Bucks vs. Magic
In a game that many people expected to see the Bucks sweep an undermanned Magic team, we saw the determination of the Magic on full display.
To start the game, the Magic were already without Aaron Gordan and Jonathan Issac. This would make it extremely difficult for the Magic to operate their offense, and even more hard to stop Giannis. When the game started, the Magic pulled out to a nice lead and never gave it up. The Bucks were not able to gain any kind of momentum, and could not get consistent offense from Giannis. The Magic were able to close out on the Bucks shooters, and clog the lane to help contain Giannis. Nikola Vucevic, who had a team leading 35 points, for the Magic was able to control the game with his shooting and inside game. They also had support from unexpected role players such as Terrence Ross, 18 points, and Garry Clark, 15 points. When their second leading scorer,Evan Fournier, was quite without a single point in the first half, they needed all the support from their role players. The Magic also brought a kind of intensity that we did not see from the Bucks. They might have gotten too comfortable with number one seed, but this game against the Magic was a huge wake up call.
This game came as a huge surprise for most fans, and the next game should be a bounce-back game for the Bucks. If we continue to see this same intensity from the Magic and a Bucks team that can get back on track, this series could be much more exciting then expected.
Final Score: ORL 122 MIL 110
Heat vs. Pacers
In a game that was meant to be the closest and wildest lived up to its potential in the first game. One of the biggest storylines of the game between TJ Warren and Jimmy Butler did not seem to be in play at all, as both players seemed more focused on playing their best and getting the win.
The beginning of the game started out with both teams fighting for a lead that eventually went to Indiana by the end of the first quarter. While the Pacers did have the lead, they had lost Victor Oladipo for the rest of the game due to an eye injury. This was a huge blow to a Pacers team that had finally gotten their star player back, just to lose him again. While Oladipo is still day to day with his injury, it is not expected for him to be at 100 percent when he does come back. The Heat were able to take advantage of this and take a very small lead. The Pacers got major support from TJ Warren and Malcom Brogden who both had 22 points in the game. In the third quarter the Heat were able to extend their lead to double digits, but we saw an inexperienced team that did not know how to close out games. They let the Pacers hang around and eventually they were able to cut the Heat’s lead to one. In a close playoff game teams look to their veteran stars and while the Pacers did not have anyone to look to, the Heat had Jimmy Butler for these exact moments. Him and Goran Dragic were able to take control of the game and close out a very close game.
The Pacers must hope for the return of Victor Oladipo, and that they continue to keep games close. The Heat on the other hand, must take this victory and make sure that they are ready for the rest of the series because Indiana is not going anywhere.
Final Score: MIA 113 IND 101
Thunder vs. Rockets
The Houston Rockets were without Russell Westbrook, and it seemed like the Thunder would be able to take advantage of a shorthanded Rockets team. The Rockets and James Harden had other things in mind, as they performed great in Westbrooks absence.
Houston started out the game by establishing an eight point lead by the first quarter. They were keeping constant pressure on the Thunder offense, and picked apart their defense. The biggest lead they got was 23, and they never got below a double digit lead. James Harden was the motor for the Rockets offense, 37 points, but they also got significant support from their bench and role players. The Thunder were not able to get anything going offensively and did not seem to have any rhythm. They continued to go into one on one sets and had no movement in their offenses. This helped the Rockets because they could focus on the ball and not have to worry about any other type of threat from the Thunder. When the Thunder did try to get their offense going and hit a couple of threes, the Rockets were quick to answer with a combination of drives and open threes. The Thunder also did not take advantage of the smaller Rockets team, and were not feeding the taller Steven Adams in the paint.
This game should serve as a lesson for the young Thunder team, and they should hope to bounce back after this tough game. While there is no timetable for Russell Westbrook’s return, this game has shown that the Rockets can operate without him and can wait until he is 100% before he starts playing.
Final Score: HOU 123 OKC 108
Lakers vs. Trail Blazers
In one of the most intriguing games of the first round, the Blazers and Lakers do not seem like a 1 vs 8 matchup. The Blazers have a very strong offense, and are hoping to use that to their advantage and outscore the Lakers.
The first quarter started with the Blazers jumping out to a huge lead, and looking like a team that can beat the Lakers. The Lakers seemed to have some rust, and it was showing. But, by the second quarter it seemed like the rust was off and that the Lakers were coming back to take control. Anthony Davis had 21 points in the first quarter and the Blazers did not have an answer for him on defense. After half, the Blazer made some adjustments and started using Hassan Whiteside and Jusuf Nurkic to combat the Lakers two seven footers. The Lakers were not able to pull the lead out to more than five, and still had a game on their hands. Lebron James was playing amazing, 17 assists, 16 rebounds, and 41 points, and yet the Lakers did not have anyone that could step up and help him in the second half. The Blazers were able to rely on Damian Lillard and the rest of the team for consistent buckets. While this was one of the biggest factors for the Blazers win, they also got a couple of huge buckets from Lillard and Melo to seal the win.
The Lakers must be able to bounce back from this game and get more from their role players, as well as a more aggressive Anthony Davis. The Blazers have fought to get to this point and will not be letting up any time soon.
Finals Score: POR 100 LAL 93
Top Image: Houston Chronicle/ Kim Klement