There were just two games played on Tuesday's opening night of the NBA, with 11 more coming on Wednesday, so let's get into it.
Durant and Harden combined for 52 points, 19 rebounds and 12 assists for the Nets, but it was Giannis' 32 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks that proved to be too much for the Nets to overcome.
Any sign of Giannis or the Bucks having an emotional letdown on the night they received their championship rings was not apparent, as Milwaukee went on several huge runs and at times looked at mid-season form.
One was the impressive depth shown by the revamped Warriors' roster, which saw Jordan Poole get hot late in route to 20 points and Nemanja Bjelica star off the bench and chip in 15 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. The veteran big man reminded many of former Warriors forward David Lee on his way to an impressive Golden State debut.
The other big story was the ineffectiveness of Russell Westbrook on his first night with the Lakers; he finished with 8 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists and was 3-14 from the field and 0-4 from 3-point range. How well he fits in with LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be a key story to watch in the early part of the season, and the first impression left much to be desired.
Before we get into it, I also want to remind you that most of the major waiver wire and free agent moves are made early on in the season, so pay close attention to the players who are shining right out of the gates in 2021-22.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: 32 points (12-25 FG), 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks: 20 points (8-17 FG), 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets: 32 points (13-25 FG), 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks
Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets: 21 points (7-11 FG), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: 21 points (5-21 FG), 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals
Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors: 20 points (8-18 FG), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers: 34 points (13-23 FG), 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers: 33 points (15-26 FG), 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers: 8 points (4-13 FG), 5 rebounds, 4 assists
James Harden, Brooklyn Nets: 20 points (6-16 FG), 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
● As ESPN Stats and Info points out, Antetokounmpo has 30 points and 10 rebounds in six straight games against the Nets. Over the last 40 seasons, Shaquille O'Neal is the only player to have a longer streak against a single opponent (seven straight). Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have three more games this week against the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers. In ESPN leagues, those three teams allowed an average of 32.8 fantasy points per game last year to power forwards.
● Antetokounmpo finished the game with a Usage Rate of 44.2% in 30 minutes. Middleton had the second highest Usage Rate (24.7%) on the Bucks while matching Antetokounmp with 30 minutes.
● Pat Connaughton's production isn't mere coincidence. Due to his play during Milwaukee's championship run, he has carved out a role in the Bucks rotation. While Donte DiVincenzo is out, Connaughton will provide you with three-pointers and rebounds.
● Grayson Allen scored 10 points with 3 three-pointers, 6 assists, four rebounds, and 2 steals on 3 of 10 shooting. His performance was enhanced by the absence of Jrue Holiday (more on that below). Once DiVincenzo returns to the fold, Allen's long-term relevance may be threatened.
● Due to the absence of Rodney Hood, Semi Ojeleye, and DiVincenzo, Jordan Nwora made the most of his extra minutes. His 26 minutes of play saw him score 15 points, grab 6 rebounds, assist, steal, and block.
● Durant's performance earned him a place in Nets' history, according to Basketball Reference. Julius Erving was the last player to record a 30-point, 10-rebound game in a season opener back in 1973-1974.
● Patty Mills is a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate for the Nets. He made all seven of his three-point attempts. With Kyrie Irving out indefinitely Mills has been forced into heavy action. He's a very good source of points and three-pointers, but is unlikely to accumulate stats in other areas.
Mills lights it up in Nets debut, going 7-for-7 from deep
Patty Mills made a strong first impression for the Nets with a perfect night shooting from beyond the arc in their loss to the Bucks.
● This offseason, Poole was considered a major contender for the Most Improved Player Award, but he struggled to start last night. With a 28.9% usage rate, he was second only to Curry on the Warriors. Those who took a chance on Poole late in drafts should be happy with his stats. Poole could have a career year while Klay Thompson recovers from an Achilles injury. If he's available in your league, you should change that.
● With his strong preseason play, Kevon Looney earned a spot in the Warriors starting lineup, but only played 15 minutes in the season opener. Looney's short-term prospects are not good based on Bjelica's performance and Draymond Green's admiration of him.
Injuries of note
Jrue Holiday left the game due to a right heel contusion before halftime. He finished with 12 points, a rebound and an assist in 18 minutes. An MRI taken on Holiday's ankle came back clean and the injury isn't thought to be serious. It would be prudent to consider him questionable for the Milwaukee's Thursday night game against Miami.
As we look forward to Wednesday's 11-game basketball bonanza, there are two injury situations to monitor. After testing positive for COVID-19 last week, Jaylen Brown is listed on the Celtics Opening Night Roster, and head coach Ime Udoka is optimistic he'll play. Udoka, making his head coaching debut, said publicly that he wants Jayson Tatum to be a playmaker, and Tatum would have a great chance to shoulder the load, should Brown miss the opener.
This new section of the column details top daily fantasy plays and strategies to consider for that day's schedule.
Analytics advantage for Wednesday
The Portland Trailblazers are a team you want to expose your lineups to, as tonight they have the top implied team total on the slate. The Blazers ranked fourth with 116.4 team points per game last season, and their matchup against the Sacramento Kings should have you salivating. Of note, Portland allowed opponents to score the third most points per game (117.4). Damian Lillard is an excellent option at his salary, with one of the highest ceilings on the slate.
Here are two other options you may want to consider:
With Shake Milton out with an ankle injury and Ben Simmons serving a suspension for his actions at practice, Maxey's in a great spot against the New Orleans Pelicans. As a starter last season, Maxey averaged 18.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. There will be no shortage of playing time for him.
Beal will again be one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA, especially coming off of career-highs in points, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage last season. Beal faces a Toronto Raptors team that allowed 22.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.7 blocks per game to shooting guards last season. With Westbrook gone, Beal looks to see a bump up from last season's lofty outputs.