NBA Power Rankings: The 15 Best Games of Opening Week

Shane DePutronCorrespondent INovember 3, 2010

NBA Power Rankings: The 15 Best Games of Opening Week

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    The first week of the 2010-11 NBA regular season has come and gone, so now it's time to get down to some power rankings.

    So far we've been lucky enough to witness a number of tight, heated battles between teams, as well as some unbelievable individual performances—a number of which may ultimately go down as the best ones of the season.

    Therefore, to this point, the NBA season has generally exceeded expectations, and it promises to continue to impress as we go on.

    So, without further ado, here are the 15 best games of opening week.




    (special thanks to Yahoo Sports and ESPN for game recaps, play-by-plays and box scores)

No. 15: Sacramento Kings 117, Minnesota Timberwolves 116

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    On October 27, both the Sacramento Kings and the Minnesota Timberwolves tipped off their regular seasons at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

    With their star sophomore guard Tyreke Evans suspended for one game as a result of a severe driving infraction, the Kings still managed to come out of the first quarter with a four-point lead.

    However, the T-Wolves stormed back in the second, and the game was back and forth through the remainder of play.

    In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Minnesota was holding a one-point lead when Kings forward Carl Landry managed to convert a basket, get fouled, and knock down the resulting free throw, putting his team up by two.

    On the next Sacramento possession Landry struck again, hitting a jumper and stretching the lead to four.

    Nevertheless, Luke Ridnour responded, bringing the ball up the court and knocking down a three-pointer with less than a minute to go.

    It wouldn't be enough as Omri Casspi hit another field goal and Beno Udrih would convert some free throws, allowing the Kings to escape with a one-point victory.

    The most notable performances came from Landry (22 points, 11 rebounds), Udrih (18 points, six assists,), Francisco Garcia (22 points) and Ridnour (20 points, six assists).

No. 14: Sacramento Kings 107, Cleveland Cavaliers 104

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    The October 30 matchup between the Sacramento Kings and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland was a tale of two halves.

    In the first half, the Cavs, without Mo Williams, led by as many as 16.

    However, they were outscored 33-15 in the third quarter, allowing the Kings to steal the momentum and take a small lead into the final period.  

    With less than six seconds left in the game and holding a three-point lead, Sacramento coach Paul Westphal elected to have his players foul rather than allow Cleveland to attempt a potential-game-tying three.

    The Cavs' Jawad Williams then made the first foul shot but intentionally missed the second so his team would have a chance to tie with a put-back.

    Ultimately, though, Westphal's strategy worked, as the Kings grabbed the board, knocked down a free throw, and with the help of a missed half court shot by Boobie Gibson they held onto the lead.

    The Kings were led by Tyreke Evans (21 points, seven rebounds, six assists), Omri Casspi (20 points), Beno Udrih (12 points, 11 assists), and DeMarcus Cousins (14 points, 10 rebounds), while the Cavs had solid performances from Gibson (20 points, seven assists) and Ramon Sessions (21 points).

No. 13: Sacramento Kings 111, Toronto Raptors 108

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    With their third appearance on this list, the Sacramento Kings appear to be making a habit of late-game comebacks and close-fought wins.

    During their November 1 home matchup against the Toronto Raptors, the Kings were faced with a 16-point deficit in the third quarter. 

    However, behind the brilliant play of Tyreke Evans, the Kings fought back to take the lead.

    Up one point with 13 seconds to go, Beno Udrih converted two attempts from the charity stripe to stretch the lead back to three.

    The Raptors then attempted to make a quick two-point basket, but missed on two chances, allowing the time to expire. 

    Notable performances were put on by Evans (23 points, seven rebounds, five assists), and Toronto's Andrea Bargnani (28 points) and DeMar DeRozan (24 points).

No. 12: Indiana Pacers 104, Charlotte Bobcats 101

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    On October 29, the Indiana Pacers squared off against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.

    The Bobcats, looking for their first win of the season, outscored the Pacers in each of the first three quarters, taking a lead of 80-73 into the fourth quarter.

    However, behind Danny Granger's impressive performance, Indiana was able to fight back and take the lead.

    Down by three and with 10.7 seconds remaining, Charlotte's D.J. Augustin and Stephen Jackson both missed threes which could have sent the game into overtime.

    For the victors, Granger's 33 led all scorers, while Gerald Wallace of the Bobcats managed to put up 29 points in a losing effort.

No. 11: New Jersey Nets 101, Detroit Pistons 98

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    The New Jersey Nets hosted the Detroit Pistons at the Prudential Center in Newark on October 27, in an opening matchup of two teams looking to improve upon their dismal campaigns of last season.

    Nevertheless, the game was an entertaining, back-and-forth contest, with the two squads trading leads throughout.

    Toward the end of the outing, it looked as though the Pistons might pull out the win, as they led by seven with a minute and 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

    However, a Jordan Farmar three, a Devin Harris three-point play, an Anthony Morrow three, and a couple of Harris free throws put the Nets up four with 16 seconds remaining.

    For the Pistons, Charlie Villanueva responded with a three of his own, cutting the lead back to one with 14 to go.

    Farmar then converted on two foul shots, stretching the margin up to three, and giving the Pistons a chance to tie.

    But Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey both misfired on threes over the final few seconds, allowing the Nets to squeak out an opening-night victory. 

    Brook Lopez's 25 points and nine rebounds stood out for New Jersey, while they also got a solid contribution from Harris (22 points, nine assists).  Detroit, meanwhile, was led by three scorers, Villanueva, Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince, all with 14 points.

No. 10: Memphis Grizzlies 91, Dallas Mavericks 90

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    On October 29, the Memphis Grizzlies entered American Airlines Center in Dallas where they had not won in five years to face off against the Mavericks.

    With Memphis missing All-Star forward Zach Randolph, it looked like it would be the same old story, as Dallas brought took nine-point lead into the half.

    But the Grizzlies didn't give up, fighting back in the fourth to take the lead.

    With 6.7 seconds remaining and Memphis now leading 91-90, the Mavericks appeared to have one last shot remaining.

    However, a Jason Terry pass was deflected out of bounds by Rudy Gay, and then Jason Kidd had his ill-advised inbounds pass intercepted by O.J. Mayo, sealing a Memphis victory.

    And in addition to their key defensive plays down the stretch, Gay and Mayo were the team leaders in scoring, with 21 and 20 points respectively.  Dallas, on the other hand, was led by Dirk Nowitzki's 27 points and Kidd's 10 assists.

No. 9: Atlanta Hawks 104, Philadelphia 76ers 101

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    On October 29, the Atlanta Hawks faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

    Throughout the game, the Hawks were in control, up by as many as 15 and took a lead of 10 points going into the final quarter.

    However, they began to lose control as the Sixers cut the lead to two following an Andres Nocioni dunk with a minute left in regulation.

    Josh Smith then answered with a three, stretching the lead to five.

    The teams then battled back and forth from the free-throw line, with Louis Williams making two, Joe Johnson hitting one, Elton Brand knocking down two, and Johnson again only converting on one.

    As a result, Philadelphia found themselves with the ball, down three points, with four seconds remaining and a chance to tie the game.

    The resulting inbounds pass went to Nocioni, but Smith managed to get a finger on the ball, preventing the shot from having a chance at falling and preserving the win for Atlanta.

    Notable performances for the Hawks were put on by Al Horford (20 points, 12 rebounds), Johnson (22 points), Jamal Crawford (18 points) and Smith (12 points, eight rebounds, six blocks).  Meanwhile, for the Sixers, Andre Iguodala (27 points, 10 assists) and Elton Brand (20 points, eight rebounds) stood out.

No. 8: Oklahoma City Thunder 105, Detroit Pistons 104

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder visited the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills on October 29, where they managed to hold the lead at the end of each of the first three quarters.

    However, a late push by the Pistons, and a well-aimed three by Charlie Villanueva saw them take the lead for the first time since mid-way through the first quarter.

    So, with seven seconds remaining and down by one, it seemed like the Thunder only had one option—Kevin Durant.

    But with the defense expecting Durant to get the ball and over-playing him, Jeff Green stepped up, cutting to the basket for a go ahead layup with less than three seconds left in the game.

    And because Detroit had no timeouts, they were unable to get off a final shot. The Green bucket became the game winner.

    Green finished with 21 points for Oklahoma City, which was also aided by Durant (30 points, 8 rebounds), Russell Westbrook (17 points, 11 assists) and Serge Ibaka (16 points, 10 rebounds).

    The Pistons saw Ben Gordon rack up 32 points, while Rodney Stuckey had 24 points and nine assists.

No. 7: Boston Celtics 105, New York Knicks 101

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    On October 29, the Boston Celtics played host to the New York Knicks at the TD Garden in Boston.

    As expected, the Celtics took control of the game by the end of the first quarter, and although the Knicks kept it close, Boston held on for a routine, four-point victory.

    However, it was an individual performance, not the game as a whole, which made this matchup stand out.

    For Boston, Paul Pierce (25 points, 14 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (24 points, 10 rebounds) both had great days, but this was largely because the two were often set up by the brilliant performance of point guard Rajon Rondo.

    For his part, Rondo notched his first triple-double of the season with 10 points, 10 assists and a mind-bending 24 assists (good for 16th all-time).

    And watching Rondo's cerebral deconstruction of the New York defense in a competitive game certainly warrants the Celtics-Knicks matchup making this list.

No. 6: Cleveland Cavaliers 95, Boston Celtics 87

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    On October 27, the Cleveland Cavaliers made their post-LeBron James debut against the team which had just beaten LeBron, the Boston Celtics.

    And boy did the team do their best to make Clevelanders forget about him.

    Playing without Mo Williams, the Cavs hung tough with the Celtics and were only down 73-68 entering the fourth quarter.

    During that final period, Cleveland managed to overpower and outscore Boston 27-14 en route to an eight-point victory.

    They were led by J.J. Hickson (21 points, six rebounds) and Daniel Gibson (16 points, eight assists), while the Celtics saw Rajon Rondo put up 18 points and nine assists. 

No. 5: Miami Heat 96, Orlando Magic 70

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    If the Cavaliers-Celtics game made an anti-LeBron James statement, then the October 29 matchup between the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic at the American Airlines Arena in Miami made a claim to the contrary. 

    This game saw the Heat performing as the well-oiled machine which many people had doubted was possible, coming at Orlando early and often.

    In the blowout win, LeBron James put up 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists, Dwyane Wade had 26 points, while both Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem racked up double-doubles.

    Furthermore, Miami's dominant 28-point victory likely put an end to the claim that the Magic would be a team which would pose considerable matchup problems for the Heat since they have no legitimate big men to contain center Dwight Howard (or a point for Jameer Nelson).

    And by taking down one of the better teams in the NBA in this manner, Miami has shown that they are improving and are likely capable of beating anyone.

No. 4: Golden State Warriors 132, Houston Rockets 128

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    On October 2 the Golden State Warriors visited the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center in Houston, in what was to become one of the most exciting games of the season.

    With frequent lead changes through the first three quarters and extremely efficient scoring (the Warriors shot 54.4 perecent from the field and the Rockets converted on 42 of 52 free throws), this offensive showdown was filled amazing performances from both sides. 

    However, the most notable performance was put on by Monta Ellis, who scored 46 points including two game-clinching foul shots to increase the Warriors' lead to four with 10 seconds remaining. 

    Also standing out for Golden State were Stephen Curry (25 points, 11 assists) and David Lee (17 points, 15 rebounds, six assists), while Houston saw Luis Scola earn 36 points and 16 rebounds and Kevin Martin score 28.

No. 3: Washington Wizards 116, Philadelphia 76ers 115 (OT)

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    The Washington Wizards matched up against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on November 2.

    The tightly contested game between two promising, young franchises turned out to be an exciting, back-and-forth competition. After a Cartier Martin tying three at the buzzer, it also turned out to be the first overtime game of the 2010-11 season.

    The OT period did not disappoint, featuring four lead changes and some clutch performances.

    In the end, Andray Blatche's pair of free throws put the Wizards up one with seven seconds remaining.

    The ensuing miss by Andre Iguodala then sealed the deal, as Washington walked away from the contest with their first win.

    Furthermore, rookie phenom John Wall nearly recorded a triple-double in his third career game, falling one steal shy with 29 points, 13 assists, and nine steals. 

    Also powering the Wizards to victory were Blatche (23 points, eight rebounds) and Nick Young (20 points).

    For the losers, Louis Williams (30 points), Elton Brand (21 points, nine rebounds), Jrue Holiday (14 points, 13 assists) and Iguodala (12 points, nine assists) all turned in impressive performances.

No. 2: Los Angeles Lakers 112, Houston Rockets 110

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    On October 26, the Los Angeles Lakers were finally rewarded with their 2009-10 NBA championship rings at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  Following the ceremony the Lakers took on the Houston Rockets on opening night of the 2010-11 NBA season.

    Early on it appeared that the Lakers were distracted, and it was only the Rockets who had shown up to play.  As a result, Houston carried an 11-point lead into halftime. 

    However, L.A. came storming back in the second half, cutting the lead to five entering the final quarter. 

    Behind Shannon Brown's 14 points in the fourth, the Lakers managed to finally take back the lead mid-way through the quarter.

    Nevertheless, they didn't hold on for too long, as the two teams traded the lead five times in the quarter—four of which were during the final minute.

    Ultimately, Steve Blake hit a go-ahead three, putting the LA up two with 18 seconds to go. 

    Luis Scola then missed an inside shot, but the Rockets grabbed the board, allowing them to have one more chance.

    Aaron Brooks received the ball and took it to the basket, but Lamar Odom was there to get a piece of the ball and seal the win. 

    The Lakers saw significant contributions coming from Kobe Bryant (27 points, seven assists), Pau Gasol (29 points, 11 rebounds) and Odom (14 points, 10 rebounds), while the Rockets were carried by Kevin Martin (26 points), Scola (18 points, 16 rebounds) and Brooks (24 points, nine assists) in their losing effort.

No. 1: Boston Celtics 88, Miami Heat 80

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    The first game of the 2010-11 NBA season was an impressive one, with the Boston Celitcs hosting the Miami Heat at the TD Garden in Boston on October 26.

    Initially it appeared as if the Celtics would handily run away with the victory, as they went into the half up 15 points.

    However, behind a scoring surge from LeBron James, Miami cut the lead which once stood at 18 to three points with just over a minute left to play.

    But a Ray Allen three effectively put an end to the Heat run, and behind his 20 points the Celtics held on for an eight-point win.

    Boston was also helped by Paul Pierce's 19 points and nine rebounds, Rajon Rondo's 17 assists, and Kevin Garnett's double-double.

    On the other hand, Miami made this game competitive primarily due to the play of LeBron and his 31 points.

    Nevertheless, this game was so good because of its playoff atmosphere and the statements it made.

    It meant that although it was the Heat's first game together, they would not be able to walk all over the NBA. Furthermore, it showed that this Celtics team is still a force to be reckoned with.

    Nevertheless, the Heat will certainly improve upon their opening performance, so be sure to tune into the next three Celtics-Heat matchups (Nov. 11, Feb. 13, Apr. 10), as they could easily become instant classics.