if his shooting has improved the Pistons just got a lot more dangerous. Stanley Johnson was a monster on defense, but a disaster on offense going 0 for 13 from the field. It will be interesting to see how Stan Van Gundy uses him going forward. Also, keep an eye on Henry Ellenson, the second-year forward had a very nice game.
Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards: These Teams are Going to be Fun!
The process has arrived! It took half of my life it seems like, but its here. Seeing Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid start together was terrific. These guys are going to be a force. Luckily coach Brett Brown took away the minute’s restriction and let Embiid play 27 minutes. It’s a good thing ad he dropped 18 points and 13 rebounds, Simmons also had a double-double with 18 points and ten rebounds along with five assists. Watching Embiid play is special. He has moves that are beyond his years. Watch his face up game here.
Watch Embiid get in the post and then reverse pivot to face up Martin Gortat. He patiently waits for Jason Smith to retreat back from double teaming. Once he has space, he hits Gortat with a jab step to give himself room and then elevates for the midrange jumper. Not a lot of seven-foot centers can do this.
These two will be a dominant front line for years to come. Also, Robert Covington dropped 29 points and hit seven threes. Covington is really good, and its great to see him flourish after years of suffering on terrible teams. That’s all positive, but the Sixers did what young teams do at the end. They lost and folded down the stretch. Philly will be competitive, and they will get better every game, but they are going to have some tough losses.
On the Wizards side, they have some kinks to work out, but there were also a lot of positives. Missing Markieef Morris hurt, starting Jason Smith is never a good idea. The good news is the bench looked improved. Not great, but not a disaster like last year. Especially Kelly Oubre Jr. The third-year forward looked much better on both sides last night. Oubre had 14 points and eight rebounds. Washington needs a big year from him this year.
Brooklyn Nets at Indiana Pacers: These Teams Will Run Like Hell, and Not Stop Anybody.
I think the coaches agreed not to play defense in this game. Indiana won 140-131, and this was the fasted game played in nine years in terms of pace. Both of these teams will be bad this year and stink on defense. They are both apparently going for the let’s try to outscore them strategy. A bold strategy for bad teams, but a fun one. Like the Boston game, this game had a real bummer in it. Jeremy Lin was having an excellent game with 18 points until he ruptured his patella tendon on a drive to the basket. He will miss the season. The good news is new point guard D’Angelo Russell straight up balled. Russell had 30 points on 12 of 22 shooting with five assists. He has a very good chance to win most improved player of the year.
You know who also has a good chance? Myles Turner! Turner casually dropped 21 points and 14 rebounds and had four blocks. Dude is going to be a monster this year. It looks like he will have some help too as seven other Pacers were in double figures. Then again it’s the Nets, and they will be a bottom five defense. Also, note to Nate Mcmillian don’t start Boban Bogdanovic at the three, that’s asking to give up a lot of points. I would consider starting Darren Collison and Cory Joesph together in a two-point guard system and moving Victor Oladipo to the three. Just a thought! Finally, Lance Stephenson led the Pacers in shot attempts with 19. He only made six of them. NEVER CHANGE LANCE!
Miami Heat at Orlando Magic: Magic Offense Looks WAY Better, Heat Still Figuring Out Some Things.
So the Magic was a pile of garbage on offense last season. In fact, they were the second to worst attack in the league last season. Last night they dropped 116 in a win over the Heat, who last year was one of the stingiest defenses in the league. They fixed the easy things. Aaron Gordon is now a full-time power forward, and they are starting Nikola Vucecvic instead of bricks for hands Bismack Biyombo. These things help. Who knew! It was a balanced attack for the Magic as all five started were in double figures. Led by the ever crafty Evan Fournier who dropped 23 points. He looks better every year. Watch this play!
Orlando is up five and needs another basket to put the Heat away for good. Fournier starts at half court and gets a ball screen from Vucecvic. Once he goes around the screen, Fournier hits Josh Richardson with a hesitation dribble. The second Richardson is off balance, Fournier attacks downhill. Two hard dribbles towards the rim and the Fournier attacks Hassan Whiteside’s body to protect himself from the shot block. Then he extends his right arm for a nice layup high off the glass. Great stuff from Fournier.
On the Heat side, this is still a good team that will make the playoffs, but they have some things to figure out. Starting Dion Waiters at the three is not great for defense, they could insert Justice Winslow, but that’s not great for the offense. Eric Spoelstra has to find a balance. Also, Kelly Olynk at the 4 is interesting, he struggles to defend in space, and Whiteside cant make up for all of his mistakes. He may be better as a small ball five. Last night he was -10 for the game. Spoelstra has some things to figure out. He will.
Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics: Giannis is Coming for the MVP. Boston has to Figure Things Out on the Fly.
Boston coming off the emotional injury of Gordon Hayward put up a tough performance in their home opener against the Bucks. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as they fell 108-100. Boston will miss Hayward’s perimeter shooting the most. LAst year he shot 40% from deep, Boston doesn’t have anyone on the wing who can do that. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart are all below average shooters. The return of Marcus Morris will help a bit, but it will be an issue all season unless one of those guys takes a big step.
Brad Stevens probably would have liked to ease Jayson Tatum into the NBA a little more. First without Morris and now without Hawyard, he has no choice but to play him heavy minutes. Tatum played 37 last night and was a -15, worst on the team. They are asking too much of him this early, but they don’t have a choice now. Again Morris coming back will help. It’s a good thing Boston has 48 wings to survive this. Stevens also has to play Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye. I know you never heard of them. As I mentioned Boston will still make the playoffs and be good, but they have to figure some things out on the fly.
As for Milwaukee, this is a significant opportunity. This team has the talent to now be the two seed in the east. Especially if Giannis can play like this every night. All he did was have 37 points and 13 rebounds on 13 for 22 shooting. The greak freak gets to the rim when he wants to get to the rim. He has arrived, and we all need to watch out. Plus the Bucks now have a full season of Kris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon looks even better this year. FEAR THE DEER!!!
New Orleans Pelicans at Memphis Grizzlies: Twin Towers do Work for Pels, Dillon Brooks my Goodness!
Get used to this story, the twin towers of New Orleans Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins will put up huge numbers, but no one else on the team will do anything, and they will lose more often than not. Cousins dropped 28 points and ten rebounds, Davis had 33 points, and 18 rebounds, the only other Pelican in double figures was E’twaun Moore with 11 points. The bench chipped in eight points. Yikes. New Orleans was already thin on the perimeter, and that was before Solomon Hill, and Rajon Rondo went down with injuries. Now their lack of shooting may doom them for the season. They were 7 for 25 from deep last night. Also, Jrue Holiday if the Pelicans make the playoffs you need to have a massive year. Four points are not massive.
Most people thought Memphis would end their seven-year streak of making the playoffs this year. They figured without Tony Allen, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter the grit and grind era would end and Memphis wouldn’t have enough offense to make the playoffs in the brutal west. Some thought Memphis might blow it all up this year. Well, Memphis has other plans. The other plan is Dillon Brooks. Brooks is a second-round rookie who stole the show last night by dropping 19 points. Memphis needed new offense in the worst way and if Brooks can give them that consistently then the outlook of this season changes dramatically. Watch this!
Brooks gets in the post, goes for the turnaround, but doesn’t like it, so he half spins and then turns around again to give himself more space. Then he elevates for a tough fadeaway jumper over Holiday. This takes patience and excellent footwork. Memphis needs someone who can make tough shots, maybe its Brooks.
On a down note, the Grizz lost Jamichael Green to injury, and he can be out for a few weeks. That’s a tough loss.
Atlanta Hawks at Dallas Mavericks: Hawks Will be Bad at Tanking, Dallas is well Dallas.
Everyone expected the Atlanta Hawks to be one of the worst teams in the league this year. They will be better than you think. No, they are not making the playoffs, but with the Hawks, you will get effort and good coaching every night. They also at least have a competent point guard in Dennis Schroder, who dropped 28 points in the opener. That may put them ahead of teams like New York, Chicago at least. Plus it looks like they got a steal in the first round in John Collins. The rookie came off the bench to drop 14 points and five rebounds. Atlanta needs offense desperately and looks like Collins can give them some.
On the Dallas side they too will be bad, but like the Hawks, they will play their asses off and are very well coached. For Dallas its all about the development of their young point guard in Dennis Smith. Well, Smith is off to a good start. He had 16 points and ten assists in his debut, the first player since Jason Kidd to have a double-double with points and assists in their first NBA game. Smith brings Dallas some excitement they badly need. These teams are going nowhere this year, but at least they both have positive signs for the future. They will also not be automatic wins.
Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz: Nuggets Still Have Some Growing Up to Do, Alec Burks is a Fun Surprise.
This was one of the lowkey good games of the opening state. Two teams who figure to battle for the five through eight seed int he west. People were excited about Denver now that they have a full season of Nikola Jokic and they added Paul Millsap in the offseason. Denver will be improved and should make the playoffs; the opener showed they have some growing up to do. The Nugs offense cratered in the fourth quarter scoring only 13 points. Now Utah will be one of the best defensive teams in the league this year, and Utah is a tough place to play, but Denver has to figure some things out. Mainly turnovers. They had 21. Yikes.
Utah has to be pumped. We all figured they would be able to defend, but they got offense from an unexpected source. That source is Alec Burks. Burks is now in his seventh year and has missed 39% of his games in his first six season due to injury. It looks like he is finally healthy and ready to give the Jazz some scoring off the bench. Burks had 16 points on seven for ten shooting. It seems like Burks is back to being an explosive scorer. Check out this bucket by Burks!
Burks catches it on the wing and immediately drives to the hole. Burks blows by the first defender and when the help defender, Burks leaps past him and finishes on the other side of the rim for the reverse layup. Amazing body control. Utah will be an absolute pain in the ass to play this year. Now with Burks, they will be more explosive than people thought.
Minnesota Timberwolves at San Antonio Spurs: Wolves Still Have Bad Habits, Spurs Still a Well Oiled Machine.
Minnesota hasn’t made the playoffs in fourteen years. This year they should finally make it. However, their are issues. Depth, defense, shooting, and youth just to name a few. Now talent can make up for some of these, but it was discouraging to see the Wolves fall apart down the stretch again. Minnesota was brutal in close games last year and must improve this season. Shooting was also an issue as the Wolves only had eight threes. They will get better as the season goes on, but the Wolves need the young pups of Andre Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns to grow up fast, especially on defense.
San Antonio is still San Antonio. No Kawhi, no problem. The Spurs out-executed the Wolves like they do to everyone. They threw a bunch of passes and locke dup when they needed to. Spurs player to watch out for is Dejounte Murray. The second-year point guard has 16 points on seven for eight shooting. The kid can play. You know who else can still play? Lamarcus Aldridge. People wanted to put him down behind the bard, but last night he had 25 points and 10 rebounds. Aldridge can still get buckets.
Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns: Portland Looks Deep, Phoenix is an Embarrassment.
Portland looked to be a fringe playoff team in the west. We all know they have two explosive guards in Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum, but who else would chip in? Was Jusef Nurkic the real deal after a nice flash last season? Well, its just the first game and its the Suns, but the Blazers look deep and Nurkic looks solid. He had a double-double in limited minutes, due to the blowout. Portland got contributions all over the place. Including back up shooting guard PAt Connaughton dropping 29 points filling in for the suspended C.J McCollum.
The Blazers had six players in double figures, and that’s why they won by a million points. Phoenix super yikes. This is embarrassing How do you lose by 48 in your home opener? The one game of the year where everyone tries hard. It looks like Phoenix is tanking from the start, and head coach Earl Watson may be fired soon. A move that I have wanted for a while. Watson always has had questionable rotations and clearly doesn’t inspire his players. It’s going to be a very long year in Phoenix and I will probably watch them the least out of every team. Also, the new Suns uniforms are disgusting, such a shame the old ones were FIRE!!!
Houston Rockets at Sacramento Kings: Capela is a Beat, Kings Finally Showing Signs of Life.
Houston followed up its opening night win over Golden State with another win on the road at Sacramento. They did it without Chris Paul. Winning on the road in a back to back is never easy, even against the Kings and the Kings gave them quite the fight. Then Clint Capela came to the rescue. The amount Capela has improved offensively is incredible. All he did was have 22 points and 17 rebounds. If Capela continues to improve then the Rockets may even be better than we thought they would be. Watch the big fella put the ball on the floor!
Capela catches the ball above the three-point line, immediately drives. Takes two hard dribbles and finishes with the left hand.I am not sure I have ever seen Capela do this, Rockets fan should be very excited about this guy!
Sacramento has been awful for years and will be bad this year as well. However, the young guys are exciting. Their young twin towers in Skai Laiberiseere and Willy Cauley-Stein both had double-doubles and rookie point guard De’Araon Fox had 14 points and five assists. It looks like Sacramento finally has a few young foundation players. That alone makes this year more exciting than it has been the past ten years.
Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors: The Bulls Stink, Raps Have a Young Gem.
I don’t want to talk too much about the Bulls because I will just get upset. They will likely be the worst team in the league this year. Their rotation includes several players who should be int he G-League. However, I will give them credit for playing their ass of unlike Phoenix. Robin Lopez is still solid, and Justin Holiday was a nice late free agency signing. Bobby Portis is an embarrassment for punching his own teammate Nikola Mirotic in the face during practice. Now onto the Drake’s. Most people thought Toronto may take a step back this season.
They will still be good at least during the regular season. The core is the same with Kyle Lowry, Demar Derozan, and Jonas Valancuinas, but now there are some exciting young players getting real minutes. Keep an eye on Norman Powell. The third-year wing is a dark horse most improved player candidate. Powell is finally starting this year and he is off to a good start. He had a nice 15 points and he was three for six from deep.
Toronto needs some more shooting and Powell looks like he can give that. You know who else can give them that? C.J Miles! Miles had 22 points, including six threes. What a great pick up by the Raptors. With the Hayward injury, Toronto can have home court in the playoffs this year. This Toronto team is kind of the same, but different if that makes sense.
New York Knicks at Oklahoma City Thunder: Porzingis and Garbage, Paul George is so Good!
Like the Bulls, the Knicks will be awful this year. Except the Knicks have one shining rose in Kristaps Porzingis. Last night Porzinigs had 31 points, only one other player had double figures and that was Enes Kanter with ten points. Get used to this Knicks fan. It looks like the Knicks are trying to increase the trade value of Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn by playing them a lot, I am okay with this. They need to move both of those guys and probably Courtney Lee in exchange for young assets and picks.
OKC is going to be good, I mean really good this year. Paul George fits next to Westbrook like a glove. People int he past couple of years have forgotten how good Paul George is, but the dude is a beast. Last night he led the Thunder in scoring with 28 points, including six threes. All of the big three reached twenty points last night, a good start even though it was against the Knicks, who by the way may be the worst defensive team in the league. OKC will have its struggles early and against the better teams, and depth is a little bit of an issue, but this team will be a top-five team in the league. By the way, Westbrook had another triple-double and had fewer shots than Melo and George, that is a very good sign Thunder fans!
Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angles Lakers: Blake Is Back, Lakers Will Take Time to Grow Up!
Ahh, the battle of Los Angeles. That was a terrible movie. Anyway, the Clippers destroyed the Lakers last night. I figured the LAkers would be improved and win about 30 to 35 games, but this team has long ways to go. Poor Lonzo Ball was eaten alive by Patrick Beverley last night, and will likely have a few more of those game thanks to the pressure brought on by his father. Brandom Ingram still likes a confused giraffe, and no one else did anything really. Getting Kentavious Caldwell-pope back will help a bit, but this team will struggle early. Also, interesting decision by Luke Walton starting LArry Nance ahead of Julius Randle. Randle may be trade bait.
For the Clippers this team is exciting They lost Chris Paul, but they are deeper and more versatile, plus Blake is back. I have been a Blake defender for a long time, and I know injuries are a problem, but when healthy he is a force, plus it looks like he added a three-ball. He was three for six from deep last night. For the game, he had 29 points and 12 rebounds. It was good seeing him being a force again and doing things like this.
Blake takes it coast to coast here. First, he crosses up Andrew Bogut, and then when Julius Randle comes to help, he just rises up and dunks all over him. poor Randle, but good to see this Blake back.