The first big slate of the 2022-23 NBA regular season took place on Wednesday and it did not disappoint. There were great games throughout the evening as four of them were decided by four points or fewer and only four of the 12 games were decided by double-digit margins.
There were some shocking results, such as the Chicago Bulls going to South Beach and defeating the Miami Heat despite not having Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball in the lineup. The Utah Jazz also dismantled the Denver Nuggets in what was easily the most surprising game of the evening.
It was the debut for a lot of players that changed addresses over the summer and we saw some of the top picks in action as well. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come as there should be a ton of great basketball ahead.
As we move on to focusing on the two marquee matchups Thursday night, let’s take a look at some of the major takeaways from Wednesday’s massive slate of games.
Paolo Banchero’s Historic Night
The Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons faced off on Wednesday night in one of the least heralded games of the evening. It was a highly competitive game as the Magic came away with a 113-109 victory. Both teams are in rebuilds and looking to make strides. They have to love what they saw from their newest draft picks, as Jaden Ivey scored 19 points in his debut for Detroit.
However, the biggest story in this matchup was the performance of Paolo Banchero. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft was excellent, scoring 27 points with nine rebounds and five assists. He is only the third No. 1 overall pick to record a 25/5/5 game in his NBA debut, joining Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and LeBron James.
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Pistons’ head coach Dwane Casey was complimentary of the Magic forward, saying he is going to be a problem in the league for a long time. Orlando is certainly happy to have him on their side, providing them with a franchise cornerstone to build around.
Minnesota’s Jumbo Lineup Debut
The Minnesota Timberwolves made a huge splash during the NBA offseason acquiring Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year was brought in to help stabilize their performance on that end of the court, as Minnesota struggled at times to slow down their opponents. They also vowed to get Gobert more involved offensively and the first game was a smashing success.
Gobert finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds, chipping in two assists, one steal and one block. He was actually the team’s leading scorer and took the third most shot attempts behind Anthony Edwards, who had 17, and D’Angelo Russell with 16. Karl-Anthony Towns had only 10 shot attempts, which tied with Jaden McDaniels for the fifth most.
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It will take some time for things to smooth out, but it was an excellent debut overall for Gobert. Towns remained involved offensively but was a facilitator, handing out a team-high tying seven assists in the game.
Jazz Aren’t Going To Be A Cakewalk
The Utah Jazz surprised some people when they dove headfirst into a full-on rebuild this offseason. They were a franchise in need of a shake-up, but a full tear-down was unexpected. They seemingly threw their hat into the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, looking to lose as many games as possible to improve their draft standing.
However, the players on the team had something to say about that. This Jazz team doesn’t look like it is going to lay down for anyone as they picked up a huge upset over the Denver Nuggets on opening night, 123-102. They took an early lead and never relinquished it as they received contributions from up and down the roster.
Utah had seven different players score in double-figures, led by Collin Sexton with 20 off the bench. Walker Kessler was excellent in his NBA debut, scoring 12 points without missing a shot to go with 10 rebounds off the bench.
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It was a truly shocking turn of events in Salt Lake City, as the Jazz could be more competitive than people thought they would be, especially with some of the veterans still in the mix.
Suns Exact Some Revenge On Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks eliminated the Phoenix Suns in the second round of the 2021 Postseason. It was an embarrassing exit for Phoenix, as they lost Game 7 in blowout fashion on their home court. The two teams faced off in the season opener and it looked like it would be more of the same.
The Mavericks led by as many as 22 points in the game, as the Suns had no answers defensively. Luka Doncic carved them up, scoring 35 points to go with nine rebounds and six assists. Christian Wood had a great debut as well, scoring 25 points with eight rebounds off the bench.
Alas, unlike in the postseason, the Suns didn’t lay down this time. They began mounting their comeback in the third quarter, outsourcing the Mavericks 31-19. The finishing touches were put on in the fourth quarter, as the Suns won 31-24, ultimately winning the game 107-105. It was an impressive comeback for Phoenix, who was without Deandre Ayton for the majority of the first half because of foul trouble.
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Able to stay out of foul trouble in the second half, Ayton helped get the Suns on track, finishing the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Devin Booker led the way with 28 points, while Mikal Bridges had a double-double of his own with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
New Orleans Pelicans Are Legit
The 2021-22 season could not have started much worse for the New Orleans Pelicans. They were without Zion Williamson, who injured his foot in the offseason and there was still optimism that he would return to the court. That never occurred and Willie Green began his head coaching career 3-16. The team went as many as 14 games under the .500 mark, but they never gave in.
They would acquire CJ McCollum ahead of the trade deadline, which helped push them into the NBA Play-In Tournament. They defeated the San Antonio Spurs and LA Clippers before facing off with the Suns, giving them all they could handle in six games. They showed they were a team on the rise and on opening night, they announced their presence.
The Pelicans blew the Brooklyn Nets out of the Barclays Center, 130-108. Williamson is healthy and back in the lineup, creating quite an imposing Big 3 alongside McCollum and Brandon Ingram. The supporting cast is also great, as they have stars for both ends of the court. The rest of the league has been put on notice after their performance against the Nets.