The playoffs started at 2 AM tday, and it was worth losing sleep to catch all four games. It was a lot of fun and included a ton of drama.
Bucks and Heat put on a grinding overtime classic
The Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat didn’t waste any time getting into playoff mode, and the name of the game was defense.
The first half was indicative that both teams did their homework, with strong defensive rotations shown as they hounded each other. The Heat had the better defense in the first quarter, but the Bucks answered in the second by swarming their opponents and continuously forcing Miami into burning their shot clock and forcing tough shots.
Giannis Antetokounmpo only shot shot 6 of 16 but was a defensive terror with three first half steals. He also had 13 points at the half, but got help from Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton who chipped in 11 and 12 points respectively.
Miami has no physical answer for the Greek Freak and they’ll have to keep using smart defensive sets and double teams to try to contain him all series. Antetokounmpo shoots 80% when he gets into the restricted area and you can bet that he’ll continue to attack all series long.
Miami shot atrociously in the first half at 33% and looked like they just couldn’t buy a bucket for long periods of time. They event went into one stretch where they missed ten-straight field goal attempts.
Jimmy Butler, in particular, had a rough first half. He went 1 of 10 from the field and relied on his ability to draw fouls to score some points. Duncan Robinson, who only shot three pointers before the break, helped keep the Heat afloat by draining 4 of 7 for 12 points. No one else on the Heat had double figures before the third quarter started.
You could almost feel the playoff jitters from the two teams, and there were plenty of careless turnovers from both sides in the first half. Even though the Bucks shot 46% from the field, their horrible 2 of 17 clip from beyond the arc played a large factor in them only holding a slim 53-50 advantage heading into the second half.
Things didn’t get much better for Butler in the second half and overtime, and he finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists but shot 4 of 22 from the field. Considering that the game was decided by a 109-107 margin, you know Butler is going to be angry with himself and will come back strong in Game 2.
The Bucks got 20 or more points from Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton, the latter of whom made the game-winning shot with 0.5 seconds left in overtime.
It’s clear that these two teams are ready for a war, and I can’t wait to watch it.
Luka Doncic busted out a triple-double to upset the Clippers
Luka Doncic looked focused as he led the Dallas Mavericks to a surprise upset of the LA Clippers in Game 1. The Slovenian had 31 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists along with a steal and a block in another signature playoff performance. He got a lot of help on the offensive end from Tim Hardaway Jr. (21 PTS), Dorian Finney-Smith (18 PTS), Jaylen Brunson (15 PTS) and Kristaps Porzingis (14 PTS).
The ‘championship-or-bust’ Clippers will definitely be worried about dropping this game, but they’ll have time to regroup. As a team, they shot horribly from the three-point line (11 of 40) and you can expect some of those shots to start to drop in future games. Kawhi Leonard (26 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST, 4 STL) and Paul George (23 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL) had decent games, but shot a combined 3 or 14 from beyond the arc.
The Nets’ star trio combined for 82 points
The Brooklyn Nets’ star trio of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden sure looked good out there today. Playing with a much tighter nine-man rotation compared the regular season, the Nets relied heavily on their three stars for scoring and the three of them did a great job. The trio combined for 82 points, and were able to carry their team to a victory even though they shot 5 of 24 from beyond the arc.
The Celtics desperately missed Jaylen Brown’s scoring and defense in this game, and Jayson Tatum (22 PTS, 3 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK) and Kemba Walker (15 PTS) couldn’t muster enough firepower to keep up with Brooklyn once they got going. Tatum struggled from the field and shot 6 of 20. He’s going to have to do better in Game 2 considering how heavily the Celtics rely on him for their scoring.
The Nuggets and Blazers continued their playoff rivalry with another tight battle
The Nuggets and Blazers have put on a few memorably playoff games in recent years, including a quadruple-overtime game in 2019. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are no strangers to MVP-candidate Nikola Jokic and are also never afraid to take any team on.
That was evident in today’s Game 1 clash, which stayed pretty tight throughout and saw Jokic (34 PTS, 15 REB), Michael Porter Jr. (25 PTS, 9 REB) and Aaron Gordon (16 PTS, 8 REB) take part in a great duel against Lillard (34 PTS, 13 AST), McCollum (21 PTS), Jusuf Nurkic (16 PTS, 12 REB, 5 AST) and Carmelo Anthony(18 PTS).
Double-digit leads were in rare supply, and the first team to grab one were the Blazers through a Lillard three-pointer at the end of the third.
The Blazers survived a couple of small runs from the Nuggets and found an answer every time Denver got close. This was one of those games where Jamal Murray’s presence and abilities as a go-to scorer were sorely missed.
The Blazers also set a franchise record for made three-pointers in a playoff game after shooting 19 of 40 from deep. A confident Blazers team is something to fear in the postseason, and it’s going to be interesting to see how Mike Malone adjusts his plans to get the Nuggets ready for Game 2.