The NBA Playoffs began with the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder crushing two clueless looking teams from Texas, the Atlanta Hawks barely edging the Boston Celtics in a game filled with mistakes, and the Indiana Pacers providing the only away win of the day, picking up their defense in the second half to add another disappointment to the long, sad history of the Toronto Raptors.
Indiana Pacers 100 Toronto Raptors 90 (Pacers lead series 1-0): The only road win of opening day in the NBA postseason, the Pacers made the difference in the second half, mostly through Paul George, who finished with 33 points, 26 of them coming in the second half. He’s the first player since Jalen Rose in 2000 to score at least 30 points and add 5 assists for the Pacers in a playoff game, also adding 4 steals and 2 blocks.
This connects us to the other point: Defense. The Pacers held the Raptors to 38% from the field and 21.1% from beyond the arc. It was especially effective against the Raptors’ key players: Kyle Lowry (3-for-13), DeMar DeRozan (5-for-19) and Jonas Valanciunas (5-for-19). Hill did a fantastic job on Lowry, limiting him to just 7 points and three turnovers while guarding him. Valanciunas grabbed 11 offensive rebounds (19 total), but he himself was o-for-7 on second chance shots, while the Raptors went 2-for-10 from the field on his 11 offensive boards. Monta Ellis scored 15 points and Myles Turner, making his playoff debut, had 5 blocks.
Houston Rockets 78 Golden State Warriors 104 (Warriors lead series 1-0): All the predictions about this game were true. The Warriors led 33-15 in the first quarter, and it gradually got worse from there. Stephen Curry, hurting his ankle and twice heading to the locker room to get it taped, scored 24 points in the first half. The Warriors didn’t need more from him. Andre Iguodala finished with 7 assists off the bench, while his and others defense on James Harden held the Rockets star at 17 points from 19 shots, while not getting a single free throw attempt. Patrick Beverley and Stephen Curry got double technicals early in the game but that was the only time Curry seemed to step out of rhythm. The Warriors defense forced 24 turnovers and held Houston to 35.7% from the field, 27.3% from beyond the arc. At no point during the game did it look like the Rockets were even close to making a comeback. This is what a sweep feels like when it starts.
Boston Celtics 101 Atlanta Hawks 102 (Hawks lead series 1-0): In a game filled with jittery offense and plenty of misses (shot a combined 38.2% from the field), the Hawks simply won their focus back late in the game, eventually winning on free throws. Al Horford has his 8th playoff 20-10 game, finishing with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks. Jeff Teague and Kent Bazemore both finished with 23 points, as the Hawks took 16 more shots from the line and had 11 points more through free throws. Boston took too many three pointers (11-for-35). Isaiah Thomas had 27 points and 8 assists for the Celtics, but the Hawks took advantage of their size advantage in the backcourt, while didn’t feel too bad as Avery Bradley picked up an injury on a day he shot just 1-for-7 from the outside on. Jae Crowder finished with a 14-10 double double, but he was only 5-for-16 from the field.
Dallas Mavericks 70 Oklahoma City Thunder 108: (Thunder lead series 1-0): The theme from the regular season between the teams continues, as the Thunder blow out Dallas. They held the Mavs to only 11 first quarter points, and didn’t give up more than 19 except for the second quarter. Dallas simply couldn’t get open shots, having an awful contribution from their backcourt, as Deron Williams and J.J. Barea finished with 2-for-15 from the field while scoring a combined 4 points. Salah Mejri started and gave the Mavs nothing. Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 points, but if that’s the only thing the Mavericks have to offer in this series, they’re in big trouble.
Russell Westbrook scored 24 points to go with 11 assists, Kevin Durant finished with 23, Enes Kanter had 16 off the bench and Serge Ibaka was close to perfect in his shooting, including three daggers from long range, to close out his performance with 17 points.