NBA Tip Off: What We Learned

Oct 18, 2017

by Chase Gage

 

CLEVELAND/OAKLAND — Is it time to overreact in the world of the NBA? Of course it is.

What a night. Four legitimate title contenders, two buzzer-beaters (that didn’t go), a ring celebration and a loss by the greatest team of all-time on their home floor? The NBA is back baby!

There have only been two NBA games, but we’ve already learned a lot. Or maybe we haven’t because it was just the first night of the season. But it feels like we have.

I’ve compiled a list of observations into one comprehensive article. Let me know in the comments if I’m overreacting, crazy or absolutely correct. It’s going to be a long season, but if last night was any indication, it’s going to be a great one.

 

Cleveland vs Boston

I’ll start by saying that we here at SlingShot Sports wish Gordon Hayward and his family the best and we hope for a speedy, full recovery. I hate to see a guy so passionate about his craft go down like that.

gordon hurtward
photo via si.com

LeBron James is Still the Best Player in the World

I already knew this, but LeBron is still going to be just as dominant as he’s ever been this year. One game may not be much of an indication for your average player, but we’re not talking about an average player. The fact that James was basically in “playoff LeBron” mode last night just shows how phenomenal he is capable of being any given night. He played a pretty solid game until the fourth quarter. Then he turned it into a great game. He took over the way we’re used to seeing and took every measure possible to defeat his new foe Kyrie Irving.

James finished the night with 29 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists and two blocks. Not bad for an old man, right?

james brown
The GOAT and some guy from the Cavs. Photo via nba.com

The Celtics are Resilient

I don’t know how I would be able to play after seeing my teammate go down the way Hayward did. The Celtics struggled in the first half, likely for that reason. Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the NBA, though, and had his team come out firing on all cylinders in the second half.

If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t ever expect that Boston was playing a rookie and a second-year player alongside a new point guard because they were able to flow like lifelong teammates.

The young core from Boston picked up most of the slack left over from the Hayward injury, leaving fans with a ton of optimism about the future in the midst of their disdain for the present situation.

Jayson Tatum posted 14 points and 10 rebounds in his debut, while Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 25 points. Kyrie Irving scored 22 in his Celtics debut, which was almost capped off by a game-tying three at the buzzer. Too bad he missed. Which brings me to my next point.

what can brown do for you
What can Brown do for you? Photo via NBA.com

Sometimes, It’s Better to Pass the Ball

LeBron James has gotten more flack for passing to open teammates than any player in the history of the National Basketball Association. He is often labeled a ‘coward’ or some say that he ‘isn’t clutch’, but neither of those are true. In fact, this is part of the reason that players tend to play their best when LeBron is on the floor.

With time winding down and the Cavs up one, LeBron drove through the lane, taking on multiple defenders. Instead of taking a highly-contested, low-percentage shot, he passed the ball to a wide-open Kevin Love, who drained a three to give the Cavaliers a four-point lead. LeBron has never been afraid to trust his teammates. His willingness to let any player have just as much of an opportunity to be the star is what sets him apart from the likes of Kobe or Michael Jordan. He will always make the right basketball play no matter what the circumstances, and last night, he did just that.

Kyrie tried to answer with a would-be game-tying highly-contested shot, and he missed. But I thought LeBron only won that championship because of Irving making the last shot in Game 7?

 

The Cavs Will Win the East

Too soon to announce the Eastern Conference representatives in the Finals? Nope. Not at all.

Derrick Rose looked like vintage Derrick Rose last night, posting 14 points in his Cleveland debut. He was playing like he did in 2010 when he took home MVP honors. LeBron is as good as ever, and he can actually sit out and the team won’t fall off the face of the earth anymore. The additions of Jae Crowder, Dwayne Wade and even Jeff Green (who looked like his 2012 self) will be crucial down the stretch, as the Cavs are now the deepest team in the entire NBA. That’s not even mentioning Isaiah Thomas when he comes back from injury. This is a team that will keep getting better, and if you don’t think they can at least challenge the Warriors this year, you’re crazy. Speaking of…

 

Golden State vs Houston

The Warriors Are Shocked

The Warriors lost their season-opener. At home. Again.

Okay, so obviously there’s no need to panic here if you’re a Warriors fan. They lost their first game last season and then reeled off 67 wins and a 16-1 playoff record after. This year the game was much closer, and in fact, the Warriors thought they won until a replay overturned the game-winning shot by Kevin Durant.

This was basically a preseason game for the starters. They’re trying to get back into the swing of things. Teams are much more vulnerable early than they are late. This loss doesn’t shock me, but I didn’t see it coming.

 

almost.png
So close. Photo via thecomeback.com

 

Are the Rockets Contenders?

Yes! Are they the favorites? Far from it. I’ve always liked the approach the Rockets took in the offseason compared to the one the Thunder took. Adding one all-star that fits like a puzzle piece seems better than mashing three scorers together and hoping it works.

James Harden played like almost-MVP James Harden, and Chris Paul was just along for the ride. He seamlessly fit in as a distributor for literally everyone on the Rockets. Houston had six players in double-figures, three of them scoring 20+. If that’s not a winning formula, I don’t know what is. Only Paul (4) and Trevor Ariza (8) failed to score 10+, and they combined for 16 assists and 14 rebounds. Wow.

 

So, What’s Up With the Warriors?

The Warriors looked straight-up BAD down the stretch of this game. When Draymond Green left with a knee strain, the team blew a lead and basically collapsed.

Steph Curry was only 3-9 from deep, but still managed 22 points. Kevin Durant added 20, but the leading scorer may surprise you.

Nick “Swaggy P” Young was the real star for the Warriors last night. He posted a team-high 23 points thanks to his 89 percent field goal percentage (8-9 fg) along with six of his eight baskets coming from three-point range (6-7 3pt). He scored 20 in the first half, but only three in the second half in a limited role.

swaggy p
MVSwaggyP? Don’t be suprised when it happens. Photo via espn.com

 

Is there anything wrong with the Warriors? No. Of course not. They tried to get guys like Swaggy P, rookie Jordan Bell, Patrick McCaw and Shaun Livingston into the rotation as much as they could early. Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant will start firing on all cylinders soon. Much like LeBron has demonstrated in the last several years, the Warriors realize the season is a marathon, not a sprint. They’re not worried about winning 70+ games. They’re worried about playing great basketball once the playoffs start several months down the road. No need for any concern.

The biggest takeaway I have is that the Rockets may actually be able to compete for the WCF this year.

 

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