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Evan Fournier, Jaylen Brown and the best opening game performances

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The Whiteboard is The Step Back’s daily basketball newsletter, covering the NBA, WNBA and more. Subscribe here to get it delivered to you via email each morning.

The 2021-22 NBA season is exactly two days old, 26 teams have already played their first game and we’ve already seen a slew of monster performances. Between Tuesday and Wednesday’s 13 games, we’ve already had 14 30-point performances. For comparison that’s a rate of 1.07 30-point performances per game played, compared to 0.63 for all of last season.

Jaylen Brown (46) and Evan Fournier (32) will get plenty of attention for their scoring outbursts today, in no small part because they came as part of a double-overtime thriller that energized Madison Square Garden. But they weren’t necessarily the most impressive performances of the night. Ranked by Game Score, a single-game metric that takes into account both positive and negative box score statistics, here are the best 30-point games we’ve seen so far.

Jaylen Brown, Celtics, Game Score: 35.2

Brown helped cover for a tough shooting night for Jayson Tatum, finishing the Celtics’ opener with 46 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and a block, shooting 16-of-30 from the field and 8-of-14 from beyond the arc. It was both the highest-scoring game of Brown’s career and his best performance ever by Game Score. Two overtimes game him a chance to build up his stat line but Celtics’ fans have to feel good about his potential for taking another leap in performance this season after such a strong start.

Harrison Barnes, Kings, Game Score: 33.2

Barnes was all about efficiency in the season opener, helping lead the Kings to a 124-121 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. He finished with 36 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals, shooting 10-of-19 from the field and 8-of-11 from beyond the arc. He was particularly tough in the fourth quarter, putting up 10 points, hitting a pair of 3s and adding two free throws with under 10 seconds left to seal the win. Like with Brown, this was a career-best for Barnes both in terms of points and Game Score.

Zach LaVine, Bulls, Game Score: 30.3

No one on the Pistons could keep Zach LaVine out of the lane in the Bulls’ opening, six-point win. He finished with 34 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and a block. He was 6-of-8 on shots in the paint and got himself to the free-throw line 11 times, making every single one. His ability to create offense was crucial on a night when the Bulls made just 7-of-23 from beyond the arc and finished with 17 turnovers to just 18 assists.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves, Game Score: 29.5

Towns was the picture of efficiency in the Timberwolves’ opener, an 18-point win over the Houston Rockets. Playing off Anthony Edwards, who scored 29 points and made 6-of-12 from beyond the arc, Towns put up 30 points on just 15 shots. He also added 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. This was also just the 24th game in Towns’ career that he finished with double-digit rebounds and multiple steals and blocks. For Timberwolves fans looking for Towns to take his game to another level, this was an inspiring start.

Ja Morant, Grizzlies, Game Score: 28.5

Morant was absolutely electric in his debut, scoring 37 points with 6 assists and 6 rebounds. He finished the game with 26 drives, a number which would have led the league last season, and produced 18 points and 4 assists on those drives. Morant was just 1-of-4 from beyond the arc but if he can just dribble through a defense and get himself 23 shots per game in the paint, it probably won’t matter.

To the Knicks fans wondering where Fournier and Julius Randle are, their Games Scores (25.7 and 23.1) ranked 10th and 14th among the 30-point performances we’ve seen so far. In the case of Randle, his mark was depressed by 7 turnovers and 4 fouls. In the case of Fournier, it was (relatively) less impressive shooting efficiency — 25 shots to get his 32 points.

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The Whiteboard is The Step Back’s daily basketball newsletter, covering the NBA, WNBA and more. Subscribe here to get it delivered to you via email each morning.

The 2021-22 NBA season is exactly two days old, 26 teams have already played their first game and we’ve already seen a slew of monster performances. Between Tuesday and Wednesday’s 13 games, we’ve already had 14 30-point performances. For comparison that’s a rate of 1.07 30-point performances per game played, compared to 0.63 for all of last season.

Jaylen Brown (46) and Evan Fournier (32) will get plenty of attention for their scoring outbursts today, in no small part because they came as part of a double-overtime thriller that energized Madison Square Garden. But they weren’t necessarily the most impressive performances of the night. Ranked by Game Score, a single-game metric that takes into account both positive and negative box score statistics, here are the best 30-point games we’ve seen so far.

Jaylen Brown, Celtics, Game Score: 35.2

Brown helped cover for a tough shooting night for Jayson Tatum, finishing the Celtics’ opener with 46 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and a block, shooting 16-of-30 from the field and 8-of-14 from beyond the arc. It was both the highest-scoring game of Brown’s career and his best performance ever by Game Score. Two overtimes game him a chance to build up his stat line but Celtics’ fans have to feel good about his potential for taking another leap in performance this season after such a strong start.

Harrison Barnes, Kings, Game Score: 33.2

Barnes was all about efficiency in the season opener, helping lead the Kings to a 124-121 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. He finished with 36 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals, shooting 10-of-19 from the field and 8-of-11 from beyond the arc. He was particularly tough in the fourth quarter, putting up 10 points, hitting a pair of 3s and adding two free throws with under 10 seconds left to seal the win. Like with Brown, this was a career-best for Barnes both in terms of points and Game Score.

Zach LaVine, Bulls, Game Score: 30.3

No one on the Pistons could keep Zach LaVine out of the lane in the Bulls’ opening, six-point win. He finished with 34 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and a block. He was 6-of-8 on shots in the paint and got himself to the free-throw line 11 times, making every single one. His ability to create offense was crucial on a night when the Bulls made just 7-of-23 from beyond the arc and finished with 17 turnovers to just 18 assists.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves, Game Score: 29.5

Towns was the picture of efficiency in the Timberwolves’ opener, an 18-point win over the Houston Rockets. Playing off Anthony Edwards, who scored 29 points and made 6-of-12 from beyond the arc, Towns put up 30 points on just 15 shots. He also added 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. This was also just the 24th game in Towns’ career that he finished with double-digit rebounds and multiple steals and blocks. For Timberwolves fans looking for Towns to take his game to another level, this was an inspiring start.

Ja Morant, Grizzlies, Game Score: 28.5

Morant was absolutely electric in his debut, scoring 37 points with 6 assists and 6 rebounds. He finished the game with 26 drives, a number which would have led the league last season, and produced 18 points and 4 assists on those drives. Morant was just 1-of-4 from beyond the arc but if he can just dribble through a defense and get himself 23 shots per game in the paint, it probably won’t matter.

To the Knicks fans wondering where Fournier and Julius Randle are, their Games Scores (25.7 and 23.1) ranked 10th and 14th among the 30-point performances we’ve seen so far. In the case of Randle, his mark was depressed by 7 turnovers and 4 fouls. In the case of Fournier, it was (relatively) less impressive shooting efficiency — 25 shots to get his 32 points.

#OtherContent

With Kawhi Leonard out for most, if not all, of the season, can Paul George step into a primary role and keep the Clippers in the playoffs?

If you thought the Spurs would be unwatchably bad this season, it might be time to reevaluate already.

The Raptors are going to need a lot more from OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet if they’re going to make a surprise playoff run this season.

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