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Three Thoughts to Open the Regular Season

Bad Men, Bad Takes – Season 1

3. Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers.

In some ways, this is to be expected to start the new season, especially given the new pieces teams are bound to have brought in over the summer. Throw in the fact that eight franchises have hired new coaches since the beginning of the 2020/2021 Season, and it makes even more sense.

However, this doesn’t fully explain the patches of uncharacteristically sloppy play we’ve seen from various teams with the ball to start the season, some of which don’t have the luxury of pointing the finger at personnel changes.

The double-overtime thriller at Madison Square Garden between the Knicks and Celtics was a fantastic watch and delivered a tight contest full of momentum swings, but also delivered a plethora of poor ball movement and turnovers. The Knicks recorded 17 turnovers (New York’s 2020/2021 per game average was 12.9) and the Celtics coughed up the rock an appalling 18 times (their average last season was 13.9 per game).

While the Celtics/Knicks clash at MSG was entertaining, it was marred by turnovers. Credit: The Straits Times

The worst part of these statistics, though, is that the two teams combined for only two turnovers in both overtime periods, both of which were from the Knicks, so fans cannot point to the extra game time as a reason for the increase. The Celtics may be afforded a small pass due to trying to implement new Coach Ime Udoka’s offensive system, however only two of their eighteen turnovers were committed by players who were not a part of the team last season, meaning a lack of familiarity cannot be blamed.

We can see a similar trend in the Lakers and Warriors game. Both teams committed a total of 17 turnovers, up from their respective per game averages of 15.1 last season. While the Lakers will be given a mulligan on this game due to the amount of player additions over the off-season, the Warriors have no excuse.

Multiple times Jordan Poole was moving off-ball on the perimeter and curled around a screen, only to cut hard and have the pass completely miss him. There is no excuse for this as Poole has been with the team for the past two seasons and Coach Steve Kerr has been at the helm for his entire tenure. Their starting line-up also has reps as a group, with the consistency of Curry, Draymond and Wiggins in that line-up capable of providing enough stability that unforced turnovers simply shouldn’t occur.

The Warriors committed five turnovers in the space of seven possessions at one point in the first half, and were lucky to walk away with the win.

As for the Lakers….

2. The Lakers are…..interesting.

Turnover numbers were the least of the Lakers’ issues on opening night. A team who completely re-loaded in the off-season failed the impress during the pre-season and also failed to fire against Golden State.

Russell Westbrook looked completely lost on offense and his shot was characteristically inconsistent, converting on only 4-13 attempts for the game. While Westbrook showed flashes of his trademark aggression, he also failed to log a trip to the charity stripe at any stage, further compounding the larger issue the Lakers will need to find a solution to as the season continues – that the load is carried by too few.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis were stellar, no doubt, both shooting over 50% from the field, both logging double-digit rebounds and combining for 77 of the Lakers 114 points. But there was no help coming from anyone else on this roster.

Russel Westbrook struggled in his regular-season debut for the Lakers. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu – (AP)

During our Lakers season preview, I raised concerns about the age of the roster and contributions the team could reasonably expect from aging veterans such as Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo. The fact any spectator could convincingly argue that either was the team’s third best player with their contributions (Anthony: 33% FG, two fouls, -5 in plus-minus and Rondo: 25% FG, five assists, two steals, three turnovers, +1 in plus-minus) is a worrying sign for a team that has Championship aspirations.

It’s only one game, and there is still 81 more for the Lakers to figure out how the pieces come together and define roles for every member of the roster. Given Davis’ history of injuries and LeBron proving he is no longer immortal by succumbing to injury last season, however, they will want to figure how the pieces to this puzzle fits together sooner rather than later.

  1. The Bucks will repeat.

Of all the hyperbolic over-reactions I could’ve put here, I’ve opted to go for this based solely on the fact that, after watching the Bucks tear apart the Nets, I firmly believe in it. Yes, the Nets were without Kyrie Irving, but the reality is the Bucks jumped out of the blocks and delivered the opening blow – a blow the Nets were never really able to recover from.

The Nets were touted by many as the favourite for the NBA Title this season, but they were exposed in the area some thought they managed to cover in the off-season – interior defence.

For anyone who listens to the podcast, you’ll know Blake Griffin is my all-time favourite player. I believe in him more than any reasonable human should. Yet, despite this, it was clear that he was not the answer down low, and that veterans Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge are not going to measure up in that space either.

Giannis was able to have his way inside the paint against the Nets in the Bucks’ season opener. Credit: CBS Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo was able to have his way inside, no matter who was in there. He was too long for Griffin, too strong to Aldridge and too quick for Millsap, routinely hauling in rebounds from outside of his area and creating havoc going to the rim. The Nets simply had no answer.

Outside of Giannis though, the Bucks were able to rely on contributions from every player who logged substantial minutes, from Jordan Nwora to addition Grayson Allen to George Hill, who had to step in once Jrue Holiday left the game with a heel injury.

The Bucks look scary. They are a well-polished team with the advantage of consistency in coaching and personnel that few other teams in the league can boast. That’s in addition to a man who looks destined for yet another MVP.

What a bunch of Freaks.

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