The first two nights of the NBA season were nothing short of sensational. There were a few stars who reminded the rest of the league how dominant they can be when healthy and also a few players who put themselves on the NBA map with their stellar play. Below, we take a look at the standouts from Tuesday and Wednesday‘s opening night games.
Xavier Henry, Los Angeles Lakers
After Henry signed with the Lakers, his role was uncertain with the franchise. It only took him one game for him to make a name for himself though, as he was the leading catalyst behind the big victory over the Clippers. He led the Lakers in scoring with 22 points, grabbed six rebounds and knocked down three 3-pointers in just 26 minutes. Henry has a versatile game and he demonstrated his ability to attack, get up and down the floor and finish with contact at the rim. He’s a perfect complimentary player and fit in Mike D’Antoni‘s offense.
Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
Twenty-two points, 7 rebounds, 12 assists and 9 steals. How’s that stat line for a rookie in his first game? Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, Julius Erving and Moses Malone were all on hand to witness the rookie’s first game. Carter-Williams’ performance immediately put him at the top of the list for Rookie of the Year. He helped lead the Sixers, who are considered to be tanking and one of the worst teams in the league, to victory over LeBron James and the two-time defending champs. “I couldn’t think of a better way to start your NBA career,” James had said after the game, in regards to Carter-Williams’ performance. There’s no better way to put it than that.
Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
Howard seemed to be his normal dominant self that we saw in flashes last year, finishing with 17 points and 26 rebounds (17 at halftime), which tied his career high. Two things to take away from the game: he’s happy and healthy. Howard does not need to average 25 points a game and be the No. 1 scoring option to be effective, as he was in Orlando. James Harden is the guy to do that. In Orlando, he had to be the man with the lack of stars around him and he still carried them to the 2009 Finals. As long as Howard scores 18 to 22 points a game and dominates the backboard and defensively (which he has always done), the Rockets are a serious title contender.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
It was Love’s first regular season game being back from a broken hand injury and the hand seemed just fine, and he finished with 31 points, 17 rebounds and four assists. It was a typical stat line for Love, as getting more than 15 rebounds is nothing new for him. He hit the game-tying 3-pointer to send the game to overtime and we saw his passion and intensity playing off of the crowd. Simply put, Love looked like a man who’s on a mission to lead the Timberwolves back to the playoffs.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Durant could score 42 points in his sleep and he made it look effortless on Wednesday night, knocking down 22-of-24 free throw attempts. With Russell Westbrook still sidelined due to injury, the burden will be on Durant to score more than usual, especially with no go-to third scorer identified yet.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors jumped all over the Lakers from the jump and it started with Thompson. He seemed confident in putting the ball on the floor and even looked more assertive at times than he was in the playoffs against San Antonio last year. The shooting guard scored 38 points in 31 minutes and was 15-for-19 from the field, 5-for-7 from the 3.
Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks
In his Maverick debut, Ellis scored 32 points on 11-for-17 shooting from the floor and also showed his playmaking ability with eight assists. Dirk Nowitzki has been needing a sidekick for years, somebody he can lean on to score 20 to 25 a game consistently and that role is finally being filled by Ellis. The Mavericks will better because of it. Wednesday was a good start for him with his new team.