With an enticing first night of NBA action in the books, here are the winners and losers from the first three games of the new year:
Winners: Kyrie Irving and LeBron James
In what was a believable rumor that circulated throughout the league in the offseason and into the preseason, GMs and front-office executives were told that LeBron would take a backseat to Kyrie this season, and allow him to command the offense.
We saw a first glimpse of this prospect Tuesday night, and it worked wonders. LeBron had an all-around 19 point, 14 assist and 11 rebound night, while Irving carried the scoring load by dropping 29.
It’s still by all means an experiment, but the idea of a Kyrie-led offense could be a recipe for postseason success for the Cavs.
Losers: Golden State’s bench
In what was a forgettable night for everybody in the Bay Area, it wasn’t the starters who were at fault. The two stars, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, both put up 25+ and shot over 50%, while Draymond Green chipped in with 18.
But Golden State’s strong-suit from last season, their reserves, face-planted in the first test of the season, and showed no signs of cohesiveness or even basketball ability in general.
Winner: Damian Lillard
Although very few people watched the Utah-Portland game, (and who could blame them? SAS vs GS was on!) those that did watch were in for a treat as Damian Lillard put forth arguably the most impressive stat line of the night. Lillard dropped 39 points, ripped down 9 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists on a scorching 65% from the field.
This may be the year that Portland overtakes some of the West’s elite, and, led by their star point guard, they got off on the right foot.
Loser: The entire Knicks franchise
The “superteam” era is not off to a good start. Looking to spoil the fun in Cleveland for the second time in three years, New York fell flat on their face, and even abandoned the triangle offense halfway through.
Winner: Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi took lessons from the great Kobe Bryant in the offseason, and we started to see the results of those lessons right away.
Leonard dropped a career high 35 points on the hapless Warriors and ripped off a few Mamba-esque moves, including this beaut in the 3rd quarter.
Loser: Golden State’s impeccable home record
It seems like an eternity ago, but the Warriors once held a 54-game home winning streak. But they’ve now dropped three straight at the Oracle, two of the blowout variety, and all of a sudden Oracle isn’t as intimidating as it once was.