The NBA 2016-2017 opening night provided two blowouts and one entertaining close game. The NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers enjoyed a triple double from LeBron James as they crushed the New York Knicks, the Portland Trail Blazers needed late heroics from Damian Lillard & C.J. McCollum to beat the Utah Jazz, while Kawhi Leonard & the San Antonio Spurs came to the Oracle Arena and slapped the Golden State Warriors wide awake.
New York Knicks 88 Cleveland Cavaliers 117: Coronation night for LeBron James and the Cavs went better than planned. The Knicks stayed close through the first half, but the Cavs outscored them by 15 points in the third quarter, making the fourth quarter very quickly into a garbage time period. The Knicks got points from their stars, as Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis combined to score 52 points, but their two other starters combined for 0 points, while the team shot only 36.8% from the field. Meanwhile, James had a triple double of 19 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists. Kevin Love had a 23-12 double double. And Kyrie Irving? He just scored, what he does best, leading the team with 29 points, including four 3-pointers, with plenty of time for small ball and the bench players to get some nice numbers to their names.
Utah Jazz 104 Portland Trail Blazers 113: The Jazz played without Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, but were still in the lead heading into the final 3 minutes. C.J. McCollum hit a big 3 with 2:53 left to put the Blazers up by two, and Portland outscored Utah 12-2 in the crescendo of the game, simply going to McCollum and Lillard, while the Jazz offense got a little bit stuck, which isn’t surprising considering the new players and the absence of their two best scorers. Lillard finished with 39 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, but the Blazers probably leaned more on McCollum, finishing with a much better +/- in the same amount of minutes, finishing with 25 points. Alan Crabbe scored 18 off the bench. Joe Johnson scored 29 for the Jazz and Rodney Hood had 26, and George Hill had a pretty good debut, scoring 19 points.
San Antonio Spurs 129 Golden State Warriors 100: You know the jokes. The Warriors are on a 4-game losing streak. Kevin Durant is already asking to come back to Oklahoma City. Basically, this game only shows two things: The Warriors took it a bit too lightly, and it’s going to take time connecting everything together for Steve Kerr. It’s not just Kevin Durant (27 points, 10 rebounds) joining; it’s Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut leaving, along with other pieces. Right now, it means bowing down to a much better practiced team, and scoring points in garbage time. Kawhi Leonard showed he’s an MVP-caliber player with 35 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals, LaMarcus Aldridge helped with 26 points and Jonathon Simmons, having a much bigger role this season, scored 20 off the bench. The Warriors looked out of sync pretty quickly, not getting their 3’s to drop, shooting 7-of-33 from beyond the arc, which often is the entire story for them. The Spurs shot 50% from beyond the arc.