What we learned from NBA season openers
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to the 2013-14 NBA season, where two months of projections and pontifications can be rendered irrelevant in a few two-hour spans of regular season play.
Who saw the shamelessly-tanking Philadelphia 76ers -— and guard Michael Carter Williams with his 22 points, 12 assists and nine steals — playing David to the two-time champion Miami Heat’s Goliath, or the depleted Los Angeles Lakers spoiling opening night for the title-contending Clippers, or the rebuilding Phoenix Suns downing the playoff-contending Portland Trail Blazers?
For every not-so-surprising start (see Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant as the scoring leader after his 42-point outing), there was another shocker to be had (see Golden State’s Klay Thompson scoring 38 points to rank second). In what is both an attempt to separate the outstanding from the outliers and in the spirit of Halloween, we take a look at some of the early goings and separate the real from the make believe.
The San Antonio Spurs are still really good
The defending Western Conference champions are again being mostly ignored by the masses, but nothing has changed since last June about their rightful place as title contenders. Game No. 1 was proof positive of that much: a 101-94 win vs. the Memphis Grizzlies team that, roster-wise, remained intact after being swept by the Spurs in the conference finals. It was the 15th time in the past 16 seasons that the Spurs won their season opener, and it was merely the latest historical tidbit that reflects their remarkably steady success.
They didn’t get out unscathed, though. Tim Duncan suffered a chest contusion from a Tony Allen elbow and left the game early in the third quarter. He is listed as day-to-day and his status for Friday’s game vs. the Lakers is not yet known, but it served as a reminder that health, for them and everyone else, will always play a huge part just as it always does.
Houston’s Dwight Howard/Omer Asik combination can dominate
An opening-night win vs. the lowly Charlotte Bobcats isn’t exactly the perfect pulse to take for the revamped Rockets, but the way that Howard and Asik dominated Wednesday night was impressive and … [For more on What we learned from NBA season openers, click here.]