The University of Kentucky Alumni Start the 2020-2021 NBA Season Off Strong
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Big Blue Nation Around the League
As the NBA kicked off its 2020-2021 season, the Kentucky Wildcats left their mark on Week 1 around the league.
On opening night on Dec. 22, we saw three Cats hit the hardwood. In the first game of the evening, Mychal Mulder scored 8 points and had 1 board in the Golden State Warriors' 125-99 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. The second game of the evening saw Anthony Davis' championship Los Angeles Lakers up against Patrick Patterson's Los Angeles Clippers. Despite Davis' 18 points and 7 rebounds, Patterson provided 3 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the Clippers' win.
In the second night of action, P.J. Washington scored 4 points in the Charlotte Hornets' 121-114 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Tyrese Maxey added 6 points during his Philadelpia 76ers debut that saw the Sixers best the Washington Wizards. The "Kentucky Knicks" saw good Wildcat output from Julius Randle who had a near triple double, finishing with 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Kevin Knox II and Nerlens Noel would come off the bench and score 4 and 2 points, respectively. The top Wildcats of the night were the Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo and the Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns. Bam scored 25 points and grabbed 11 boards for the Heat, while Towns flirted with a triple-double as he scored 22 points, had 11 rebounds, and picked up 7 assists in the win against the Detroit Pistons. Four wildcats (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Devin Booker, Bam Adebayo, and De'Aaron Fox) rank top 50 in the NBA in points per game through Week 1.
Week 1 - Top 3 Performers
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander vs Charlotte Hornets
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is beginning his third NBA season with all-star potential. Averaging 24 points a game and establishing himself as the Oklahoma City Thunder's point guard for years to come, he took over the Dec. 26th game against the Charlotte Hornets. Shai hit a game-winning stepback jumper with 1.4 seconds left on the game clock to win the game in Charlotte. He finished with 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists.
Julius Randle vs Milwaukee Bucks
Going up against the reigning back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo's Bucks, Julius Randle and the New York Knicks completely dismantled them. Randle and the Knicks were on fire from behind the three point arc as they shot 59.3% from behind the line. Julius Randle had 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in the Knicks first win of the season and has proved that he belong in an NBA starting lineup every game.
P.J. Washington vs Brooklyn Nets
The Charlotte Hornets pulled off what many considered an "upset" against Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving's Brooklyn Nets. P.J. Washington started his sophomore campaign off with a bang as he finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds against the Nets. Washington only recorded 4 double-doubles in his rookie season, so this success early on this year is promising.
Keldon Johnson vs New Orleans Pelicans
Like P.J. Washington, Keldon Johnson is also beginning his second year in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs. Johnson was able to notch just one double-double in his rookie season, but he was able to produce another in a recent game against the Pelicans. Johnson led his team despite the loss with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Other NBA Cats to Watch For
Look for spark plug scorers like Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker, Miami's Tyler Herro, and Denver's Jamal Murray to put up big scoring nights consistently moving forward as we dive into this new NBA season. Rookies like Immanuel Quickley for the Knicks and Tyrese Maxey for the 76ers showed promising preseasons, so look for them to make an impact in the regular season as well. Also look for seasoned veterans like Eric Bledsoe, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Enes Kanter, and Rajon Rondo to contribute as well.