The Lakers, miracle of miracles, are 2-0 after beating Golden State last night by a 110-98 count. Lamar Odom carried the team again in Kobe's absence, this time with a near-triple-double: 22 points, nine boards, and nine dimes. The team lost ten points off its shooting percentage, dropping to 45%, but it didn't matter because they held the Warriors to just 41%. Don Nelson teams don't win games shooting at that clip.
The big surprise for me, looking at the box score, is the distribution of minutes: Sasha Vujacic, who started against Phoenix, came off the bench for just seven minutes in this one; Ronny Turiaf played 32 minutes, second only to Odom (it helps that he had 23 points, nine rebounds, two blocks land two steals in the game - if you produce, you'll be on the floor); and Smush Parker and Maurice Evans started in the backcourt, but played just 23 and 16 minutes, respectively, while Shammond Williams and Jordan Farmar got 22 and 25.
The only other number that really jumps out at me is that Brian Cook grabbed eight abounds in just 17 minutes. It's been noted that Vlad-Rad essentially duplicates what Cook does. Thus, it'll be imperative for Cook, if he wants playint time in this, his contract year, to show that he does some things that Vlad doesn't.
Around the rest of the league on a night with a fall slate of games:
The Hawks lost. Yawn. Joe Johnson dropped 25, but shot just 9-23 in the process. Zaza Pachulia, new competitor for "best name in the league," scored 15 on just ??? shots and also grabbed 12 boards. Rookies Sheldon Williams (starting) and Salim Stoudamire (not) combined for 0-5 shooting in 24 total minutes. On the winning side, Allie-I did what he always does: shoot a low percentage, but get to the line a lot to make up for it. The result: 32 points on 21 shots. Big salaries Chris Webber and Kyle Korver combined to shoot 6-24, though at least Webber led the team with 13 rebounds.
Chicago had a letdown a night after blowing out the champs, losing by 15 to Orlando. Following Ken Arneson's logic, that makes the Magic the current heavyweight champs of the NBA. I'm a shameless thief. The Magic shot a ridiculous percentage in this one, going 35-59. It was a team effort, as no single player missed more than four shots (Hedo Turkoglu went 4-8 and Tony Bettie shot 2-6). The Magic might be my favorite team in the East, now that I look at their roster: they've got a lot of players that I just like, including Hedo, Dwight Howard, Grant Hill, Jameer Nelson, Darko, and Travis Diener. Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich did something interesting for the Bulls: they played a combined 63 minutes without grabbing a single rebound.
Utah beat Houston in a game in which nothing would make me happy. When their games don't matter to the Lakers' place in the standings, I tend to root for both teams. Unfortunately, the guy that keeps me interested in the Jazz, Andrei Kirilenko, played just 24 minutes, likely due to foul trouble. Carlos Boozer picked up the slack, however, scoring 24 points and grabbing a whopping 19 boards. Did you know that Derek Fisher was a Jazz? I didn't. He scored 13 off the bench. The Rockets' starting lineup looks awfully good, but it also looks awfully small: T-Mac is playing at the three position, and Shane Battier, while a very nice player, is no starting power forward, particularly in the West! does he have a chance trying to guard KG or Odom or Elton? The lack of bench depth will also hurt Houston: Yao and Tracy are going to play a lot of minutes over the next six months.
The Pacers beat Charlotte despite being outshot by seven percent. The seven point difference seems largely explained by nine more free throws shot and made by Indiana. Nobody had a standout game, but Sarunas Jasikevicius scored 20 points with just six shots off the bench. (He also shot twelve free throws.)
Phoenix hosted the other L.A. team and beat them. Shawn Marion scored 27 despite missing fire treys, and Steve Nash dished out eleven assists. The Clippers, despite their loss, look preposterously deep: Chris Kaman, Sam Cassell, and Corey Maggette all came off the bench in this game. A lot of teams would be upgrading their starting lineups if they acquired those guys. Elton Brand put up his usual 28 and 13.
Detroit lost its opener at home to the Bucks. Maybe Ben Wallace really was important. Natr Mohammed, the new starting center, grabbed twelve boards but also fouled out in under 30 minutes. the starting backcourt for Detroit scored 25 apiece, but Detroit couldn't overcome the fact that Nazr isn't that good and, more importantly, the ejection of Sheed, who, predictably under the new rules, picked up his second technical after just 23 minutes played. On the winning side, Michael Redd dropped 37 in 22 shots, and Andrew Bogut (who I can't help but root for) shot 7-10, in sharp contrast to frontcourt mate Charlie Villanueva, who needed 21 shots to get his 16 points.
The Nets took care of business against Toronto, winning the first, second, and fourth quarters by one, three, and six points (they tied the third). Jason Kidd started the year sharp,dropping a 14-10-10 triple-double. Toronto's international flavor, Jorge Garabajosa and Andrea Bargnani,combined to shoot 2-11 off the bench.
The Hornets' overhauled lineup took down the Celtics in Boston, but the new additions took a backseat to Chris Paul's mad game: 20 points, ten dimes, seven boards, three pilferies, and, most importantly, just one turnover. Paul Pierce and Wally World combined for 50, and Pierce hauled in a remarkable 19 boards, but of the seven other guys who got into the game, only Al Jefferson made so much as a dent in the boxscore, shooting 6-8. Speaking of small lineups, by the way, this game saw Pierre essentially starting at the four spot. And despite the lack of size, Michael Olowakandi couldn't even get off the pine for Doc Rivers.
The Knicks and Grizz played 15 extra minutes before New York prevailed. My favorite thing about extra-long games like this is seeing who winds up getting "DNP - coach's decision" next to their names. In this game, that's Malik Rose. Rudy Gay debuted with 21 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks, though he needed 21 shots to get his points. Q-Rich was the game's high scorer, with 31 points on 10-13 shooting) including 5-5 behind the arc.
The all-Pacific Northwest game between Portland and Seattle came out with the Blazers on top. Nobody in the rest of the country cares very much. That could be a little harsh, actually, since Brandon Roy is now the starting two-guard for the Blazers. He had an "auspicious debut" (I'll stop at some point, I promise), shooting 10-16 for 20 points. Note that this line means he didn't get to the free throw line even once. Not that we can extrapolate from one game, but that's obviously something you have to do to have success as a score in the NBA. Roy should look at his teammate, Zach Randolph, who shot 8-18, and also didn't make a three, but ended up with 30 points because he got to the line fifteen times. Randolph even tossed in ten boards for good measure. Luke Ridnour had as many assists as the entire Blazer team (13), but outside of Earl Watson (six dimes), his team wasn't passing the ball either: just four other assists were tallied by Sonics players (three by Ray Allen and one by Rashard Lewis).
Minnesota beat Sacramento by nine by taking the final quarter by a count of 28-17. Ron Artest shot just 6-24 for the Kings. I don't know who he was guarding, but Trenton Hassell and Ricky Davis combined to shoot 10-20 (but with no free throw attempts for either player), so it's not clear that he was doing a shutdown job. Kevin Garnett took just nine shots, but by making seven of them and hitting all ten of his free throws, he tallied 24 points. That's efficiency. Are you listening, Kobe? Randy Foye came off the bench in his debut, but played just six minutes and missed his only shot.
Finally, the Bron-Bron game. (The swimming pool commercial is pretty good, isn't it?) Caron Butler (who is hereafter known as "The One Who Got Away" -- we couldn't get Kwame Brown for less than Caron Butler? Really?) led the Wiz with 23 points, as Gilbert Arenas had an off night, shooting just 2-12. On the other side, Bron-Bron and Larry Hughes split 53 points down the middle (26 for James, 27 for Hughes) and contributed in myriad other ways as well: ten rebounds for James, nine for Hughes; five dimes apiece; two blocks for James; two steals for Hughes; and Hughes didn't turn the ball over once (though Bron-Bron had five gaffes). Damon Jones continues to be overpaid, shooting just 2-10 off the bench, and Z Ilgauskas looks like he was playing (or rather, not playing) with foul trouble all night, as he finished with five fouls in just twenty minutes.