OMG! What a day in the NBA this was! Let’s talk about it!
Wow. Wow. Wow. Day 2 of the NBA Playoffs started and ended with a bang (though, admittedly, there was a case of sagging middles)!! Both 8-seeds defeated the 1-seeds today, making it the first time since the 2003 ‘Offs that both top teams lost Game 1 of their respective first round series.
Orlando Magic 122, Milwaukee Bucks 110
Magic lead series 1-0
….and this is how the day started! The Magic jumped out to a 33-23 lead after one quarter, and the Bucks just couldn’t come up with a counter-punch. Orlando took the lead with 8:13 left in the first quarter and never gave it back. Milwaukee managed to get within one point (69-68) with 8:33 left in the third, but the Magic pulled away with a 14-4 and were safe from there.
Orlando, the only team in the Bubble with any semblance of home court advantage, came out fearless. They basically felt they had nothing to less and everything to gain by playing with effort and confidence. They also maintained their Giannis Wall for much of the game, which gummed up the Bucks’ halfcourt offense. Orlando also outscored Milwaukee on points off turnovers (25-14) and shot much better from the free throw line (94.7% vs. 64.3%).
And Nikola Vucevic (35 points, 14 rebounds, five made 3-pointers) showed why he was an all-star last season.
Milwaukee collectively seemed to come out with low energy. Even though the latter three quarters of the game were stabilized (89-87, Orlando), the 1-seed Bucks couldn’t seem to find it in them to make that ultimate push to defeat a team that they’re, on paper, better than.
This game gave me the same vibes as their loss to the Brooklyn Nets. If the Bucks want to win a championship, they can’t play down to their opponent. They have to dominate. Milwaukee hasn’t really dominated in the Bubble yet, and that concerns me.
Miami Heat 113, Indiana Pacers 101
Heat lead series 1-0
I’m not sure what the Pacers organization did to the Basketball Gods, but they Gods sure do love to get the Pacers’ stars out of the paint. Victor Oladipo left the game in the second quarter with a left eye injury and never returned. This left an Indiana team already without Domantas Sabonis to fend for themselves. Despite full effort from the team and 22 points each from T.J. Warren and Malcolm Brogdon, it just wasn’t enough to keep up with the Miami Heat.
Jimmy Butler was a man on a mission (28 points, four assists, four steals, two blocks. Goran Dragic was phenomenal in his starting role (24 points, six rebounds, and five assists) while Kendrick Nunn was a DNP-CD. Bam Adebayo was his all-star self (17 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) and Tyler Herro was electric off the bench (15 points). It’s hard to see how Indiana can keep up with this if they don’t have Oladipo.
Houston Rockets 123, Oklahoma City Thunder 108
Rockets lead series 1-0
No Westbrook? No problem! Tonight’s starting backcourt of James Harden and Eric Gordon combined for 58 points. Meanwhile, OKC’s starting guards Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander only came together for 29 points.
Game analyst Stan Van Gundy said it a pajillion times on the broadcast, OKC’s offense was “stagnant” throughout. The Rockets offense followed through with their normal gameplan and got little resistance, finishing with a solid .483/.385/.895 shooting split. The Thunder just couldn’t keep up.
Van Gundy pointed out that the reason behind their offensive woes may have been because the Rockets were defending against the drive, which is where the guards get a lot of their scoring and assists from. So if their main offensive engine is shut down, and they can’t find a good counter, the Thunder may end up out of this series quicker than expected.
Trail Blazers lead series 1-0
I am shooketh. This game felt more intense than Magic-Bucks! The Blazers are carting out a shorter rotation than Orlando and have to take on two superstars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis as opposed to just one in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Yet they still found a way to get the win.
LeBron had a historical performance of 23 points, 17 rebounds, and 16 assists. He was doing everything he could to get his teammates going and involved, but they just weren’t giving him anything in return. Anthony Davis was able to get to the line enough (12-of-17) to score 28 points, Kyle Kuzma had a nice little run in the fourth quarter and finished with 14 points, but otherwise the rest of the team played like zombies.
So props to the Blazers. Their 8-man rotation really grinded out his victory and took advantage of LA’s struggles. Jusuf Nurkic (16 points, 15 rebounds, three assists), Hassan Whiteside (eight rebounds, five blocks), and spot starter Wenyen Gabriel (three rebounds, three assists, one block) were fearless inside. Damian Lillard (34 points), CJ McCollum (21 points), and Carmelo Anthony (11 points) provided most of the much-needed scoring. While the odds are still stacked against them in this series, the effort Portland put out in Game 1 is exactly the formula to keep them competitive in these games.