Best NBA opening-game performances: Kyrie Irving's 50 piece, Trae Young's fireworks, Giannis' triple-double
There were 13 players who scored at least 30 points in their season opener
The NBA is back and there were a plethora of huge opening game-performances, with 13 players hitting the 30-point mark and Kyrie Irving dropping a 50 piece on Minnesota. That's not to leave out a lot of great sub-30-point showings, necessarily, but it's going to be tough to crack this list of the top five opening-game performances.
Here we go.
No. 1: Kyrie Irving 50 PTS, 8 REB, 7 AST
Even though this came in a loss, there's no way to have anyone other than Kyrie on top of this list. He was magical in his Nets debut, hitting so many clutch shots down the stretch of a really close game vs. Minnesota. Kyrie nearly hit what would've been one of the all-time circus shot buzzer-beaters when he literally rolled on the floor into a perfect crossover that would've had the Harlem Globetrotters coming out of their seats.
Can you imagine if that shot had fallen? That highlight would've run for the rest of time. Still, the fact that he missed a few inches right on a potential game-winner does nothing to diminish how brilliant Kyrie was in this game.
No. 2: Karl-Anthony Towns 36 PTS, 14 REB, 3 BLK, 3 STL
Towns went 7-for-11 from beyond the arc in Minnesota's opening-game victory over Brooklyn, and man did he look like a player hell-bent on having a year that will solidify his spot among the league's true stars. Our James Herberthow Towns is occupying a new spot in the Wolves' offense, operating more from the top of the key as a playmaker and shooter from distance. You saw the results right away with those seven 3-pointers, a career-high.
And it wasn't just the offense. Towns was a man defensively, too, moving his feet on the perimeter, giving ground to penetrators only to turns shots away at the rim. Check the highlights. The man balled out.
No. 3: Trae Young 38 PTS, 9 AST, 7 REB
The Hawks had to wait until Thursday for their opener, and Young was raring to go from the start. He had 26 points at halftime on 5-of-7 from 3-point range and 9-of-16 from the field. When Young's shot is going like this, he is impossible to defend. If you leave him, he hits from the parking lot; if you double him, he is one of the best passers in the league.
Young did it all in this game. He played with great pace, he found teammates for gimme dunks and layups when he drew defenders, he obviously shot the lights out, he got to the rim off the dribble, refusing screens and weaving in and out of traffic like a complete boss. Atlanta gets the win to start the year and Young's All-Star buzz starts right now.
No. 4: Giannis Antetokounmpo 30 PTS, 13 REB, 11 AST
Giannis started off relatively slowly as the Rockets got out of the gate first, but when he got going, he REALLY got going. The Bucks slowly squeezed the life from the Rockets as Giannis got into his rim-attacking mode, How unfair is this move?
Perhaps most impressive was how Giannis' perimeter game continues to evolve. He knocked down a pair of 3-pointers. He faced up his defender at the top for a 19-foot bucket. They were confident. Smooth. It seems like the days of giving Giannis a big driveway of space might be coming to an end (it's probably not the best way to guard him anyway) because that outside shot is coming around for real.
Good luck, everyone.
Pascal Siakam: 34 PTS, 18 REB, 5 AST
Fresh off of signing a four-year, $130 million max extension, Siakam was brilliant in the first official game of the season, leading Toronto to an overtime win over New Orleans on ring night for the defending champs. He joined Vince Carter as the only Raptors players in history to have a game with at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.
The question coming into this season, especially with the new max contract, was whether Siakam could produce as a true No. 1 option without the crutch of Kawhi Leonard taking on most of the defensive attention. After Game 1, at least, it appears those concerns can be put to bed.
Siakam was all over the floor and gave the Raptors buckets in the most crucial stretches of a tight game. That's when stars have to shine the brightest, in winning time. Siakam hit a pair of 3-pointers, he got the cup with his long-armed, unconventional finishes, he got out in the open floor. He was terrific, plain and simple.
This was a huge and-one with just over three minutes to play and the Pelicans threatening to put some distance between themselves and the Raps.
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