Cavaliers 113, Celtics 100 (Cleveland leads 1-0)
Kyrie Irving scored 20 points during his first two quarters of Playoff basketball before wrapping up a 113-100 win over the Boston Celtics with a game-high 30. Kevin Love, meanwhile, registered a 19-point, 12-rebound double-double during his first taste of postseason action to help LeBron James and company secure a 1-0 series lead.
“I thought they were phenomenal,” James said postgame of Irving and Love. “Starting with Ky, he’s our floor general and he set the tone early on with his ability to make shots and get in the lane. And even with Kev’s shot not falling early, I felt like just the rhythm and aggressiveness he was in would pay off later for us. And he turned it around in the second half. So for him to get a double-double tonight, those two guys, they succeeded for their first time being in the postseason.”
Boston got out a 38-31 lead in the second quarter before Irving and JR Smith connected on back-to-back threes to cut the deficit to one with 8:30 remaining. The Cavaliers would go on from there to build a 62-54 lead at halftime and never look back. James finished with 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds while Tristan Thompson added 12 points and seven boards off the bench.
“For us, as a ball club, we just have to just play the game,” James said. “It’s about our game plan and how we can get better each possession. (The Celtics) were making a lot of shots early on. We felt like some plays didn’t go our way but you have to maintain your game plan and go out and focus on the next possession.”
Isaiah Thomas paced a Celtics team who competed throughout the afternoon with 22 points and 10 assists. Evan Turner and Kelly Olynyk finished with 12 each.
Hawks 99, Nets 92 (Atlanta leads 1-0)
It was Hawks Ball from the tip last night. Atlanta worked the rock around, forced turnovers (17), found Kyle Korver beyond the arc (5-11) and hit their free throws (21-22). They never managed to turn the game into a laugher, but it was always under their control.
Korver led the game with 21 points, but Jeff Teague (17) and DeMarre Carroll (17) weren’t far behind. Al Horford chipped in 10 and 10 (though he struggled against Brook Lopez in the paint), and Dennis Schroder added 13 off the bench.
Atlanta looked like they’ve looked all season—completely poised, completely impossible to stop for more than a couple consecutive possessions. The Nets’ third-quarter push was a surprising one, but I doubt anybody took Brooklyn’s chances in this game very seriously at any point. The Hawks just have too many weapons to struggle against a team as dull as the Nets.
That being said, how ‘bout those Nets showing a little fight!
Atlanta opened up a double-digit lead in the first quarter, but Brooklyn was within a bucket midway through the third after a mini-hot streak from Deron Williams. They threatened briefly again late in regulation, but could never string together buckets and stops when they needed them.
Lopez was a beast on the glass, collecting 14 rebounds, 8 offensive, while scoring 17 points. It’s not clear why he only managed seven shots in his 36 minutes.
Williams had a few strong moments and finished with 13 points, while Joe Johnson scored 17 in his return to Atlanta. Thaddeus Young went for 15 and 10.
The Nets looked like the team they’ve been all season, too—completely average, completely incapable of igniting anything fun for more than a couple consecutive possessions. Still, if nothing else, they tested their counterpart, and don’t appear ready to go down without taking a few swings.
The two teams meet again in Atlanta on Wednesday night.
Grizzlies 100, Trail Blazers 86 (Memphis leads 1-0)
Something I never appreciated as a kid was the fact TV Turnoff Week (now it’s expanded to Screen-Free Week) at my school always coincided with the opening seven days of the NBA Playoffs. This year is no different—the Playoffs kicked off this past weekend and here I am in front of a bunch of screens, watching, reading, tweeting, and writing about the game. Ah, well. Who’d wanna miss out on the action anyway? I mean, Beno Udrih had his best Playoffs performance to date, Mike Conley managed to score 16 points with two different sized shoes on, the gritty Grizz as a whole pounded their opponents in Game 1. Needless to say, Screen-Free Week needs to pack its bags and relocate to a different spot on the calendar.
The first-round series between the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers tipped off last night at the FedExForum, and the home team won out—big time. Marc Gasol (15 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks) and the Grizz wasted no time showing the Blazers who was boss in Tennessee. The home team opened the game 10-2, taking a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter and a 19-point (58-39) lead by halftime. With Beno Udrih (20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) dropping buckets, Zach Randolph posting yet another double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds), and the entire Grizz squad grinding on the defensive end, Portland never led once.
Instead, the Blazers shot 33 percent from the field. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 32 points on 13-34 shooting to go with 14 boards, and Damian Lillard forced 14 on 5-21. Nicolas Batum had 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. Their effort came up short on Sunday night, and it’s certain Rip City will look to regroup before Wednesday’s Game 2.
While it may be Screen-Free Week at my old school, the rest of the world is watching, Portland. And we all want a series.
Spurs 92, Clippers 107 (Los Angeles leads 1-0)
A hungry and focused Clippers team struck hard with a haymaker in Game 1. Behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin’s combined 58 points, L.A. outplayed the champs from start to finish.
L.A. shot a blistering 10-18 from long range and 51.3 percent from the field, looking like a team determined to prove itself without the drama it endured last season.
Paul, now in his 10th season, was a man possessed. Knowing full well that his legacy depends on Championships—and that his time to win them is extremely numbered—CP3 finished with 32 points (13-20 FG), 7 boards, 6 assists and 2 steals.
San Antonio also couldn’t find an answer for Griffin, who presented a matchup nightmare for the defending champs. BG played a game-high 43 minutes, dropped 26 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished 6 dimes and added 3 steals and 3 blocks for good measure.
Despite shooting a miserable 16-45 and giving up 13 points off turnovers in the first half, the Spurs were still within a manageable six points heading into the break. But the Clippers came out more aggressive on the defensive end in the third quarter, sparking a 9-1 run that was capitalized by a vintage BG dunk on Aron Baynes.
Just a League-average defensive squad during the regular season, L.A. put the clamps on the champs, who couldn’t buy a bucket once again in the second half. The lead would balloon to 77-61 toward the end of the third quarter when Griffin powered home yet another poster dunk on Baynes.
A whiff of drama came in the fourth quarter when Marco Belinelli nailed a three that brought a lead that was once 18 points back down to 9 with 7:35 to go. But L.A. kept moving the rock on offense, rotating well as a unit on defense, and overall outhustling the Spurs to a big win.
The Clippers played a masterful Game 1 by making great use of Griffin’s mismatch and imposing their tempo. DeAndre Jordan played like the DPOY candidate that he is, and Jamal Crawford dazzled the crowd for 17 points off the bench.
Everything seems to be clicking at the right moment for L.A., and a Game 2 win could prove to be a near fatality for San Antonio. L.A. has the athleticism, experience and most importantly, the hunger, to take down the champs. Don’t be surprised if the Clippers are the last ones standing in this first-round battle royale.