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NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Round 1, Game 1

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NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Round 1, Game 1

 

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs, Game 1

The NBA season returned just under 3 weeks ago in a bio-secure bubble in Orlando. Before Monday, each team had played 8 games to finalise the standings and to determine the teams going forward to the playoffs.

In the Eastern Conference there was very little change, with the 8 teams making the playoffs remaining the same as those in playoff positions before the season was stopped. The Milwaukee Bucks secured the first seed in the East having secured the best record in the league (56-17) with the Toronto Raptors, last seasons Eastern Conference champions finishing 2nd with a 53-19 record.

With the playoffs getting underway on Monday, today we are looking at the first round of games in the Eastern Conference. There were only 4 games, but that saw a blowout victory for the Raptors, a big upset as the Orlando Magic defeated the Bucks and 2 closely fought contests. This is the first time since the 2002/03 season that the number 1 seed in both conferences has lost the first game of the playoffs.

Brooklyn Nets 110 – 134 Toronto Raptors

The first game of the Eastern Conference playoffs saw the Toronto Raptors defeat the Brooklyn Nets. The Raptors won the first quarter 37-20 and they didn’t look back after that.

The Raptors showed a difference in class, shooting 50% from 3 point range, with the Nets only scoring 31% from long range. Brooklyn Nets player, Garrett Temple attempted 10 3 pointers and only converted 1 of them. Going forward it is clear that the Nets need to shoot smarter shots and play their own game rather than trying to emulate the 3 point masterclass from Fred VanVleet.

In the modern game, free throw percentages can be the difference between winning and losing and the Raptors scoring 32/33 (97%) in comparison to the Nets only scoring 11/16 (68.8%) certainly helped on their push to victory.

Fouling was a problem for the Nets which they will need to solve before the series gets out of their reach. Rodions Kurucs fouled out of the game and 2 of his teammates were both one foul away from leaving the game early. In a game where the quality of the Raptors shone through, the Nets need to work on their foul problem so that they keep all of their players available, but also so that they keep the Raptors away from the free throw line.

This was a convincing win for the Raptors and if they maintain this form a 4-0 sweep looks likely. The Nets have a lot to work on to even give themselves a chance in the series.

Notable performance: Fred VanVleet. Finishing with 30 points, 2 rebounds and 11 assists, VanVleet was pivotal for the Raptors. The part of his performance which sticks out the most was his 8/10 from 3 point range.

Philadelphia 76ers 101 – 109 Boston Celtics

The 76ers matchup with the Celtics looks like it has the potential to go all the way to a 7th game. Although the 76ers are only the 6th seed, 3 time all star Joel Embiid alongside 13 year veteran Al Horford certainly have the ability to come out on top in the series, partially due to their defensive abilities. However in game 1, it was their offensive consistency that let them down.

Game 1 was a close fought contest up until the 4th quarter when the Celtics outscored the 76ers by 12 points to clinch the victory. There was little to split the two sides as far as field goal percentages go and the real differences came when looking at free throw percentages and turnovers. The Celtics scored 88% of free throws compared to the 78% of the 76ers and on top of that they made 18 turnovers, which was 11 more than the Celtics.

The top scorer for the Celtics was Jayson Tatum, finishing with 32 points and 13 rebounds. On the opposite side Embiid had 26 points, but was not supported by teammates in the same way that Tatum was. Going forward, Embiid will need more contributions from his teammates in order to pull the series back in their favour.

This will certainly be one of the closest games in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. In such a tight series the free throw problems encountered by the 76ers in game 1 could be the difference. More importantly, the number of turnovers they made cannot continue if they want to go deep in to the playoffs.

Notable performance: Jaylen Brown. Scoring 29 points and making 6 rebounds with 4 assists, Brown scored 56% of his field goals which included 5/8 3 points shots.

Miami Heat 113 – 101 Indiana Pacers

The 4th and 5th seed should be the closest game in the playoffs and this game certainly was closer than the scoreline represents. Both teams were scoring nearly 50% of their field goals.

Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic combined for 52 of the Miami Heat’s points. Scoring over 50% of field goals and only missing 2 free throws between them, they certainly were key to the Heat’s victory. The Indiana Pacers are the 3rd best defensive team in the NBA this year, conceding only 107.5 points per game. They will need to return to this form quickly if they want to limit the scoring potential of Butler and Dragic. The ability to defend the Miami duo will be pivotal in the outcome of the series.

Malcolm Brogdon put up 22 points and had 10 assists to go with it, leading the way for the Pacers. Myles Turner, his Pacers teammate only scored 4 out of 11 field goals. In the rest of the Eastern Conference games this would not look out of place, but in a game with both teams shooting nearly 50%, it could have been the difference in game 1.

The statistics for game 1 demonstrate how close the series will be. It would be no surprise if a 7th game decider was required in this series with such a close fought contest already recorded in game 1. This series will definitely come down to who can hit the shots, or clutch up on defence at the most important moments.

Notable performance: Jimmy Butler. Scoring 28 points, he scored 2/2 from 3 point range and made 4 steals. Steals which will be even more valuable than usual if game 1 is representative of the rest of the series.

Orlando Magic 122 – 110 Milwaukee Bucks

The number one seed in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks secured a playoff place before any other team in the NBA but they fell to a determined Orlando Magic team who now hold a 1-0 series lead. The Bucks will not be happy with their performance on Tuesday, but they will remain confident knowing how good they have been this season, specifically based on the fact that they beat the Magic 4 times out of 4 this season, by an average of 17 points.

Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo put up good numbers, scoring 31 points with 17 rebounds, but he scored less than 50% on both his field goals and his free throws. Free throws really let the Bucks down, only scoring 64% compared to 94% of the Magic. The problem in the playoffs last year was the ‘wall’ that teams built in front of Antetokounmpo, and that seems to be an early issue again, with Giannis committing multiple offensive fouls whilst attacking the paint.

This series looks like it will be more complicated than many would have expected. The Bucks will have to take smarter shots and show more determination in defence, as the Magic did in game 1. If the Magic are allowed to carry on shooting such high percentages (49.4% in game 1) then the Milwaukee Bucks could see an early exit from the playoffs.

Notable performance: Nikola Vucevic. Scoring 35 points with 14 rebounds and 4 assists, Vucevic put in an impressive performance carrying the Magic to a 1-0 lead early in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

 

We hope you enjoyed the article, ‘NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Round 1, Game 1.’ Who do you think will win the first round matchups in the Eastern Conference? Let us know!

 

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A recent graduate from Cardiff University, Matthew is an avid football fan and rugby player. He is hugely passionate about sport in any form and is in the process of applying for a master's degree in International Sport Management with the eventual aim of working in the sport industry.

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