The immortal words of Mike Breen rang true on the opening day of the playoffs as we were treated to a couple of excellent performances from a pair of second-year studs and another strong performance from a third-year man out in the Bay. None of these games were ultra-competitive, as the Timberwolves controlled their matchup for most of the night, the Sixers blew out the Raptors, and Golden State gave it to Denver. Dallas put up a good fight against Utah, but the odds were heavily stacked against the Mavs without their superstar guard. Let's get into all the action from the first day of the 2021-22 NBA playoffs!
Jazz 99, Mavericks 93
With no Luka Doncic, the Mavs were 5.5-point dogs at home, and the Jazz barely covered with a six-point victory. This Dallas roster isn’t very deep, and the eight-man rotation played heavy minutes. Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith each played 44 minutes, and Jalen Brunson played 41.
It was an encouraging loss for the Mavs, however, as they were still within striking distance well into the fourth quarter. If Dallas can capture Game 2 and get Doncic back for Game 3, the series could swing quickly.
- Rudy Gobert finished with five points, 17 rebounds and three blocks. The boards and swats were his usual output, but he was a bit lackluster on offense, attempting just one shot in a historical performance.
- Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 32 points and added six rebounds, six assists, one steal and a block. He’ll need to improve on the dreadful 10-of-29 shooting, but this was a great performance overall and Spida’s 17th career playoff game with at least 30 points.
- Bojan Bogdanovic had a solid outing with 26 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal. He made 11 of his 20 shot attempts but surprisingly hit just two triples. The Jazz need him to be a reliable scorer if they want to make a playoff run.
- Jalen Brunson stepped up with 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists, though his points came on a pitiful 9-of-24 shooting.
- Spencer Dinwiddie added 22 points, eight assists, four rebounds and a steal while shooting 6-of-15. Like Brunson, he stepped up in a big way, but his shooting was sub-optimal.
- Dorian Finney-Smith had a solid all-around showing with 14 points, five rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal. He’s one of Dallas’ most reliable two-way options, and he’ll be asked to play some big minutes, especially while Luka is out.
- Reggie Bullock posted 15 points, six rebounds, two steals and an assist with three triples. With Doncic out, it’s all hands on deck, and Bullock should see heavy playing time and usage for the duration. A three-point specialist, he’s shown his ability to contribute meaningfully across multiple categories this season.
Timberwolves 130, Grizzlies 117
Talk about a surprise! The surging Grizzlies were taken down by a hungry Wolves team featuring one of the best young players in the league in Anthony Edwards. Edwards had a monster game (more on him later), and Patrick Beverley had reason to celebrate for the second game in a row.
- Making his playoff debut, Anthony Edwards went off for 36 points on 12-of-23 shooting (4-of-11 from beyond the arc) and added six dimes, two boards, two blocks and a steal. His point total is the fourth-highest in a playoff debut in NBA history, and he’s also the third-youngest to score 35 in a playoff game at 20 years, 254 days. He’s a week older than Tyler Herro when Herro did it in the 2020 bubble and two months older than Derrick Rose when Rose did it way back in 2009. If Ant-Man can be this heroic every game, it’s going to be a long series for Memphis.
- Karl-Anthony Towns did his part with 29 points (11-of-18 shooting), 13 rebounds, three assists, a block and two triples. He also posterized Jaren Jackson Jr.
- Malik Beasley went for 23 points, five rebounds and two assists. He hit 4-of-10 triples and provided a huge spark off the bench in 30 minutes.
- Jaden McDaniels finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, two assists, two triples and a steal in 25 minutes off the bench. He played more minutes and had a much better performance than starter Jarred Vanderbilt (two points, six rebounds, one assist in 19 minutes). Keep an eye on the minute split in Game 2.
- Jaren Jackson finished with 12 points, seven blocks, four rebounds and an assist. He shot just 4-of-13 from the field and missed all five of his three-point attempts. Loss and poor shooting aside, JJJ became the 9th player since 2010 to reject at least seven shots in a playoff game.
- Dillon Brooks posted 24 points, three triples, a rebound and an assist and shot an efficient 7-of-14 from the field.
- Brandon Clarke had 13 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two steals in 27 minutes off the bench. He outplayed Steven Adams who had three rebounds and three assists without a shot attempt across 24 minutes. Like McDaniels and Vanderbilt above, this pair’s playing time should be monitored in Tuesday’s Game 2.
- In the first quarter, Ja Morant had 15 points and shot a perfect 5-of-5. He scored 17 points on 3-of-13 shooting the rest of the way to finish with 32 points on 8-of-18 field goals. He’ll need to be better in Game 2, but based on his body of work this season, positive regression could be imminent.
Sixers 131, Raptors 111
On a night when James Harden and James Embiid struggled with their shots, Philly took down Toronto in dominant fashion. Tyrese Maxey had a playoff coming-out party, and Tobias Harris turned in a big game. Philly committed just three turnovers as a team, tying the fewest in a postseason game in NBA history. Toronto suffered an injury to Scottie Barnes, and this could be a quick series if Barnes is forced to miss any significant time. Game 2 is Monday.
- Tyrese Maxey erupted for 38 points, five triples, four rebounds and two assists. Maxey scored a total of 25 points in seven games against the Hawks in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals, and Monday’s enormous output perfectly illustrates how far he’s come from Year 1 to Year 2. He’s the youngest 76er ever to score at least 35 points in the playoffs.
- Tobias Harris went off for 26 points, six rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block. His point total is the third-highest in his postseason career, and this is his second playoff game with at least 26 points, six boards and six dimes.
- James Harden posted 22 points, 14 assists, five rebounds, a steal and a block, while Joel Embiid collected 19 points (5-of-15 FG), 15 rebounds, four assists and a block. The two combined to shoot 11-of-32, but it didn’t matter thanks to Maxey and Harris.
- Pascal Siakam totaled 24 points, seven assists, three rebounds and three blocks, similar production to the 24.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists he averaged after the All-Star break. He may need to be even better in Game 2 if Toronto hopes to even this series up.
- OG Anunoby went for 20 points, seven boards and two dimes and matched his playoff career-high in scoring. Anunoby missed 19 of 25 games to finish the season, but he was out there for 33 minutes in this one. Let’s hope he remains durable for Toronto’s playoff run.
- The aforementioned Barnes finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a block before his injury. Joel Embiid stepped on his foot and caused him to exit early, but fortunately, X-rays were negative on Barnes’ left ankle, and he’ll have an MRI on Sunday to determine the severity of the injury. Expect Chris Boucher and Precious Achiuwa to take on larger roles Monday if Barnes is ruled out.
- Gary Trent Jr went cold from the field with nine points on 2-of-11 shooting and added four rebounds and a block. His performances have been up and down all season, so Raptors fans are surely hopeful he’ll be better than this in Game 2.
Warriors 123, Nuggets 107
The reigning (and potentially repeat) MVP against Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green? Yeah, it doesn’t get much better than that. It’s been almost three years since we’ve seen the trio on the court together in the playoffs, going all the way back to the 2019 NBA Finals when Klay tore his ACL in the decisive Game 6 loss. Denver came up short here, as Nikola Jokic and Will Barton had virtually no help. This might be a long series for Joker and Co.
- Stephen Curry returned after a 12-game absence, making his first appearance on the court since March 16. He was on a pitch count off the bench and played just 22 minutes, but he made the most of the limited court time with 16 points, four assists, three rebounds, three triples and a steal. Jordan Poole drew the start, and regardless of his position on the bench or starting lineup, Poole should be expected to maintain a substantial role in this series. It’s likely Curry is ramped up in the coming games, but if Golden State can breeze past the Nuggets, there won’t be a reason to rush him back into big minutes.
- Speaking of Poole, he went off. The third-year man led all scorers with 30 points and added five triples, three assists and a rebound. Not bad for a playoff debut, especially when the only Warrior to ever score more in his first postseason game was Wilt Chamberlain. Over the final 20 games of the regular season, he averaged 25.4 points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 4.2 triples, so he was just keeping the Poole Party going.
- Klay Thompson knocked down 5-of-10 threes and finished with 19 points, three rebounds and two assists. He, Curry and Poole combined to go 13-of-23 from beyond the arc. Splash!
- It took Nikola Jokic 25 shots to score 25 points, and this is probably a game he’d like to forget. While Joker did add 10 boards, six dimes, three steals and a block, he committed four turnovers, shot inefficiently and finished with the lowest box plus/minus on the team.
- Will Barton was a lone bright spot for Denver thanks to his 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and a block. No other Nugget scored more than 10 points.