Boston Celtics 84 – Indiana Pacers 74
The Indiana Pacers have been the little team that could over the last half of the season without their engine (Victor Oladipo), and it looked like the Pacers were going to get over that mountain in the first half of their game against the Boston Celtics, even taking a seven-point lead into halftime. Unfortunately, that engine came crashing back down to reality in the third quarter, scoring just eight points in the third while Boston put up 26.
That was eventually the undoing as Boston protected their home court. Veteran backup point guard Cory Joseph tried to get his team the much-needed win, but he was one of only two Pacers scoring in double figures. Bojan Bogdanovic was the other with 12 points.
The Celtics were led by Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris, who had 20 points apiece in the win. Game 2 is Wednesday in Boston.
Portland Trail Blazers 104 – Oklahoma City Thunder 99
Many NBA observers wondered how the Trail Blazers would do without Jusuf Nurkic and so far, through one game, things are looking up. That’s because Enes Kanter, who the Blazers smartly picked up after he was bought out in New York, came up big. This should be no surprise as Kanter was easily the Knicks’ most consistent player, even after he was benched by coach David Fizdale. Now Fizdale is on vacation and Kanter is putting up 20 points and 18 rebounds in the NBA playoffs.
Kanter’s effort was key against the Thunder, especially since they have one of the better centers in the league and they attack the basket so much. It was also important because while Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum put up numbers, with 30 and 24 points respectively, their shooting numbers combined were not great. Speaking of which, Paul George had 26 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals, but you can tell his injury is still bugging him. He shot an abysmal 33 percent from the field, and in fact, only Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams shot above that.
Portland also has some room to improve before the next game. Their 39-point first quarter did a lot to wipe away the sting of the 15 points they scored in the second, but if their defense keeps causing problems for OKC, it could be a long series. Game 2 is on Tuesday in Portland.
Milwaukee Bucks 121 – Detroit Pistons 86
Let’s face it. No one ever expected this series to be competitive, with or without Blake Griffin. But without Griffin, things got downright embarrassing in this game for the Detroit Pistons. Giannis Antetokounmpo got all he could eat against Detroit with 24 points and 17 rebounds in just 24 minutes of playing time. When he wasn’t making highlight plays, like dunks from near the free-throw line, Milwaukee’s shooters were making Detroit pay.
All in all, seven Bucks players scored in double figures, with George Hill leading the other scorers with 16 points. Detroit’s defense struggled with Milwaukee’s crisp and quick ball movement, and with Andre Drummond having one of the worst plus-minus performances in playoff history with a -45. Drummond set half-hearted screens and looked like he was stuck in the mud when forced to move out of the paint to defend and switch on shooters.
Detroit’s one silver lining was the play of Luke Kennard, who had 21 points off the bench, but Dwayne Casey has a lot of work to do, and not likely enough time to do it in with Game 2 coming on Wednesday in Milwaukee.
Houston Rockets 122 – Utah Jazz 90
As much as they tried to give James Harden different looks and force him to go right, the Utah Jazz simply had no answers for James Harden in Game 1 as he finished with 29 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
All five of Houston’s starters finished in double figures, and while the Jazz tried to rally in the third quarter, Houston really poured it on in the fourth, outscoring the Jazz 39-19.
Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Donovan Mitchell added 19 points, but coach Quin Snyder will go back to the drawing board hoping for a better result in Game 2.