Only three games — and not the high-quality games we are used to on the Thursday night showcase stage due to the NCAA Tournament — so we’ve got one guy from each team that notched a victory.
Third Star: Tyreke Evans (21 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds)
The Kings won this game with a 13-2 run in the fourth quarter that gave them a lead the Timberwolves could not overcome. And Tyreke Evans was the key to the Sacramento fourth quarter with 11 of his 21 points, including seven in a row at one point. On the night Evans got those points on 8-of-11 shooting on the night, which was huge. By the way, the Kings are 6-5 in their last 11 and playing much better.
Second Star: LaMarcus Aldridge (28 points, 8 rebounds)
LaMarcus Aldridge had a huge first half in getting the Blazers a quality win on the road. He had 10 first quarter points, then when he returned in the second quarter the Blazers went on an 18-8 run that was when the Blazers ran away and hid in this game. But really the key was how he played — he wasn’t stationary but moving against the Bulls defense. He flashed, cut and when he got the rock he shot quickly. It worked for Aldridge and it worked for the Blazers.
First Star: Corey Brewer (29 points, 5 steals)
The Nuggets win streak is 14 games and they can thank Corey Brewer. He won that game for them, finishing it off in a way fitting of the drama of the first day of the NCAA Tournament.
It wasn’t just that he scored the last six points — including drawing (and selling) a foul on a three with 2.1 seconds left, then sinking all three free throws to lock up the win. But it was more than that — the Nuggets were flat early, he came in and scored 13 points in the second quarter to stabilize things. Normally Brewer comes in to stabilize the defense, but he can have hot offensive nights and the Nuggets have won 14 in a row because they know to ride the hot hand. Thursday that was Brewer.
Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.
More than fine.
Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.
Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):
The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.
Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.
Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.
The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?
Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:
If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.
The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.
It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.
Remember when Aaron Gordon was a promising fun player?
The Magic sidetracked him by playing him at small forward most of last season. But back at power forward, Gordon showed how he could push the pace as a four in Orlando’s season-opening win over the Heat.
There’s obviously flair in passing to yourself off the backboard, but it’s a sound way to improve position. Gordon did that to fantastic effect.