Boston giving up 120 points. The Lakers losing to a Dirk-less Mavs. Andrew Varejao hauling in 23 rebounds and 9 assists?! Yeah, you could say there were a few surprises on Day 1 of the 2012-13 season. Here’s what I learned.
The Heat picked up where they left off. The ring ceremony game is always one with heightened emotions, and over the years their have been some really shocking performances by the reigning champs (just ask D-Wade what happened in ’07). But the Heat were clicking from the opening tip of this one, clearly unfazed by the bling of those massive rings (seriously they getting more ridiculously huge every season).
If anything, it was the Celtics that looked unsettled and could never get into a defensive rhythm. This is not a team that typically gives up easy alley-oops and open court dunks, yet the Heat had a bunch of them tonight. Go and watch the highlight of LeBron when he takes it coast to coast for the crush – watch carefully for KG’s reaction while LeBron is already in flight. He’s pissed for giving up the demoralising jam, because he knows he didn’t read the spacing right on that play, and it kind of summed up the Celtic’s night.
KG is still not a fan of Ray Allen.
Anderson Varejao has now been snapped up by every fantasy league on the planet. 23 rebounds, 9 assists, 9 points and 2 blocks. No, not Tim Duncan. Anderson Varejao. Yes, this Anderson Varejao. And it’s not like he was playing against a total spud in Emeka Okafor. Of course, the real story of this game might be…
Kyrie Irving for MVP? Ok way too early, and it’s the Wizards, but just know he’s one good teammate away from actually being an MVP candidate. He was everything in this game, and he was clutch late, hitting a long J to keep the lead and then a beautful spin and dish to Varejao a minute later that sealed it. I’m going to love watching Irving play this season, and I can’t wait to see him come up against the league’s best PGs. I have a feeling by the end of 12-13 we’ll be calling him one of them.
The Lakers need some work. There were glimpses. Some beautiful high-low work from Gasol, an unusually highly-efficient Kobe Bryant, Antawn Jamison actually contributing, and Dwight’s solid 19-10 debut. But there are clearly some growing pains the Lakers are dealing with. Nash looked lost on several plays and will need to refine his pick-n-roll instincts (he admitted as much after the game). The Lakers defense was spotty at best, and on a few too many plays looked like they were expecting Dwight to magically defend anything within 9-feet of the rim. Dwight’s free throws were horrendous (3-14 which was basically the difference in the game). And Metta, despite stuffing the stat sheet, couldn’t throw it in the ocean.
Some of that is the system and chemistry, and some of it can probably just be put down to a bad game. So I don’t read much into it, but like I said, there were glimpses and in those moments you can see the scary potential of this side. And that really is the only question hanging above this Lakers squad. How long will it take to realise the potential? It rarely happens overnight, or within a season.
No one knows that better than the King himself, who on this night, two years after taking his talents to South Beach, finally got his ring.