By Joshua and Aaron Fischman:
A slew of noteworthy player and team performances over the past two days make it difficult to be exhaustive, so we’ll present some developments that caught our attention. By including these, we are not arguing that they are more important than those we omitted. With the disclaimer over, let the notes begin:
Two former Nets stars drank from the fountain of youth, as Deron Williams dropped 25 and dished seven for the Mavs in an overtime loss to the Pacers and Joe Johnson poured in 29 for the Jazz on Tuesday night. With Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors sidelined with injury, Johnson and his teammates George Hill and Rodney Hood combined for 51 field-goal attempts.
Joel Embiid finally played in a regular-season NBA game and he did not disappoint, posting 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in just 22 minutes. His rookie teammate Dario Saric just managed 2-12 from the floor. While Embiid wasn’t the most efficient himself (6-16) and appeared out of control at times, he showcased an ability to shoot the 3 and provided much-needed optimism and excitement for the 76ers fan base. Unfortunately for the home fans, the Thunder outscored the 76ers by 12 in the final period and came away with the road victory.
The Celtics opened the season with a home win, but it was also arguably a moral defeat as their elite defense gave up 117 points to the expected-to-be-inept Nets. Last season’s Leprechauns tied the Warriors and Clippers for third-best Defensive Rating at a 100.9 clip (only the Spurs and Hawks were better in that department). Although Boston’s defense has considerable room for improvement if the home opener is any indication, Brooklyn did most of its damage in the final four and a half minutes of the fourth quarter when Boston was comfortably ahead. To be exact, the Nets scored 20 points in the game’s final 4:30.
MVP hopefuls Anthony Davis and DeMar DeRozan each had huge scoring nights for their respective teams. Davis scored 50 points in a narrow defeat to the Nuggets, while DeMar DeRozan rattled off 40 in a resounding victory over the Pistons. The Pelicans star, who also recorded 16 rebounds, five assists, seven steals and four blocks, needed more scoring help from his teammates, a group that shot just 36.2 percent from the field Wednesday night. Meanwhile, DeRozan’s squad assisted on a mere 41.4 percent of its 41 made field goals. That’s not surprising given Toronto’s propensity to play isolation basketball, which resulted in a 30th ranking in Assist Percentage last season (51.1 percent).