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NBA Playoffs: Game 1 Takeaways

Unfortunately, the main headline from the NBA playoffs’ first games in round one is injuries to star players. Ja Morant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, and Tyler Herro suffered injuries during their games. Herro broke his right hand and is expected to be out for four to six weeks. The other stars’ injuries don’t appear as troublesome, but some Game 2 statuses are still in the air; this could play a pivotal factor in the outcome of their series due to the impact of these players. 

Nonetheless, here are the key takeaways from all eight first-round matchups. There were some compelling storylines, including star players shining, bench depth being the deciding factor, and everything in between.

NBA Playoffs: Game 1 Takeaways

Brooklyn Nets: 101, Philadelphia 76ers: 121

Takeaways: This outcome should be no surprise to anyone who followed the NBA this season. Philadelphia is more talented and has more star power with Joel Embiid (26 points) and James Harden (23 points and 13 assists). The bright spot for Brooklyn is the play of Mikal Bridges, who finished with 30 points. It’s encouraging to see how Bridges’ stellar play this season as the lead guy translates over to the NBA playoffs thus far.

Philadelphia should put Brooklyn away in four or five games this series in one of the least anticipated matchups. But it’ll be interesting to follow the 76ers throughout this NBA playoffs, as they arguably have the most at stake out of any postseason team, given their roster situation and Harden’s looming decision.

Atlanta Hawks: 99, Boston Celtics: 112

Takeaways: This had a different playoff intensity than other Game 1 matchups. Boston coasted a bit in the second half and only scored 38 points.

Trae Young was limited to just 16 points on five of 18 shooting. The star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown significantly outplayed the Hawks’ tandem of Young and Dejounte Murray. If that’s the case, the Hawks will have a tough time winning because the Celtics are deeper and more defensively sound as a team.

New York Knicks: 101, Cleveland Cavaliers: 97

Takeaways: This was one of the most entertaining matchups and should continue to be a dogfight for the remainder of the series. Cleveland is a talented team but is also young and lacks NBA playoff experience. In addition, they need more offensive production outside of All-NBA guard Donovan Mitchell, who scored 38 points.

The differentiating factor that gave the Knicks the road win was their depth. Josh Hart, in particular, played great coming off the bench and is a perfect fit for Tom Thibodeau’s system. Hart finished the game with 17 points and ten rebounds.

One interesting takeaway was how the star point guards on each team tried to get each other to guard them in pick-and-roll switches. For example, when Jalen Brunson gets Darius Garland on him, he uses his plethora of post moves and physicality to get to his spots. 

It hasn’t worked as well so far for the Cavs. Garland isn’t as physical as Brunson, and their wings setting the screens (usually Isaac Okoro or Cedi Osman) aren’t the most reliable three-point shooters. Because of this, they can be left to help out more on Garland. We will see the head coaches’ adjustments to this pick-and-roll chess match.

Golden State Warriors: 123, Sacramento Kings: 126

Takeaways: The Kentucky guard tandem of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk combined for 70 points and were the critical factors in the Kings’ win. They relentlessly attacked the paint, combining for 26 free throw attempts.

Despite having some of the best shooters in the league, the Warriors only shot 32 percent from three on a whopping 50 attempts. They’ve struggled on the road all season, finishing with an 11-30 record. The jury is still out on the Warriors for this year’s NBA playoffs to see if they can get the job done outside San Francisco. 

If Game 1 was any indication, this could be a long series and one of the most entertaining matchups. Although the Warriors are the sixth seed, they entered this round as favorites to win the series over the Kings. The Kings are the NBA’s best story for the regular season. But it’s evident that they aren’t satisfied just making the NBA playoffs.

Los Angeles Clippers: 115, Phoenix Suns: 110

Takeaways: This had all the look and feel of a competitive, star-ridden NBA playoff game. Kawhi Leonard activated his playoff gear. Leonard scored 38 points to go along with five rebounds and five steals. He had the look of the top-five NBA star Kawhi we have become accustomed to seeing.

Russell Westbrook gave the Clippers the whole Westbrook experience. He shot three for 19 from the field, scored nine points, and even had a halftime altercation with a Suns fan. But he also had 11 rebounds (five offensive), eight assists, two steals, and three blocks.

One of his blocks came at a significant moment – Devin Booker was driving and trying to cut the score to a one-point deficit with ten seconds remaining. Not only did Westbrook get the block, but he also threw it off Booker out of bounds. He’s unique and one of the only players in the league who can have a “good game” while shooting abysmally from the field.

Phoenix showed their flaws in this game, which are their toughness and lack of depth. Monty Williams essentially went to a six-man rotation, with Landry Shamet being the only bench player to play more than eight minutes. Still, they have arguably the most star talent in the league and should bounce back in Game 2 at home.

Los Angeles Lakers: 128, Memphis Grizzlies: 112

Takeaways: The Lakers’ role players stole the show in this highly anticipated NBA playoff matchup. Austin Reaves has played outstanding as of late, finishing Game 1 with 23 points and four assists. Rui Hachimura was the other role player x-factor, scoring 29 points and six rebounds in one of the best games of his career so far.

Unfortunately, another takeaway is Morant’s injury. He landed awkwardly on his right hand with less than six minutes in the game and didn’t return. The final score wasn’t indicative of the closeness of this game. When Morant went down, the Lakers were only up four points. 

The X-rays returned negative, but Morant’s status for Game 2 is reportedly “in jeopardy.” Game 2 is crucial for Memphis, as they don’t want to fall to 2-0 going back to Los Angeles for Game 3. This Lakers team is too talented and experienced.

Miami Heat: 130, Milwaukee Bucks: 117

Takeaways: Injuries were the main takeaway from this surprising Heat upset. As mentioned, Herro broke his right hand and is expected to be out for four to six weeks. In addition, Bucks’ star Giannis suffered a lower back injury after landing awkwardly and only played 11 minutes in the contest. Giannis is likely to play in Game 2, but it’s certainly something to monitor.

Injuries aside, the Heat offense was exceptional. They shot 15-25 from three, getting four threes each from Gabe Vincent and Kevin Love. In addition, Jimmy Butler had his traditional “playoff Jimmy” game, recording 35 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, and three steals.

Minnesota Timberwolves: 80, Denver Nuggets: 109

Takeaways: This was a statement game for the Nuggets. They came in with the number one seed in the Western Conference with a 53-29 record, yet only a few analysts picked them to make it to the Finals. As a team, they shot 41 percent from three. They finally have the right combination of complementary pieces around Jokic. The Nuggets’ shooting, experience, and athleticism give them a legitimate chance to make a postseason run.

The Nuggets held the Timberwolves to only 80 points. It’s the latest example of why the Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert tandem is an awkward fit. This 29-point loss makes it clear that the Nuggets are on another level than the Timberwolves, who should be an early out in the first round of this year’s NBA playoffs. Not the finish the Timberwolves organization hoped for when they sacrificed their future to acquire Gobert.


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