Jimmy Butler offered baskets to every teammate20 April 2020 / Miguel Coelho
The 30-year-old didn't want his teammates to remain rusty... So he gifted them baskets
All eyes were on the Brooklyn Nets and newly acquired Kyrie Irving, as the team made his season debut at the Barclays Center against the Timberwolves. Even without Kevin Durant, probably the biggest signing of the summer along with Kawhi Leonard, the Nets are expected to make a strong push for the Eastern Conference title this year.
Irving didn't waste no time from the get-go, showing all the skills that made him one of the best in the league. The 27-year-old had 25 first-half points preventing the Nets from being run off the court early, as Minnesota came out guns blazing, leading by 12 points at the half.
However, everything changed after half-time, when suddenly things started to click for the home team, as they began to mount a comeback due to their supporting cast, namely Taurean Waller Prince who went on to score 15 points alone in the third quarter. Brooklyn went on to win the quarter by a 17-point differential, and signs of worry started to be visible in the Timberwolves players as momentum was shifting towards Brooklyn, who entered the final quarter leading by 5 points.
"It was eventful. You're kind of lost for words." Ryan Saunders, the Timberwolves head coach said about his team's 3rd quarter performance.
The last quarter was a rollercoaster of emotions as both teams traded baskets, but neither could deliver the final blow. Jarrett Allen, a promising center for the Nets and a career 73 percent free-throw shooter had the opportunity to put the game away with two free-throws, with 5 seconds remaining. However, he couldn't convert a single one, leaving the game to be decided in Overtime.
Karl-Anthony Towns continued to dominate as the Nets couldn't find an answer for the Timberwolves forward, posting an incredible statline of 36 points and 14 rebounds. Andrew Wiggins scored the go-ahead basket, leaving his team up by 1 point, but also giving the Nets a chance to close it out in the final seconds. After Kenny Atkinson's timeout, the ball had Kyrie Irving written all over it. He was the man chosen to try to win it at the buzzer, and truth be told, he's one of the top players in closing situations. Running the clock down, Irving attacked the basket but lost his balance for a moment while at the same time trying to retain the ball. With his incredible ball handling ability, he spinned through his opponent and got the shot up, but his jumper wasn't successful.
"It's a great starting point," Irving said. "Obviously, you wanted to come out and get a win in front of our home crowd, but we got another chance on Friday.'' Irving finished with 50 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in a 127-126 loss.
Two new look teams took the court at Wells Fargo Center as the 76ers hosted the Celtics in one of the marquee matchups of yesterday's fixtures. Kemba Walker signed a multi-year deal with Boston in order to replace All-Star Kyrie Irving. On the other side, Jimmy Butler was traded to South Florida to represent the Heat, receiving in exchange Josh Richardson, while signing Al Horford, a former Celtic, as well.
Brett Brown's team started the season on a high note, producing a good display on a 107-93 win over the Brad Stevens squad. Even though they won by 14 points, the game was far from being easy as the Sixers were only able to generate some margin distance in the 2nd half. Led by their defense approach, the Celtics dominated the 1st quarter, closing it out with a 25-20 scoreline.
From there, the Sixers defense started to suffocate Boston's offense as they only shot 36.7 percent from the field. Their size was proving to be too much for the Celtics to handle, with their shortest player being Josh Richardson, listed at 6'5".
Brad Stevens' team continued to struggle throughout the game, not shooting the ball well, along with little chemistry as the new faces are still adapting to their new system. The 76ers dominated the glass (62-41), the defensive side of the ball (13 steals and blocks combined against the opponent 6) and the paint, as it was expected with Joel Embiid and Al Horford (58-44). They will only get better as the season goes by, but even if they don't, it makes one of the hardest defenses to play against. Ben Simmons flirted with a triple-double notching 24 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists.
Fun Facts: Boston twice missed consecutive free throws in the second half, giving delirious 76ers fans a free dessert and fries at a food fast chain. Allen Iverson was in the house wearing a No. 23 Trey Burke jersey.
For the first time after a thrilling playoff series last year who saw the Portland Trail Blazers advance in seven games, both these teams meet again in each 1st regular season game. Unlike the Denver Nuggets, who only added Jerami Grant and recovered Michael Porter Jr, with their squad remaining almost untouchable, the Trailblazers have quite changed their previous year roster. They lost a few several key players in Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Seth Curry and Evan Turner, but at the same time added Kent Bazemore, Hassan Whiteside, Mario Hezonja and Anthony Tolliver.
Due to the reasons listed above, this game was really hard to predict. Portland has a strong team even with all the changes and they're very hard to beat at Moda Center. Denver added a few key pieces and remained with the same roster, giving young prospects like Jamal Murray and Gary Harris more time to grow as they cement themselves as a top 3 team in the West.
The Blazers gained an early lead in the 1st quarter, dominating the away team in the first 12 minutes, as Lillard didn't need to do much, ending with 2 points only. Nikola Jokic was in foul trouble all 1st half, collecting three early fouls with 8:15 minutes left in the first quarter, leaving the Nuggets in a bad spot.
"In the beginning of the game it brought out a lot of memories from last year's series,'' Jamal Murray said. ''We just wanted to come out and have a good game and come out with a win.''
However, his supporting cast stepped up in the next quarter, as they've started to gain rhythm from the three-point line. Denver led at half-time by 54-50.
The 2nd half was similar to the first, as the teams were very competitive and never let someone took off to a double digits lead. It all came down the wire, where Jokic was decisive with 16 points in the 4th quarter, leading his team to an impressive win. Portland had won his previous 18 openers at home, a league record shattered by Mike Malone's team.
''They had won 18 straight openers here so to come in here and win on the road against a division rival to start the year off I couldn't ask for a better start,'' Malone said. Damian Lillard produced 32 points to go with 8 assists. As for the Nuggets, Jokic was the star of the team with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
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