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It’s here, everyone: NBA opening night. Per usual, we have just two games played while we’ll get a ton more on Wednesday, so without further ado, let’s see who fared the best on Tuesday.
Milwaukee Bucks 127, Brooklyn Nets 104
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks got off to a quick start and didn’t ever really look back, dominating the championship-favorite Brooklyn Nets by a score of 127-103. Giannis went off like always on his way to 32 points, 14 rebounds, seven dimes, two steals, one block, one 3-pointer and four turnovers in 31 minutes. Dating back to the playoffs last season, he now has six straight games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, with the only player to have a longer streak in the past 40 years being who else but Shaquille O’Neal (seven straight). Giannis also sank seven of his nine free throws, which is a pretty nice step in the right direction, and it’s worth noting that he changed his routine pretty drastically. As opposed to the hundred-dribble, too-long routine he got ridiculed for throughout the entire playoffs, it looks like he’s now going with a single dribble and just putting it up within a few seconds. Sometimes if you don’t think about it, it works wonders, and that’s the approach Giannis will likely use moving forward. Even if he can shoot his freebies in the mid-70s, that will be a vast improvement and will only help his already sky-high value.
Really the only bad news for the Bucks on Tuesday was the early exit of Jrue Holiday due to a heel contusion. He had 12 points and two triples in just 18 minutes before being ruled out before halftime, and it looks to be minor given that his MRI came back clean, so plenty of caution was used. For now, we’ll consider him questionable for Thursday’s game against Miami. Khris Middleton dropped 20 points with nine rebounds, three assists, one steal and one triple in a Giannis-matching 31 minutes, and he’s just always so good without ever making a fuss about it. Pat Connaughton matched Middleton’s total with 20 points, also chipping in three rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and four 3-pointers in 30 big minutes, and he should be rostered at least for as long as Donte DiVincenzo (ankle) is out. Grayson Allen had a solid 10-4-6 line with with a pair of steals and three makes from downtown, and could also have a bit of sneaky value while DiVincenzo is out, as may surprise showing Jordan Nwora who came through with 15 points and six boards with three 3-pointers, one steal, and one block off the bench. We’d like to see Nwora do it again before you run to the waiver wire, however.
Nets coach Steve Nash said that the loss on Tuesday was due to being outworked, with “the one thing that disappointed [him] more than anything was just loose balls, 50-50 plays.” The defense clearly struggled but the offense showed some good things, headlined by Kevin Durant, who drained 13 of his 25 shots on his way to a 32-11-4 line with a pair of blocks and three 3-pointers with just one turnover, and he continues to be one of the most mesmerizing players the game has seen. As a side note, the last Nets player to record a 30-point, 10-rebound game in a season opener was Julius Erving in 1973-1974, but we don’t expect anything less than good company when KD reaches any sort of milestone. James Harden struggled with his shot but stuffed the stat sheet as he will likely do nightly, totaling 20 points, eight boards, eight assists, one steal, two blocks and four triples in 31 minutes of action, and despite his struggles shooting, he has No. 1 overall upside with Kyrie Irving basically just not on the team anymore. Patty Mills came off the bench and hit all seven of his three-pointers for 21 points, scoring an absurd 84% of the Nets bench points (yes, that means all other reserves totaled four points in 72 minutes). He also tied the Nets record for most threes in a game off the bench and even set the mark for threes in a debut with a new team. He’s not going to be this good all the time, but he’ll be getting a decent chunk of minutes (29 tonight) and could be worth snagging if you need some scoring and triples. Nic Claxton got the start, which was not all too expected, but had a rather empty line with just 12 points and seven rebounds with no assists, steals or blocks in 24 minutes. He won’t get zero defensive stats often, and if he keeps playing minutes in the mid-20s, he’s absolutely worth a spot on someone’s roster.
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Golden State Warriors 121, Los Angeles Lakers 114
Thanks to a 38-29 fourth quarter in favor of Golden State, the Warriors came out on top on opening night and had plenty of contributors, some definitely more surprising than others. Stephen Curry had a pretty awful shooting night especially for his standards, hitting just five of his 21 shots, but still managed to notch his eighth career triple-double to the tune of 21 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, two 3-pointers and four turnovers in a team-high 36 minutes. The fact that Steph was missing more than usual and the Dubs still came up with the win speaks volumes to the well-rounded effort that the Warriors are capable of and displayed so well tonight. Enter MIP Award candidate Jordan Poole, who got plenty of buzz in the preseason and rightfully so, scoring 20 points with two boards, three assists, one steal, four 3-pointers and two turnovers in just 25 minutes. He was on his way to a dud with just four points at the half, but dropped in 16 and all four of his triples in the second half to really spearhead the Warriors’ fourth quarter run. He’s going to be a lot of fun to own and if you were able to grab him late in your draft, congratulations and have fun. Unsung hero Nemanja Bjelica double-doubled off the pine, totaling 15 points, 11 rebounds, four dimes, one steal and one turnover in 26 minutes. The fact that Kevon Looney (seven points, four boards) played just 15 minutes really helps the case for Bjelica here, and I wouldn’t blame you if you picked him up to see if he can keep it up. Draymond Green played 30 minutes and his 6-8-6 line with a steal looks like it always does, and Andrew Wiggins was average with 12 points, seven rebounds, a steal and two 3-pointers in 26 minutes. Damion Lee had some fun with 15 points of his own off the bench, and even ancient Andre Iguodala reached double figures with 12 points and a pair of threes. Wiggins should be better than this and should be rostered, but Lee and Iggy can be left on the wire.
LeBron James (34 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block, five 3-pointers, four turnovers) and Anthony Davis (33 points, 11 boards, two dimes, one steal, two blocks, no turnovers, one triple) both went off and looked really good, and they could easily have first-round fantasy value on a per-game basis. LeBron looked especially good in his first game of his 19th season (I can’t believe we’ll get to type “20th season” next year), sinking his first six shots, and he was making plays all night. Sadly for Los Angeles, that’s pretty much where the good ends. No one else on the team even scored in double figures, they made just nine of their 19 free throws (47.4%) and their defense was visibly horrible. Russell Westbrook was an impressively bad -23 net rating and had a line of 8-5-4 with four turnovers on 4-of-13 shooting. He’s not quite meshing yet and he should be fine, but he didn’t look good for any of his 35 minutes tonight. Kent Bazemore hit a pair of threes and played good defense and Carmelo Anthony scored nine with two threes and one bizarre pump-fake free throw, but that’s about as far as I can go statistically for the Lakers. They always start off slow, so they or their fans shouldn’t panic, but they have to play better against the reigning Western Conference Champion Phoenix Suns on Friday. No one on the Lakers besides their Big Three is worth rostering right now, and even Westbrook made me question that a bit tonight, but hold onto him and hope for the best.
With just two games tonight, we get our first full slate of the season with 11 games on Wednesday, and to fantasy managers enjoyment, they have the majority of their players to root for. We’re officially underway, ladies and gents.