NBA 2021-22 opening night: Warriors rally ahead of Lakers, Bucks take care of Nets

The last time we saw LeBron James and Stephen Curry face off in a meaningful game at Staples Center, the longtime friendly rivals were battling for a shot at last season’s playoffs. It was a close game, but a far cry from the main stage these two have played on in their careers.

In their heyday, you could almost book NBA Finals appearances for James and Curry every year. But they have work to do to get back to it this season.

Curry and the Golden State Warriors won 121-114 in Tuesday’s season opener, but mostly because Curry’s supporting cast had a little longer to come together than James’s.

The 2021-22 NBA season kicked off earlier in the evening with a rematch of the Eastern Conference semifinals, as the Milwaukee Bucks again beat the Brooklyn Nets, 127-104.

Curry led the Warriors with a 21-point triple-double, 10 assists and 10 rebounds, but he only managed 5 of 21 shots from the ground. His saving grace was a perfect 9 of 9 on the free throw line and solid plays from Jordan Poole (20 points), Damion Lee (15 points), Nemanja Bjelica (15 points, 11 rebounds), Andrew Wiggins (12 points) and André Iguodala (12 points).

James looked as good as before the ankle injury that cost him 27 games last season – scoring his first six field goals to reach 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. According to ESPN Stats & Information, this was the most marks James had without missing to start a season in his career.

Problem is, no one else on the Lakers but Anthony Davis (33 points) looked very good at all. James and Davis combined to score 67 points and shoot 57%. The rest of the team only collected 47 points from 37% shots.

No other Laker has even scored in double digits, with newcomer Carmelo Anthony (nine points) coming closest.

Russell Westbrook’s homecoming was disappointing at best. The LA native only scored four minutes before halftime, missed nine of his 13 shots and finished with a worst game over / under -23.

The Lakers have treated this first part of the season as a sort of dress rehearsal, preaching patience and understanding as they attempt to integrate a new supportive cast around their two superstars.

But for a team aspiring to return to the main stage, it would have been better as a closed performance.

Draymond Green, two seasons off his last appearance in the NBA Finals, knows bringing a former champion back to the finals won’t be easy.

“It’s very difficult,” Green said on Tuesday after the win. “The teams that did that or the guy – LeBron James – that did that were very taken for granted. It’s almost impossible to do, which is why you don’t see it often. It’s a difficult thing. But both the teams are trying to get back in. That’s the goal.

– Ramona Shelburne

MORE: Power rankings, projections and information for all 30 NBA teams

Westbrook’s difficult beginnings

LOS ANGELES – After a shaky preseason where it seemed like the only consistency of Russell Westbrook’s game was his penchant for returning the ball and missing open shots, the Lakers star’s acquisition in the offseason took to almost the same difficulties in the first game of the season. As LeBron James and Anthony Davis returned to their championship form – combining for 67 points – Westbrook canceled much of their production on his own, with the Lakers edging 23 points in the 35 minutes Westbrook was in. ground.

It was such a tough start – 4-on-13 shooting from the field with four turnovers, four fouls and a handful of shots on the perimeter – for Westbrook as Lakers coach Frank Vogel threw in Avery Bradley to try and change. energy in the fourth quarter with LA sputtering. Bradley had just signed with the Lakers on Monday and had only been on a pre-game visit with the team before getting those crucial minutes with Westbrook on the bench.

At best, it was a soft start for these new-look Lakers. At worst, a sign that this team will have its share of growing pains before putting the players back in shape.

–Dave McMenamin

Warriors Correct One Night’s Biggest Flaw

LOS ANGELES – The Warriors never found a way to fix their biggest flaw last season.

Stephen Curry had one of the best campaigns of his career, almost winning his third MVP trophy; but when he wasn’t on the ground or carrying the offensive charge, the Warriors struggled with a lack of depth.

One game in the new season, it looks like Curry and the Warriors have turned a new leaf. Positive signs for the Warriors were written all over the back half of a solid 121-114 comeback win over the Lakers in Tuesday night’s opener. With Curry just 5 for 21 on the field, the Warriors have found an answer in the form of a variety of bench players who will be the key to their season. Third-year goaltender Jordan Poole, who expects to stay in the starting lineup as Klay Thompson continues his ACL and Achilles tendon rehabilitation, rebounded from a tough first half and finished with 20 points. Veteran Andre Iguodala made solid plays across the court while giving Steve Kerr 22 minutes on the bench. Nemanja Bjelica made a terrific start while racking up 15 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes on the bench.

After a season where the Warriors have repeatedly struggled to win without the shine of Curry, it’s a good sign of things to come if Golden State can build on what appears to be a deeper and more talented roster for take over.

– Nick Friedell

An NBA preseason consumed by off-court machinations kindly gave way to basketball on Tuesday night. Resoundingly, defending champion Milwaukee Bucks reminded the league that whatever storms are brewing on the ground, they always dominate there.

The opening nights feature renowned clashes, and the opening of the Eastern Conference did not disappoint. The Bucks and Brooklyn Nets have developed an intriguing rivalry, having faced each other in five of the most important playoff minutes in a Game 7 overtime of their conference semifinal battle last season.

Brooklyn is a big market team filled with a slew of All-Stars, past and present, acquired on the open market. Milwaukee is more of a home side in one of the league’s smaller outposts, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, a tandem that has grown with the Bucks since 2013. The Bucks squeaked at their June reunion, but the Nets enter the season as a consensus favorite in the East, with the Bucks being, decisively, their fiercest competition.

Antetokounmpo might have ceded the regular-season MVP title to Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic, but the Bucks big man launched his recovery campaign with fury, totaling 32 points and 14 rebounds. Kevin Durant was equally productive in the loss to the Nets, with 32 points to him.

Neither Brooklyn nor Milwaukee are carefree. Kyrie Irving’s situation will hang over the Nets until resolved, while the Bucks will need to find some bench depth – and more immediately, they lost ground general Jrue Holiday to a bruise at the heel in the first half.

But overnight, two suitors appeared in court and renewed their clash for conference supremacy – and perhaps a claim as the title favorite.

– Kevin Arnovitz

In the face of injuries, the Bucks rely on creative trainings

MILWAUKEE – The Bucks were already a bit understaffed ahead of the contest, with Bobby Portis, Semi Ojeleye and Donte DiVincenzo all sidelined with injuries. But the depth of the team was taken even further after Jrue Holiday sustained a bruised heel in the second quarter and did not return. Holiday’s absence forced coach Mike Budenholzer to make unusual combinations from the start.
The roster changes worked, with strong contributions from the late Milwaukee bench to hold Brooklyn charge in the third quarter and complete another dominant performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Jordan Nwora, a second-round pick in the 2020 draft, scored 15 points on 6 of 13 shots and grabbed six rebounds while playing a surprising 26 minutes. He even blocked Kevin Durant at one point, leading to a quick break and 3 points at the other end by Grayson Allen.

The Bucks kicked off a three-game road swing on Thursday against the Miami Heat.

– Jamal Collier

Missing Irving, Nets lack cohesion in first game

MILWAUKEE – Banner night at the Fiserv Forum began with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks gawking at their championship rings that actually turn into necklace pendants.
Then the Brooklyn Nets came onto the field as favorites to acquire what Antetokounmpo now has. But Brooklyn opened the season as if they opened training camp in San Diego.

And unlike when they were in Southern California for a week, the Nets didn’t have All-Star goaltender Kyrie Irving. The Nets trailed 31-12, then moved closer to five points just before halftime, before finally losing by 23. Patty Mills did her best to fill Irving’s big shoes, burying 7 of the 7 3 in his debut with the Nets. But Antetokounmpo intimidated the Nets with a dominant performance, and the defending champions looked like the most cohesive team.

Relax, however, Nets fans. Statements can be made, but championships are not won on opening night. Kevin Durant and James Harden will find their rhythm. They just know the path to their rings might be harder than they expected, especially without Irving.

– Ohm Youngmisuk

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