LeBron James and James Harden had dazzling performances to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets to opening day wins.
LeBron James – 29 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists
LeBron James is still the king. He remains, without a doubt, the best player in the NBA. The Boston Celtics stood no chance on Tuesday when he decided to enforce his will. James finished one assist shy of second opening-night triple-double, and the new-look Cavaliers seem like they’re going to need him more than usual. While nursing a sprained left ankle, LeBron, who claimed his conditioning wasn’t up to par, finished 12-of-19 from the floor, and four of those misses came from the perimeter; he also only shot four free throws, which was odd given how aggressive he was. Nevertheless, Cleveland escaped with the 102-99 victory.
James Harden – 27 points, 10 assists, six rebounds
The Rockets built a team just to beat the Golden State Warriors, and that’s what they did on Tuesday night. Harden was cooking, and he powered them to a 122-121 nail-biting dub. He looked just as incredible as last season and cut through the Warriors elite defense with no problem. Stephen Curry forced him into a variety of tough shots, but great players do what great players do. Harden didn’t take all of the spotlight and got his new teammates acquainted rapidly, including P.J. Tucker who dropped 20 in his debut. Similar to LeBron, it was weird how Harden only attempted four free throws after going to the line nearly 11 times a night last year.
Kyrie Irving – 22 points, 10 assists, four rebounds
It’s weird seeing Kyrie in Celtics green, but his play is still the same. He had to carry Boston offensively after Gordon Hayward‘s gruesome injury. Irving created a slew of driving lanes and took advantage of being guarded by either Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade or anyone else who couldn’t contain him. He also was more unselfish than ever and tallied double-digit assists in the regular season for the first time since February. Despite that, he couldn’t lead the Celtics to victory, and it’s fitting that the final shot — a leaning three from the right wing that came up short — went to him.
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