NBA Has Seen a Banner Year in Player Performance
NBA Opening night of the 2020-2021 season was one for the books! It has been just a few weeks since the LA Lakers won their 17th championship, but we’re all excited to have the NBA back already, and for what it looks like, players were just as excited, as opening night left a bunch of records and wild numbers, that we are about to go over and recap.
NBA reigning rookie of the year, Ja Morant, took Shaq’s record
In 1993, Shaquille O’Neal became the youngest player in NBA history to score 40+ points in his team’s opening game of the season, at 21 years and 244 days old. On Wednesday night, Ja Morant scored a career high 44 points (plus 9 assists and just 1 turnover) in the Grizzlies’ 131-119 win over the San Antonio Spurs, at 21 years and 135 days old, taking Shaq’s record 27 years later.
This was also the second-highest single game point total ever by a second-year player in the NBA, only behind Elgin Baylor’s 52 points all the way back in 1959.
Morant was awarded as NBA Rookie of the Year last season, and it will be fun to watch him grow and evolve in his second year in the league.
Atlanta Hawks record 83-point first half
The Hawks beat the Chicago Bulls on opening night, 124-104, but the stat of the night was the team’s 83-point record for any first half in history. Previous record was 80. (Twice) The Hawks led by as many as 40 points during the game, great game, and lots of hope for fans after this first game of the season.
But this isn’t all, Trae Young scored 7 points in the game in just 12 shots, going 10-for-12 from the field and 5-for-6 from 3-point range. Add 12 free throws out of 14. Amazing night for Atlanta.
Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum go 30+ and make Celtics history
For the first time in the team’s history, two players scored 30+ points on opening night. Jayson Tatum scored 30 points and Jaylen Brown 33 in the Celtics’ 122-121 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Tatum scored a 3-point winner with just 0.4 seconds left on the clock. This was the latest go-ahead 3-pointer in a season opener in 25 years, and it was also the first last-second, game-winning field goal in a season opener in more than 10 years.
Hornets vs Cavaliers game for the books
The Cavaliers won the game, 121-114 over the Hornets, ruining LaMelo Ball’s and Gordon Hayward’s debut. In this win, Terry Rozier made 10 3-pointers for the Cavs, being the most for any NBA player in history in a season opener.
On the other hand, it was a dark debut for LaMelo Ball, as he went scoreless. He is one of the only three Top-3 picks to go scoreless in his debut in the last 15 seasons, after Greg Oden in 2008 and Hasheem Thabeet in 2009.
Other interesting facts from NBA’s opening night
A 13-game schedule turned into 12 after the Rockets vs Thunder game was postponed due to Covid-19 safety reasons. Jimmy Butler recorded 7 steals for the Miami Heat, 5 of them in the first half, Myles Turner had 8 blocks for the Pacers, Russell Westbrook debuted with the Wizards with a triple-double. But here’s an interesting one, the Portland Trail Blazers used a coach’s challenge just 30 seconds into the NBA season, on their first offensive play. They lost it, by the way.