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2020 NBA Playoffs: Day 1 Breakdown

On the first day of NBA Playoffs, every team showed up to play. With most games going back-and-forth throughout, every higher-seeded team was able to pull away and come out on top. Despite losing, players like Donovan Mitchell and Luka Doncic were able to keep their teams in the game by dropping 57 and 42 points (respectively). Although these efforts were not enough to secure a victory, with a few minor changes, both the Jazz and Mavericks are capable of upsetting their opponents.

Although the Jazz, Nets, 76ers, and Mavericks start their series down one game, it is far from over for these teams. With players leaving/returning for their next game due injuries and getting ejected (Porzingis), many new variables for Game 2 may result in a different outcome.

Nuggets vs. Jazz

In the debut game of the 2020 NBA Playoffs, Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray were able to showcase two incredible performances. Taking his team to an overtime victory, Murray totaled 36-5-9 while leading the Nuggets in both points and assists. Murray came alive in overtime and was able to close out the game, scoring and feeding his teammates at will.

While Murray was able to dominate for his team, another difference-maker for this game was Nikola Jokic. Although Rudy Gobert’s defensive paint presence hurt Jokic’s ability to score inside, Jokic was able to score 4 of 7 3-pointers and total 29 points. 

With Mitchell matched up against Murray and Gobert matched up against Jokic, each team’s top two players will continue to go head-to-head against each other. Despite the Nuggets finishing this game above by 10, this series is one of the most up-for-grabs out of all the ones played on Day 1. 

Raptors vs. Nets

The second game of the 2020 NBA Playoffs was a lot less competitive. Maintaining a lead the entire game, the Raptors made it virtually impossible for the Nets to come back. Despite Siakam and Lowry both shooting poorly, VanVleet was able to make 8 of 10 3-pointers and lead his team with 30 points and 11 assists.

Although the Nets made a bit of a run in the 3rd quarter, they were not able to score consistently outside. With the Nets’ top scorer coming off the bench in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, they appeared simply outmatched by the Raptors. Because of this, it seems like the Nets may need to wait for Durant and Irving to return before they can make any significant impact in the playoffs.

Celtics vs. 76ers

In one of the most back-and-forth games on Day 1, the Celtics were able to take the lead and secure the win in the 4th quarter against the 76ers. Without their All-Star PG in Ben Simmons, the 76ers continued to center their offense around Embiid and surround him with shooters. Surprisingly enough, this somewhat worked for the Sixers as they were able to shoot a better overall percentage from three than the Celtics.

The two biggest difference-makers for this game, however, was the inefficiency of the 76ers’ late-game offense and turnovers. One of the most troubling aspects of the 76ers late-game offense is that there will be times, late in the game, where Embiid will be standing at the top of the key or at the 3-point line to take a shot.

While Embiid can certainly hit those shots at times, he is not the person who should be taking them late in the game — especially when he is surrounded by shooters. If the 76ers allowed Tobias Harris or Shake Milton to handle the ball more in these late-game situations, there would be a lot less wasted possessions. By playing this way, the Sixers may also reduce the amount of turnovers they create.

In the following games against the 76ers, the Celtics now have to deal with an injury for one of their top players. Spraining his ankle late in the game, Gordon Hayward will miss the rest of the series against the 76ers. Because of this, the Sixers may now have an opportunity to regain some ground as the Celtics are missing one of their best shooters who totaled 4 steals in this game.

Clippers vs. Mavericks

In the final game of Day 1, the Mavericks started off strong against a dominant Clippers roster. Leading the game 69-66 going into halftime, the Mavericks were in a good position to take this game. However, within less than three minutes into the 3rd quarter, the Mavericks 2nd best star in Kristaps Porzingis was ejected from the game after committing two weak technical fouls.

Although Doncic kept the Mavericks alive with an astounding 42-7-9-2 statline, the lack of spacing and 3-point scoring without Porzingis made a comeback victory almost impossible. With one of the most dominant tandems in the NBA being Kawhi and Paul George, there was little chance for Doncic to win this game all by himself. However, with the return of Porzingis for their next matchup and continued dependable shooting from Seth Curry, the Mavericks may be able to take some games from the Clippers.

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