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NBA Playoffs: MVPs of Round One Game One

Anthony Edwards is one of our first round MVPs.

Playoff basketball has finally arrived!

With the play-in games complete and the brackets set, the tournament proper began on Saturday, April 20th. With the first games of the first round complete, who impressed the most in each matchup?

NBA Playoffs: MVPs of Round One Game One

5. Orlando Magic vs. 4. Cleveland Cavaliers (97-83 CLE) MVP: Donovan Mitchell

The first game of the 2024 playoffs was also the lowest scoring so far. The Magic current holders of the best defensive rating in the Eastern Conference managed to hold the Cavs to under 100 points but failed to find an offensive spark and shot poorly from the perimeter.

Bolstered by a pair of 16-point performances from center Jarret Allen and forward Evan Mobley, Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell took command of the contest. The five-time All-Star made 52.4% of his field-goal attempts and racked up 30 total points while also snatching three steals to help Cleveland secure the 1-0 advantage in the series.

7. Los Angeles Lakers vs. 2. Denver Nuggets (114-103 DEN) MVP: Nikola Jokic

The reigning NBA champions wasted no time establishing themselves as a legitimate threat to hoist the O’Brien trophy again this season. While Lebron James and Anthony Davis combined for 59 points, 20 rebounds, and 13 assists to keep the Lakers in contention, it was no use against two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.

Fresh off being announced as a finalist for the 2024 NBA MVP, “the Joker” was, as always, the engine that runs the Nuggets machine. While leading the team with 32 points scored on 65.2% shooting, Jokic also racked up a team-leading 12 total rebounds, along with seven assists, and two steals, affirming his status as the glue that holds together and elevates Denver’s roster.

6. Phoenix Suns vs. 3. Minnesota Timberwolves (120-95 MIN) MVP: Anthony Edwards

The most lopsided victory of the first playoff games, the T-Wolves lived up to their billing as one of the stingiest defensive squads left in the title race. The league leaders in team defensive rating held the Suns, who averaged 116.2 points per game this season, to a mere 95 points, allowing Anthony Edwards and company to put this game out of reach for Phoenix.

Complemented by productive performances from veteran center Rudy Gobert and now-healthy forward Karl-Anthony Towns, Edwards racked up 33 points while shooting 58.3% from the field, nabbed nine rebounds, and forced two steals to round out an excellent effort on both sides of the court for Minnesota’s star guard.

7. Philadelphia 76ers vs. 2. New York Knicks (111-104 NYK) MVP: Miles McBride

After playing without him since late January, the Sixers finally added current MVP Joel Embiid back to the lineup for the play-in tournament, a major factor in Philly’s playoff berth. The Knicks did not enjoy the same luxury after losing all-star forward Julius Randle, who underwent shoulder surgery and will be out the entire postseason. Still, the second-seeded squad in the East rose to the occasion.

Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson contributed greatly to New York’s triumph in game one, putting up a combined 44 points, 20 rebounds, and nine assists, but the real difference maker came from off the bench. Backup guard Miles McBride shot 58.3% from the field and 71.4% from deep, scoring 21 points while also notching four assists during his 28 minutes on the floor. In a game that came down to seven points, getting a performance that productive from off the bench was imperative to the Knicks’ success.

8. Miami Heat vs. 1. Boston Celtics (114-94 BOS) MVP: Jayson Tatum

In an Eastern Conference ravaged by injury, perhaps no team has been hit worse than the Miami Heat. After losing forward Jimmy Butler the team’s go-to scorer to an MCL sprain during the play-in tournament, the Heat found themselves at the mercy of the Boston Celtics, the holders of the NBA’s best record and best offensive rating. Despite notable performances from All-Star center Bam Adebayo and rookie forward Jamie Jaquez Jr., Butler’s absence from the lineup hampered Miami significantly.

As for the Celtics, Jayson Tatum, known mostly for his volume scoring, demonstrated his capabilities as a playmaker while still leading Boston in scoring. “Taco Jay” recorded his first playoff triple-double, accounting for 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, effectively dealing the ball around the court to teammates to compensate for an otherwise lackluster shooting performance.

5. Dallas Mavericks vs. 4. Los Angeles Clippers (109-97 LAC) MVP: James Harden

Stopping the Dallas Mavericks offense is no easy task, but the LA Clippers did so brilliantly in their first playoff game of 2024. MVP finalist Luka Doncic and eight-time All-Star Kyrie Irving would combine for 64 points, 10 assists, and 20 rebounds. However, the Mavs allowed 34 points to the Clippers in the first quarter alone and were unable to climb back into the game after a nightmarish second quarter where the team scored a lowly eight points.

Meanwhile, James Harden delivered a performance, becoming a player of his stature. The 10-time All-Star scored 28 points for the Clippers and shot an impressive 54.5% from beyond the arch. Supported by a combined 42 points from forward Paul George and center Ivica Zubac, Harden’s excellent perimeter shooting earned the Clips a tone-setting win.

6. Indiana Pacers vs. 3. Milwaukee Bucks (109-94 MIL) MVP: Damian Lillard

The Milwaukee Bucks had a lot to prove in their first game with the Indiana Pacers. After a rocky second half of the season and a calf strain sustained by former league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo immediately before the playoffs, the Bucks found themselves matched up with a comparatively healthy Indiana team led by NBA assists leader Tyrese Haliburton. However, despite the absence of the “Greek Freak,” Milwaukee’s stifling defense discouraged the Pacers’ offense to clinch victory to start the series.

Veteran forward Khris Middleton put up 23 points and helped shoulder the rebounding burden usually carried by Giannis, combining for 21 total with forward Bobby Portis. But no contribution was greater than eight-time All-Star guard Damian Lillard, shooting 54.5% from deep and leading the team with 35 points scored, affirming his offensive prowess.

8. New Orleans Pelicans vs. 1. Oklahoma City Thunder (94-92 OKC) MVP: Jalen Williams

Pitted against the highest-rated offensive squad in the Western Conference, the Pelicans exceeded expectations despite falling short against the Thunder in game one of their series. With All-Star forward Zion Williamson on the shelf, Trey Murphy III and C.J. McCollum combined for 41 points while the team stymied OKC’s offense on the other side of the court.

While not his most efficient shooting performance, MVP finalist Shai Gilgeous-Alexander affirmed why he’s an offensive force, scoring a team-leading 28 points and four assists. However, the most well-rounded player on the floor for the Thunder was Jalen Williams, who matched Gilgeous-Alexander’s assist total while also racking up 19 points on 44.4% shooting, seven rebounds, and two steals to give the Thunder the edge over New Orleans.


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