The first weekend of the NBA Playoffs had something to offer for everyone. Yes, there was one or two Snoozefest. But between eight basketball games, Tiger Woods, who won the Masters, and "Game of Thrones" came back, maybe a nap was needed. (Some of the blowouts also had some extra-curricular courses.) A few games ended in the final seconds, with three lower starting seeds and Landing Statement victories in their series openers. All in all, not a bad start.
Let's take a closer look at the six playoff series that we expect to be the most interesting. (Sorry to the Clippers Warriors and Pistons Bucks.)
The young nets were sure. The Sixers looked confused.
There have been and may be fair questions about the Brooklyn Nets. They have very little depth inside, which could cause problems for a dominant big like Joel Embiid. And their offense may be too dependent on All-Star Guardian D & # 39; Angelo Russell.
But at least Brooklyn knows what it is, what more could be said for the Sixers this weekend.
For starters, Embiid's status was known just minutes before the start of the game because of his annoying knee – a question of availability that would have required a series of changes to the board if he had been unable to. But beyond that, there is also the problem of cohesion that the nets have and the sixers just do not.
Before Saturday, Philly's five starters, as talented as they had been, had only completed ten games together since acquiring Tobias Harris in trading with the Clippers. And frankly, it looked like that for most of Game 1. Embiid, who missed five of the last seven regular season games, started with jumps (which Brooklyn liked to give him) after pulling some fouls on the nets inside. Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick struggled hard for insulting. Jimmy Butler decided to take things into his own hands (Sixers coach Brett Brown called him "the adult in the room") and scored 36 points. During this time, Harris looked invisible and uninvolved and scored only 4 points in just 40 minutes of work.
Meanwhile, the guards of the nets had no such questions about their place in the pecking order. Russell fought early, but shot on and caught fire in the third period. Spencer Dinwiddie took a very quick first step and kept finding his way into the alley – again performing some of his best performances this season against Philadelphia. And Caris LeVert looks more and more like his old self after his injury in February. Both Dinwiddie and LeVert were instrumental in a 59-point attempt at the franchise record for which the Sixers had no answer.
Keep an eye on this series. The Sixers went all-in early this season with two major trades. But that could be the reason that the adversary, since we are in the middle of April in April, has a clearer sense of identity and plays the first game in the playoff game.
Utah's defense of Harden will not work – at least not like that
It was just a game, but very early – even before half-time – it seemed clear that Utah needed to rethink its defense strategy for MVP James Harden.
The jazz used a scheme that gave the left-handed Harden an open lane on the right. The idea here is to take away the dominant hand of perhaps the NBA's best offensive player, but also take away his Step 3-point sweater, perhaps his biggest offensive weapon.
They were not the first team to try this. Milwaukee Bucks' top defensemen had great success with the idea at the end of last month, when they were far behind Harden's left and slightly behind him.
However, it was another story for the second-placed Utah defense that cut Houston to pieces. Why did it work for the Bucks and not for the jazz? One reason for this was that Milwaukee's rims guard Brook Lopez generally had the discipline of staying at the baseline, so Clint Capela did not get a faint flare, as he often did on Sunday nights, as the Rudy Gobert jazz center stepped too far,
But the other key to Milwaukee's success was the athleticism and length of the Bucks chiefs and defenders. Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo are simply more imposing than Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell or Joe Ingles, which makes Harden less confident that he can either return to his left hand on the rim or sneak past a cornered teammate.
Honestly, Utah did not take something gone early. After giving Harden too much room to navigate Harden had no way to position the defenders of help in the right places, so The Beard could split them by finding both Capela for dunks and PJ Tucker in the corner , (Tucker shoots from there almost 40 percent.)
Rubio told reporters after the game that the jazz fans have committed to play Harden the same way throughout the series. But regardless of how much they improve in this regard, they need to be far better and faster on offense to stand a chance in this series.
After half a court action at the end of the third section, Utah scored a goal in seven of nine crossover games. Earlier looks would make life easier, especially for Mitchell, who scored 36 per cent against Houston in the series last year, before shooting only 39 per cent on Sunday, with five sales and no support. In Game 1, jazz recorded a bleak 25 percent effective field goal rate as it reached the last 5 seconds of the clock.
Can the bad-shooting thunder find their reach?
The apology after the game "We just missed shots" is usually annoying. It can be understood as a contradiction of the opponent for achieving a hard-fought victory and can also help to avoid what adjustments are required for the next contest.
But in Oklahoma City's case, that claim would have been true. The Thunder missed 10 of their 13 wide-open attempts from the bow during their 1-loss in Portland.
While many teams could use such a status to express their confidence, simply to perform better next time, it's worth noting that Oklahoma City is not exactly a team of shooters. When the thunder shoots badly, it's hard to know if it's a sign that things are getting better for them, or if it's just Oklahoma City struggling with the one it's always struggling with.
To make matters worse, Paul George – his best shooter and co-star alongside Russell Westbrook – plays with a burdensome left shoulder, which means his shot could be affected for the remainder of the playoffs.
When there was an obvious side, the thunder finally came to light as he attacked Portland's Enes Kanter with an even selection of pick and rolls – something they can probably fall back on in Game 2. But OKC would also be wise to occasionally locate Kanter because he goes on offensive boards. He killed his former team for 20 points and 18 rebounds, which more than made up for his defensive bouts in the narrow victory.
Were the Nuggets just nervous?
Similar to Oklahoma City, the Denver Nuggets are skeptical to many, including our FiveThirtyEight projection model. Much of this is rooted in Denver's inexperience: this is the team's first trip to the playoffs with this core, which is suddenly facing high expectations as # 2 seed in the west.
The defeat on Saturday, as at OKC on Sunday, gave Denver some open glances as the Nuggets were within range of the Spurs. The teams were neck and neck all the way through, but Denver somehow missed all eight attempts in the second half as he fired a shot that either tied the game or could have given the Nuggets the lead. And Jamal Murray, the team's 22-year-old guard, had an incredibly rough final minute in the final minute of play.
All of this could be a coincidence or simply the result of Missing strikes usually makes the team, But because of the noise over the inexperience of the team – especially as Denver plays the multi-year playoff club San Antonio – it's only natural that the questions about the nerves are there.
Whatever the case, one thing must change in the future: Denver star Nikola Jokic can not Finish playoff games with only nine attempts. Yes, he still managed a triple-double. But if the jumps of the team just do not fall, he's too good a scorer not to take matters into his own hands.
The Pacers need offensive counters – but that may not be enough
Outside the Pistons and Clippers, I feel pessimistic about the Pacers after the first game of their series with Boston. I thought it would be really difficult for them to find enough to win a series, and the 74-point show on Saturday brought me even more doubts.
My real concern, after Bojan Bogdanovic re-watched the top fighter in the fight against the Celtics – even though he did it the whole regular season – is the lack of counterattacks the Pacers seem to have in their arsenal as soon as Boston eradicates the first action Has.
Indiana had barely made it up to hand over to Bogdanovic, which was only 0.14 points per stake, according to Second Spectrum. Jaylen Brown was generally quick enough to recover and get to the Screener, and in those cases where he did not, Al Horford raved Bogdanovic, often forcing him to hand over the ball to a teammate who did not definitely in a good position was either score.
Similarly, the team that only scored 8 points in the third quarter was at a disadvantage when it came to hiring with Wes Matthews post-ups. Something we knew was probably a loss strategy that we had seen before Saturday (especially if there is no secondary action that's what happens). Statistically, Matthews was one of the NBA's five least efficient post-up options since joining the team in February.
The Celtics deserve to be played as well as they did at the end of the floor, especially without the defensive stallion Marcus Smart. However, if the Pacers can not develop better second and third options for these games when they try them out, this could be an ugly series for Indiana, which has been putting too much pressure on their defense for some time now.
Lowry fought again, but Orlando's victory was anything but magical
The most surprising victory of the weekend for many was the triumph of magic over Toronto, the Orlando with a threefold winner by D.J. Augustin
In this sequence – before coach Steve Clifford had decided not to call for a break – Augustin called for a screen and roll, knowing he would win Marc Gasol for a switch. Although Augustin had hit 22 points with 3 of 4 points out of the bow, Gasol did not come out far enough. The shot stunned the crowd in Toronto, which at this point costs a lot, considering what they've been through for years.
As well as being nailed down, magic has done a lot of things right to position itself well in advance. They filled Pascal Siakam in the first half, and while Kawhi Leonard was efficient, Aaron Gordon played a reasonably solid defense against him and let him work for contested strikes. Orlando was nearly perfect from the line, drilling almost half of his triples that day. This was a young Magic club that had the same 15-8 records in the second half as Toronto, while being ranked on both sides within the top 10 during that period. If you did not watch Orlando playing, you might not have seen it coming – but it was no coincidence.
And Kyle Lowry's scoreless 0-for-7 show did not show up either. In addition to the fact that Lowry had several low-scoring games this season – including four single-series singles – Lowry was struggling even in the first games in the playoff series. He has just scored 33 points combined in the playoff opening game 1s the last five years.
There is not necessarily something the Raptors might panic about. They have seen this before, even though they had hoped they would witness the witness of the early-round bouts.
Take a look at our latest ones NBA Predictions,