It’s that time of the year again where NBA franchises and players put everything on the line. Legacies are written and rewritten; history is made.
The agony and the ecstacy of these performances make them truly unique in the world of sports*.
These are the moments and individual performances from the early stages of the NBA Playoffs.
*We apologise in advance for any Game of Thrones (non-spoiler) references, but we’re just as obsessed as the rest of you.
REALITY CHECK FOR THE NETS?
Tom Lamming – Writer
Heading into Game 2, the 76ers were in need of a bounce-back performance, and they got just that. Scoring a franchise record for points in a playoff game, a 51-point third quarter propelled the Sixers to a 145-123 victory.
After hearing the boos in Game 1, Ben Simmons responded emphatically with an impressive 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists triple-double. Driving into the paint from the outset, Simmons looked a completely different player from Saturday evening. 23 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes from Joel Embiid, big minutes off the bench from Boban and a JJ Redick revival, provided welcome sights for Sixers fans as the series heads to Brooklyn.
Despite the euphoria of Game 1, the Nets fell back down to earth with a bump. Bench production once more from Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert offered positive signs.
However, Nets All-Star D’Angelo Russell found it much tougher to find any rhythm under stifling Simmons defense, shooting just 6-16 from the field. The lack of size on the Nets became increasingly apparent as Embiid began to have his own way.
As the series progresses, one thing to keep an eye on is just how much resistance the Nets can provide against the Sixers star center. Not attempting a single three in Game 2, Embiid refused to settle. With the series set nicely, you certainly don’t want to miss Game 3.
THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS ARE COMING
Matthew Wellington – Editor-in-Chief
OK, you got me, that was a subtle reference to the return of Game of Thrones but just in case you didn’t know, the Milwaukee Bucks are coming. Or perhaps they’re already here.
Game 1’s 121-86 blowout of the Detroit Pistons saw the Bucks put together a monumental first quarter, scoring 38 points on the lowly Pistons, who struggled to get anything to click on either end of the court.
It didn’t get much better for the Blake Griffin-less Pistons, as Milwaukee continued to spread the floor, disrupt the passing lanes and breath fire on almost any signs of a comeback. The one-seed led by 43 at one point… in a playoff game. This is supposed to be when nobody scores and defense takes precedent.
The league’s Most Valuable Player, Giannis Antetokounmpo was the catalyst behind the relentless assault, systematically dismantling the Pistons on the interior and exterior at every opportunity. He finished with an impressive 24 points, 17 rebounds and 4 assists in just 23 minutes.
The interior presence of Brook Lopez met the lacklustre Pistons at the rim everytime. And the Bucks did whatever they wanted on the offensive end, scoring all but four of their baskets either in the paint or behind the three-point line.
While it is obvious that Detroit does not represent the toughest of opponents, to be this convincing in an opening game of the playoffs is rare. This was a masterful performance by the NBA’s best regular season team.
ORLANDO CREATE SOME MAGIC NORTH OF THE WALL
Tom Wade – Writer
It’s was supposed to be a tale of the big fish eating the little fish, but the Orlando Magic are still treading water.
Heading into Game 1, the Toronto Raptors were all set to finally prove themselves in the playoffs, but what they didn’t expect was the fight the Magic took to them. Behind a fearless group of players led by newly named 3J Augustin, Orlando proved that this isn’t going to be an easy series for the favorites from Canada.
The Magic hung with the Raptors. Whatever Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green or Pascal Siakam could do, Augustin, Evan Fournier and Co had an answer. The game came down to the wire and it was Augustin who deliver the dagger to the heart of the Raptors.
The biggest takeaway has to be that this series has started far from the expected, and the Magic are not here to just make up the numbers. Head Coach Steve Clifford had his game plan and his players played it out to perfection. The result of Game 1 has set the tone moving forward, and in what was supposed to be sleeper series, that label has now disappeared. The Magic and their fans are daring to dream. They couldn’t, could they? Game 2 will certainly be worth a watch.
Feature photo – Ron Turenne / Getty Images / USAToday / NBAE / Double Clutch illustration – Matthew Wellington