The 2019 NBA playoffs got underway on Saturday night with a slate of four games. While the defending champion Golden State Warriors came away with a Game-1 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, the other series did not go quite as planned.
Philadelphia 76ers 102-111 Brooklyn Nets
The first upset of the night saw the third-seeded Sixers fall at the hands of the Nets thanks to the heroics of an emerging superstar in D’Angelo Russell. He delivered as advertised, popping off for 26 points and four assists. Caris LeVert chipped in 23 points with three triples, one steal and one block in 23 minutes off the bench.
The Sixers were led by veteran Jimmy Butler who tried his best to carry his team with a game-high 36 points, two steals and two blocks. Joel Embiid struggled from the field, shooting 5-for-15 but still managed to end the night with 22 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and five blocks. He was so dominant in the post that the Nets had no choice but their bench their sophomore center Jarrett Allen, limiting him to two points, five rebounds in 10 minutes.
The Sixers were missing impact performances from Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, who managed just nine and four points, respectively. Things got ugly early as the Sixer fans expressed their displeasure with a cacophony of boos that resounded throughout the stadium; even getting in the head of Simmons.
Orlando Magic 104-101 Toronto Raptors
The Magic-Raptors game was a stunner. Both teams went at it hard with Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam leading the charge for Toronto with 25 and 24 points, respectively. Orlando had a more balanced offense with seven of their players scoring in double figures.
In the end, the upset victory by the Magic came at the hands of D.J. Augustin, who hit a go-ahead 3-pointer that lifted his team up by three points at the last second.
Kyle Lowry was noticeably quiet on offense, going 0-of-7 from the field and 0-of-2 from the line to finish scoreless in 34 minutes. He did manage to make an impact elsewhere, posting a team-high plus-11 in the +/- column, adding seven rebounds, eight dimes and two steals on the night.
On the other end, Montenegrin superstar Nikola Vucevic was quietly limited to scoring 11 points with eight rebounds on 3-of-14 shooting.
Los Angeles Clippers 104-121 Golden State Warriors
There’s not much to tell in this one. The Warriors flexed their playoff muscles and Stephen Curry exploded for 38 points, thanks to eight 3-pointers, 15 rebounds
On their side, the Clippers got some energetic play from their reserves as Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams chimed in 26 and 25 points. Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander flashed some promise with 18 points and three blocks in 34 minutes.
San Antonio Spurs 101-96 Denver Nuggets
Never underestimate the San Antonio Spurs when it comes to the playoffs. That was the message that the Denver Nuggets received when they fell to Gregg Popovich and his boys. Not even Nikola Jokic’s triple-double performance of 10 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists would be enough to complete the comeback they needed in the fourth quarter.
DeMar DeRozan came through with a big 18-point, 12-rebound, 6-assist night of his own. Derrick White added 16 points and five assists. He came into his own as he was thrust into a prominent role as the Spurs’ starting point guard with Dejounte Murray out for the season early. White’s defense played a key role in the Spurs’ upset. He stole the ball from Jamal Murray with 1.3 left after LaMarcus Aldridge sank two free throws to keep the Spurs ahead. Game 2 stays in Denver on Tuesday.
The Nuggets will need to find their groove if they want a deep run in the NBA playoffs.