by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
While Sandy knocked me and the rest of the Tri-State area out of commission this week, basketball never stops and the ’12-’13 NBA season is officially underway. Admittedly, my head has been spinning with Sandy and making sure all my friends and fam throughout NY/NJ/CT are good so unfortunately, this intro isn’t as long or as thorough as I would have hoped. (For awesome in-depth previews of the NBA season, check out our friend Lang Whitaker’s work here and here.)
Long story short, I’ll be taking over The Post Up and traveling along with you during the wild ride that is the NBA regular season. Big thank you to the rest of the SLAM Fam for showing faith in the kid and allowing me to give my insight into what promises to be a tremendously entertaining season.
(H/T to THESICKISHERE. Great work.)
First off, did anyone else find it a bit disappointing that the very first game of the NBA season was between these two teams? Don’t get me wrong, Kyrie is extra nice and a budding superstar but would it have killed the NBA to start this game a little later and give the Heat and Celtics, the matchup everyone wanted to see, anyway—first dibs? If John Wall played it would have been cool to see how he matched up with Irving. But alas, no Wall vs. Irving matchup meant no real captivation for the casual fan. Actually, now that I think of it, outside of diehard fans of either team or those with action on the outcome, who was watching or paying attention to this game?
Aight, enough of that, on to the recap:
After Irving was done addressing the crowd and thanking them for their continued support (how dope is it that a 20 year-old kid is clearly the leader of a NBA team?) the young man wasted no time reminding fans why he will likely be considered one of the top-20 players in the NBA by season’s end. The second-year guard overmatched the Wall-less Wizards backcourt and helped the Cavs jump out to an 11-point halftime lead that they eventually stretched to 16 in the second half. Irving pretty much did whatever he wanted against the likes of A.J. Price, Bradley Beal and Jannero Pargo as he finished with 29 points (11-20 shooting), 6 boards and 3 dimes.
Along with Wall, the Wiz were also missing Nene and Kevin Seraphin—three guys they were relying on to contribute heavily this season—so you have to credit D.C. for hanging tough and clawing their way back into the game after falling behind by 16. A season ago, they surely would have just given up. While no one on the Wiz scored more than Jordan Crawford’s 11, D.C. played tough defense (they forced 21 turnovers) and got themselves back in the game. With Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson catching their breath on the bench, the Wizards scored 14 unanswered points to start the fourth quarter and took a 76-74 lead. At that moment, Byron Scott rushed those three players back into the game to stop the bleeding.
The Cavs responded by going on a 20-8 run to end the game, triggered by a Waiters four-point play that put all momentum back in the home team’s favor. The Cavs rode that momentum to a 10-point opening night victory.
— Anderson Varaejo was an absolute beast last night accounting for 23 boards (11 offensive), 9 dimes and 9 points.
— The starting backcourt of A.J. Price and Bradley Beal had a woeful performance as they combined to go 4-21 (0-17 from inside the arc) from the field for 15 points.
— In the rookie matchup between Beal and Waiters, the Syracuse alum was far and away more impressive. Waiters, who you may recall had a lot of issues with his weight and conditioning during the summer, finished with 17 points on 6-14 shooting while d’ing up his rookie counterpart nicely.
Anybody else wish they had a camera on KG during the Heat’s ring ceremony? I would have paid to watch him through that.
In the highly anticipated Eastern Conference Finals rematch, Miami looked like they hadn’t skipped a beat since last year’s Championship run. The Heat looked comfortable with each other throughout the game and just like last year, when the game turned into a track meet, they were unstoppable. LeBron was flying around the court, running the break, getting in passing lanes, going coast-to-coast for dunks and catching alley-oops with no discretion. Dwyane Wade looked healthy and was getting to the rack, finishing with a game-high 29 points. With Joel Anthony on the bench with an injury and Udonis Haslem giving nothing, Chris Bosh held down the paint and finished with a 19-point, 10-board double-double.
In the third quarter, the Heat were unconscious. They outscored their opponent 31-22 and ended the quarter on a 12-3 run that pushed their lead to 93-76—a lead built mostly without LeBron who missed much of the second half with leg cramps.
During the fourth quarter the C’s almost spoiled the festive mood in the arena by storming back and put the pressure on the Heat to close it out in front of their home crowd. After LeBron left the game again with eight minutes to go in the fourth, Boston went on a 14-3 run that cut the lead to four points. Surprisingly, the Heat had no answer for Leandro Barbosa who scored all 16 of his points in the second half and nearly brought the Celtics back by himself. The Celtics put a scare into the Heat but didn’t have enough gas in the tank to overcome the 17-point deficit. Chris Bosh took advantage of the Celtics undersized front line and scored the final seven points to carry his team to a comfortable 13-point win while LeBron looked on from the training room.
Of course, the big story here was Boston’s friend-turned-foe Ray Allen. As you’ll hear over a thousand times today, KG snubbed his former teammate when he came over to wish him well. Allen finished with 19 points on 5-7 shooting off the bench and made the C’s look foolish for letting him walk in the off-season. Garnett ended up with 9 points 12 boards and 5 TOs. Karma.
— Rajon Rondo was busy doing Rajon Rondo things as he finished with 20 points, 13 assists and 7 boards. It was his 25th straight regular season game with 10+ dimes. Of course, Rondo couldn’t escape the evening without a little controversy as he clotheslined Wade towards the end of the game. Wade called it a “Punk move” during postgame and it will only add more bad blood to this heated rivalry.
— Wade eclipsed the 15,000 point mark—the 123rd player in League history to do so.
— Salute to Jeff Green who played his first meaningful game since May 11, 2011.
— LeBron finished with 26 points and 10 boards (9 in the first half) and could have pushed for 50 if he didn’t cramp up.
— I can’t believe Rashard Lewis is going to be a contributor on a contending team.
— Mario Chalmers finished with 11 dimes and made a few excellent plays to set his teammates up. I’m really high on him this season and think he’s going to have a breakout year.
The new look Lakers got off to a rough start in last night’s night cap and, of course, the Twitterverse is already calling for Mike Brown’s head. Everybody take a deep breath; it’s game one.
Credit coach Rick Carlisle for taking advantage of a Lakers team that is clearly out of sync and using different lineups and looks to keep them off guard. Six different Maverick players scored in double-digits and they comfortably beat down a Lakers team who didn’t look ready at all yet—dating back to last season and including this year’s preseason, LA has lost 11 straight games.
After a close first half, the Mavs began to pull away and pushed their lead to 16 and the Lakers never got back in the game. Shawn Marion and Vince Carter each finished with 11, Darren Collison had a nice opening night with 17 points, 4 assists and 3 steals and Jae Crowder had an 8-point evening for the Mavs.
Both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash had tough Purple and Gold debuts. Howard, who missed a dunk on his first shot attempt, finished the game with 19 points and 10 boards before fouling out with about two minutes left. He also shot 3-14 from the stripe—something he will have to fix or teams will just continue to hack him whenever he catches the ball in the post—and committed a flagrant foul against Elton Brand. Nash for some unbeknownst reason, played off the ball for an unusual amount of time and finished with a stat line of 7 points and 4 assists over 34 minutes of play.
The best part of last night’s contest was undoubtedly the play of Eddy Curry. The Lakers may have hit a new all-time low when Mike Brown admitted that Curry came in and dominated the Lakers inside during the third quarter. How many of you honestly thought you would ever hear those words come out of somebody’s mouth!? Props to Curry, though. He’s had a tough road and could have easily given up and sat on his money at any given point but finally looks as if he can contribute in some capacity. Here’s hoping for the best.
— The Lakers were awful from both the free throw line and beyond the arc. They shot 12-31 from the charity stripe and 3-13 from three. If Mike Brown had any hair on his head, he would have been pulling it out.
–It was rumored that Howard left the locker room after seeing cameras already positioned around his locker when he entered. He wanted the spotlight, now he’ll have to face the music when he doesn’t play well. This ain’t Orlando.
— Pau Gasol had a nice game with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists.
— The Mavs only had two players finish in the “negative” in the +/- category. By comparison, the Lakers only had one player finish in the “positive”.
— This whole Princeton Offense thing won’t even be an issue this time next month.
Stat Line of the Night: I have a soft spot for big rebound numbers so I gotta give it up for Anderson Varejao, who finished with 9 points, 23 boards and 9 dimes.
Play of the Night: A great block by Bosh leads to a LeBron fast break dunk on the other end. Just like old times.
Dunk of the Night: Cavs Rook Dion Waiters with the steal and dunk.
Song of the Night: Jay-Z “Friend or Foe”..shoutout to Jesus Shuttlesworth.