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NBA Opening Night live highlights, reactions and takeaways

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NBA Opening Night live highlights, reactions and takeaways

The NBA is back!

The 2022-23 season tipped off with a doubleheader Tuesday night. First up, the Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in an early clash of Eastern Conference contenders. The Celtics were led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who scored 35 points each in the 126-117 win.

Out West, the defending champion Golden State Warriors received their rings after winning their fourth title in the past eight seasons. Looking to spoil the celebration was the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James, who began the season needing 1,326 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s career scoring leader. James scored 31 in the Lakers’ 123-109 loss at Golden State, moving him to 1,295 shy of the record.

Here’s complete coverage from Boston and San Francisco with highlights, takeaways and the moments that mattered.

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Warriors getting back to big rings, nice things

It’s been a while since I heard the song that became the unofficial anthem of the Warriors during their five straight Finals appearances from 2015 to 2019. As Stephen Curry alluded during the Warriors’ championship ring ceremony Tuesday night, the two seasons in between the Warriors’ Finals appearances were long.

But it didn’t feel that way when “Big Rings” by Drake and Future came on the loudspeaker at Chase Center. As it has throughout their dynastic run, the Warriors have a way of playing through whatever drama comes their way. All the controversy around Draymond Green‘s fight with Jordan Poole just seemed to melt away into one of the Warriors’ 31 assists on the night. All the talk about the future and whether they’ll be able to afford all their foundational players now that Poole and Wiggins have inked long-term extensions felt far away on a night Golden State led by as many as 27 points and for all but the first three minutes of the game.

That song is old now. But the Warriors are as good –and maybe deeper– than they ever were. Their latest crisis making its lyrics even more resonant than before:

I got a really big team
And they need some really big rings
They need some really nice things
Better be coming with no strings
Better be coming with no strings

— Ramona Shelburne


A sign of things to come on the 3-point shooting foul?

Los Angeles Lakers forward Matt Ryan almost drew a 3-point shooting foul on Golden State WarriorsStephen Curry with less than 5 minutes left in the third quarter, but the replay indicated he was out of bounds before the shot. The near-miss fits into a theme for Tuesday’s opening night games. Klay Thompson drew a 3-point shooting foul in the first minute of the first quarter. Curry drew another 3-point shooting foul and four-point play from Patrick Beverley in the fourth quarter. In the Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics game earlier Tuesday, James Harden drew three in the first quarter, and Jaylen Brown drew one early in the second quarter.

Last season, there was a rule change and larger emphasis from the league on making it more difficult to draw a foul on a 3-pointer. Does the outpouring of 3-point shooting fouls on opening night indicate perhaps this emphasis has been rolled back for this season already?

— Andre’ Snellings


Strength in numbers for Warriors

Warriors coach Steve Kerr played 11 players in the first half, using all but two of the active players on his roster. Before the game, Kerr said a 10-man rotation was all but certain and an 11-man rotation was possible. Stephen Curry led all Warriors with 17 minutes played, while starter Andrew Wiggins and sixth man Jordan Poole played 16. Draymond Green played 13 and James Wiseman played 11.

All other players played in single digits but still found a way to contribute.

Depth is something Kerr and the Warriors boasted about heading into opening night. Kerr said for now he’s uncomfortable playing Green and Klay Thompson their usual minutes because of their conditioning. Additionally, Andre Iguodala has still not yet been cleared to play, so having a deep bench is coming in handy.

However, Kerr knows he will eventually have to cut his rotation down. Pregame, Kerr said he has already had conversations with his bench players that some of them will see consistent playing time while others will be in and out of the lineup.

— Kendra Andrews


19 down, 1,307 to go

β€’ When will LeBron break the all-time scoring record?


Poole hits Draymond… with the pass


Anthony Davis playing big

One quarter into the season, Darvin Ham’s experiment of playing Anthony Davis as the starting center is paying dividends for the Lakers. The on-court results of previous seasons have indicated, both through scouting and through analytics, that Davis has more impact at the five, despite his expressed preference for playing power forward.

In the first quarter Tuesday against the Warriors, Davis was able to consistently ISO with slower-footed defenders and get to the rim at will. He has 10 points on 6 shots in 10 minutes. The Lakers also have more flexibility with Davis at center and LeBron James at power forward. That lineup gives Los Angeles a frontline with traditional size that can do everything on the court at both ends. It also allows Ham to surround James and Davis with three perimeter players who are more dynamic, rather than using another, more offensively limited 7-footer.

— Andre’ Snellings


Westbrook in the Lakers’ starting five

After a one-game experiment with Russell Westbrook coming off the bench in the preseason finale, Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham went back with Westbrook in the first unit in the regular-season opener.

And Ham made it sound like it was a group he will continue to start for a stretch.

“We don’t want to be one of those teams — and you very rarely see that in the NBA — where teams are swaying according to who their opponent is starting,” Ham said during his pregame remarks. “We won’t chase matchups until it’s in the mode of a more strategic point of the game, more strategic scenario as the game gets into the latter stages. Then you’ll see us try to match up according to what the game tells us to do. But obviously, we’re going to establish a starting five.”

Westbrook exited the preseason loss to the Sacramento Kings after five minutes because of a strained left hamstring and did not return. He was able to participate in shootaround Tuesday and got the starting nod so long as he was healthy enough to play.

Ham said that through offseason conversations with Westbrook, he came to understand the challenges he faced in his first year in L.A., particularly with the roster being ravaged by injuries and absences caused by COVID-19.

“A player of his magnitude, and the way he plays, and the way he’s able to distribute the ball, like not knowing from night to night who you’re going to be on the court with, it presents a problem,” Ham said. “A major one.”

However, Ham detailed the gist of what he shared with Westbrook about his expectations moving forward.

“‘I also want you to understand that we’re gonna do what we need to do to be successful, and however we need to play you — and you’re definitely going to play — but however we need to play you, it’s for the team,'” Ham said, summing up his message.

— Dave McMenamin


Welcome to the Poole party


Warriors get their hardware

Stephen Curry stood to the side, emphatically cheering as he watched each of his teammates receive their rings. As he walked toward center court to collect his, MVP chants broke out throughout Chase Center.

“Hold up,” Curry told them. “We have some other work to do before that.”

“This is a very special night,” he added. “From Game 6 in 2019 in Oracle to Game 6 of 2022, it’s been a very long journey.”

Curry also took a moment to wish Brittney Griner — a WNBA player for the Phoenix Mercury — a happy birthday. Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia for eight months.

Following the presentation of the rings — a 16-carat, yellow diamond ring — a video from 2010 of owner Joe Lacob saying the Warriors needed more banners played on the jumbotron.

Drake’s “Big Rings” blared from the speakers as their seventh championship banner — their fourth in the past eight years — was raised.

— Kendra Andrews


James Wiseman nervous before NBA return

Warriors big man James Wiseman — who hasn’t played a regular-season game since April 10, 2021 — told ESPN before Tuesday’s game that he was excited for ring night, but also had butterflies. When asked if it was for ring night or because it was the first season opener he would be playing in since his rookie year in 2020, Wiseman said it was a little bit of both.

To calm his nerves, he said he was planning on turning some music on and hopping in the steam room.

— Kendra Andrews


Not 1, not 2, not 3…

We think of the Warriors winning four rings in the Steph Curry era, but the franchise has leaned into their total titles in new signage around the Chase Center. Golden State now has seven — one more than all those chips the Chicago Bulls collected with Michael Jordan.

— Dave McMenamin


Draymond arrives in style


LeBron evokes draft day look with Year 20 arrival


JTA will get his ring, but Walker won’t be watching

Horford stepping up on defense

Through three quarters, Al Horford is plus-12 in 18 minutes played even though he’s only 1-for-4 from the field for 3 points. I don’t think it’s a passive effect. Horford has made his impact on this game with defense. While Marcus Smart was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year last season, it was Horford (third in NBA) and Robert Williams III (11th) who had the highest Defensive Real Plus Minus (DRPM) scores on the team.

The Celtics’ defense is built inside-out, and with Williams sidelined, Horford is necessary at defensive anchor. When Horford was called for his second foul on a Harden 3-pointer in the first quarter, it touched off a 9-0 run for the previously cold 76ers. Early in the second quarter, with Horford back in the game, the Celtics went on an 8-0 run to re-take the lead.

— Andre’ Snellings


Celtics running wild on break

Through three quarters, the Celtics hold a commanding 22-2 edge in fast-break points. Boston has made an effort to get out and run at every opportunity, and has taken full advantage of James Harden’s spotty effort in transition defense to strike early and often in this game.

Especially while Robert Williams III is out, Boston is going to have to use its speed and quickness to make up for its lack of size. The Celtics have done so tonight, and that’s why they enter the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead.

— Tim Bontemps


Jayson Tatum catching fire… again


Bill Russell remembered

During a break in action early in the third quarter, the Celtics showed the late Bill Russell’s wife, Jeannine Russell, on the jumbotron here inside TD Garden.

The fans then broke into a spontaneous standing ovation, one that brought Russell to tears as she acknowledged the crowd.

The Celtics gave Russell a stirring tribute before the game, which included an eloquent speech by star Jaylen Brown.

— Tim Bontemps


Arms, legs and fouls heat up start of second half

It took only 19 seconds for the second half to get interesting.

Boston’s Marcus Smart gets tangled up with Philly’s Joel Embiid, who hooked his arm and drew a foul. Smart tried to grab Embiid’s leg, and Embiid fell to the ground. Jaylen Brown then came over and got in Embiid’s face.

Eventually, after a long review led by crew chief and veteran official James Capers, the only penalties assessed on the play were to Smart — both a personal and technical foul.

Still, safe to say that there is no love lost between these two teams, and a potential seven-game playoff series down the road between them would be must-see TV.

— Tim Bontemps

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0:20

Marcus Smart’s arm gets tangled as Joel Embiid goes up for the rebound and it creates tensions on the court.


Joel Embiid causing first-half problems for Boston

Well, that was awfully fun.

The Celtics and 76ers are tied at 63 at halftime, following a rollicking opening 24 minutes that saw both teams make big runs, stars on both teams show out and interesting subplots from a minutiae standpoint on both sides.

James Harden had 22 points, three rebounds and four assists, but his biggest highlight came in the form of a horrendous sequence that saw him both shake reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart (only to give a good long shimmy) and airball the subsequent 3-pointer. Harden then allowed Jayson Tatum to coast by him for a layup on the following possession, and Embiid then committed his third foul at the other end.

Embiid went 3-for-7 from the field, but his immense presence inside caused problems for Boston. Speaking of Celtics bigs, Noah Vonleh played the fourth most minutes on the team, behind only Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Smart. And, not surprisingly, it was Tatum and Brown leading the way for Boston, as the dynamic forward tandem for the Celtics combined for 34 points on 12-for-23 shooting.

— Tim Bontemps


Shimmy shimmy ya, shimmy yam, shimmy… oh no…

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0:16

Marcus Smart goes flying to the ground while trying to defend James Harden, then Harden shimmies before missing badly on a 3-point attempt.


Brogdon a Sixth Man the Celtics need

In the second quarter, Malcolm Brogdon has given Celtics fans a glimpse of what he can provide this team — and what the Celtics lacked in last year’s playoffs.

Brogdon has scored six quick points and picked up a nifty assist to Noah Vonleh inside, flashing the kind of scoring punch and creation off the bench that Boston never had during its run to the 2022 NBA Finals. For all of the understandable focus on Stephen Curry‘s heroics in that series, Boston lost because its offense couldn’t get it done against Golden State’s defense. Having another proven player like Brogdon off the bench is not only something that could benefit the Celtics during what they hope is a deep playoff run next spring, but it’s a role that could make Brogdon a favorite to win this year’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year award.

— Tim Bontemps


Strong first quarter for Harden a good sign

Philadelphia’s James Harden has 16 points at the end of the first quarter. He has already drawn three 3-point shooting fouls, including a completed four-point play, and also became the first player in the NBA to shoot the free throw for the new take-foul rule at the 6:13 mark of the first quarter.

Harden was counted out by many after an uncharacteristically poor set of performances following his trade to the 76ers last season. I always anticipated he was injured more than washed up as he has been dealing with the remnants of his soft tissue injuries. His performance so far Tuesday falls in line with my preseason expectations that Harden is poised for a big season.

— Andre’ Snellings


76ers’ backup center not a surprise

One of the interesting subplots of the 76ers‘ preseason was who would get the backup center minutes behind superstar Joel Embiid, with both veteran Montrezl Harrell and emerging youngster Paul Reed both getting shots at it.

Tuesday night, it was Harrell who got the call midway through the first quarter, as he slid into a familiar partnership from the opening years of his career, running pick-and-rolls with James Harden.

This was what was anticipated when Harrell was signed, with he and Harden expected to run pick-and-rolls against backup units. But Reed got enough playing time during the preseason over Harrell to at least make it a question of which one would play, and 76ers coach Doc Rivers said on multiple occasions both players would get their chances.

The way this game played out also answered another question: how Rivers will deploy his rotation. At least in the short-term, it looks like Harden is going to get his chances to eat offensively, while emerging star guard Tyrese Maxey will partner with Embiid.

Tim Bontemps


Vonleh’s minutes speaks to Celtics’ situation

With Robert Williams III sidelined for the next few months, it’s going to take some creative work from the Celtics to navigate life without one of the best defensive big men in the NBA.

And, in the first five minutes of the 2022-23 NBA season, we have seen the Celtics begin to do just that. First came the decision to start Derrick White, opting to go with a small lineup with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum at the two forward spots as opposed to opting to play a bigger option alongside Al Horford.

Part of the reason why interim coach Joe Mazzulla, in his first game on the sidelines for the Celtics, has gone with that lineup throughout the preseason, came along when the first player off the bench for the Celtics in Tuesday night’s game against the 76ers was journeyman big man Noah Vonleh.

Vonleh, the ninth pick in the 2014 draft, is playing for his eighth team in eight NBA seasons, after spending all of last season playing for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. While he had a strong training camp, the fact Vonleh is playing early minutes for the Celtics is both a sign of how little frontcourt depth Boston has, as well as at least a partial indictment of the chances that former All-Star big man Blake Griffin is going to make any kind of meaningful impact on Boston’s roster moving forward.

Tim Bontemps


Embiid with the massive block


Tatum opens up red hot

Jayson Tatum was ready for the 2022-23 season to begin. He scored 7 of the Celtics’ first 9 points, including this 3-pointer from the corner. Tatum’s career high for a season-opener is 30 points, on Dec. 23, 2021 against the Bucks.


Celtics honor Bill Russell

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1:09

Ahead of the Celtics-Sixers’ game, Jaylen Brown speaks on what Bill Russell means to him as a person and a player.

More on the Celtics’ Russell-inspired City jerseys


Blake is in the building


But it’s not even Wednesday…

More of Tuesday’s best looks



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