The 2018 NBA playoffs are in full swing, as all series are now officially underway. Everything has basically gone according to plan, well except for one huge upset. James Harden showed up for his team's opening game win, dropping in 44 points. Paul George showed why OKC brought him to town, dumping in 36 points in their win against Utah, and Giannis Antetokounmpo brought it in an overtime loss against the Boston Celtics. And LeBron James…well, that was the one thing that wasn't expected. Let's get started!
After reviewing all four of Sunday’s contests, we’ll wrap up the Dose by taking a quick look at a handful of players that are facing injury issues for Monday’s games.
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Boston 113, Milwaukee 107 (OT):
The Celtics started their playoff journey with Kyrie Irving (knee surgery) looking on in street clothes as he recovers from surgery. They have a difficult toss-up series against Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, a team with plenty of firepower. It was time for the other Celtics to step up their game and be a hero, and several young Boston players answered the bell.
Al Horford stepped up his game with 24 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and two steals over 44 minutes in the team's overtime victory, as he was a beast on the glass and at the defensive end. He was also an efficient 5-of-8 from the floor while managing to get to the free-throw line early and often, going 13-of-14 from the charity stripe. He teamed with rookie Jayson Tatum, who posted 19 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double in his first-ever NBA playoff outing.
Terry Rozier was feeling a lot of pressure beforehand to step up his game and fill the void in the backcourt and he did big things. He posted 23 points, four rebounds and three assists in his first-career playoff start, and he felt good about where he is and said he didn't feel pressure, although that's a bit hard to believe. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris also joined the scoring parade with 20 and 21 points, and five players managed 19 or more points for the balanced attack. In addition to his 21 points, Morris also snagged seven rebound in 35 minutes off the bench.
The Celtics didn't have much of a presence at the center position, as Aron Baynes was scoreless with an 0-for-4 shooting night, and Greg Monroe went for just one point on 0-of-2 shooting 20 minutes off the bench. The fact that the C's won the game in overtime masked the struggles at the center position, and they'll certainly need bigger contributions there over the course of the series if they're going to be successful. The strong defense of Antetokounmpo and John Henson certainly didn't make it easy for the Boston bigs.
Antetokounmpo not only went for 35 points, but he snagged 13 rebounds with seven assists and three steals on 11-of-21 shooting in 45 minutes. He ended up fouling out of the game, and he ended up going minus-5 in the series opener. While Henson scored seven points with six rebounds and six blocked shots to step up on the defensive end, only Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton came through on offense among the starters. In fact, they were the only two players to post double-digit point totals. Malcolm Brogdon added 16 points in 32 minutes off the bench, stepping up with perhaps his best game since returning from a torn left quadriceps tendon.
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Indiana Pacers 98, Cleveland Cavaliers 80:
The Cavaliers have sailed through the Eastern Conference in recent seasons, putting it on cruise control on their way to the past three NBA Finals. The regular season showed that times are changing and there are plenty of potential pitfalls on the road to a potential fourth straight Finals trip, but no one envisioned what happened in Game 1 on Sunday. For the first time in his career, LeBron James is dealing with a deficit in the first round of the playoffs. He entered 12-0 all-time in first-round Game 1 games. Uneasy is the head that wears the crown, especially in Cleveland. Something hasn't looked right with this Cleveland team for most of the season, and that spilled over to Game 1.
The King did his thing, posting 24 points with 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his 20th career triple-double in the postseason, but it wasn't enough. LeBron's teams had won 21 straight first-round games, and the Cavaliers suffered a setback in a first-round game for the first time since May 6, 2012 during LeBron's first stint with the club. Kevin Love stepped up with 17 rebounds and a blocked shot, but he posted just nine point. In fact, LeBron was the only starter to go for double-digit points.
If the Cavaliers are going to avoid an early exit, Jeff Green cannot go scoreless with an 0-for-7 shooting night. Perhaps Larry Nance moves back into the starting lineup if things continue to go south, as he was one of just three players with double-digit points. He was 5-of-7 from the field in 30 minutes off the bench, posting 10 points with five rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. J.R. Smith also surprised with three 3-pointers and 15 points, something which cannot be expected on a regular basis since his shooting has been rather erratic this season.
Perhaps the most improved player in the NBA, Victor Oladipo, did everything he could to lead his team to the upset. He was 11-of-19 from the floor with 32 points, while banging home six 3-pointers to quiet the Quicken Loans Arena crowd. He also did it defensively, pulling down six boards with four steals and a blocked shot. Myles Turner was also busy with 16 points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot, while Lance Stephenson was up to his usual tricks, getting under the skin of old pal LeBron while adding 12 points and five rebounds as a bonus.
Oklahoma City Thunder 116, Utah Jazz 108:
In the four-five game in the Western Conference, the Jazz and Thunder battled hard defensively until things took off offensively in the final stanza. George did his thing with 36 points, seven rebounds and a steal while banging home eight 3-pointers to set an OKC franchise playoff record. He had averaged more than 27 points in the postseason in each of his past two seasons in Indiana and he appears ready to take it to a higher level. Hopefully the right hip contusion he suffered doesn't force him out of Game 2. He will be re-evaluated on Monday after aggravating an injury he suffered late in the regular season. He paired with Russell Westbrook, who had 29 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, to give the Thunder the Big Three they envisioned when the team put together this roster. Carmelo Anthony tossed in 15 points, as Westbrook received help on the offensive end. The team needs to be more balanced than they were in the regular season if they're going to go on a deep playoff run.
The loss overshadowed another big stat line by rookie Donovan Mitchell, making his first playoff start. He dumped in 27 points with 11-of-22 shooting, including 3-of-7 from behind the arc, while adding 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot with one turnover. If he was having any opening playoff game jitters he didn't show it. However, he did suffer a left foot injury which required an MRI. The good news is that the tests were negative and his injury is being called just soreness. Jae Crowder, who has plenty of postseason experience from his previous stops, dropped in three triples off the bench to finish with 13 points in 28 minutes. The team will need more from their frontcourt, as Derrick Favors posted just seven points while Rudy Gobert went for 14 points and seven rebounds, with his board totals well below his season average.
Houston Rockets 104, Minnesota Timberwolves 101:
The Rockets were able to hold off a late charge from the Timberwolves to open with a playoff win as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. James Harden knows what time it is, and he was good for 44 points. He hit 15-of-26 from the field, including 7-of-12 from downtown, while adding eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. He was helped out by Clint Capela, who had a giant first half, but he disappeared in the second half as the Wolves and head coach Tom Thibodeau made adjustments. Capela ate them up with 20 points and 10 rebounds at halftime, but he finished with just 24 points and 12 boards. The key to this series might be the tug-o-war between the up and coming Capela and the more established Karl-Anthony Towns. Chris Paul also needs to be better, as he was just 5-of-14 from the floor with six turnovers.
Towns didn't have a lot of success on the offensive end, hitting just 3-of-9 from the floor for eight points, but he adding 12 rebounds and a blocked shot. He'll need to do more to give his team a chance in this series. Andrew Wiggins led the team with 18 points and six rebounds over his 32 minutes, but only Taj Gibson managed to make more shots than misses among the team's five starters. He hit 4-of-6 from the floor with nine points and six rebounds in his 32 minutes. Derrick Rose provided some solid punch off the bench with 16 points over 24 minutes. If he can be 75 percent of the player he used to be, the Wolves could make some noise in this series. Jimmy Butler was also a non-factor, hitting just 4-of-11 shots for 13 points in his 36 minutes.
* Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers - TNT - 8:00 PM
* San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors - TNT - 10:30 PM
Injury notes for Monday:
Joel Embiid is still not cleared to participate fully in the team's practice due to his orbital fracture, and he has already been ruled out for Game 2. It's a good sign that that the team was able to win its first game so handily, and rookie Ben Simmons played a huge part in that outcome. He'll need to do more heavy lifting on Monday.
In the other series, Joffrey Lauvergne is away from the team for what is being termed personal business, believe to be a family matter. Hopefully it isn't anything terribly serious.
You already know Stephen Curry (knee) is out for the Warriors, and Patrick McCaw (back) remains out indefinitely after that late-season fall on his tailbone after being undercut by Vince Carter in a game against the Kings. However, Andre Iguodala (knee) at least has a chance to play, as the Warriors look for more depth. They're getting healthier for what they hope is another championship run. But like the Cavaliers, they face a lot of new challenges in a wide-open playoff race, perhaps the most wide-open in years.