The 2022 NBA playoffs opened this past weekend with the excitement we all hoped for when the first-round matchups were set.
Of course, nobody wins a series in Game 1. Teams will make adjustments. As such, it’s impossible to truly glean anything decisive about any series after just one game. But that won’t stop us from jumping to conclusions here.
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There’s no room for rational thought in this space. We’re throwing nuance out the window and breaking down the biggest overreactions from the series openers in the first weekend of the NBA playoffs:
East finals in the first round
Nets vs. Celtics was hyped as the best series of the first round, and Game 1 exceeded expectations. After trading shots down the stretch, Jayson Tatum struck the final blow with the winning layup at the buzzer to give Boston a thrilling one-point victory. The stars shined — 54 points combined for Tatum and Jaylen Brown, 62 for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant — and both teams showed their potential as championship contenders. If the rest of the series comes close to the same intensity as Game 1, we’re in for an epic first-round matchup, with the winner establishing itself as the favorite to make the NBA Finals.
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Sixers have a budding Big 3
In a weekend full of breakout performances, Tyrese Maxey had the biggest for the Sixers, pouring in a playoff career-high 38 points in their Game 1 win over the Raptors. While Joel Embiid (19 points, 5-of-15 shooting) and James Harden (22 points, 6-of-17 shooting) struggled from the field, Maxey picked up the slack and helped Philadelphia dominate. Embiid will bounce back, but Harden’s explosiveness is still a question. If Maxey can continue getting to the rim and scoring reliably, the Sixers have the firepower to really be a threat in the Eastern Conference.
Wolves put Grizzlies on upset alert
Minnesota pulled off the biggest stunner of the first weekend, taking the opener from the No. 2 seed Grizzlies in Memphis. Anthony Edwards scored 36 points, tied for the fourth-most ever in a playoff debut, and Karl-Anthony Towns had 29 as the Timberwolves’ top-scoring offense poked holes in the Grizzlies’ normally tough defense all game. The Wolves showed they won’t be easily intimidated and found ways to limit the Grizzlies’ physicality. With improved shooting from D’Angelo Russell (2-of-11 in Game 1), the Wolves could be in good shape to pull off the upset.
Suns on cruise control in West
Phoenix entered the playoffs feeling overlooked as the title favorite despite the NBA’s best record. After a wire-to-wire Game 1 victory, the Suns started to make it clear they are the team to beat. They led by 23 before the Pelicans pulled within seven, Phoenix almost appearing bored at times against the eighth seed. Chris Paul then took over in the fourth quarter, and the Suns quickly regained control and put the game away. In doing so, they showed their dominant regular season was no fluke and they can get through the Western Conference with relative ease.
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Golden State’s new death lineup
Steph Curry returned after missing a month with a foot injury, but Jordan Poole stole the show for the Warriors with a game-high 30 points in his playoff debut. Poole has been a key contributor all season and his role could be magnified in the playoffs, providing the Warriors with great flexibility to play the type of smaller lineups that wreaked havoc during their championship years. Whether he stays in the starting lineup or returns to a reserve role, Poole will be vital alongside Golden State’s core of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Bucks vs. Bulls: NBA playoff first-round X-factors
USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt breaks down the first-round matchup between the Bucks and Bulls in the Eastern Conference.
Best chance slips by for Bulls
Chicago is kicking itself after letting a golden opportunity to steal Game 1 slip through its fingers — and maybe the chance of a first-round upset, too. The Bulls erased a 16-point deficit to briefly take a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before the defending-champion Bucks closed the door. Milwaukee won despite 21 turnovers and Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday shooting a combined 10-of-29. They will surely bounce back. Chicago likely won’t shoot as poorly again (32.3% overall, 18.9% on 3s), but the Bucks’ defense is far better equipped for a repeat performance.
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No signs of discontent in Miami
That sideline altercation in late March now feels like a lifetime ago. The top-seeded Heat appear to be in perfect harmony again after easily dispatching the Hawks in Game 1. Miami’s defense was stifling and limited Atlanta to 38.7% shooting overall and 27.8% on 3s, including a 1-for-12 showing by Hawks star Trae Young. With the defense clicking, the Heat got offensive contributions from all over a deep roster that is completely in sync and primed for a deep playoff run.
COMPLETE SCHEDULE: First-round matchups, game times and TV info
Dallas has no chance without Luka
It’s always tough to compete at the highest level without an injured star. It’s especially tough when the star is responsible for as much as Luka Doncic is for the Mavericks. Doncic watched from the sideline with a calf injury as the Jazz took Game 1 in Dallas, and his absence showed things could get dire quickly. The Mavs predictably struggled to create offense without their lead initiator and shot 38.2% overall and 28.1% on 3s. Dallas will be cautious with Doncic’s injury; he’s the franchise after all. But the Mavs’ stay in the playoffs will be brief without him.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.