The conference semifinals round of the 2019 NBA playoffs continued Sunday afternoon. In the East, the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks hosted the Boston Celtics in what many expected to be a great matchup.
Would there be any surprises like there were a week ago?
While the Bucks finished the season with the best record in the NBA, Game 1 didn’t go the way they had hoped. Although the Bucks trailed by just two points at halftime, things went south for the home team after that.
In the game-changing third quarter, the Celtics opened with a 9-0 run to take a double-digit lead that they never relinquished. Furthermore, the Celtics outscored the Bucks by a 60-40 margin in the third and fourth quarters. Due to a poor showing by the Bucks in the second half, the Celtics cruised to a 112-90 victory.
One of the keys to victory for the Celtics was their defense against MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. Yes, he did score 22 points, but he shot just 7-for-21 from the field. Even more important, Antetokounmpo didn’t make his first shot until the first minute of the second quarter.
“Our focus was to make sure that we just made it tough on him every time, just making sure he earned everything he got,” Celtics forward Al Horford told ESPN. “I felt like we did a pretty good job of that.”
In last year’s NBA playoffs, the Bucks fell to the Celtics in seven games. Therefore, if the Bucks hope to change the narrative, Antetokounmpo will need to make his presence felt the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors opened their NBA playoffs semifinal matchup against the Houston Rockets. These two teams know each other very well, to say the least.
This will be the fourth time these two teams have met in postseason competition, with the Warriors winning each time. The most recent encounter took place in the 2018 NBA playoffs.
The Rockets were up 3-2 and appeared to be on the brink of knocking off the Warriors. Unfortunately, Chris Paul went down with an injury and the Warriors took the series in seven games.
Following that bitter loss, the Rockets were hoping to turn their fortunes around against the defending champions. In Game 1, they came close, as Warriors’ sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson came into this one nursing injuries.
Simply put, this game was the one the Rockets needed to steal. Fast forwarding to the fourth quarter, James Harden’s three-point play cut the Warriors lead to 100-98.
On the ensuing possession, Curry nailed a 3-pointer to push Golden State’s lead back to five points. Consequently, the Warriors escaped with a 104-100 victory to take 1-0 lead in this NBA playoffs series.
Two-time Finals MVP, Kevin Durant, led the Warriors’ scoring attack with 35 points on 11-25 shooting from the field. As a result, this was the fifth straight contest in which KD topped the 30-point plateau.
“When he’s being as aggressive as he’s been, I don’t think there’s anyone in the NBA, maybe the world who can stop him,” Draymond Green said via ESPN.
If the rest of this NBA playoffs series plays out like Game 1, fans are in for another thrilling matchup.