By Holly MacKenzie
One is the loneliest number….Allow me a moment to wallow as I reflect the first time in my life where I did not watch opening night with a slew of friends. Moving is fun, but it is always difficult to find a group of friends as great as the ones you left behind. I have met some amazing people here yes, finding some die-hard hoop heads, I’m still working on that! Regardless, the NBA season is upon us! Yeahhhh for that.
As for the Lakers…Hearing Kobe booed at Staples was like…experiencing my first high school break up all over again. How could something so sweet turn out like this? Ugh. Of course, by the end of the evening, he had those same critics eating out of the palm of his hand. Maybe a miracle can happen and he can work the same magic on the Lakers front office? Quick look outside, anyone see a rainbow? Maybe some pigs with wings? I am holding out hope because that is what a fan does, right? Kobe and the Lakers breaking up is like…Well, it leaves me at a loss for words, which does not happen often, trust me. And also, the irony of the Lakers losing by 2 after the inadvertent tip in on the Rockets basket by Walton was not lost on me in the 2-point loss. I felt like it was a lesson for kids watching. “See kids, every single play does matter”. As for the season opener with the Spurs and Blazers? LaMarcus Aldridge did his thing. Would have been nice to see him grab some more boards, but hey, I wanted an encouraging game from the Blazers and I got it. Outshooting the Spurs was a nice way to start the season, especially when Brandon Roy had such a bad outing. Seeing my boy Darius Washington make the final roster for SA, and actually get in for 11 minutes (and hit a three!), was a nice little highlight as well. And of course, I couldn’t be a Canadian basketball fan if I didn’t mention the game of Matt Bonner last night. Whether we love him or love to hate him, this former Raptor makes me smile. Okay, enough commentary, here are the recaps.
San Antonio 106 Portland 97
After getting their rings the San Antonio Spurs appeared to have been blinded by the bling as they gave up a 16-point lead in the 1st half and went into the 4th quarter up only 4. They got down to business in the final quarter however, and got their execution on track to outscore the Blazers 25-20 and finish the game with a 9 point victory. Tim Duncan, fresh off of signing a contract extension that will keep him with the Spurs until 2011 (and probably the end of his career), led the defending champions with 24 points and 13 rebounds while last year’s finals MVP Tony Parker added 19. When their offense needed a boost Brent Barry was there to connect on some three-pointers and finished the game with 12 points. Manu Ginobili added 16 points, helping to double the Spurs 4 point lead early in the 4th quarter by scoring consecutive baskets. For the young Portland team, LaMarcus Aldridge came up big with a game-high 27 points while Joel Przybilla had a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards. Reigning rookie of the year, Brandon Roy had a rough opening night shooting only 2-10 from the floor to finish with 7 points in the game. It was an encouraging first effort for the Blazers, and the start of defending their title for the Spurs.
Utah 117 Golden State 96
In a rematch of the Western Conference semi-finals, the end result was the same. The Utah Jazz defeated the Warriors last night by a score of 117-96 behind a huge game from Carlos Boozer with 32 points and 15 rebounds. Deron Williams added 24 and Paul Millsap had a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards. 2nd year Ronnie Brewer excelled in his new spot at starting shooting guard, finishing with 18 points on 8-14 shooting. Stat-stuffer Andrei Kirilenko was all over the board for the Jazz with 9 points, 9 boards, 8 assists and 5 blocks.The Warriors who were without Stephen Jackson just could not control the Jazz. Baron Davis led the way for Golden State scoring 25 points and dishing 10 assists, Mickael Pietrus and Monta Ellis each had 17 and Kelenna Azubuike added 11, starting in Jackson’s place. Utah outrebounded the Warriors by 19 (56-37) and also had 13 more shot attempts than Golden State.
Houston 95 L.A. Lakers 93
After an off-season where many wondered whether Kobe Bryant would be in a Lakers uniform for the start of the season, even the sprained-wrist didn’t stop him from starting the season in a big way. Kobe finished with 45 points to lead all scorers on opening night in the Lakers loss to the Rockets. The Rockets were led by their big two, Tracy McGrady (30 points) and Yao Ming (25 points, 12 boards). Derek Fisher had 17 points in his return to the Lakers, none bigger than his final two. In a game that featured the Rockets ahead for most of the contest the Lakers rallied back, in the final minutes to tie the game on a long two-pointer (feet were on the line), by Derek Fisher. In the 13-0 run, the Lakers were led by Kobe Bryant and his 18-points in the quarter. Just as it looked as though the Lakers were going to pull off the upset, Shane Battier rises up and knocks down the biggest shot of the night, a three-point dagger to put the Lakers behind by three again. With 1.3 left on the clock, Kobe gets fouled, makes the first, and intentionally misses the 2nd, the ball winds up in his hands, but he is stripped (fouled?), by Alston and game over. Kobe had a career high in ft attempts with 27, but made only 18 as a result of the wrist-sprain.