The opening day of the NBA Playoffs featured two unexciting games book ended by two absolutely stunning, down-to-the-wire bouts. One of said bouts — Utah v LA — resulted in a game-winning bucket by Joe Johnson at the buzzer; the other — Cleveland v Indiana — a missed opportunity.
And while the first day in general was slightly lackluster overall, it still provided plenty of terrific performances. Here they are:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
You’d be forgiven for glossing over Giannis Antetokounmpo and assuming, like I did, that he would be no match for Toronto’s athletic squad. But the 6-foot-11, 222-pound small forward absolutely dominated Game 1 en route to a 28 point, 8 rebound, 3 assist, 2 steal and 1 block game.
The Raptors simply had no answer for the versatile forward, or Kris Middleton for that matter, who only logged 10 points, but dished out 9 assists and made a tremendous impact — the Bucks were a stunning 27 when he was on the floor.
Joe Johnson, Utah Jazz
Iso Joe was terrific in Utah’s shocking win over LA, posting 21 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 1 block (over Blake Griffin, no less) in 31 minutes off the bench, including the game winner — a beautiful, albeit tricky, floater over Jamal Crawford and DeAndre Jordan at the buzzer.
Johnson’s play was especially significant given that Utah lost its best player — center Rudy Gobert — in the first 17 seconds of the game in a cruel twist of fate. (Gobert was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee with no structural damage and remains doubtful for Game 2 on Tuesday.)
Utah received huge contributions from George Hill (16 points), Gordon Hayward (19 points, 10 rebounds)) and Derrick Favors (15 points, 6 rebounds) as well, but will need Johnson to play similarly if they hope to upset LA sans its center.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Memphis kept things interesting against San Antonio until about midway through the third quarter when Leonard took over. The MVP candidate notched a team-high 32 points on 11-of-14 shooting, dished out 5 assists and collected 3 rebounds and led the Spurs to an easy 111-82 victory. The Spurs were 17 when he was on the court.
Also joining in on the fun was Tony Parker, who totaled 18 points in 22 minutes of play.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
No surprise here. James was clearly the best player on the court in Cleveland’s narrow victory over Indiana. Check out these stats: 32 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Even so, the Cavs defense reared its ugly head and allowed the Pacers to climb back into the matchup in the fourth quarter.
Consequently, we’re all fixated more on CJ Miles’ final shot (which should’ve gone to Paul George) rather than James’ stunning performance.
Check this out:
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) April 16, 2017
James had plenty of help from his supporting cast, including 23 points and 6 assists from Kyrie Irving and 17 points from Kevin Love.