Saturday was heaven for those of us who enjoy sitting on the couch and watching NBA playoff basketball for 12 consecutive hours. All four games were exciting and close, for the most part, as the tone was set in the first game in half of the league’s postseason series.
The best part about the playoffs is that the stars come out in full force. There’s no more minutes limits or holding back — just my best against your best and let’s see what happens. That was certainly the case on Saturday, but while some stars shined, others struggled. Here’s are the results from the first set of Game 1s, along with some winners and losers from the day.
NBA Playoff Game 1 resultsWinner: Nets Big Three
Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined to go 11-for-32 from the field in the first half against the Celtics, and the Nets trailed by six heading into the locker room. Then the league’s newest Big Three proved how quickly they can turn things around, going 15-for-26 while outscoring the Celtics by 17 in the second half to cruise to a Game 1 win.
The Nets’ stars also deserve credit on defense, particularly Durant and Harden, who combined for four steals and a block in the second half to help stifle the Celtics attack. It was just a glimpse of how dangerous this team can be when all three of those guys are clicking.
Loser: Celtics offense
The Nets averaged 118.6 points per game during the regular season. If you hold them to 104 points, as the Celtics did on Saturday, you HAVE to win that game. Instead the Celtics only mustered 93 points, and missed a valuable chance to steal a game from Brooklyn on a subpar offensive night. The Nets played good defense, but ultimately Boston was just unable to make shots — Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum combined to go 11-for-36 from the field. Holding the Nets under 110 points is probably not going to happen often during this series, so the Celtics might be kicking themselves for going ice-cold in the second half and letting this one get away.
Winner: Robert Williams
The Boston Celtics have taken part in a hell of a lot of playoff games, so when you put your name in the franchise record books it’s a pretty incredible accomplishment. Williams blocked nine shots in the series opener against the Nets, setting a new Celtics record for a playoff game.
He wound up one rebound and one block short of a triple-double with 11 points and nine rebounds to go with the blocks, and did all of this in just 22 minutes. I listed Williams as the Celtics’ X-factor heading into this series, and he certainly showed what he’s capable of in Game 1.
Winner: Luka Doncic
31 points. 11 assists. 10 rebounds. Plus a Game 1 win over a team some are calling the title favorite. Not bad for a 22-year-old. It was Doncic’s third triple-double in seven career postseason games.
Doncic was plus-19 in his 41 minutes, and the Mavericks scored an absurd 130.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor on Saturday. The Clippers are going to have their hands full in this series.
Loser: Kristaps Porzingis
Oh boy, the Kristaps hate sure was flowing on Saturday evening. The 7-foot-3 center scored 14 points on 4-for-13 shooting, including 1-for-5 from 3-point range while pulling down just four rebounds. He even drew some ire from Dallas sports legend Dez Bryant after a deep 3-point attempt barely caught a piece of the backboard in a two-point game in the fourth quarter.
As great as Doncic was in Game 1, the Mavs are going to need Porzingis to play better if they’re going to upset the Clippers in the first round.
Loser: Clippers in the clutch
After last postseason’s repeated, embarrassing fourth-quarter meltdowns against the Nuggets, you’d imagine the Clippers would want to start this playoff run with a strong clutch performance. Well, that didn’t happen. In fact, they were downright awful, being outscored 18-5 in the last six minutes of the game. If you’re counting at home, that’s a clutch net rating of minus-121.4, and a clutch offensive rating of 28.6. Kawhi Leonard scored just three points in the fourth quarter on 1-for-4 shooting. Yikes.
Among the teams with the league’s top 12 records during the regular season, the Clippers had by far the worst clutch net rating, so this isn’t exactly a new problem. They’ll need to clean it up quickly, especially against a player like Luka Doncic.
Winner: Khris Middleton
It’s easy to identify a player as a “winner” when he quite literally wins the game for his team. Middleton was the main source of offense for the Bucks on Saturday with 27 points, six rebounds and six assists, and he buried the Heat with an incredibly difficult game-winning fadeaway jumper with less than a second remaining in overtime.
Because of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s limitations in the half-court, Middleton has become the Bucks’ go-to scorer down the stretch of games, and has a history of coming up clutch. Coming off of a five-game loss to the Heat last postseason, this was a huge win for the Bucks’ confidence moving forward, and it may not have happened without Middleton’s heroics.
Loser: Jimmy Butler
Yes, he made a tremendous play to get the game to overtime, but Butler went 4-for-22 from the field, including 2-for-9 from 3-point range. Considering they were one Khris Middleton jump shot away from double overtime, just a couple more made buckets from Jimmy Buckets could have given the Heat a Game 1 win. For what it’s worth, Butler didn’t seem too concerned after the game.
“You miss shots. You’ve got days like that. That’s OK. The whole thing is you’ve just gotta bounce back, figure out ways how you can be better,” Butler said. “We will continue to take the ones that we missed, because they will fall.”
Winner: Damian Lillard
Due to Denver’s injury issues, many feel that the No. 6 Blazers have a good shot at a first-round upset. It certainly helps when Damian Lillard plays the way he did in Game 1. Lillard put up 34 points and 13 assists on 5-for-12 3-point shooting as the Blazers pulled away in the second half for a convincing win on Saturday to steal home-court advantage from the Nuggets.
Lillard had three subpar scoring efforts against Denver during the regular season, but he made up for that quickly despite hounding defense from Facu Campazzo all night long. Nikola Jokic will probably win MVP, but his supporting cast just won’t be enough to keep up with Portland if Lillard continues to play like this.