2018 NBA playoffs, Day 1 things to know: Warriors flip switch, Ben Simmons dominates, Anthony Davis gets first playoff win
The NBA postseason officially kicked off on Saturday, and the games did not disappoint
The NBA playoffs kicked off on Saturday with the Warriors dusting the Spurs, and from there things actually got interesting in the other three games with the Raptors, Sixers and Pelicans all taking 1-0 leads in their respective series. Here is one observation from each matchup, along with the game scores and a recap of our live updates from the day's action.
NBA playoff scores for Saturday, April 14
- Warriors 113, Spurs 92 (Box Score)
- Raptors 114, Washington Wizards 106 (Box Score)
- Philadelphia 76ers 130, Miami Heat 104 (Box Score)
- New Orleans Pelicans 97, Portland Trail Blazers 95 (Box Score)
Warriors flip the switch
So much for worrying about Golden State as they limped down the stretch. Against the Spurs in Game 1, the Warriors were engaged on both ends from the jump, and they resisted the temptation to play solely through Kevin Durant, as they have too often done in Stephen Curry's absence. Instead, it was back to the crisp ball and player movement and offensive balance that has come to define this dominant three-year Warriors run.
Durant scored 24 points on just 17 shots and was completely under control the whole way, Draymond Green was back to himself as the do-it-all point forward, falling just two boards shy of a triple-double, and with Green distributing and Durant drawing his normal attention, Klay Thompson found the space to drill 11 of 13 shots, including five of six from downtown, for 27 points.
Steve Kerr shook up the starting lineup,, who was incredible, stonewalling LaMarcus Aldridge on several possessions and forcing him into mid-rangers while also posting 15 points. This is such a versatile lineup for Golden State -- no true point guard, but Green, Thompson, Durant and Iggy can all defend four to five positions straight up, can switch anything, and offensively they can all handle the ball and distribute. When they're making shots and are as engaged as they were on Saturday, San Antonio just doesn't have the talent to keep up, plain and simple. Unless the Warriors decide to lay an egg along the way and get sloppy or go ice-cold for a game, don't be surprised if this one ends in a sweep.
Raptors same but different
Well, playoff DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry showed up again in Game 1 (that's actually not fair to DeRozan, who maybe wasn't great but was at least solid and had a big stretch to open the second half), but whereas that was once enough to bury the Raps, now they have more to their team. This is exactly why they added the pieces they did and changed the way they play to a more inclusive, modernized, less pick-and-roll and more 3-point heavy system, so they wouldn't be so desperately dependent on their two All-Stars.
Because let's face it: You clearly can't depend on Lowry and DeRozan to dominate in the playoffs. With Lowry, you can't even really depend on him to be good, let alone great, on a consistent basis. They'll both be better as the playoffs go on, but it just takes off so much pressure that they don't have to be great.
Serge Ibaka was terrific on Saturday, Delon Wright and C.J. Miles combined for 30 points off the bench, and Dwane Casey made gutsy calls to ride Wright over Lowry for key stretches, keep DeRozan on the bench in the fourth quarter when Toronto was rolling, and not play Jonas Valanciunas for much of the second half. When your team has lost nine straight Game 1s in the first round, and you still have the guts to go away from your stars for pivotal parts of crunch time, that's hat-tip stuff. If you're Toronto, you have to be very happy that you outlasted a pretty good Washington team with pedestrian efforts from your two best players.
But let's be clear: Winning one game in the first round is a lot different than making actual noise as a contender, which is what the Raptors expect to be. DeRozan, and particularly Lowry, have to be better.
Sixers are flat-out scary
Coming into this 3-6 matchup with Miami, a lot of people were trying to say the Heat posed a lot of challenges for Philly, that they're smart and scrappy and Eric Spoelstra is a great coach and they shoot 3s and yada yada, but I'm not buying it. It's not that those things aren't true of the Heat. They are. It's just that this Sixers team is becoming a monster.
Ben Simmons was one rebound shy of a triple-double in his postseason debut, using the expanse of space defenders give him because of his lacking jumper to get a head of steam going to the basket and see passing lanes even more clearly -- as if he needs that. The Sixers shot over 64 percent from 3 as a team. JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Dario Saric combined for 73 points. And to think, Joel Embiid didn't even play. I see this a lot like the Spurs-Warriors series in that the Heat just don't have the horses to play with Philly if the Sixers are on their game, as they certainly were in Game 1.
Miami came in as the worst offensive unit of all 16 playoffs teams, and the Sixers have been a top-five defense pretty much all year. That showed in Game 1. When the Sixers dialed up the defense in the second half, the Heat just didn't have anyone to create any kind of consistent offense.
I'm not going to predict how many games this series will go, because Miami is scrappy as hell and can very easily get hot from 3 in a couple games and make this thing interesting. But Philly is going to win, barring something unforeseen.
The Brow gets first playoff win
The Pelicans thoroughly outplayed the Blazers all night and Damian Lillard had a nightmare game, but Portland still had a real chance to steal Game 1 at the end. I'm just going to leave this here: Terry Stotts drawing up a backdoor cut to the basket for Meyers Leonard when the Blazers were down by three with just over 10 seconds left was, shall we say, questionable. Then, on the ensuing inbound pass, to go for a basket cut for two again? Hey, Blazers, you're down three with 10 seconds left. You have Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Take your shot.
Now, aside from that, the Pelicans deserved to win this game. Anthony Davis, who finally has a playoff victory under his belt, was sensational with 35 points and 14 boards, Rondo was Playoff Rondo (which is to say he was great with 17 assists), and Jrue Holiday showed a lot of people who don't watch much of the Pelicans how good he really is. Holiday made giant defensive plays -- first a steal on McCollum, then a blocked shot on that aforementioned dumb inbound pass under the hoop -- down the stretch as the Blazers were threatening to pull off a wild comeback. Huge win for New Orleans. If they would have blown that game, it'd be hard to see them coming back to win the series. Now, can the Blazers come back? I say yes. Lillard is not going to shoot 6-for-23 very often.
Recap of live updates
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