Lots of surprises early in season

The NBA season is barely two weeks old but has already delivered some wild nights.

Stephen Curry scoring a career-high 62 points against the Trail Blazers elbowed its way onto the national stage on a busy Sunday where the NFL playoff picture came into focus. While wild that the two-time MVP had never broken 60 before given his prolific career to date, it was nice to see him so aggressively surpass that threshold, firing up a last-minute 3-pointer set up perfectly by Draymond Green, whose absence to start the season due to a foot injury was definitely felt.

Green debuted on Jan. 1 and is still getting his wind, but you can expect Golden State to be a factor in 2021 despite the Splash Brothers continuing to be separated with Klay Thompson out for the season again. Kelly Oubre Jr. opened the season 2-for-30 from beyond the arc. 

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That won’t last. Andrew Wiggins is still far too streaky a shooter to trust night in and night out, but if Curry and Green can stay healthy over the next few months, it’s going to be tough to fade the Warriors the way we’ve been able to early since they opened 1-4 against the number.

That 19-year-old No. 2 pick James Wiseman legitimately looks to be the top rookie in the class this early after playing just three games at Memphis is another huge boost. After getting above .500 for the first time with a dominant 31-point win over Sacramento on the second night of a back-to-back on Monday, it’s probably a good idea to pull back on the blindly fading Golden State’s continued standing as an NBA power. Curry scored 30 and leads the league in points per game. They won’t finish in the Pacific Division basement again.

Philadelphia and Phoenix entered Tuesday tops in scoring defense, each surrendering 102 points per game or fewer. Not surprisingly, the 76ers and Suns are a combined 11-3.

The Bucks lead the NBA in point differential again but opened just 3-3 and were crushed by New York by 20 points. They rebounded by dominating Miami 144-97 and then fell the very next night against the Heat, who have opened with six different starting lineups.

The Knicks are 4-3 seven games into the season for the first time in eight years, when the 2012-13 group ended up winning an Atlantic Division title behind Carmelo Anthony and actually won a series. This 4-3 New York team won’t be the first team since then to make the playoffs. But it’s nice to see Tom Thibodeau make an impact.

Second-year wing R.J. Barrett looks more polished and could make a run at Most Improved Player if the Knicks end up respectable. They’ve covered four of their last five entering their three-game homestand and are on a 5-1 ‘under’ run entering Wednesday’s date with the Jazz. New York is defending decently..

That also won’t last but is another interesting early footnote on a season that had a limited exhibition season following the shortest offseason in the history of professional sports amid a pandemic.  

Sloppy play was expected and keep in mind that a lot of these guys are still developing chemistry and getting into game shape. Back-to-backs have returned. Playing opponents consecutively will be a thing. Kevin Durant missing the next four games after contact tracing for COVID-19 is a tough break for the Nets but something everyone in the league knew would have to be navigated. It’s the normal for the time being and needs to be respected, so do your best to hold your wagers until lineups are confirmed.

Wednesday

Jazz at Knicks: I referenced New York’s run to the low side above and believe it will continue in Wednesday’s matchup with the visiting Jazz. Donovan Mitchell only gets to play in the city he grew up around twice per season so that’s a concern, but the length shot-blockers Rudy Gobert and Mitchell Robinson bring to the table makes this an easy call. UNDER

Friday

Raptors at Kings: Toronto has opened the season 1-5 and will open a four-game Western swing that gets them out of their temporary home in Tampa and has them playing Phoenix, Sacramento, Golden State and Portland.

This is one the Raptors almost certainly have to get so we should see a focused group. De’Aaron Fox can’t guard Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry at the same time and both those guys have tasted a championship and know the importance of this one, given the other guards they’ll see on this trip. You’ll be laying points on the road but it should be manageable. RAPTORS

Sunday

Thunder at Nets:  Even after losing Spencer Dinwiddie to an ACL tear and without Durant while he sits out awaiting another final negative test, Brooklyn should roll here. Oklahoma City will be wrapping up a run of five straight road games and tasted its first defeat away from home by giving up a 20-0 run to Miami on Monday night.

Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert will need to help Brooklyn tread water all week and should be up to the challenge. NETS

Last week: 1-2

Season: 5-3