The NBA Playoffs started on Saturday, and there were certainly a fair share of upsets to keep everyone entertained. Here is a look at what we saw on opening night of the 2014 playoffs.
Nets vs. Raptors
It’s hard to say that the game that tipped things off was much of an upset. However, whenever a three-seed is beat by a six, you have to give credit to the latter. The Nets have obviously been a tough team the last few months, and they stormed out with an opening night win against Toronto in a 94-87 win to go up 1-0 in the series, nullifying the home court advantage that the team from Canada had. Brooklyn had 29-points in the first quarter, to just 21 by the Raptors. And although the Raptors were able to outscore the Nets 25-21 in the second, the third quarter saw just 32 total points total, 17 for the Nets and 16 for the Raptors. It was in the fourth that Paul Pierce was able to turn it on for Brooklyn and seal the deal. Deron Williams would finish the game with 24-points, including 18 in the first half to set the tone. However, it was Pierce’s 9 points in the final quarter that was able to keep things out of reach for the Raptors. Piece would finish with 15, while Joe Johnson also put in 24, Shaun Livingston had 10 and Kevin Garnett had 5. For the Raptors, Kyle Lowry had 22 and Jonas Valaciunas had 17. DeMar DeRozan, the leader of the Raptors, finished with14. You have to think that despite the Raptors higher seed, the fact that the Nets had a higher level of contribution from their key players was the biggest factor into the game. Now, they have taken advantage of the fact that they are the lower seed and the advantage is certainly in their favor. Game two is on Tuesday, in Toronto, as the Raptors will look to at least get one game on their home court.
Warriors vs. Clippers
You have to give the Warriors plenty of respect for what they accomplished in the regular season and the overall presence that they have as a squad. However, to imagine that they would go into Staples Center and beat the Clippers, 109-105, is certainly a bit of a surprise. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry have been leaders all year, and they certainly outplayed the stars in the Staples Center on Saturday night. Curry finished with 14, while Thompson had 22. David Lee is the third-most mentioned player on the team, though he had just as big of a night. He finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Chris Paul had a monster night for LA, leading the game with 28-points of his own. He was also +9 while on the court, as was Blake Griffin, who finished with 16 of his own points. However, it wasn’t enough as the Warriors were able to edge out the Clippers, due in part to 15-points off the bench from Harrison Barnes. The Clippers have been heavily favored to win this series, as well as make a strong push to the Western Conference Finals. But the Warriors proved on Saturday that they are just as ready as anyone when it comes to playoff time.
Hawks vs. Pacers
The Pacers jockeyed position for the top spot in the East all year long with the Heat. And when it was announced that the Pacers finally clinched the top spot, you’d think they wouldn’t have a hard time with the eight-seed Hawks. However, Atlanta was able to pull one of the biggest upsets on the day, if not of the playoffs, with their own 101-93 win over the Pacers. Paul George came up big for the top-seeded Pacers, but Jeff Teague had 28 for the Hawks. That was a playoff career high for him, which was added to by 25 from Paul Millsap, who has been one of the most surprising players of the NBA season the last few weeks. While this was just the first win on the road in the playoffs for the Hawks since 2011, the Pacers have only won in Atlanta twice since 2006. That’s not a good sign for the team that pushed so hard during the season in order to try and solidify that top spot in the east. The Pacers also became just the fourth team in history to lose in game one in an eight-versus-one matchup. The Pacers have looked like one of the most flabbergasted teams in the league the last two months, but they’ll have to turn things around quickly if they hope to advance. The Hawks looked hungry and more prepared on Saturday, while the Pacers looked like the lost team we’ve seen the last few months. The Pacers have dropped to 8/1 odds to win the NBA Championship, while the Hawks remain a league-lowest 900/1. However, if the Hawks could get a first round win over the top-seeded Pacers, that would certainly be quite the return for those who put their money on Atlanta.
Grizzlies vs. Thunder
The only home team that won on Saturday was the Oklahoma City Thunder. And while the rest of the games may have been incredibly surprising, this matchup may have been the most needed. The Grizz have been one of the hottest teams in the league the last few weeks, but the Thunder were able to prove the value of their position as the two-seed in a 14-point win, 100-86. Zach Randolph did all he could for Memphis, putting in 21 points and 11 rebounds. However, Kevin Durant had 33-points and also dished out 7 assists. Russell Westbrook also came up big with 23-points and 10-rebounds of his own. There were plenty of surprises on Saturday, but it’s hard to say if the outcome of this one was as much of a surprise as it was something that was simply needed. All of the games proved that the NBA Playoffs are going to be a crazy few weeks of games. However, the Thunder were able to do their part in calming the storm and keeping their place as the two-seed in the West. The Thunder also kept their place as 4/1 odds to win it all, while the Grizzles sit at 70/1.