NBA opening nights: Zion Williamson a force in return, Ben Simmons not so much; LeBron is not enough for the Lakers

The 2022-23 NBA season is underway. After Boston defeated Philadelphia and the Warriors defeated the Lakers on Tuesday, we saw a full slate of games on Wednesday night. Here are some of the biggest headlines on opening night(s) with only two teams (Clippers and Bucks) yet to play a game.

Zion, star of Ingram for Pelicans

Zion Williamson hit the ground running in his first game in more than 18 months, hitting the Nets with 25 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists. Williamson is clearly in great form, and he continues to have an incredible feel for setting up defenders to get to his left hand, whether it’s with his back to the basket or starting his downhill drive a second before the catch. He went straight through Ben Simmons in the paint for layups on multiple occasions. His second jump is as fast and forceful as ever. Sometimes his best move is pogoing to defend his own lady while everyone else is still glued to the ground.

Meanwhile, Brandon Ingram finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists on 10-for-17 shooting. One of the best and most frequently contested shooters in the league, he made hard shots seem effortlessly fluid all night. The Pelicans look great in the process, beating Brooklyn handily.

Ben Simmons blah in return

Simmons finished with more fouls (six) than points (four), rebounds (five) and assists (five) in his first NBA game since June 2021. He operated primarily as a midcourt blocker and made some good inside passes, but for the most part he was just another body running around. He had no real impact on the game, he blocked the only two free throws from him and Williamson attacked him repeatedly in the paint.

LeBron is not enough

LeBron James had 31 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. Anthony Davis is 27 and six. Russell Westbrook added 19 points and 11 rebounds on an efficient 7-of-12 shooting. I wouldn’t say LeBron played very well, despite the line, but collectively, you can’t expect much more than 77 points and 31 rebounds on 49 percent shooting from this trio, and even then the Lakers had absolutely no chance. against Golden State in one game. that wasn’t as close as even the 123-109 score would indicate.

True, the Warriors are perhaps the best team in the league. But LeBron, and the Lakers for that matter, aren’t in the business of measuring his team against a mediocre bar. He wants to compete against the best. Right now, with this roster, the Lakers are going to have a hard time doing that, especially on Westbrook’s less efficient nights, which will be plentiful.

DeRozan turns off the heat

DeMar DeRozan let loose in Miami with 37 points and nine assists as the Bulls posted an opening night win. He scored 14 of 22 from the field. He even made two of his three 3-pointers. Oh, by the way, DeRozan joined Michael Jordan (who did it three times) as the only players in Bulls history to record at least 30 points, five assists and five rebounds in the season opener. This man is absolutely lethal. Picking up right where he left off last season.

The falcons love the new defense zone

In their first game together, Trae Young and Dejounte Murray combined for 43 points and 24 assists as the Hawks defeated the Rockets. Young reached the free throw line eight times, making all of them. Murray had five steals. The only thing the duo didn’t do well was shoot the 3-ball (2-for-14 combined). Throw in De’Andre Hunter, fresh off his $95 million extension, and John Collins combining for 46 points on a dazzling 19-for-27 shooting, and the Hawks are on their way.

Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

Rudy Gobert, who has always been frustrated by his lack of offensive involvement in Utah, attempted more shots in his Wolves debut (15) than in any game for the Jazz last season. Gobert saved the day for the Wolves, finishing with 23 points and 16 rebounds. Seven of those boards were on the offensive end. Wondering about Minnesota’s twin tower lineup? Gobert finished a pair of passes from Karl-Anthony Towns, who also set up Gobert for his first basket in a Wolves uniform.

You knew it was Gobert’s night when he hit a 22-foot float to close out the third quarter:

too morant

The Knicks rallied from 19 down in the second half to force overtime in Memphis, but Ja Morant was too much down the stretch, getting to the rim and the paint for his indefensible floater. Morant finished with 34 points and nine assists, knocking down three of his six 3-pointers to get the Grizzlies off on the right foot.

Damion Lee lifts the Suns

After trailing by 22 in the third quarter, the Suns put on a big rally to stun the Mavericks. Devin Booker had 28 points, but it was Damion Lee, who scored all 11 of him in the fourth quarter, who scored the game-winning goal with less than 10 seconds left.

Steph Curry, who is Lee’s brother-in-law (Lee is married to Curry’s sister) and who, of course, used to be Lee’s teammate with the Warriors, was so excited that he woke up his son while celebrating.

Boston comes out strong

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 70 points (35 each) on combined shooting 61 percent (27-for-44) in the Celtics’ win over Philadelphia on Tuesday. Grant Williams, who was perfect from the field, including 3-for-3 from deep, and Malcolm Brogdon combined for 31 points off the bench. Although Boston gave up 117 points, the defense looked typically oppressive in periods. Tatum added 12 rebounds and was aggressive in speeding up the rate of misses, something Boston as a whole intended to do. For at least one game, the drama of Ime Udoka’s suspension didn’t seem to affect the Celtics in the slightest.

Banchero sizzles in his debut

Orlando Magic rookie Paulo Banchero announced his arrival in the NBA with near-historic authority, scoring 27 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals on 11-for-18 shooting Wednesday. That makes Banchero the third player in the last three decades to go 25-5-5 in his NBA debut, joining LeBron James and Grant Hill, and his 27 points are the most scored in a debut by a first overall pick since Allen Iverson put up a 30th pick in 1996.

harden looks good

James Harden finished with 35 points on an efficient 9-for-14 shooting in Philly’s opener. He made five of his nine 3-pointers and was 12-for-12 from the free throw line (he was as annoyed as ever with the false drop/landing fouls on 3-pointers, totaling three of them on a four-point play). He didn’t bog down Philly with isolations. He played pick and roll or kept it moving. He’s not overlooking people, but he was consistently in the paint and remains an elite passer. (seven assists). The defense was, as expected, weak on numerous occasions. But that’s Harden.

Denver lays an egg

Not much to say about this one. The Nuggets, presumably championship contenders, lost 21 to the Jazz, who, despite having a fairly full roster of NBA players at the rotation level, will ultimately end up as one of the worst teams in the league. Not as Denver saw it go.

raptor balance

Toronto was the only team in the league last season to have five players averaging at least 15 points per game, and all five again scored at least 15 in the opening night win over the Cavaliers. Pascal Siakam led the way with 23, followed by Gary Trent Jr. with 19, OG Anunoby with 18, and Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes with 15 apiece. Barnes, who will take over the point guard role this season, finished with seven assists.

Mitchell is not enough for the Cavs

Donovan Mitchell was spectacular in his Cleveland debut with 31 points and nine assists, but the Cavs couldn’t hold the fort when he was off the floor (plus-10 with him, minus-13 without him) in a 108-105 loss. . TO TORONTO Mitchell sat out just three minutes, 35 seconds into the second half, as the Cavs lost that period 13-3.

brave fox in defeat

De’Aaron Fox fired up the Blazers with 33 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, shooting 5-for-9 from deep, but Sacramento couldn’t hold a late lead at home. With just over a minute to play and the Kings up one, Fox tried to force his way to the rim against a retreating Jerami Grant, but Grant never missed Fox’s radar and took the hit right in the chest to charge. From that point on, the Blazers outscored Sacramento 10-2. It was the last of Fox’s eight turnovers. He was great in every other area, but he’s not going to do that.

Steph Curry on autopilot

Curry’s 3-point shot (4-for-13) mostly missed on ring night for the Warriors, but never mind. He is just a professional goalscorer. Until he dropped a few 3-pointers during a mini-burst in the third quarter, he just did his job going to the rim and getting to the lane (he was 9-for-9 from the charity stretch). He looked like he barely broke a sweat.

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