The opening weekend of the NBA playoffs is always one of the most exciting times on the league calendar, and the 2022 post-season kickoff began on Saturday in exemplary fashion.
The first four games started with a pair of lower-ranked teams stealing the local court advantage with first-game surprises, as the Jazz topped the Mavericks in Dallas and the Timberwolves stunned the Grizzlies in Memphis.
Two championship winners then had outstanding performances from young guards as Therese Maxi scored 38 points to lead the Sixers over the Raptors and Jordan Bull got 30 points to win the Warriors over the Nuggets.
Sunday promises more excitement with four more series openers.
The league-leading Suns are looking to continue their dominance over the Pelicans. The Bucks’ defending champion begins his way to repeat against the Bulls. And the Celtics and Nets hint at what might be the most intriguing first-round streak.
Saturday summary:Roll the Warriors and Sixers, Jazz and Wolves steal their stadium
Address keys:How every NBA playoff team can win the 2022 Championship
I feel hot:Nine Superstars Face the Most Pressure in the NBA Playoffs
Tune in with USA TODAY Sports throughout the day to get live updates and analysis from all of Sunday’s action:
Fast food from Boston’s victory over Brooklyn
Jason Tatum saved the day for the Boston Celtics. The layup with the time up gave the Celtics a victory 115-114. You could say the Celtics were lucky to get their first match. The Celtics raced for the final possession – and Marcus Smart handed a pass to Tatum in time.
There’s a reason the Brooklyn Nets are a dangerous No. 7. They have Kevin Durant and Keri Irving. Even with Durant struggling in the first game against Boston, the Nets almost pulled off the surprise thanks to Irving, who had 39 points, six assists, five rebounds, four shots and a block. He did so in front of a Boston crowd who despised him for leaving the Celtics.
Irving had a 13 out of 18 points in the fourth quarter in the first 6:30 of the quarter, and his 3-pointer with 45.9 seconds in the game gave Brooklyn a 114-111 lead. Despite everything with Irving and the vaccine, it’s fun to watch when he’s on his game.
The Nets took a 84-69 lead midway through the third quarter, and 12 minutes into the game, they were up 102-98. Nick Claxton had a solid game off the bench (13 points, eight rebounds), but was only 1 for 5 on fouls, including three times in the fourth quarter.
Durant finished with 23 points but in a bad game from the field: 9 to 24. Don’t expect Durant to have many games like that.
Without Celtics midfielder Robert Williams (left knee injury), veteran player Al Horford shined with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
How did the Celtics achieve this? Tatum (31 points), Jaylene Brown (23 points), Smart (20 points) and Horford made enough offensive – a total of 94 points.
No matter how many games this series goes to, it will be fun. Let’s hope it goes seven.
– Jeff Zilgate
With Durant struggling, Nets-Celtics tied at hafltime
Brooklyn star Kevin Durant had just seven points in a 2-for-10 first-half shot against Boston, but Kyrie Irving and Goran Dragic off the bench helped the Nets enter the first half and tied Boston at 61. Irving scored 15 points and Dragic 11 in the first half. Boston star Jason Tatum scored 15 points and seven assists, and Alhorford contributed 14 points. Marcus Smart had a nice run with seven points, three rebounds, three assists and one steal. Brooklyn should be satisfied with the first-half result — on the road, tied up and with Durant not making shots. The Nets scored just 61 points against the league’s best defense without much from Durant. There were 17 changes up front and eight matches in the first 24 minutes
Bruce Brown’s humiliating quote about indoor game Celtics hits the big board
Bruce Brown was asked last week about the key to slowing down the Celtics, who got the second seed behind playing Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown. With center third Robert Williams, who underwent surgery at the end of March to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee, likely to miss the first-round series, Brown said he thought it would be best to focus on neutralizing the Boston front court.
“We can’t let Tatum get 50,” Brown said. “We have to be physical with them. Now they don’t have Robert Williams so their presence is less in the paint and we can attack Al Horford and (Daniel) Theiss. So not having Robert Williams is huge.”
When told of his teammate’s comments just minutes before, Kevin Durant was noticeably annoyed by them.
Durant said, “We respect our opponents, and we don’t need to talk about what we’re going to do with them. I just don’t like it, but that’s how Bruce is. He comes in and keeps the same energy throughout the whole season. But we don’t need to say (expletive) like that. Let’s just go to There and we yell.”
The Celtics scoreboard operator did his part to stoke the Celtics’ anger, putting Brown’s message on the Jumbotron.
Fast food in the Heat beat the Hawks
When Duncan Robinson plays 8 vs 9 in 3s and PJ Tucker makes 4 vs 4, the Miami Heat is hard to beat. This was the case in Miami’s 115-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Triple ball is more important than ever. Miami had 18 for 38 (47.4%), Atlanta was 10 for 36 (27.8%) – a difference of 24 points in just 3 seconds.
Good news for the Falcons: Trae Young will probably never struggle this way again from the field. It was 1 for 12, including 0 for 7 in 3s. The last time he scored one field goal was in a game on January 15, 2021, against Utah.
The Miami defense, which ranked fourth in the regular season, forced 18 turns, steals 12 and limited the Hawks to 38.7% of shooting from the field.
In his first game since March 11, John Collins (foot and toe injuries) showed he can contribute. He had 10 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.
The Heat is deep: Off the bench, Robinson led all scorers with 27 points, and nine of the Heat’s players scored at least six. Jimmy Butler scored 21 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Kyle Lowry scored 10 points, nine assists, four rebounds and stole twice.
Kyrie Irving receives an unfriendly crowd from Boston Garden
When Kyrie Irving was introduced before the Nets faced the Celtics in Boston, his cold reception wasn’t much of a mystery.
Irving, who left Boston in free agency after saying he wanted to re-sign, wasn’t a fan favorite there. On his return to Boston last year, Irving stepped on the Celtics midfield crest. His recent comments on matters did not subside.
Irving hopes everyone gets over it, and he asks fans to remember the good times they had.
“I hope we can move past my Boston era and think about some of the highlights I left at TD Garden so they can re-present them,” he told reporters this weekend. Just a new model, dear.”
Injuries / diseases accumulate on birds of prey
After losing 131-111 to Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, Toronto coach Nick Norris said Sunday that Rookie of the Year candidate Scotty Barnes (with a left ankle sprain), Thaddeus Young (a sprain in his left thumb) and Gary Trent Jr (non-COVID) said she A nurse told reporters, “It doesn’t look good for any of these guys.”
John Collins expected Hawks to try it
Atlanta Hawks striker John Collins, who has not played since March 11 with foot and toe injuries, is expected to play against Miami Sunday in Game One of the first round of the Eastern Conference series. Hawks coach Nate McMillan described Collins as a game-time decision. Atlanta midfielder Clint Capella, who injured his knee in a game, is out indefinitely, but may return later in the series.
Who are the first hits in the Celtics against the Nets?
The Brooklyn Nets feature Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, two of the most talented offensive players in the league. So it’s understandable to think that the Nets have a chance against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference first round series. But if you’ve been paying attention, you know that the Celtics have been the best team in the East for over three months and the best defensive team in the NBA for the entire season. The Celtics are brilliant on both sides of the ball with All-NBA players (Jayson Tatum), All-Defensive players (Marcus Smart) and one of the game’s most underrated players (Jaylen Brown). The Celtics are just a better overall team. Choose: Celtics 113, Nets 103.
– Jeff Zilgate
Coach Willie Green’s speech stirs Pelicans’ caution
The New Orleans Pelicans are easily the happiest team in the NBA playoffs. They got off to a shocking 1-12 start for first-year coach Willie Green. Lifeguard Zion Williamson has likely not played a game this season due to a foot injury. The team’s second-best player, Brandon Ingram, has been limited to 55 games due to injuries.
But the Pelicans snatched last place in the Western Playoff when they beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-101 in Friday’s playoff. Their prize: Meet the Suns, the team with the best record in the league.
For a long time, it seemed like Friday would be the end of the Pelican Road. They were down 84-74 to start the fourth quarter. But Ingram led them back with some big baskets in the final quarter after an inspiring letter from Green, who told them they had gone through so much effort that they didn’t let anything like a 10-point deficit get in their way.