Simmons solid in comeback before Brooklyn benching but Giddey soars to ignite Thunder to victory over Bulls
Emerging Australian star Josh Giddey has enjoyed a productive opening to the new NBA season, playing an important role in Oklahoma City’s 124-104 road win over the Chicago Bulls.
One of nine Australians whose teams were in action on Thursday (AEDT), Giddey tallied 16 points, six rebounds and six assists in support of Thunder back-court partner Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31 points, 10 assists).
The Melbourne product’s strong return came as fit-again countryman Ben Simmons gave a solid account of himself, but was left on the bench during the decisive final minutes of Brooklyn’s 114-113 home loss to Cleveland.
A three-time NBA All-Star, Simmons entered the new campaign with a point to prove after a horror couple of seasons – the most recent of which was cut short by knee and back injuries.
Before his body let him down, he averaged career lows of 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists.
But the 27-year-old guard’s regular-season comeback could be seen as a step in the right direction after his promising pre-season.
Simmons finished narrowly short of a double-double with four points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in 23 minutes on court.
He made just two-of-six field-goal attempts – one of them an alley-oop dunk on a pass from Mikal Bridges.
Brooklyn teammate Cam Thomas scored a game-high 36 points – the most ever by a Nets player off the bench in a season opener – but was off-balance when he missed the final shot from long range.
Donovan Mitchell and Max Strus led the Cavs with 27 points each.
Mitchell was the game-winner with 10 points in the final six minutes, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 12.7 seconds left.
Australian veteran Joe Ingles went scoreless and finished with four rebounds and five assists as his Orlando Magic beat Jock Landale’s Houston Rockets 116-86.
Landale had three points and two assists, while Dyson Daniels finished with six points and five rebounds in New Orleans’ 111-104 road win over Memphis.
Title contenders Boston edged New York 108-104 as Kristaps Porzingis made a tie-breaking three-pointer with 1:29 to play and scored 30 points on his Celtics debut against his original team.