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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Opening Night

The NBA's 2005-06 regular season began on Tuesday night with a doubleheader on TNT. The first game matched the 2005 champion San Antonio Spurs against the Denver Nuggets, who went 32-8 down the stretch last season after hiring Coach George Karl. Prior to the game the Spurs raised their 2005 championship banner and handed out championship rings to their front office staff, coaches and players. During my Tuesday afternoon appearance on Eddie King's Betus.com radio show I mentioned that the opening night ring ceremony game can sometimes be difficult for the champions. Players are creatures of habit and the ring ceremony breaks up the normal pre-game routine. Plus, the opposing team sits there and watches the whole production and wants to make a statement about who is really the boss. Sure enough, the Nuggets started the game on fire, taking a 17-8 first quarter lead. The Spurs soon rallied and took the lead but the Nuggets led 72-69 going into the fourth quarter and seemed poised for a big road win. New Spur Michael Finley teamed with point guard Tony Parker to save the day for San Antonio; Finley scored 11 fourth quarter points after tallying only five in the first three quarters, while Parker went 7-7 from the field and posted 15 points in the final stanza. The Spurs won going away, 102-91. Tim Duncan posted the routinely solid all-around numbers that we have come to expect from him: 19 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, four blocks. His Nuggets counterpart Kenyon Martin matched him in points, but managed only two rebounds, three assists and no blocked shots. Carmelo Anthony looked to be the most fit and trim that he has been since he entered the league and he showcased several dazzling moves that frustrated noted defender Bruce Bowen, including crossover dribble drives, baseline spin moves and turnaround jumpers. Nuggets big man Nene went down with a knee injury early in the game and had to be helped off of the court. Hopefully it will only turn out to be a sprained ACL and not a torn one.

TNT's nightcap game extended well into the morning hours, as Dallas and Phoenix battled through two overtimes before the Mavericks emerged with a 111-108 victory. The Suns led by 17 points in the second half, but Dirk Nowitzki unleashed a barrage of late threes and the Mavericks made some key defensive plays, including a strip/steal by Jason Terry near the end of regulation. Nowitzki finished with 28 points and 15 rebounds, while Suns point guard/2005 regular season MVP Steve Nash had 30 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

The other NBA action on opening night included a 117-108 Milwaukee overtime win over Philadelphia and a shocking 93-67 New Orleans/Oklahoma City victory over the Sacramento Kings. Reggie Miller, making his debut as a TNT studio analyst, said simply, "Sacramento should be shot." That is a bit extreme, but a 2005 playoff team losing to the Hornets probably should be drawn and quartered. The highlights from the Milwaukee game include 30 points and a three pointer to send the game to overtime by Milwaukee's Michael Redd, 16 points, 14 assists and 9 rebounds from point guard T.J. Ford in his return from a serious neck injury and 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots from number one draft pick Andrew Bogut. On the other side, Philadelphia was led by Allen Iverson's 35 points and nine assists and Chris Webber's 32 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. The next Sixer had 11 points.

posted by David Friedman @ 3:26 AM


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