Irving aggravates injury, Nets hold off Lakers in Shanghai
Kyrie Irving flew halfway around the world to play for 66 seconds.
Irving aggravated his facial fracture shortly after tip-off in his preseason debut for the Brooklyn Nets, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers 114-111 in the opener of this year's two-game NBA China Games series on Thursday in Shanghai.
The game was played after several events to promote the NBA's annual appearance in China were called off because of the rift between China's government and the league — started by a since-deleted tweet from Houston general manager Daryl Morey that supported anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.
The U.S. and Chinese national anthems were not played before the game. All media events Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Arena — including pregame availabilities, postgame news conferences and a long-scheduled media session with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — were canceled.
The Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it was not going to show the Lakers-Nets games on Thursday or in Shenzhen on Saturday. NBA broadcast partner Tencent also said it was changing its coverage plans for the league.
But fans came in droves, nearly every seat in the 18,000-seat arena appeared filled and they cheered for James loudest of all — as usual. James has made almost-annual visits to China during his NBA career to promote the game and his personal brand, and his popularity there is enormous.
Given fan reaction to James there this week, including being mobbed by well-wishers who chanted and snapped countless pictures with their phones as he walked through a Shanghai mall on Wednesday, not even the politically charged unrest between China and the NBA could dampen how revered he is in the world's most populous country.
It was a topic again in Tokyo on Thursday, where Houston and Toronto finished their two-game series. The Rockets, of course, have been at the forefront of the rift between China and the league because of Morey's tweet.
"You know what? It's a tough situation," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said after Houston's 118-111 win over the reigning NBA champion Raptors. "Very difficult. Adam Silver speaks for the NBA. I work for the NBA. I go with Adam. Commissioner Silver will do the right thing."
Irving tried to play through his left-side facial fracture, an injury that occurred in a pickup game last month. He was wearing a clear mask in an effort to protect his face, but bumped into Rondo while playing defense just 1:06 into the contest.
Irving's face made contact with Rondo's upper arm. The Nets guard immediately winced in pain, took the mask off and motioned to the bench that he needed a substitute.
If that wasn't concern enough, the Nets lost their other starting guard just 22 seconds later. Caris LeVert left with 10:32 remaining in the first quarter after being poked in the eye and didn't return.
James made 7 of 15 shots, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range and added six rebounds in 24 1/2 minutes. The Lakers and Nets play again Saturday in Shenzhen, China.
Curry made 14 of 19 from the field and 6 of 9 from 3-point range. The Warriors were 19 of 36 from the arc.
Malik Beasley had 16 points and Nikola Jokic added 10 points and 11 rebounds for Denver (2-0).
Montrezl Harrell led Los Angeles (1-2) with 15 points. Leonard finished with seven points and six assists in 10 minutes.
Neither of the Rockets' starting guards shot particularly well — combined, they were 13 of 33 from the field and 4 for 19 from 3-point range — and Harden missed his last six 3-point attempts. But the Rockets started fast, getting out to a 22-8 lead, and then overcame a 13-point, second-half deficit after both sides pulled most of their starters.
And the fans — more than 20,000 in Tokyo — loved what they saw from the former MVPs, regaling them both with "M-V-P" chants.
"It feels great anytime you hear those chants. Both of us have accomplished that unbelievable goal, being MVP," Harden said. "I think the reason that we're here together is to accomplish something bigger than that. Obviously, it's going to take time but we're in the right direction, right steps. We have a long season ahead of us and I think we're all excited for it."
Eric Gordon scored 14 points for Houston.
THUNDER 110, NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 84
Steven Adams had 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds for Oklahoma City (2-0).
Robert Loe had 19 points and Scotty Hopson added 15 for New Zealand.
TRAIL BLAZERS 104, MACCABI HAIFA 68
Anfernee Simons hit four 3-pointers and scored 22 points for Portland (1-1).
Zach Collins added 16 points and nine rebounds, and Skal Labissiere grabbed 15 boards. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside sat out as a coach's decision. Pau Gasol (left foot) and Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) did not play due to injuries.
Roman Sorkin had 17 points, and Norris Cole and Brandon Rush added 10 points apiece for Maccabi Haifa. Haifa lost to the Grizzlies 123-88 last Sunday and will wrap its NBA preseason tour by facing the Timberwolves on Sunday.