By Justin Thomas
The NBA playoffs are officially underway and the opening weekend proved to be very entertaining. There were close games and some blowouts but there was nothing short of great basketball being played. Here are some takeaways from each of the first 8 games.
Cavaliers vs Pacers
The Cavaliers squeaked out a one point win over the Pacers in the first game of the playoffs on Saturday afternoon. Heading into the playoffs one of the issues with the Cavs was their defense and that proved to still be true as they allowed Indiana to score 108 points. The Pacers ranked 15th in the league in point per game this season. Although Lebron and company delivered on the offensive end, what Saturday showed was that the Pacers do indeed have what it takes to hang with Cleveland, and were just a CJ Miles jump shot away from stealing Game 1 on the road.
Raptors vs Bucks
It’s almost as if it’s a scheduled thing for the Raptors to lose Game 1 of an opening round series. Their game 1 loss to the Bucks marks the 4th straight year Toronto lost Game 1 of an opening round series. The Raptors struggled from the field shooting an abysmal 36% from the field. Stars Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry shot a combined 9-32 from the field which is the exact opposite of what you want if you’re a Raptors fan. For the Bucks The “Greek Freak” played stellar as usual, dropping 28 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. Greg Monroe poured in a double-double off the bench and rookie Malcolm Brogdon added 16. This Game 2 just might be a must win for the Raptors.
Spurs vs Grizzlies
Arguably one of the more boring series by casual fans perspectives, Game 1 was a complete blowout. San Antonio handled business at home crushing Memphis 111-82. Although Mark Gasol had a stellar game with 32 points, the rest of the team struggled. The next highest scoring Grizzly was Mike Conley with 13 points. For the Spurs 11 of the 13 players that saw the floor scored. Kawhi Leonard led the way with 32 points and Lamarcus Aldrige added 20. Even with the scrappy nature of the Grizzlies this series is destined to be a sweep or end in 5.
Jazz vs Clippers
In a back and forth game, the Jazz and Clippers ended in remarkable fashion. Chris Paul hit a 6-foot shot to tie the game with just over 10 seconds left and then the Jazz came down and won it on a Joe Johnson floater as the clock hit double zero. The playoff frustration of the Clippers seems to mount year after year as the Clippers try and get over the hump and finally get to the Finals. For Utah, their team collective is used to their strength as you saw a balanced scoring attack from top to bottom. The big story from Game 1 is Rudy Gobert’s injury in the first quarter. It is uncertain if he will be available for the rest of the series or the playoffs in general. A big blow to a team that relies of his defensive presence around the rim.
Wizards vs Hawks
It seems like these two teams always meet up in the playoffs and there is no love lost between these two Southeast division rivals. It was a game of runs for both teams in what was a slugfest. The Hawks’ Paul Millsap said in the postgame interview “The difference in the game was we were playing basketball and they were playing MMA”. It was a very physical game to say the least but through it all John Wall showed exactly why he is an elite point guard. He set a personal best in the playoffs dropping 32 points and 14 assists. His wingman Bradley Beal poured in 22 as they muscled out a 114-107 victory. Look for the rest of this series to be filled with trash talk and technical fouls.
Warriors vs Trail Blazers
In what was probably the best game of the weekend, the Blazers and Warriors went back and forth on the offensive end. The league’s best backcourt consisting of Damian Lilliard and CJ McCollum combined for over 45 points in the first half for Portland. The two ended with a combined 75 points with McCollum dropping 41 to Dame’s 34. The Warriors struggled defensively keeping the Blazers in check and if it wasn’t for Draymond playing phenomenal as usual they may have lost. Draymond Green was 1 assist shy of a triple double and also had 5 blocks. The only way Portland stands a chance is if Dame and CJ keep up this herculean effort and role players like Allen Crabbe, Mo Harkless and Evan Turner elevate their game. This series may just break some scoring records by the time it’s over.
Celtics vs Bulls
Celtics nation came into the game with heavy hearts as Isaiah Thomas suffered the loss of his younger sister less than 24 hours prior to game time. It was remarkable even seeing IT4 suited up for the game given the circumstances. However, he did what he did best and that was ball out. The 5’9 guard dropped 33 points on 10-18 shooting however it wasn’t enough as the Celtics dropped Game 1 at home to a Bulls team that was on the verge of missing the playoffs. Jimmy Butler just increased his trade value scoring 30 points, with most of them coming in the 2nd half. Bobby Portis played big as he came off the bench to score 19 and Robin Lopez posted a double-double. Although there are things bigger than basketball going on with the Celtics, their Game 2 is basically a must win if they don’t want to go to Chicago down 2 games.
Rockets vs Thunder
Arguably the most anticipated series of this opening round, the game was interesting at least for the first half. Once the second half came around the Rockets seemed to flip a switch and pulled away in stunning fashion. James Harden put up 37 in impressive fashion, while his MVP candidate counterpart Russell Westbrook only had 22. Westbrook struggled all game shooting 6-23 from the field and had 9 turnovers. He didn’t have any help either. Every one of the Oklahoma City starters had a negative +/- while on the floor. For the Rockets however, Patrick Beverly had the game of his life posting up a double-double while pestering Westbrook all game. The big difference between these two teams is that Harden has a better supporting cast around him and doesn’t have to expend as much energy as Russell does.