The 2019 NBA Playoffs kicked off with a bang. Four games were scheduled for the first day and three of them didn’t end as expected. The action started in the Eastern Conference with the 3rd seeded Philadelphia 76ers taking on the 6th seeded Brooklyn Nets. That game turned out to be a shocker as the lower seeded Nets easily overcame a star-studded 76ers who had injured big man Joel Embiid in the line-up. Jimmy Butler’s career high 36 points weren’t enough as the Nets rolled past the 76ers 111-102.
The other matchup in the Eastern Conference featured the 2nd seeded Toronto Raptors against the 7th seeded Orlando Magic. In yet another upset, the Magic stole the game 104-101 on a game winning 3 point shot by point guard D.J. Augustin.
In the Western Conference, the 1st seeded, super powered Golden State Warriors squared off against the 8th seeded Los Angeles Clippers. The result didn’t surprise anyone and the Warriors cruised to a comfortable 121-104 win.
Rounding off the upset filled day was the other Western Conference matchup where the 7th seeded San Antonio Spurs led almost throughout the game and fought off a late charge from the 2nd seeded Denver Nuggets to earn a 101-96 victory.
Here’s more from all the games that took place on April 13th.
#1. Warriors crush Clippers (Box Score)
This lopsided matchup was all about Steph Curry. The greatest shooter of all time scored 38 points and grabbed a staggering 15 rebounds in the game. During the process, Curry passed Ray Allen for the most three pointers made in the NBA Playoffs. He took a little over half the number of Ray Allen’s games to pass that. During the post-game press conference, Curry gave a ‘shout out to the contacts’ for his amazing accuracy from super-long-range. The Warriors got off to a hot start and never really looked back.
The only negative of the game for the Warriors came when Kevin Durant was ejected along with the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley after picking up his second technical foul. In the post game conference, Durant shrugged it off as ‘fun’. However, Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr wasn’t very happy about it and said that Durant ‘took Beverley’s bait’. Kerr also reminded the reporters that Durant picked up two technical fouls during this game and a 7th technical foul will automatically result in a one-game suspension for him.
#2. Spurs outlast Nuggets (Box Score)
The young Denver Nuggets, led by their versatile big man Nikola Jokic are one of the best stories of this year’s NBA. They played very well throughout the season and ended up with the 2nd best record in the tough Western Conference. However, as luck would have it, they were matched up with the 7th seeded but extremely well coached and disciplined San Antonio Spurs team. The Spurs were led by their star guard DeMar DeRozan who overcame a bad shooting night to do just enough in the end to give the Spurs a 1-0 lead in the series. He finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. For the Nuggets, Jokic had a great start to his playoff career as he got a triple double with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists.
The Nuggets trailed for almost the entire game but got the game to within a single point in the final seconds. Jamal Murray, who was having an incredible 4th quarter, had a wide open 15 foot jump shot for the lead but he just missed it. The Spurs grabbed the defensive rebound and closed the game out with free throws.
This win was head coach Greg Popovich’s 1,413th , including the post season and regular season. He overtook Lenny Wilkens to become the coach with the most number of wins in NBA history.
#3. Magic stun Raptors (Box Score)
Going into this matchup, the Orlando Magic might have been the 7th seed but they had also been the hottest team in the Eastern Conference during the final 13 games of the season. However, the Toronto Raptors are a well balanced team with a deep bench and a superstar in Kawhi Leonard so they shouldn’t have had much trouble in prevailing over the Magic.
However, things didn’t turn out as expected for the Raptors as the contest stayed close from start to finish. The closing minutes of the game ended up being extremely exciting as both teams traded clutch baskets, making one big shot after another. The Magic’s veteran point guard D.J. Augustin had the final say as he drained the go-ahead three pointer with 5.3 seconds left on the clock to give the Magic a 104-101 lead. Kawhi Leonard tried to answer and force the game into overtime but his long three pointer hit nothing but air.
Raptors coach Dwayne Casey‘s decision to keep defensive stalwart Serge Ibaka on the bench during the final Magic possession left many analysts scratching their head as he would’ve been much better at closing out on D.J. Augustin than slower and older Marc Gasol. Starting point guard Kyle Lowry had a dreadful game where he scored ZERO points in 34 minutes of action. With this loss, the Raptors have fallen to 1-5 in Game 1 of the playoffs over the last six years.
#4. Nets thump 76ers (Box Score)
The 6th seeded Brooklyn Nets met the star studded Philadelphia 76ers and had a dominating performance. Led by point guard D’Angelo Russell who had 26 points, the Nets connected on 11 of their 26 shots from three point range. Caris LaVert added 23 points in 23 minutes off the bench for the Nets.
For the 76ers, Jimmy Butler seemed to be the only player who came to play as he scored a career playoff high 36 points. Superstar center Joel Embiid was limited to just 24 minutes of action where he scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds but he made only 5 of his 15 shots. Star point guard Ben Simmons had a dreadful 9 points and 3 assists in 32 minutes. Tobias Harris played the most minutes for the team but only scored 4 points during his 40 minutes of action. Nets center Jarrett Allen, who has become famous for blocking dunk attempts from star players, blocked an attempt by Harris at the rim. The 76ers as a team made just 3 of their 25 three point attempts. All in all it was a dreadful performance and the 76ers were never really in the game. With question marks over Embiid’s health, winning this series might just end being a lot more difficult than what most 76ers fans would’ve imagined at the end of the regular season.