The NBA playoffs are finally upon us, and some of the league’s biggest stars showed out during the first day of games. Fans got a Saturday full of highlights and huge performances as the best put on a show in four series openers.
The day started with a buzzer-beater to send the game to overtime and a game-winner in the last second of the extra period.
Here’s the breakdown of all the best from Saturday’s NBA playoff games, with a look ahead to four more Game 1s on Sunday:
Blazers 123, Nuggets 109
The first game of the series brought the first appearance of Dame Time in the playoffs, with Damian Lillard scoring 20 of his 34 points in the second half as the Blazers grabbed home-court advantage with the win. Lillard added 13 assists, and Portland shot 19-of-40 (47.5%) from 3-point range. Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, the MVP frontrunner, matched Lillard with 34 and added 16 rebounds. Michael Porter Jr. had 25 points, but he shot just 1-of-10 from 3-point range as Denver was 11-of-36 (30.6%) from outside. Jamal Murray, out for the season with a knee injury, was on the sideline to offer encouragement, but the Nuggets missed his scoring and playmaking.
State of the series: Blazers lead 1-0. Game 2 is Monday in Denver (10 p.m. ET, TNT).
Nets 104, Celtics 93
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden eased any concerns about a lack of playing time together. Brooklyn’s Big 3 is going to be just fine. Durant scored 32 points, Irving had 29 and Harden added 21 as they shook off a slow start to handle Boston. In just their ninth game together, the trio shot 0-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half. They then scored 28 of the Nets’ 31 points in the third quarter as Brooklyn took control. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 22 points but shot just 6-of-20 from the field. Without injured Jaylen Brown, their second-leading scorer, the Celtics struggled to find reliable scoring around Tatum.
State of the series: Nets lead 1-0. Game 2 is Tuesday in Brooklyn (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
Mavericks 113, Clippers 103
Luka Doncic recorded his third career playoff triple-double in his seventh game as Dallas went into Staples Center and took Game 1 from Los Angeles. Doncic finished with 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, and the Mavs got big contributions from Tim Hardaway Jr. (21 points), Dorian Finney-Smith (18) and Jalen Brunson (15). The Clippers’ inconsistencies cropped up again as they missed eight of their last nine shots, and the Mavs closed on a 13-3 run. Los Angeles ceded homecourt advantage and has now lost four straight playoff games dating to last season’s blown 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets.
State of the series: Mavericks lead 1-0. Game 2 is Tuesday in Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. ET, NBATV).
Bucks 109, Heat 108 (OT)
Milwaukee has a free throw problem. While luck is certainly necessary in the playoffs, the Bucks were lucky they were able to overcome 60.6% shooting from the foul line in their Game 1 victory against Miami, including 6-of-13 by two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. He shot just 3-of-8 in the final four minutes of regulation and overtime. Ultimately, it didn’t cost the Bucks. But the way the Heat play — slow it down, play physical, muck it up a bit — is going to give the Bucks plenty of chances at the foul line, and they need to be better at the line. The Heat, who last season won the East (and beat the Bucks 4-1 in the conference semifinals), aren’t your typical sixth seed, and they will make it difficult for the Bucks in this series. — Jeff Zillgitt
State of the series: Bucks lead 1-0. Game 2 is Monday in Milwaukee (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
The first weekend of the 2021 NBA playoffs concludes with the last four first-round series openers, including both top seeds.
Wizards at Sixers (1 p.m. ET, TNT): Top-seeded Philadelphia looks to take the next step in “The Process” and break through to the NBA Finals. Washington closed the regular season as one of the hottest teams in the league.
Lakers at Suns (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC): The defending champion Lakers are finally healthy as they open against the Suns, making them an unsurprising — albeit unprecedented — seventh seed favored to win the series.
Hawks at Knicks (7 p.m. ET, TNT): Playoff basketball returns to Madison Square Garden for the first time in eight years as the Knicks host the Hawks in the opener of what could be the most competitive series of the first round.
Grizzlies at Jazz (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT): Donovan Mitchell is expected to return from a sprained right ankle for top-seeded Utah against a plucky Memphis team that won two games in the play-in tournament to clinch the eighth seed.
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