Hello, NBA postseason. We missed you so. Each series got one game out of the way over the weekend. Here’s a rundown of what happened in case you missed it:
Brooklyn Nets 94, Toronto Raptors 87
Brooklyn might be old, but they looked right at home in Toronto before a hostile crowd in the first playoff game of 2014. The Nets initiated championship level defense against the Raps that was reminiscent of, well, recent Celtics teams. Deron Williams was active from the tip, scoring 24 points, and Joe Johnson was masterfully efficient, quietly dropping in 24 points on just 13 shots. But in the end, it was Paul Pierce finishing Toronto off. In the relatively wide-open East, Brooklyn opened up the playoffs with a statement.
Golden State Warriors 109, Los Angeles Clippers 105
The first game between these two rivals lived up to the hype, as Golden State came into the Staples Center and stole game one from the Clippers. Perhaps the key to the Dubs’ win was keeping Blake Griffin off the floor; he played just 19 minutes due to foul trouble and eventually fouled out. Chris Paul nearly made up for his absence, scoring 28 points while approaching triple-double territory. But CP3 and the Clips were unable to overcome the hot shooting of Klay Thompson, and the Warriors took game one of what should be a helluva series.
Atlanta Hawks 101, Indiana Pacers 93
Uh oh. The Hawks stunned the Pacers in Indianapolis in game one. Paul George put forth a big time performance for Indiana, but it wasn’t enough as the Hawks refused to relinquish the big lead they took into the fourth quarter. Atlanta is a tough matchup for the Pacers, with their ability to spray threes and draw fouls. The loss might have been a good thing for Indiana–the wake up call they needed to shift into a higher gear. Or, perhaps, it might have been the start of a stunning first round upset.
Oklahoma City Thunder 100, Memphis Grizzlies 86
Oklahoma City overwhelmed Memphis early, rolling out to a 22 point halftime lead, saw their lead dwindle, and then put the Grizzlies to bed. The two-headed Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook monster was as formidable as ever–Durant finished with 33 points, eight boards, and seven assists while Westbrook racked up 23, 10, and five. And OKC’s two-way dominance was on display for most of the night. The Grizz showed some fight, but the Thunder were simply too much at home in game one. Things will need to break perfectly for Memphis to have a chance in this series.
San Antonio Spurs 90, Dallas Mavericks 85
It was a noon start time in San Antonio and the Spurs and Mavericks both played somewhat lifelessly, but San Antonio managed to pull out an ugly five point win over their cross-state rivals. Dallas’ stars were quiet all game; Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis finished with just 11 points each. San Antonio benefited from a huge performance from Tim Duncan (27 points) and a strong fourth quarter.
Miami Heat 99, Charlotte Bobcats 88
LeBron James scored an efficient 27 and Miami rolled by the pesky Bobcats. Dwyane Wade looked healthy and good for the Heat, flying around the court and finishing with 23, which is a good sign for their title hopes. On the other hand, Al Jefferson, Charlotte’s best player, hurt his foot and struggled through much of the game. With Jefferson hobbled, Charlotte will face an uphill battle the rest of the way against the defending champs.
Washington Wizards 102, Chicago Bulls 93
Every Wizard starter finished in double-digit scoring as Washington picked apart the vaunted Chicago defense to the tune 102 points and 49% shooting from the field. The Bulls only averaged 94 points per game in the regular season and will have to tighten up their defense going forward in the series. They were bullied in the paint repeatedly, giving up 39 combined points to Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat. Washington got 35 free throws in the game, making up for a quiet night on the outside (they made just four threes).
Portland Trail Blazers 122, Houston Rockets 120
In a feisty instant classic that saw four players foul out, thrilling conclusions to regulation and overtime, and an epic performance from LaMarcus Aldridge, the road Trail Blazers emerged with a game one victory. Aldridge fouled out in overtime, but before that he netted 46 points an 18 rebounds. Damian Lillard was also his usual clutch self, putting on a show in his first career playoff game. He finished with 31 points including several big shots late and the go-ahead free throws. Houston led for most of the game, but Portland kept coming back every time the Rockets extended their lead. James Harden had a nightmare shooting night (8-28) and missed an awkward J as time expired in OT. To get back into the game in the fourth, Portland coach Terry Stotts resorted to hacking Dwight Howard and it paid off, slowing the game and allowing the Blazers to cut the deficit. Howard finished with eight missed freebies. The high scoring battle was the highlight of an entertaining opening weekend and could be the start of a tremendous series (perhaps even of the caliber of the Bulls-Celtics first round series in ’09).