Looking back, this should’ve been a bit more predictable than it felt. The Sixers don’t defend the pick and roll well, and the Nets are a top-10 great pick-and-roll team. Joel Embiid was not 100 percent and not himself. Ben Simmons has shown us that his inability to shoot is a much bigger problem in the playoffs than it tends to be in the regular season, and indeed he spent most of Game 1 getting in the way by doing pretty much nothing to the tune of nine points — most of which were at the end and pretty insignificant — on nine shots for a team-worst minus-21.
None of this seems unsustainable for Brooklyn. The Sixers dropped their bigs on pick and rolls, and just in general, to invite mid-range shots, and Russell is not just going to stop making those. It’s his bread and butter. Dinwiddie isn’t going to stop getting to the rim. The Sixers can’t stay in front of him and he’s seriously one of the best drivers in the league. The Sixers don’t have the depth to chase around all of Brooklyn’s shooters. If Embiid can’t come back and dominate inside (which he should be able to do if he is healthy-ish) and perhaps get the Nets into some foul trouble, the Nets can beat Philly.
Holy upset. No this was unexpected. But again, perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Toronto didn’t look great down the stretch while the Magic were one of the league’s best teams after the All-Star break. Kawhi Leonard was very good, but he didn’t fight hard enough over a screen, and instead stayed with the screener, on the game’s deciding play, allowing D.J. Augustin — who finished with 25 points and six assists — to step into the game-winning 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left.
Not much to say here. Stephen Curry was brilliant, and the Warriors are just way better than the Clippers. This will be a very quick series. Curry had 38 points on some typically ridiculous shots — 8 of 12 from three — but it was his defense and … 15 rebounds!!! … that really stood out. He was “best player in the world” Stephen Curry in every area of the game, and when Draymond Green, the guy who is always going to be a wide-open release valve, is going 7 of 12 for 17 points on top of Curry lighting it up, forget about it. The Warriors looked terrific.
For a 2-7 matchup, this feels a lot a coin flip, doesn’t it? The Nuggets didn’t play poorly. They shot poorly, particularly from three, which was a problem all down the stretch of the regular season; but they didn’t play poorly. They made big shots/plays for a team that is largely devoid of playoff experience. They didn’t crumble, as would be the easy narrative for a No. 2 seed dropping Game 1 at home. The Spurs are a good team. They took away a lot of Denver’s off-ball movement, or at least never let it really open up. Nikola Jokic had a triple-double with 14 assists, 14 rebounds and 10 points, but I think he needs to attack more as a scorer for Denver to make real headway offensively.