The wait is finally over. The NBA is back, and Monday night’s opening matchups did not disappoint: from the tunnel fits to a head-to-head matchup in Boston and ring night in the Bay. Still, there’s a lot left of the season to go, and questions remain of whether the Warriors will repeat as champs if the Celtics can maintain their momentum from the second half of last season. Will LeBron James pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time scoring list, and can James Harden bounce back and Anthony Davis stay healthy?
We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but for now, here are seven takeaways from last night’s action.
Revenge SZN: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are looking even better
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been a nightmare for teams on both sides of the ball for a few years now. They have three ECF trips under their belt and a recent appearance in the NBA Finals — they’re not supposed to still be getting better. After showing up to opening night rockin’ some pretty eye-catching fits, Brown and Tatum dropped a combined 70 points (dropping 35 points apiece) and solidified the dub over Philly.
Both were attacking from every part of the floor. Having two dynamic players like Brown and Tatum gives the Celtics a good chance to get back to the Finals and maybe even win it this time.
Ring Night: The Warriors may be poised to make another championship run
On ring night, the Warriors look good. Damn good. Stephen Curry is still just as good as he’s always been, and the Warriors’ weapons all kept them afloat and out of reach. The Dubs had their trademark explosive third quarter, and signature contributions from Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, Curry, and Andrew Wiggins on offense guided them to a win. Draymond Green and Kevon Looney anchored a strong defensive performance. Their young core (Moses Moody, James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga) came in off the bench and provided valuable minutes. Sheesh, the Warriors are deep.
The Beard drops a 30-piece on Opening Night
James Harden has been a picture of perfect health for the majority of his NBA career, but during his tenure with the Nets, and leading into his tenure with the Sixers, Harden was dealing with a nagging hamstring injury that sapped away a lot of his explosiveness and his ability to change speeds that made him so difficult to contain during his days in Houston. Houston Harden showed up in Boston last night for Philadelphia.
He finished the game with 35 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists on 64.2 percent shooting from the field and 12/12 shooting from the line. Some may say vintage Harden; we say he’s back.
LeBron James speaks on Lakers’ Shooting Troubles:
The Los Angeles Lakers Big 3 finished with 77 of 109 points as the remainder of the team struggled to score all game with their limited spacing. Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis also shot a combined 4-16 from three, while the Lakers as a whole shot 10-40. After the game, The King was quick to recognize this deficiency in the Lakers’ offense, citing a lack of “lasers.”
Moving forward, the Lakers need better shooting performances if they do not want to repeat their fate from last season.
Honoring No. 7: Jaylen Brown Speaks on Bill Russell’s Legacy
The legendary Bill Russell, and 11-time NBA Champion (twice as a head coach of the Celtics), passed away this past summer. The Boston Celtics legend had his No. 6 retired around the League, and every team is wearing a “6” patch on their jersey to honor him. The Celtics took each step, however, intent on honoring their greatest player. Jaylen Brown took a few moments to commemorate Bill Russell before the game, honoring him as a player, a father, a leader, and a man.
Coaching Debuts of Mazzulla and Ham:
Darvin Ham and Joe Mazzulla both made their head coaching debuts on opening night. Mazzulla won his first game, and Ham lost his. Mazzulla is an interim head coach, for now, following Ime Udoka’s season-long suspension by the Boston Celtics.
Near the end of their contest against the Celtics, Stan Van Gundy joked that Mazzulla now has the best winning percentage in NBA history. This is true and looks to remain true, at least through his next game. Ham, on the other hand, has the tall task of coaching a veteran Lakers team back to promise. There are some positive takeaways to be had from the team’s performance but look for tweaks in the next few games as they look to find their footing.
October 18th marked the beginning of the NBA season, but it was also Britney Griner’s 32nd birthday. Stephen Curry took some time to bring awareness to her wrongful incarceration in Russia during his direct address to the fans in attendance as well as the fans watching on TV at home. The fight for Griner’s freedom continues to be a major point of emphasis as the season begins.