With much fanfare and an obnoxious LMFAO ad that was played almost every commercial intermission, the NBA season kicked off in superb, albeit rusty, fashion. Yes, lockout legs could be seen throughout the five games that were aired but that is to be expected with abbreviated training camps. chemistry was also an issue as many teams have a number of new players to integrate into their rotations. Nonetheless, the NBA is back and fans and players are happy. A reaction:
Boston Celtics 104 – New York Knicks 106
Carmelo Anthony looked great in this game. His 17 points in the fourth quarter were the difference and why the Knicks thought it necessary to gut their team to acquire him. Throughout his time in the NBA, Anthony has proven he has a knack for performing in the clutch and he showed it on Sunday. However, the already shaky depth of the Knicks has grown even more unstable with a knee injury to rookie Iman Shumpert which will sideline him for at least a couple of weeks.
As for the Celtics, Rajon Rondo and Brandon Bass, who is finally free from the tyranny of Stan Van Gundy, were the offense with Paul Pierce missing the game. Rondo continually broke down New York’s defense and got to the rim. When Pierce comes back to the lineup the Celtics should be a more rounded offensive unit, until then this will be Rondo’s team.
Naughty: Kevin Garnett choking Bill Walker.
Nice: Carmelo Anthony’s clutch play.
Miami Heat 105 – Dallas Mavericks 94
The Mavericks raised their championship banner but that is all they had to celebrate on Sunday. Dallas came out looking flat and out of sync, in essence, they looked old. That should be no surprise because their entire core is over the age of 30. Rick Carlisle is integrating Vince Carter, Lamar Odom, Delonte West, who played well, and Brandan Wright into the rotation while dealing with key losses across the board. Jason Terry was the only Maverick who showed up to this one.
Miami looked like they were just rolled off of a German assembly line. They were well oiled and fine tuned. What they did to the Mavericks was scary. Say what you will about all the exhibition games this summer but they seem to have kept LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in game shape, that and their complete desire to destroy everything in their path. This was a blowout, like a brand new Mercedes-Benz S-Class versus a Trabant. Not only were the Heat good but they will get better. Rookie Norris Cole turned some heads with his play in 24 minutes of action. If he continues to improve he could supplant Mario Chalmers as the starting point guard.
Naughty: The Mavs’ 37.8 percent field goal shooting.
Nice: LeBron James‘ box score: 37 points, 10 rebounds, six assists.
Chicago Bulls 88 – Los Angeles Lakers 87
Forget Showtime, these are the Slowtime Lakers. That is not a knock on them, however, not in the least bit. This Lakers squad proved to be as scrappy and gritty as any I have seen. Perhaps this is what Mike Brown brings to the team, perhaps this is what a bunch of blue-collar white guys bring to a team, or perhaps this is just what happens when you lose Odom and Andrew Bynum serving his suspension. Nonetheless, I like the Slowtime Lakers. Where they do need to improve is offensive player rotation. Too many times they reverted to Hawks-esque isolation with three players around the perimeter and one near the post.
Chicago played well throughout, with the exception being the third quarter. With the game close, Luol Deng stepped up and made the big plays. It was his defense against Kobe Bryant and his steal late in the game that allowed the Bulls to go on a 7-0 run, capped by Derrick Rose‘s floater in the lane, to win the game. Rip Hamilton started for the Bulls but did not contribute much due to foul trouble therefore his time was split with Ronnie Brewer. Brewer is a solid defender with good court vision and should see more minutes this season.
Naughty: Kobe’s last shot attempt.
Nice: Rose’s floater to win the game.
Orlando Magic 89 – Oklahoma City Thunder 97
Much like the Heat Mavericks game, the final score does not do justice to the thrashing that actually occurred. Like Miami, the Thunder look ready for the season. Very ready. Oklahoma City pounced on Orlando early and never relented. Their team is largely the same as it was last year so their learning curve is near zero when it comes to knowing each other and how to execute plays…when they are not freewheeling. Speed and athleticism are the monikers of this team and they will serve them well out of the gate. If only they could improve their shot selections *cough* Westbrook *cough*.
Where the Thunder took plenty of questionable shots when they had built their sizable lead, the Magic took even more haphazard shots throughout the entire game. I have said it many times: the Magic’s offense is terrible. There is nothing more that can be said. It looked like they thought that there was a pit of lava inside the three-point line. Get Dwight Howard the ball in the post and let him work.
Naughty: Hedo Turkoglu clearly indulged his gluttonous side during the lockout. Dude is chunky.
Nice: Kevin Durant. Need I say more?
Los Angeles Clippers 105 – Golden State Warriors 86
If ESPN had their way, this would have been a documentary about Mark Jackson and the greatness of his coaching style. Nevermind the fact Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were on the court, this broadcast was about Mark Jackson, hands down (man down). They showed a clip of him quoting Shakespeare before the game. He was the only coach shown in the huddle, mostly saying cliché motivational shit like “execution” and “focus.” That is all fine and good, but he does have a decent team that the broadcast could have talked about. I think Jackson will be a good coach but that much attention is unwarranted, especially on a nationally televised game. His first coaching milestone was the hack-a-Jordan technique he used on DeAndre Jordan.
The final score is not indicative of how the Warriors remained close for much of the game. Clearly, the Wizards of Lob are the better team but last night they showed chinks in their armor. The aforementioned hack-a-Jordan technique stymied the Clippers offense and brought it to a halt. Luckily, the Clippers have Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Griffin. All played well as they were able to outlast the Warrior. The new look Clippers are a work in progress to say the least and last night they showed it.
Naughty: ESPN’s love affair with Mark “Momma, there goes that man” Jackson.
Nice: Caron Butler‘s circus shot.