June 06, 2023

NBA opening night: Warriors top Lakers to open title defense as Celts edge 76ers

Stephen Curry opened the season with 33 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and the Golden State Warriors beat LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 123-109 on Tuesday night after receiving their championship rings in a pregame ceremony.

Jordan Poole made a pretty bounce pass to a driving Draymond Green for a layup and all seemed perfectly well with the defending champions almost two weeks after Green punched Poole at practice on 5 October, then took a brief leave of absence from the team to work on his emotions. Poole wound up with 12 points and seven assists.

James had 31 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists, while Russell Westbrook scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds after nursing a sore left hamstring. Anthony Davis added 27 points, but the Lakers couldn’t keep up in another signature, runaway third quarter by reigning NBA finals MVP Curry and co.

Klay Thompson contributed 18 points in 20 minutes for the Warriors, who celebrated the franchise’s fourth title in eight years.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr limited the minutes of both Thompson and Green, who was away from the team until last Thursday. Kerr said he will increase Thompson’s minutes each game as a precaution following his return in January from an absence of more than two and a half years for surgeries to his left knee and right achilles tendon.

Warriors center James Wiseman made his first appearance since his rookie season of 2019-20 after sitting out all of last season recovering from right knee surgery. He had eight points and seven rebounds.

Curry took the microphone in the middle of Golden State’s championship ring ceremony to make an impassioned plea in support of Brittney Griner as the WNBA star spent her 32nd birthday in a Russian prison.

“We want to continue to use our platform and the opportunity to shout out a very special member of the basketball community. Brittney Griner’s birthday is today, she’s 32,” Curry told the crowd.

“We want to continue to let her name be known and we pray … it’s been 243 days since she was wrongfully incarcerated in Russia. We hope that she comes home soon, that everybody’s doing their part to get her home.”
Philadelphia 76ers 117-126 Boston Celtics

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each scored 35 points and the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 126-117 on Tuesday night in the opening game of the NBA regular season.

Malcolm Brogdon added 16 points and Grant Williams finished with 15 as the defending Eastern Conference champions gave interim coach Joe Mazzulla a victory in his debut.

Mazzulla has been tasked with leading the team after Ime Udoka was suspended for the season following an investigation by a law firm that found he committed multiple violations of team policies.

Mazzulla successfully led a Celtics team that very much resembled the one that made a surprise run to the NBA finals a season ago.

Boston opened up a 110-97 lead with eight minutes to play and never trailed again.

James Harden scored 35 points his most since joining the 76ers last season including 12 of 12 from the free throw line. He also had five three-pointers.

Joel Embiid added 26 points and 15 rebounds. Tyrese Maxey finished with 21 points.

Mazzulla has vowed to keep the focus on building upon the culture Udoka established on the court as a rookie head coach last season.

He insists that it will be done primarily on the defensive end of the floor, but the offense was the story for the Celtics on Tuesday with 56% shooting from the field.

With big man Robert Williams sidelined as he recovers from offseason surgery on his knee, the Celtics stuck with the same starting lineup they employed during the preseason, playing defensive stalwart Derrick White alongside Marcus Smart, Tatum, Brown and Al Horford.

The smaller group sped Philadelphia up at times, forcing the 76ers into 14 turnovers for the game, leading to 22 Boston points.

The 76ers are looking to contend with the top teams in the Eastern Conference with Harden embarking on his first full season in Philadelphia after being swapped for Ben Simmons late last season in a trade with Brooklyn.

Harden looked rejuvenated coming off a season defined by hamstring injuries that hampered his effectiveness in a truncated 21 regular-season games with the Sixers last season.

The 10-time All-Star frustrated the Celtics, displaying the mobility he was missing a year ago. He was able to get to the free throw line often. He also was effective from the three-point line, connecting on four in the first half, including a rainbow heave from the top of the key to beat the shot clock late in the second quarter.