We baaaaack. The regular season openers did not disappoint, even though a little star power was missing. The Pelicans were without their top rookie, Zion Williamson, when they took on the Raptors and the Clippers were without Paul George when they faced their same-town rivals, the Lakers. Nevertheless, the night did not disappoint, and it left us wondering what could have been if each team was fully tooled and ready to go for the opener.
Toronto Raptors beat New Orleans Pelicans 130-122
-Last year, this probably would have been a one-sided affair. However, the Raptors are now without Kawhi Leonard and the Pelicans have re-tooled and support a much more well-rounded roster than they did last year. Another thing of note, both the Raptors and the Pelicans run a similar system where the ball is in constant motion, Needless to say, this was a fun game to watch, despite the initial disappointment at not being able to watch Zion’s debut.
-Who else, but the newly minted max contract extension man, Pascal Siakam, led the way for the Raptors. This dude is good! After making marked improvements in each season that culminated in the Most Improved Player award last year, he looks the part of a franchise player. Remarkable for a kid who hasn’t even been playing basketball for very long. He finished the night with 34pts/4asts/18rbs, before fouling out of the game.
-Fred VanVleet got the start in the backcourt alongside Kyle Lowry and showed out. He finished with 34pts/7asts/5rbs. The Raptors kept things short, only playing an eight man rotation on the night. Should be something worth watching as the season goes on. Curious if Nick Nurse simply doesn’t trust the depth of the team, but having your starters play as many minutes as the Raps did certainly isn’t sustainable.
-For the Pelicans, Brandon Ingram led the way for his new team, finishing with 22pts/5asts/5rbs. The Pelicans went the opposite way of the Raptors, utilizing a 12-man rotation. This will most likely get shortened as the season goes on, but this could be a sign that Gentry hasn’t quite fleshed out how his rotations are going to look.
Los Angeles Clippers conquer Los Angeles Lakers 112-102
-1-0, Clippers. The rivalry that is going to get all the noise this season, did not disappoint in the least. Remember, the Clippers were without star Paul George, but came out hungry in their home opener. The Lakers came out to a dizzying start, finding themselves up 13-2, and immediately every Laker/LeBron fan wanted to roll out the Larry O’Brien trophy. That’s not how things work, though. As the game went on, the Lakers lack of depth in this game was apparent. The Lakers bench was outscored 61-19 by the Clippers. Of course, the Clippers bench sports perennial sixth-man Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, but if the Lakers want to get to the ultimate goal, they would need to most likely get through these guys. Kyle Kuzma is still a ways to returning but will pay dividends for the Lakers as they try to shore up their depth.
-Who else, but Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers. At one point he nailed seven straight shots to galvanize his team and push them forward. This man continues to stake his case as the best player in the NBA and it is getting hard to argue (especially with Kevin Durant injured). He finished the night with 30pts/5asts/6rbs. Lou Williams fronted off the bench to the tune of 21pts/7asts/5rbs and Montrezl Harrell notched 17pts/4asts/7rbs.
-For the Lakers, sharpshooting Danny Green led the scoring charge. He finished with 28pts on seven threes. LeBron notched 18pts/8asts/9rbs and Anthony Davis finished with 25pts/5asts/10rbs.