The first weekend of the NBA playoffs had something for everyone. Yes, there was a snoozefest or two. But between eight basketball games, Tiger Woods winning the Masters and "Game of Thrones" coming back, maybe a nap was necessary anyway. (Even a couple of the explosions included some extracurricular activities). Some games were reduced to the last seconds, with three sowings lower and victories in the declarations of landing in the openers of his series. All in all, it's not a bad start.
Let's take a deeper look at the six playoff series that we hope will be the most interesting in the future. (Sorry to the Clippers-Warriors and Pistons-Bucks.)
The young Nets seemed sure of themselves. The Sixers seemed confused.
They posed, and perhaps, fair questions about the Brooklyn Nets. They have very little depth inside, which could mean problems against a big dominant like Joel Embiid. And his offense may depend too much on All-Star guard D & # 39; Angelo Russell.
But at least Brooklyn knows what it's about, which was more than you could say for the Sixers this weekend.
For starters, Embiid's status was known only a few minutes before the game began on Saturday due to his annoying knee, a question of availability that would have required a series of changes in the game plan if he had not been able to go. But beyond that, there is also the issue of cohesion, which the Nets have and the Sixers simply do not.
Before Saturday, the first five Philadelphia starters, talented as they were, had registered only 10 games together since they acquired Tobias Harris in an exchange with the Clippers. And, honestly, it looked like that for most of Game 1. Embiid, who missed five of the last seven games of the regular season, started throwing jumpers (which Brooklyn gladly gave him) after committing several fouls. in the Nets. Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick fought badly on offense. Jimmy Butler chose to take matters into his own hands (Sixers coach Brett Brown called him "the adult in the room") and scored 36 points. All this while Harris seemed invisible and without participation, scoring only 4 points in 40 minutes of work.
Meanwhile, the Nets guards did not have such questions about their place in the hierarchical order. Russell fought early, but kept shooting and caught fire in the third period. Spencer Dinwiddie took a very quick first step and repeatedly found his way into the lane, again doing his best job this season against Philadelphia. And Caris LeVert continues to look more and more like her old self after returning from her injury in February. Both Dinwiddie and LeVert were an integral part of a 59-point franchise effort from the bank, which the Sixers had no response to.
Keep an eye on this series. The Sixers made a couple of big exchanges earlier this season. But that may be the reason why, as we are in mid-April, his opponent has a clearer sense of identity and first-hand play in their playoff confrontation.
Utah's Harden defense will not work, at least not like that.
It was just a game, but very early, even before halftime, it seemed clear that Utah was going to have to rethink its defensive strategy to reign MVP, James Harden.
The Jazz used a scheme that gave Harden left-handed an open path to the right. The idea here is to take the dominant hand off the best offensive player in the NBA, but also take the 3-point jumper, perhaps his best offensive weapon.
They were not the first team to prove this. The Milwaukee Bucks defense, which is in the highest position, found a lot of success with the idea late last month, staying to the left of Harden and slightly behind him.
However, it was a different story for Utah's second defense, which Houston cut to pieces. Why did it work for the Bucks and not for the Jazz? One of the reasons was that Milwaukee tire protector, Brook Lopez, generally had the discipline to stay tied to the baseline so that Clint Capela did not have an easy lobe, as he used to do on Sunday night, when the center of jazz Rudy Gobert went too far.
But the other key to the success of Milwaukee was the athletics and length of primary school and the Bucks' help. Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo are simply more imposing than Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell or Joe Ingles, which gives Harden less confidence that he can return to his left side on the edge or pbad a pbad to a teammate on the corner. .
Frankly, Utah was not taking anything Far away By leaving Harden too much room to navigate, the Jazz had no way of locating their aid advocates in the right places, which allowed The Beard to find them by finding Capela for Dunks and P.J. Tucker in the corner. (Tucker shoots almost 40 percent from there).
Rubio told reporters after the game that the Jazz are committed to playing Harden in the same way throughout the series. But regardless of how much they improve in that aspect, they should be much better, and faster, on offense to have an opportunity in this series.
Excluding a midfield attempt at the end of the third period, Utah scored on seven of its nine transition plays. Getting earlier looks would make life easier, especially for Mitchell, who shot 36 percent against Houston in last year's series before shooting just 39 percent on Sunday, with five turnovers and no badists. In Game 1, the Jazz recorded a bleak ERA of 25 percent when they entered the last 5 seconds of the clock.
Can the poor shooter thunder find his rank?
The post-game excuse "We just lost the shots" is usually annoying. You can read how not to give credit to the opponent for a very close victory, and can also serve as a way to avoid addressing the adjustments that might be needed in the next contest.
But in the Oklahoma City case, there would have been some truth in that claim. The Thunder missed 10 of their 13 open attempts from the goal during their Game 1 loss at Portland.
However, although many teams could use such a statistic to express confidence by simply having a better performance next time, it is worth noting that Oklahoma City … is not exactly a team of shooters. When the Thunder shoots badly, it's hard to know if that's a sign that things will improve for them or if it's just Oklahoma City struggling with what it has apparently always had.
To make matters worse, Paul George, his best shooter and co-star along with Russell Westbrook, is playing with a problematic left shoulder, which means his shot could be affected by the rest of the playoffs.
If there was a bright offensive side, it was that the Thunder finally found the light of day by attacking Portland's Enes Kanter with a steady diet of pick and roll, something they'll probably be able to return to in Game 2. But OKC would also be wise to locate it occasionally. Kanter as he goes by offensive tables. He killed his former team by 20 points and 18 rebounds, which more than made up for his defensive struggles in the close win.
Were the Nuggets simply nervous?
As in Oklahoma City, there are the Denver Nuggets, many of which, our FiveThirtyEight projection model included, remain skeptical. Much of that is rooted in Denver's inexperience: this is the team's first trip to the playoffs with this core, which suddenly faces high expectations like the No. 2 seed in the West.
Saturday's loss, like OKC on Sunday, caused Denver to lose several open glances when the Nuggets were within striking distance of the Spurs. The teams had a good run, but Denver, somehow, failed their eight attempts in the second half when he threw a shot that would have tied the game or given the Nuggets the advantage. And Jamal Murray, the team's 22-year-old starting guard, had an incredibly difficult final minute in the Game 1 loss.
All of that could have been mere coincidence or simply the result of missed shots the team usually makes. But because of the noise about the inexperience of the team, especially when Denver is playing in the perennial San Antonio playoff club, it's natural that questions about nerves are there.
Whatever the case, one thing clearly needs to change in the future: Denver star Nikola Jokic can not Finish playoff games with only nine shot attempts. Yes, he managed a triple-double anyway. But when the team's shots just do not fall, it's a too efficient scorer to not take matters into their own hands.
The Pacers need offensive counters, but even that may not be enough
Outside of the Pistons and Clippers, I feel more pessimistic about the Pacers after Game 1 of their series with Boston. I started thinking that it would be very difficult for them to find enough score to win a series, and the 74-point sample on Saturday gave me even more doubts.
My real concern now, after seeing the leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic fight the Celtics again, when he also did this throughout the regular season, is the lack of counters that the Pacers seem to have in their arsenal once Boston has eliminated the action initial.
According to Second Spectrum, Indiana got almost nothing from his transfers to Bogdanovic, who produced just 0.14 points per time he used the play. Overall, Jaylen Brown was quick enough to recover and recover, and in cases where he did not, Al Horford was harbading Bogdanovic, which often forced him to hand the ball to a teammate who was not necessarily in a great position to score, either.
Similarly, the team, which scored only 8 points in the third quarter, was at a disadvantage when it tried to hay with Wes Matthews publications, something we knew would be a losing strategy of what we had seen before. . Saturday (particularly If there is no secondary action. that comes from that). Statistically, Matthews has been one of the five least efficient post-up options in the NBA since joining the team in February.
The Celtics deserve credit for playing as well as they did on that end of the floor, particularly without the defensive stallion Marcus Smart. But if the Pacers can not develop better second and third options on these plays when they try them, it could be an ugly series for Indiana, which has been putting too much pressure on its defense for a while.
Lowry fought again, but Orlando's victory was anything but magic
The most surprising victory of the weekend for many was the triumph of Magic over Toronto, which Orlando sealed with a triple winner of D.J. Agustin.
In that sequence, before which coach Steve Clifford chose not to wait, Augustin asked for a screen and shot, knowing that he would have Marc Gasol on a switch. Although Agustín had hit 3 of 4 from the arc for 22 points, Gasol did not go far enough. The shot left the Toronto crowd stunned, which takes a lot at this point, given what they have gone through for years.
In addition to dominating that play, the Magic did a lot of things well to get in good position beforehand. They bottled Pascal Siakam in the first half, and although Kawhi Leonard was efficient, Aaron Gordon played a pretty solid defense for him, making him work for disputed shots. Orlando was almost perfect from the line and drilled almost half of his triples on the day. This was a young club of the Magic that had the same record of 15-8 in the second half that Toronto, while it was within the Top 10 on both sides of the floor during that time. If I had not seen Orlando play, I may not have seen this coming, but it was not a coincidence.
And neither was the destabilized Kyle Lowry, 0-of-7. Apart from the fact that Lowry had several low scoring games this season, including a streak of four single-digit performance games, Lowry also struggled in the first games of the playoff series. He has scored only 33 points set In the first playoff opening game the last five years.
There is not necessarily anything for which the Raptors are still scared. They have seen this before, even if they had hoped that they had gone from witnessing the struggles of the first round that re-emerged.
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