This will be a daily column of mine, which I will use to highlight the top performers of the day (in real life), noting players that could see a rise/decrease in ratings/tendencies.
CELTICS 90, CAVALIERS 85
Pierce (BOS): 27 pts (10-19 FG)
James (CLE): 22 pts (9-21 FG, 0-4 3PT, 4-8 FT), 7 reb, 6 ast, 2 stls (36 mins)
Varejao (CLE): 9 pts, 9 reb (4 offensive), 3 stl (26 mins)
R. Allen (BOS): 8 pts (2-9 FG), 4 TO (41 mins)
Hickson (CLE): DNP-CD
Ray Allen had another poor game against Cleveland, big suprise there. Fortunately for the Celtics, Cleveland hasn't figured out how to contain Paul Pierce yet. KG had a mediocre game which was the case against Boston last year, but you need to shut down all three to beat Boston.
The funny thing about LeBron's line is I actually consider it a disappointment. That sums up how scary good he is.
Varejao logged more minutes than Big Ben which could become a trend, especially if he continues to outperform him on both ends.
Hickson was late on opening night and lost his rotation spot to Lorenzen Wright. Should only be temporary (god-willing) and hopefully he won't have anymore hiccups on a team fighting for a playoff spot that is desperate for frontcourt offense. Leon Powe scored 13 pts in 23 mins, which is what Wallace/Varejao/Wright combined for in 55 mins.
BULLS 108, BUCKS 95
Deng (CHI): 21 pts (8-13 FG)
Hinrich (CHI): 15 pts (5-10 FG, 2-4 3PT), 7 ast (26 mins)
Gordon (CHI): 18 pts (6-12 FG, 3-6 3PT) (26 mins)
Rose (CHI): 11 pts, 9 ast, 3 stl (32 mins)
Thomas (CHI): 15 pts, 10 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk (41 mins!)
Redd (MIL): 30 pts (10-19 FG, 4-8 3PT)
Villanueva (MIL): 4 pts (1-5 FG), 3 fouls (9 mins)
Sessions (MIL): INACTIVE
I'm not gonna get too excited about the Bulls stats as the Bucks were the absolute worst defensive team in the league last season, and with their opponents shooting .485 in the preseason, they have hardly fixed this problem. Not only did the Bulls shoot over 50% from the field, but they also took a whopping 44 free throws!Redd/Ridnour is the absolute worst defensive backcourt in the league, and Bogut/Villanueva spent the majority of this game in foul trouble, which is bad news bears no matter how much of a defensive taskmaster your coach is. They've fired through a million coaches this decade because the team couldn't defend, and there comes a point where you have to put blame on the guys who take the court.
Still, it was nice to see Rose and Ty Thomas do well and they will have a close eye kept on them as the season progresses. That both Hinrich and Gordon both had good games off the bench is equally promising. Nocioni's minutes and production were hit hard by the game Tyrus had, and it remains to be seen if that's a trend.
I was surprised to see Sessions inactive, wasn't sure if he was nursing an injury or not (he didn't have the best preseason, but still...) I can understand Skiles sticking with Lue early in the year as Sessions isn't the most experienced guard in the world, but he certainly has the most upside of any PG in Milwuakee, and I'd certainly give him backup PG minutes over Charlie Bell. Maybe it was just a matchup thing since the Bulls have bigger/stronger guards. We'll see. Or maybe they were trying to avoid getting drawn into a stat padded blowout loss against the Bulls. There'll be plenty of time for that in April.
LAKERS 96, BLAZERS 76
Bryant (LAL): 23 pts (9-17 FG), 11 rebs, 5 ast
Radmanovic (LAL): 8 pts (3-4 FG, 2-3 3PT), 5 rebs, 4 stls!
Ariza (LAL): 11 pts (4-7 FG, 2-2 3PT), 2 blks
Outlaw (POR): 18 pts (8-15 FG)
Fernandez (POR): 15 pts (5-10 FG, 3-5 3PT), 4 ast, 2 stl
Oden (POR): 0 pts (0-4 FG), 5 rebs, 1 blk, 2 fouls (13 mins)
Frye (POR): 0 pts (0-7 FG), 4 fouls (17 mins)
The Blazers looked incredibly overmatched against the Lakers supreme depth and talent, as they struggled to create shots all game long. I've been saying for awhile now that the Blazers are a borderline playoff team and will not be challenging for a top seed in the west. They are just too young and lack the star power right now. Three years from now look out, but they still have a lot of growing to do.
That they aren't exactly a beacon of health doesn't help either. Oden left this one with an ankle injury and you have to wonder if he's gonna head straight to the lockerroom after any minor injury throughout the season. The Lakers are obviously a tough challenge, but it looks like the Blazers are gonna treat him with kid gloves throughout the year, and why shouldn't they, this year doesn't mean anything, it's the next ten that do.
On the positive note for Portland, Rudy Fernandez had a good game and he should contend for sixth man honors if he keeps putting up lines like that.
Oden/Thrilla/Aldridge/Frye were a combined 6-27 from the field (and 0-5 from the line). This is what happens when weak post offense meets strong post defense. They might be able to get by without Oden against some teams, but not against the team favored to win the championship this year.
The Lakers shut down the middle on defense as Portland hit only 19-60 from 2pt range and only attempted 14 free throws (compared to 24 threes).
I was most impressed with Trevor Ariza. I remember in NY this guy was bricking 15 footers off the side of the backboard. He was 2-2 on threes today which is a testament to how hard he's worked on his shot and he deserves a ton of credit. I could be cliche and say he has a chance to be a Bowen/Posey type contributor but the truth is he can be even more since he can actually take the ball to the basket and finish strong, as well as crash the boards.