We’re one game into the NBA Playoffs for the New York Knicks and the MSG faithful did NOT go home happy, but it did feel good to have that do-or-die feeling back the veins of the fans and in the atmosphere of the World’s Most Famous Arena. Plus, we already found our new Reggie Miller.
It’s safe to say that Trae Young thrives off being hated by Knicks fans just like Miller did. In his playoff debut, the Oklahoma product went 11-for-23 from the field with 32 points, including the game-winning floater with one second remaining, as well as 10 assists and just two turnovers. Even when the Knicks knew he was taking the shot, they couldn’t contain him, as he skated right around Frank Ntilikina and Taj Gibson on that final possession to give Atlanta the 107-105 Game 1 victory. Young is going to be a PROBLEM, as the kids say.
The Knicks did pretty well considering how badly Young outplayed Julius Randle. New York’s superstar scored just 15 points on 6-for-23 shooting. He did clutch up for a big three-point shot late, but for the most part it was up to Alec Burks and Derrick Rose to carry the offense on Sunday night. If Randle steps up and the Knicks find a way to make life a little harder for Young, New York will have revenge in Game 2. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until Wednesday for that revenge thanks to the NBA’s revenue-maximizing playoff schedule.
Here’s what happened in the seven other Game 1 showdowns over the weekend.
Bucks 109, Heat 107
Jimmy Butler hit a clutch runner to send the game in overtime, but Khris Middleton and Milwaukee had the last laugh when he buried the Heat with a 17-foot fade-away jumper.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a nice game for Milwaukee, but he also almost blew the game down the stretch with some poor free throw shooting. He even committed a 10-second violation, which is something that I did not know existed. I guess I just figured that free throw shooters can just stand at the line forever and contemplate life while preparing to shoot a foul shot. Silly me. Maybe this will be like the pitch clock in baseball someday. It will become so normal that we’ll just forget it exists.
Mavericks 113, Clippers 103
Los Angeles choked big time in the playoffs last season when it blew a 3-1 series lead to Denver. Now that we’re out of the bubble, the Clippers may be at it again. Dropping Game 1 to a supposedly inferior Dallas team isn’t a great look, even when Luka Doncic drops a 31-point triple-double on you with just three turnovers.
Los Angeles’s superstars played well, but they only shot 28 percent from three-point range. Dallas, meanwhile, got great shooting performances from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith to take advantage of a Clippers defense that had its hands full with Doncic. That led to the Mavs shooting 47 percent from beyond the arc.
Nets 104, Celtics 93
Brooklyn was terrible in the first half, but they still took care of business easily and even covered the spread against an overmatched Boston team. You absolutely hate to see it, but the Big Three played really well together and the Nets cruised despite only shooting 24 percent from three-point range. Brooklyn is the clear favorite to win the title and the favorite to win the West is a seven seed that just lost its Game 1.
Trail Blazers 123, Nuggets 109
Denver is the three seed, but this series is considered a toss-up because of the injury to Jamal Murray, who was so important to the bubble run of 2020. Nikola Jokic will have to prove why he’s considered the MVP favorite if the Nuggets are to prevail, and on Saturday he had himself a game with 34 points and 16 rebounds. However, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Blazers, who got 34 points and 13 assists out of Damian Lillard.
Carmelo Anthony stormed out of the gate for Portland and ended up with 18 points off the bench. I have a long and complicated player-fan relationship with Anthony, but I have to give it up to him. The guy can still get the job done when that job is putting the ball in the basket.
76ers 125, Wizards 118
The top seeds of the NBA are both being overlooked this year because I’m not sure anyone outside of the local markets believes in them. Philadelphia has come up short in the playoffs for the past three seasons and now finds itself in the same bracket as the juggernaut Nets. Maybe the 76ers are being overlooked, though. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are both very much in their primes and now loaded with playoff experience. If they can make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, which they absolutely should, it will be a hell of a battle.
In this one, Tobias Harris scored 37 points and Ben Simmons had a weird double-double with 15 rebounds and 15 assists (only six points). Washington and its star-studded backcourt could make some of these games interesting, but it’s hard to imagine this series going longer than five games.
Suns 99, Lakers 90
The Lakers survived the Play-In Tournament, but this series against Phoenix is a much stiffer test, especially since the Suns have to be pissed that a team led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis somehow ended up as the seven seed in the West. Chris Paul left this game briefly with what looked like a serious shoulder injury, but it turned out to just be a contusion. Meanwhile, Devin Booker score 34 points on 50 percent shooting and Deandre Ayton badly outplayed Davis while only missing one of his 11 field goal attempts and gobbling up eight offensive rebounds.
Grizzlies 112, Jazz 109
Donovan Mitchell was supposed to return to action in this game. That was the deal on Sunday afternoon, but shortly before tip-off we learned that Mitchell’s sprained ankle would hold him out of one more game. Utah is certainly talented enough to win without its star shooting guard, but it didn’t get the job done in Game 1 despite jumping out to an early lead.
The Grizzlies got great performances from Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks as they built on the momentum of the Play-In Tournament. A late surge by Bojan Bogdanovic brought Utah within one possession, but good defense by Kyle Anderson ensured that Bogdanovic’s equalizing attempt was off the mark. Mitchell is supposed to play in Game 2, and there will be a lot of pressure on the team with the NBA’s best regular season record to bounce back.