The first round of the 2017 NBA playoffs kicked off on Saturday. LeBron’s Cavs survived a scare from PG-13 and the Pacers. The Greek Freak powered the Bucks past the Raptors (and their ice-cold point guard). The Spurs absolutely annihilated the Grizzlies, and the Jazz lost their most important player on the first possession of the game but still managed to nip the Clippers at the buzzer.
Cavs 109, Pacers 108:
The Cavs finished the regular season winning just 10 of their final 24 games and were looking to 'flip the switch' now that the postseason has arrived. Well, they may want to try and flip the main breaker back to “ON” once again before the start of Game 2, because Cleveland barely outpaced Indiana on Saturday afternoon. Although LeBron James got off to a slow start, he took over from the second quarter through the final buzzer, finishing with 32 points, six rebounds, 13 assists, three steals and two 3-pointers. It was LeBron’s 200th playoff game, and he has now scored 30 or more points in 85 of those contests. Amazingly, Saturday was also the 64th time King James has tallied at least 30 points, five rebounds and five assists in the postseason. Per Basketball Reference, that’s by far and away the most such games by any player over the last ten years. (Kobe Bryant is second on that list with 24.) One last incredible LeBron-related tidbit: James has won 18 straight first-round games and 12 consecutive post-season openers.
Kyrie Irving had a difficult time locating his stroke, shooting just 11-of-27 from the floor, but was able to rack up 23 points, six assists, three rebounds, two steals and a block. Dating back to the 2016 postseason, Irving has now scored 20-plus points in 10 of his last 11 playoff games… Kevin Love finished with 17 points, four rebounds, two blocks and two treys on Saturday. Love scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half… Channing Frye (11 points, three triples, two boards) was the only Cavalier outside of the Big Three to score in double figures… Tristan Thompson scored eight points (on 4-of-5 shooting) and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds… Both Kyle Korver (two points and two boards in 15 minutes) and J.R. Smith (six points and three rebounds in 37 minutes) were quiet offensively.
Paul George entered the playoffs on a heater. Over the Pacers final six games of the regular season, George averaged 32.8 points (on 54.8 percent shooting), 8.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 4.2 treys and 2.0 steals. He stayed hot on Saturday, pouring in 29 points to go along with five rebounds, seven assists, and six triples… Surprisingly, the Pacers second-leading scorer on Saturday was Lance Stephenson, who tallied 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in 27 minutes off the bench. Lance averaged 7.2 points and 4.2 assists in 22 minutes in the six games he played for Indiana in the regular season. However, he did average 13.0 points in under 24 minutes a game for the Grizzlies last year in the first round. Coach Nate McMillan said he did not plan to move Stephenson into the starting lineup for Game 2, but Lance should still see plenty of playing time… Jeff Teague tweaked his ankle in the Pacers regular season finale on Wednesday, but was ready to roll for Game 1. He averaged over 18 points and 11 dimes in the four meetings between these two teams during the year, but wasn't able to match those totals on Saturday, finishing with 15 points (on 3-of-10 shooting), two rebounds, four assists and two 3-pointers… Myles Turner (11 points, eight rebounds, four steals and a block in 32 minutes) and Thaddeus Young (eight points, nine rebounds and four assists) both posted solid lines.
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Bucks 97, Raptors 83:
This is the time of year when NBA players make the leap from very good to great. Giannis Antetokounmpo got off to truly great start in Game 1, leading the Bucks to a surprising victory over the favored Raptors. Antetokounmpo poured in 28 points on 13-of-18 shooting and chipped in eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Seeing Giannis stuff the stat sheet is nothing new, as he became the first player to ever finish in the top 20 in total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks for a single season during the 2016-17 campaign. The playoff edition of the Greek Freak looks just as impressive… Greg Monroe was a monster off the bench for the Bucks on Saturday, scoring 14 points and hauling down 15 boards in just 26 minutes of action… Khris Middleton missed 11 of his 15 field goal attempts, but tallied a total of 10 points, two rebounds, nine assists and a steal in 41 minutes… Malcolm Brogdon was sharp in his playoff debut. The Rookie of the Year candidate had 16 points, six boards, four treys, and two dimes.
Kyle Lowry got off to a brutally slow start in the playoffs last year, averaging 13.0 points while shooting just 30.6 percent from the floor and 16.0 percent from downtown over Toronto’s first eight games. Prior to Game 1 on Saturday, Lowry joked that he hoped both he and the Raptors would come out of the gates on fire and put to rest any doubts related to Lowry and the team. Unfortunately, just the opposite happened. Toronto lost its ninth straight Game 1, and are now just 1-11 all-time in Game 1’s. Lowry struggled mightily, missing nine of his 11 field goal attempts (including all six of his triple tries) and finishing with just four points, six assists, two rebounds and two steals. Lowry is now shooting below 38 percent for his career in the postseason. However, as we know, he is still capable of turning it around in a hurry. Over his final eight games of the 2016 postseason, Lowry averaged 24.0 points on 47.9 percent shooting from the field and 41.4 percent from 3-point land.
Serge Ibaka gave the Raps everything they could have hoped for his first playoff game in a Toronto uniform. He scored 19 points, hauled down 14 rebounds, blocked three shots and hit a 3-pointer. Ibaka was actually the only Raptor starter to make a trey. The rest of the starting five was a combined 0-for-9 from downtown… DeMar DeRozan was just 7-of-21 from the floor but made 13 of his 14 free throws for a total of 27 points. He also added eight rebounds and an assist… No other Raptor scored in double digits. Jonas Valanciunas had nine points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes.
Spurs 111, Grizzlies 82:
The Spurs trounced the Grizzlies, surging ahead by as many as 36 points in the second half. Kawhi Leonard led the way for San Antonio. He tied career postseason highs with 32 points and five assists. Leonard also tacked on three rebounds, two steals and one 3-pointer in 32 minutes. Nice to see Kawhi picking up right where he left off in the regular season… LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points, six boards, and two assists… We got a glimpse of vintage Tony Parker on Saturday. He scored 18 points with two rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers in 22 minutes… Dewayne Dedmon failed to score a single point but did grab eight rebounds… Manu Ginobili (zero points, three rebounds, two assists in 13 minutes) was also held scoreless. He had scored at least a point in 196 of the 197 playoff games he had appeared in prior to Game 1… Danny Green (two points, five rebounds, one assist, four blocks) played only 20 minutes due to the game getting out of hand.
Marc Gasol did all he could to keep Memphis close, but it wasn’t enough. Gasol scored a playoff career-high 32 points and added five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three 3-pointers. Gasol had 25 of his points in the first half, which is a franchise record for most points in a half during the postseason… Mike Conley tallied 13 points (on 5-of-14 shooting) to go along with five rebounds, seven assists, three steals, two 3-pointers and a block. Hopefully, Conley and Gasol continue to play well. The Grizz have no chance to compete in this series if they don’t… Zach Randolph was just 3-for-13 from the floor, finishing with six points, three rebounds and one assist… Wayne Selden started at shooting guard but didn’t have much of an impact (five points and three boards in 27 minutes)… Tony Allen (calf) was diagnosed with a strain of the medial gastrocnemius muscle in his right leg earlier this week and is considered out indefinitely. His absence in Game 1 was felt most dramatically on the defensive end, as Memphis had no answer for Kawhi Leonard.
Jazz 97, Clippers 95:
It was obviously a great win for Utah in Game 1, but let’s get the bad news out of the way. On the first possession of the first playoff game of his career, Rudy Gobert's left knee collided with Luc Mbah a Moute while setting a screen and Gobert crumbled to the court. He was unable to put any weight on the leg and had to be helped to the locker room. He was unable to return to the contest. An MRI on Gobert's left knee revealed a hyperextension and bone bruise, but, fortunately, no structural damage, according to Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania. Thus, Gobert won’t be ruled out for the rest of the postseason but may have a tough time making it back onto the court this week. Stay tuned for an update.
Joe Johnson helped saved the day for the Jazz. Johnson had 21 points, three rebounds, three assists, three steals and three 3-pointers in 31 minutes off the bench. He also nailed the game-winner (the eighth of his career) on a floater from inside the paint, as the clock expired. Per Elias Sports Bureau, the last player hit a Game 1 buzzer-beater on the road was the Suns’ Stephon Marbury, who hit a three-pointer in a one-point overtime win at San Antonio in the first round in 2003… Gordon Hayward finished with 19 points, a team-high 10 boards, three assists and five turnovers… George Hill tallied 16 points, four rebounds and two assists, but the most encouraging stat may have been the minutes played (37). Hill has had a very tough time staying healthy this year, most recently dealing with a late-season foot injury, but looked spry and fresh in this one… Derrick Favors’ stats (15 points, six rebounds, two assists) don’t jump off the page at you, but his contributions were critical to Utah’s success. Favors stepped in for Gobert and put forth a valiant effort. Favors has been battling a debilitating knee injury which prevented him from playing in 14 of the Jazz’s final 17 regular-season games. Favors, who played 32 minutes on Saturday, had logged more than 32 minutes just once since early January. He was gassed by the end of the game, but Utah will need him to continue to contribute for as long as Gobert is sidelined.
Chris Paul catches a lot of heat because he yet to lead a team past the second round of the playoffs. However, Saturday’s contest is a reminder that losses can’t be pinned on one player. Paul finished with 25 points, seven rebounds, 11 assists and three steals, including a flurry of clutch buckets late in the final frame… Blake Griffin scored 26 points with seven rebounds, three assists, six turnovers and two 3-pointers. However, 20 of those points came in the first half, as Griffin failed to score from the floor in the fourth quarter. It’s been a problem all year long for BG, who averaged fewer than four points per fourth quarter during the regular season… DeAndre Jordan had 10 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks… J.J. Redick (seven points and two assists) was a non-factor most of the night… Jamal Crawford had eight points and missed eight of his 12 field goal attempts… Austin Rivers (hamstring) did not play on Saturday and will miss at least one more game.