Game Highlights of the Week: By Chen Peng and Brenan Sri
Lakers vs Clippers: 102-112
On their first game of the season at the city of Los Angeles, California, Kawhi and the Clippers showed to the world that they are “The Team,” beating the Lakers 112-102. NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard had a massive showing that night, finishing off with 30 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists whilst completely suppressing the Laker’s offence lead by Lebron James and Anthony Davis.
This proves to be concerning for a Laker’s organization hell-bent on winning the 2019-2020 playoffs. They were completely eclipsed by their LA rival even when they were missing their second superstar, Paul George, due to shoulder surgery. Lebron’s new role in the Lakers’ offence as a point guard (in an attempt to provide Davis with more scoring opportunities with James facilitating the offence) may have been the cause of their defeat as he struggled to maintain his presence on offence. Thus, Lakers need to figure out a system where both James and Davis can coexist to win.
As for the Clippers, their vigorous defence took to new heights with the addition of Leonard, adding to a talented defensive roster, including Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell. When Paul George returns at full strength, the Clippers will definitely become a nightmare for all NBA teams on both ends of the court.
Clippers vs Warriors: 141-122
On the season-opening game, the Golden State Warriors fell short against the domineering Clippers. Warriors superstar Stephen Curry faced tremendous defensive pressure from the Clippers, led by Patrick Beverley. He was held to just 23 points despite being the team’s primary scoring option. Without all-star guard Klay Thompson and superstar forward Kevin Durant to stretch the wing and alleviate pressure, Steph had a hard time sinking his shots despite his numerous attempts.
With KD’s departure for Brooklyn and Klay out for most likely the entire 2019-2020 season, Steph will need to vamp up his scoring volume and return to his unanimous MVP form for them to be a playoff contender in the notorious Western Conference. D-LO had a good debut look with efficiency and scoring but he will need to increase his output in the future as the Warriors secondary scoring option. With the defensive emphasis opposing teams will place on guard Stephen Curry, role players such as Draymond Green and Kevon Looney must look to take on a larger part in the Warriors’ dynamic offence if they hope to make a playoff push this year.
After the match, Clippers PG Patrick Beverley who is known for his sharp tongue spared no expenses hitting the Warriors where it hurt the most.
“Y’all a little different without KD I see. Uh-huh, y’all cheated long enough. It’s OK. Y’all had a good run. Back to reality.”
Will Steph respond to the challenge?
Raptors vs. Pelicans: 130-122 (OT)
On the opening night of their 25th season, the Toronto Raptors hoisted their first-ever NBA championship banner in celebration of their 2018-2019 season. The reigning champions came right back where they left off, muscling out a 130-122 overtime thriller against a young and talented New Orleans Pelicans roster.
The Pelicans saw outbursts from their newly-acquired young players, with Brandon Ingram scoring 22 points and Josh Hart adding his 15. The Pelicans had better defence and playmaking throughout the game, but they will need to work on their points in the Paint, as they were outscored by 16 points in that region. This game against a top-tier team definitely foreshadows the talent the Pelicans have, and with a few more years of experience, the Pelicans can definitely become a force to be reckoned with.
As for the Raptors, new starting PG Fred VanVleet led the charge with 34 points and 7 assists, Kyle Lowry poured in 22, and Serge Ibaka had 13 points in limited minutes. the Raptors had a big scoring night, they need more efficient gameplay from experienced players like Marc Gasol and Norman Powell, especially against lower-tier teams, if they wish to excel this season. MIP Pascal Siakam, gave a stellar performance that night, filling the stat sheet with 34 points, 18 rebounds and 5 assists. However, if the Raptors wish to make a real impact this season, Siakam will have to consistently perform at a high level in so he can fill the undeniable gap left by Kawhi Leonard’s departure.
Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings: 124-95
With the season opener blowout at Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, the Phoenix Suns looked absolutely terrific after years of being among the worst teams in the NBA. Sophomore Deadre Ayton’s offensive presence has become even more daunting for enemy teams and the Suns’ new acquisition of point guard Ricky Rubio seems to fit nicely with the team. Forward Kelly Oubre Jr. went off on both ends of the court, amassing 21 points, 9 boards alongside 2 blocks and a steal to boot! However, the excitement from Suns fans was short-lived when they were later informed that franchise center Deandre Ayton was tested positive for a diuretic by NBA officials. His 25 game suspension will undoubtedly disturb the Phoenix Suns’ chances of what could’ve been a post-season showing.
The Sacramento Kings struggled on the field, shooting a meagre 39% while adding onto a poor showing from lead guard De’Arron Fox. Nevertheless, Buddy Hield shot well from beyond the arc and Marvin Bagley III had a decent rebounding effort. But basketball is a team sport so if the Kings plan to win a few games this season, other members will need to step up.
Rockets vs. Bucks: 117-111
In a long-awaited matchup featuring the last 3 MVP winners (Russel Westbrook, James Harden and Giannis Antetekoumpo), NBA fans were able to catch glimpses of 2 dominant teams that have legitimate opportunities to bring home the chip. With the new addition of Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, the Rockets’ offence will advance to new heights. But there will definitely be debates on who will get more touches, and who will take the last shot, as the team features the 2 most ball-dominant players in the league (Westbrook and James Harden). Although he had the second-highest PPG average last season, Harden was only able to contribute 19 points against a pesky defender in Eric Bledsoe, but also dished 14 assists and grabbed 7 rebounds. The Rockets need to work on efficient scoring (36.7% on the night, 33.3% from 3) if they really want to stand a chance against heavyweight teams.
On the other side, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo “backpacked” his team, who were down 16 points at halftime, to come back and take a 6-point victory in an all-around thriller. Giannis notched his first triple-double of the season and the 15th of his career. The Bucks also saw 6 other players reach double figures on the night. The Bucks will look to improve their ball movement and consistent shooting in order to make the jump out of the weaker conference and dominate against teams like the Clippers and Lakers.