Ja Morant breaking Shaq’s record, LaMelo Ball’s historic scoreless debut lead 10 wild stats from NBA openers

The 2020-21 season may have technically started on Tuesday, but it tipped off in earnest on Wednesday with a robust 13-game slate. It quickly became a 12-game slate after the matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets was postponed due to the Rockets being unable to suit up a required eight players.

We’re not sure if this is the first time an NBA game has been postponed due to one team not having enough players, but that wouldn’t be the only piece of history we saw on Wednesday night. As the majority of teams made their season debuts, we were treated to incredible performance after incredible performance in one of the most entertaining early-season nights in recent NBA memory.

Here’s a look at some of the most notable statistical achievements that went into the books on Wednesday night.

Morant bests Shaq

The reigning Rookie of the Year didn’t miss a beat in his season debut, going on a scoring tear that resulted in a career-high 44 points, along with nine assists and just one turnover, in the Grizzlies’ 131-119 loss to the Spurs. It’s the second-highest point total ever for a second-year player’s season-opening game, trailing Elgin Baylor’s 52-point performance in 1959. Morant did it in style, turning in one of the most impressive highlights of the young season by throwing himself an alley-oop off the backboard in midair. The 21-year-old also stole a record from none other than Shaquille O’Neal, becoming the youngest player to score 40 or more points in his team’s season-opening game.

LaMelo goes scoreless

After being picked No. 3 overall in the 2020 draft, LaMelo Ball’s NBA career didn’t get off to a great start on Wednesday, as he went scoreless while dishing out three assists and committing three turnovers in 16 minutes in the team’s 121-114 loss to the Cavaliers. He joined a dubious list by becoming just the fourth top-three pick to go scoreless in his NBA debut, and the first since Otto Porter Jr. in 2013.

Ball isn’t exactly known as a scorer, as his talent clearly lies in his passing and playmaking, but he surely would have liked to have gotten his first NBA basket out of the way on Wednesday. Instead he’ll have to wait until Saturday to get off the schneid.

Hawks score 83 points in first half

The Atlanta Hawks’ first game after some major offseason moves was a rousing success, blowing out the Chicago Bulls, 124-104, for their first victory of the year. The Hawks led by as many as 40 points during the game, and set an Atlanta franchise record by scoring 83 points in the first half.

As you could imagine, there were some strong statistical performances in this one as well …

Young scores 37 points on 12 shots

Another wild stat from the Hawks game: Point guard Trae Young scored 37 points on just 12 shots, going 5-for-6 from 3-point range, 10-for-12 from the field and 12-for-14 from the free throw line. And he did it all in just under 26 minutes. According to Stathead, no player has scored at least 37 points on 12 or fewer shots since the 1982-83 season (as far back as their database goes).

Only 10 other players during that span have scored at least 37 points in 26 or fewer minutes.

Brown, Tatum make Celtics history

Any time you can etch your names in the Boston Celtics history books, it’s an accomplishment. Jaylen Brown scored 33 points, while Jayson Tatum added 30 in the Celtics’ 122-121 opening-night win over the Milwaukee Bucks. It was the first time in Celtics history that two players have each scored 30 or more in the first game of the season.

Tatum also banked home the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left, which was a rare feat in itself. It was the latest go-ahead 3-pointer in a season opener in the last 25 seasons, and was the first last-second, game-winning field goal in a season opener in over 10 years.

Rozier drills 10 3-pointers

Terry Rozier got off to a slow start in the Charlotte Hornets’ 121-114 opening-night loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but boy did he get hot quickly. Rozier had just six points at halftime, sinking two of his three attempts from 3-point range. He made four more 3-pointers in the third quarter … and then four more in the fourth quarter, giving him a career-high 42 points and 10 made 3-pointers on the night. It’s the most 3-pointers an NBA player has ever made in his team’s season-opener.

Westbrook triple-double in Wizards debut

Russell Westbrook always brings the energy on the court, but you knew he’d have a little extra juice for his first game in a Wizards uniform. The capital’s newest star wasted no time, becoming the first player in 25 years to put up a triple-double in the first three quarters of his team’s season-opening game. Westbrook finished with 21 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds in the 113-107 loss to the 76ers, becoming just the sixth player in NBA history to notch a triple-double in his debut with a new team.

We’re guessing it won’t be the last.

Butler picks up seven steals

The defending Eastern Conference champion Heat didn’t get off to the start they wanted, suffering a 113-107 loss to the Orlando Magic in the season opener, but Jimmy Butler’s tremendous defense was on full display. The 10th-year wing swiped a career-high seven steals on the night, including five in the first half. He joins Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Tim Hardaway and LeBron James as the only Heat players to have multiple halves of five or more steals. Yeah, it’s a convoluted stat, but five steals in a half is no easy feat.

Turner swats eight shots

Pacers center Myles Turner was in a stingy mood in his team’s season-opening 121-107 win over the New York Knicks, tying a career-high with eight blocked shots on the night. Turner previously accomplished the feat in February, and was one of just four players last season to have eight or more blocks in a game, along with Brook Lopez, Anthony Davis and Hassan Whiteside.

Blazers challenge on first defensive possession

We’re not quite certain if this is an NBA record, but if it’s not then it has to be close. Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts challenged a call just 30 seconds into the 2020-21 NBA season, after Damian Lillard was called for a blocking foul while attempting to take a charge from Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. 

The call was upheld, sending Gobert to the free throw line and stripping the Blazers of their only challenge of the game. It didn’t matter much, as the Jazz pulled away for a 120-100 victory. It’s hard to imagine that a coach’s challenge has ever been used that quickly in a team’s first game of the season — or in any game, for that matter.  

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