The Nuggets overcame a Warriors comeback attempt to reach 3-0 on Sunday. Meanwhile, Hawks rookie Trae Young exploded for 35 points against the Cavaliers and the Kings spoiled Russell Westbrook's return to the Thunder.
When the final buzzer sounded inside of the Pepsi Center on Sunday night, the Nuggets' celebration suggested the result was significant. Denver fended off the defending champion Warriors, 100-98, overcoming a 21-8 Golden State blitz through the heart of the final quarter which evaporated a 13-point lead. But on the game's final possession, as Steph Curry charged through the lane in the final seconds and passed inside to Damian Jones for a three-foot layup, the Nuggets were rescued by Juan Hernangomez, whose block was recovered by Gary Harris before the celebration in the venue began.
The defending-champion Warriors are neither at full strength (they will add All-Star center DeMarcus Cousin to their lineup later in the season) nor are they at top form (they had previously squeaked out victories over the Thunder and Jazz). On Sunday, Golden State shot 24.1% from three, committed 18 turnovers and incurred 29 personal fouls.
Despite crawling out the gate, the Warriors start is relatively insubstantial. However, there is something to be said about the Nuggets, who are now 3-0. Center Nikola Jokic posted 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Harris poured in 28 points and was a +13 in 35 minutes on the floor.
On a night in which Denver shot just 57% from the free-throw line and 18.8% from three—in addition to point guard Jamal Murray (three points) going 0-for-9 from the floor—it still managed to win.
Having failed to the playoffs each of the past five seasons, the Nuggets have faith in the blueprint they currently have. And while the campaign is in its infant stages, the type of win Denver earned Sunday, and in some ways, the way it did so, is perhaps encouraging for the team's prospects moving forward.
Hawks' Trae Young lights up Cavs, drops 35 points and 11 assists
Leading up to the 2018 NBA draft, the chatter surrounding Hawks point guard Trae Young varied. A relatively quiet debut against the Knicks was followed by a more encouraging showing against the Grizzlies. But during Sunday night's 133-111 victory in Cleveland, Young's play took another step.
Young poured in 35 points (13 of 23 FG) with six three-pointers and 11 assists. It was the type of performance that had scouts singing his praises throughout his only season at Oklahoma and highlighted his potential.
Simultaneously, it emphasized the Cavs' early struggles without LeBron James as they remained winless through three games this season. Each of Cleveland's first three games has been a high scoring affair, averaging a final score of 112.7-126.7.
Westbrook returns, Thunder come up short vs. Kings in home opener
The Thunder trailed by seven when Russell Westbrook charged at the basket. The clock showed under four minutes remaining as Westbrook blew by his defender in the manner basketball fans have grown accustomed to watching him do on a nightly basis. He then soared into the air, contorting his body away from a low-post defender before swooping through for a layup. It looked like the Westbrook of old, but as the ball caromed off the hoop, he fell to the floor with a look of disbelief. Moments later, with just over two minutes left, Kings forward Buddy Heild Jr. held his hands up after drilling a dagger three to put Sacramento ahead by nine. Center Willie Cauley-Stein took an inside feed from point guard De'Aaron Fox and increased Oklahoma City's deficit to 11, forcing an OKC timeout with under two minutes left.
Fox stole the show, tallying 22 points, 10 assists and four rebounds in 42 minutes, en route to a 131-120 win. It marked Sacramento's second-ever victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena and spoiled Westbrook's season debut.
Westborook—who returned for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason—did it all, posting 32 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists. His first step didn't seem as explosive, but there were more moments than not in which he appeared spry, which is perhaps most reassuring for OKC moving forward as it fell to 0-3, marking the first time the franchise has done so since the 2007-08 season. It's obviously not an idealistic start to a campaign, but the season is young. The Westbrook-less Thunder lost road contests to the Warriors and the Clippers before Sunday's defeat.