The 2018-19 NBA season is officially underway, but unfortunately, opening night wasn't all that exciting. There were two strong matchups on paper, but sometimes things just don't pan out. In the first game, the Celtics took care of the Sixers without too much trouble, winning 105-87. And even though the second game of the doubleheader turned competitive at the end, before the Warriors did enough to get a 108-100 victory, Russell Westbrook's absence kept it from reaching its full potential. Still, there were some important things to take away from the first two games.
The Celtics' depth is real
There has been plenty of talk about the Celtics' depth, and their bench has even come up with their own nickname -- the "Bench With Attitude." It didn't take long for them to live up to that moniker, as Terry Rozier sent the TD Garden crowd into hysterics with a monster block on Joel Embiid early in the scond quarter. Over the course of the night, the Celtics' bench was one of the keys to their victory. Led by 16 points from Marcus Morris, the Celtics' bench combined for 44 points in the victory, outscoring their Sixers counterparts by 18 points. And hey, would you look at that, the Celtics won by exactly 18. With so many good players, the Celtics are able to keep strong and versatile lineups on the court at pretty much all times. Just think: Kyrie Irving shot 2 of 14 from the field, and the Celtics won by almost 20 points.
Al Horford is still Joel Embiid's bogeyman
Much was made of the Celtics' defense on Joel Embiid in the playoffs last season, as they decided to single-cover him, and had a lot of success. As it turned out, nothing much has changed in that regard. Again the Celtics decided to guard Embiid straight up in the post, and Al Horford again won the battle -- with some help from Aron Baynes. Embiid eventually got his 23 points, but it took him 21 shots, and he got stoned on the block multiple times by Horford, who finished with five blocks.
While Horford's defense on Embiid helped the Celtics win this game, it was important from a big-picture perspective, because the Celtics are going to play small a lot. And that means Horford will have to play center -- something he hasn't always been keen on doing. But if he can handle Embiid, he can handle pretty much anyone in the league.
Quiet returns for injured stars
Opening night was important, because, well it was opening night. But also because it saw the return of three key players: Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving and Markelle Fultz. Unfortunately, it wasn't really a great night for any of them. The trio combined to shoot 6 of 33 from the field and turn the ball over six times.
The most shocking of the rough nights came from Irving, who went an abysmal 2 of 14 from the field, scoring just seven points. He looked decent in other aspects of the game -- he dished out seven assists -- but just couldn't get his shots to fall. His teammate Hayward was making the toughest return, one year after fracturing and dislocating his ankle on opening night last season. Generally, Hayward looked a step slow and didn't have the same bounce or athleticism he displayed before the injury. Those things will come with time, but Hayward is going to have some slow nights early.
On the other side of the floor, Fultz joined the starting lineup for the first time in his NBA career. It wasn't quite the same return as Irving or Hayward, but it was still an important step for the No. 1 overall pick in 2017. There were some positive moments for Fultz, especially on the defensive end, but he still looked out of sorts on offense. That will continue to be the case until he fully trusts his jumper.
The Warriors are inevitable
The Warriors didn't exactly put together a complete game, but with the talent they have on the roster, they don't have to. After cruising to a 10-point lead at halftime, the Warriors got lackadaisical on defense and missed some open shots to start the second half. Then Paul George hit a few shots, and all of a sudden the Thunder had the lead.
But of course it didn't last, and the Warriors eventually hung on for a 108-100 win because it was inevitable. When you have two of the best players in the world and four All-Stars, it doesn't matter how thin your bench is, or how often you fool around on offense. No sport is controlled by the most talented players more than basketball, and the Warriors always have the most talented players. It helped, of course, that Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson were out for the Thunder, but the broader point still stands.
Check out these funky championship rings
The Warriors are always looking to innovate and take things to another level. Just look at their summer, when they added DeMarcus Cousins to their roster of All-Stars. But it turns out that approach also applies to their championship rings. During their second straight ring night, the Warriors unveiled some extremely funky rings.
Check these things out. At first they look like regular championship rings -- giant, bulky things with all sorts of diamonds and jewels. It turns out that there are some hidden features, though. Not only do the rings come apart, but they're also reversible. Is it necessary? Probably not. Is it cool? Yes, very much so.