The first day of the 2020 NBA Playoffs was fully chalk, as each favorite won its matchup, and generally pretty comfortably. That was not the case on Tuesday, as three higher seeds were upset in Game 1. Let’s take a look at what happened around the league, and remember, you can click on each team’s name to get coverage from that SB Nation site.
The day started off with a bang as Orlando upset the Eastern Conference favorites, who had one of the greatest regular seasons of all-time before the hiatus and whose best player may be just the second individual ever to win MVP and DPOY in the same season. The Magic won Game 1 of their first-round series last year as well, against the eventual champs, but this one felt different. It wasn’t a close back-and-forth affair. Orlando put five players on the court who could shoot threes to exploit Milwaukee’s defensive scheme and simply hammered the Bucks. Nikola Vucevic had 35 points and 14 rebounds, the Magic outrebounded Milwaukee by 12, and they controlled the game throughout.
This was technically another upset, as the Heat are the five seed, but they deliberately fell back during the final seeding game to get a better draft pick without homecourt advantage at stake. Miami was the favorite, and the Heat took care of business in the fourth quarter thanks to unexpected hot shooting from Jimmy Butler and the suddenly unguardable Goran Dragic, who rendered rookie starter Kendrick Nunn a DNP-CD. The Pacers were already shorthanded, having lost Domantas Sabonis to plantar fasciitis before the start of the seeding games, and they lost Victor Oladipo to an eye injury early. They just didn’t have the horses to keep up with Miami late. It must have been hard for Sixers fans to watch this game and see what could have been with Butler.
It takes real discipline to be able to defend the Pocket Rockets, and the Thunder simply didn’t have that Tuesday. James Harden was comfortable the entire game, scoring 37 points on 22 shot attempts against his former team, and his more recent former teammate Chris Paul. Paul was not in his element at all, unable to attack Houston’s switching defense, and his near triple-double belied what was really an uneven performance from the OKC floor general. The Thunder need players who can attack the Rockets 1-on-1, and they didn’t have any beyond Dennis Schröder, who cannot be relied upon for such a heavy offensive responsibility. Houston did its thing, made 20-of-52 threes, and earned an easy win.
In the nightcap, the Trail Blazers continued their hot streak (Clippers game excepted, obviously) in the bubble, building a big lead early against the No. 1 seed Lakers and then out-executing LeBron James and Co. down the stretch. Damian Lillard was electric once again, living up to his nickname of Logo Lillard, as the Blazers validated their place in the postseason by striking first in this series.
I have been a bit critical of the Clippers’ incomplete performance in Game 1, but the most important thing in the playoffs is to get a result. The Clippers did, while other title favorites did not. It’s been a good start to the postseason.
Today’s Playoff Games
More news for Wednesday:
- The Delete Eight, otherwise known as the eight teams not invited to the NBA bubble, will be allowed to have voluntary training camps during September and October.
- Howard Beck dove into what homecourt advantage means in the bubble.
- Will Gottlieb tried to figure out why teams are playing so much more zone defense this year.
- Seth Partnow looked at how the Clippers defended Luka Doncic in game 1.
- Joe Vardon reports that if Ty Lue gets a head coaching job this offseason, he will take Chauncey Billups with him as an assistant.
- Finally, an incredible story idea: Chris Herring examines the challenge Carmelo Anthony poses due to TV broadcasts due to his incessant cussing.