Wednesday represented the first real slate of NBA action this season after a doubleheader to open up the campaign the night before.
To say things were lit around the Association would be an understatement. Kyrie Irving dropped a 50 burger in a losing effort in his Brooklyn Nets debut.
Fellow All-Star Andre Drummond filled up the box score in a road win over the Indiana Pacers. Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls blew a double-digit lead against a talent-stricken Hornets squad.
These are among the biggest winners and losers from Wednesday’s huge slate of early-season NBA action.
Winner: Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat
This rookie player lit up the scoreboard for Oakland during a brilliant college career. Unfortunately, it did not translate to him being drafted back in 2018. Instead, Nunn took a partially guaranteed deal with the Warriors and played in the G-League last season.
Making waives during camp, Nunn started for Miami in their opener Wednesday. He responded by putting up 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting while finishing plus-27 in a 120-101 win over the Grizzlies. What’s more interesting is the fact that Nunn started in Jimmy Butler’s stead, who missed the game for personal reasons.
Loser: Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
Boston has high expectations for Walker and a core group of youngsters this season. It is also relying on the high-priced All-Star to lead the charge. In no way did that happen in Walker’s regular-season debut against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.
Walker hit on just 4-of-18 shots, including 1-of-6 from three-point range. He also dished out just two assists while turning the ball over three times in a blowout 107-93 loss. That’s about as ugly as it gets.
Winner: Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
This fits in nicely with the previous blurb. Making an emotional Nets debut, this former Boston Celtics star dominated in every which way against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It really was a sight to behold.
Despite missing the potential game-winning shot in overtime against Minnesota, Irving awed onlookers. He dropped 50 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out seven assists while not turning the ball over a single time. Just absurd stuff from Irving Wednesday evening.
Loser: Chicago Bulls
One of our preseason picks to surprise a lot of folks, Chicago held a double-digit lead against the talent-stricken Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday evening. The likes of Lauri Markkanen and rookie Coby White had it going big time.
A night that seemed to be destined for a blowout win culminated in the very same struggles we’ve seen from the Bulls over the years. They ultimately blew that double-digit lead, allowing the Hornets to hit on a franchise record 23 three-point attempts. Ouch!
Winner: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Simmons worked hard during the summer to expand his outside shooting ability. While the stud forward did not attempt a single three in Philadelphia’s season opening blowout win over Boston, he did take seven shots outside of the restricted area. Baby steps.
As we’ve seen throughout his still-young career, Simmons’ all-around game was on full display. He dropped 26 points on 11-of-16 from the field, adding eight rebounds and nine assists in the process. That’s a stellar start to the kid’s third NBA season.
Loser: Pacers defense
Indiana allowed the fewest points in the NBA during a surprising run to the playoffs last season. The hope here is that this unit would continue to improve with the additions of Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. Warren. That did not come to fruition Wednesday night against a Blake Griffin-less Pistons team at home.
Indiana’s core offensive players each racked up 20-plus points. The team did enough on that side of the court to win. Unfortunately, the Pacers’ defense allowed Detroit to shoot 53% from the field. That included a 46% mark from distance and Luke Kennard going off for 30 points in the 119-110 Pacers loss. That’s just some ugly stuff.
Winner: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
In their first regular-season game together as teammates, Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic combined for 57 points to go with 13 boards and five assists. It led to a 108-100 home win over the Wizards.
However, it was Doncic who put on the show. Prior to some late-game drama with Bradley Beal, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year dropped 34 points on 12-of-19 shooting while adding nine boards, three assists and two steals. If what we saw from Luka in his first game as a sophomore is any indication, the kid’s rookie season will be seen as nothing more than a footnote.
Loser: Mike Conley, Utah Jazz
Utah’s decision to trade for Conley made sense. The team wanted to find a shooting upgrade over Ricky Rubio. At least for one night, it did not go smooth for one of the game’s most underrated point guards.
Despite Utah coming out on top against a talent-stricken Thunder team at home, Conley put up a career-worst shooting performance. The veteran connected on 1-of-16 from the field. You read that right. One. Of. Sixteen. He finished with five points and just five assists in 27 minutes. That’s not going to cut it moving forward in an ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Winner: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
With fellow All-Star Blake Griffin sidelined to injury, Drummond had to know that the scoring onus would fall on him early in the season. Despite his tremendous defensive ability, the big man has never been seen as a go-to scorer. That changed during a 119-110 season-opening win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.
Drummond connected on 12-of-18 shots, adding 32 points and a whopping 23 rebounds in the process. He also blocked four shots on the defensive end of the court. Talk about a brilliant opening to the 2019-20 season for the much-maligned big man.
Loser: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
We had to go here, Mr. Beal. The star guard was absolutely atrocious in his first game since signing a massive extension. A lot of the focus will go on Beal being ejected late in the loss. However, it was his poor performance throughout an unforgettable night in Dallas that should concern Wizards fans.
Beal hit on just 7-of-25 shots, including 1-of-11 from three-point range. He also attempted just six free throws. Without much more outside of him on the roster, performances like this will do nothing to keep Washington competitive moving forward on the season.