Three Games. Two Blowouts. One Comeback. Phew! The NBA Playoffs have really started off with a bang, providing nonstop action, while producing miraculous recoveries by teams that should have lost their respective games (Clippers, Game 2 and Nuggets, Game 2). Were it not for the Portland beatdown of Oklahoma City, all of the first round series played thus far would have led to each being tied at one game apiece. Let’s begin.
Orlando v. Toronto
Orlando shocked the number two seed Toronto Raptors by earning a victory in game one of their playoff series with a 104-101 win this past Saturday. The Magic’s cause was significantly helped by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, as he failed to score a single point in game one. In spite of Lowry’s poor performance, Toronto was able to keep things close until Orlando Magic guard D.J. Augustin hit a three-pointer with seconds left earning the victory for the Magic.
Toronto came out on fire in game two, as Lowry was determined that there would be no repeat of his scoreless game one. He finished with 22 points, second for the Raptors behind Kawhi Leonard’s 37 points. Even though Toronto coasted to victory by a final score of 111-82, they had the unfortunate distinction of having a player finish with zero points for the second consecutive game, with guard Danny Green earning this “honor” this time around. Point guard D.J. Augustin, Orlando’s game one hero finished with only 9 points, as the Magic were led by Aaron Gordon’s 20 point night. Game 3 is scheduled for Friday as the series moves to Orlando.
San Antonio v. Denver
The Denver Nuggets finished the regular season with a record of 54 wins, 28 losses, good enough to earn the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They also had a record of 34 wins against 7 losses at home. Unfortunately for them, San Antonio cared nothing about any of those accomplishments, as they went into the Nuggets home arena (the Pepsi Center), and took game one by a score of 101-96. San Antonio showed their playoff mettle, as this is their 22nd consecutive year of making the playoffs, while Denver was making their first postseason appearance since the 2014 playoffs.
Game 2 seemed as if it would be a repeat of game 1, that being a Spurs win. However, Denver would kick things in gear to storm back and earn the win, tying the series at one game each.
The Spurs enjoyed a 78-59 lead late in the third quarter before allowing the Nuggets to go on a 55-27 run to close the game, en route to a 114-105 victory. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray led Denver with 24 points, however, he was 8-17 from the field. In spite of his early shooting woes, Murray defiantly continued to stay the course, eventually getting his shot to fall, as he scored 21 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter.
Both he and Denver are hopeful that this performance carries over as they travel to play games 3 and 4 in San Antonio – where Denver last won a game in 2012. As if playing the Spurs, led by five-time NBA champion head coach Gregg Popovich isn’t difficult enough, the Nuggets must win in a place that they haven’t been able to find success in seven years.
Denver head coach Mike Malone has his work cut out for him to get Murray, All-Star Nikola Jokic, and the rest of the Nuggets ready for the task of playing and beating the Spurs in San Antonio. Game 3 is scheduled for Thursday.
Oklahoma City v. Portland
This was the final game on the schedule in the day’s action. Oklahoma City desperately needed to win the game to avoid going back home, facing a series deficit of 0-2. Portland, on the other hand, wants to continue to exorcize demons from losses of playoffs past. Going into game one of this series, the Trail Blazers were bounced from the playoffs after being swept in the first round in consecutive seasons by the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans respectively.
Accordingly, they sought to win game one and eliminate any lingering doubt about their ability to perform on the postseason stage. Although the Thunder provided resistance, the Trail Blazers won the game by a final score of 104-99. Despite Thunder guard Russell Westbrook’s triple-double, consisting of 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, combined with forward Paul George’s 26 points, the Trail Blazers backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum slightly eclipsed the Thunder duo, scoring a combined 54 points to lead the Trail Blazers to an opening series victory.
Portland entered game 2 wanting to keep the momentum from their previous win going strong. The Trail Blazers backcourt of Lillard and McCollum did their part by scoring 29 and 33 points respectively. Unfortunately for the Thunder, their dynamic duo of Westbrook and George weren’t quite able to match the output this time out, finishing with 14 and 27 points respectively.
Mo Harkless aided Portland’s cause by scoring 14 points, which were supplemented by 22 points from their bench. Oklahoma City center Steven Adams totaled 16 points and 9 rebounds, but the Thunder’s collective effort wasn’t quite enough, as Portland was able to cruise to an easy 114-94 victory. Game 3 will be Friday as the series shifts to Oklahoma City.
Yet another thrilling day of NBA playoff basketball. Each day brings more excitement and an even better product than the day before. NBA fans can only hope that we are privileged and fortunate enough for this to last, as we benefit from the high-quality nightly performances. It should continue to get better as the stakes get higher as remember, this is just the first round!