The NBA playoff opening weekend is always one of the most exciting times on the league schedule, and the 2022 playoffs kicked off on Saturday in typical fashion.
The first four games of the series started with a pair of lower-seeded teams stealing home-court advantage with upsets in Game 1, as the Jazz outscored the Mavericks in Dallas and the Timberwolves stunned the Grizzlies in Memphis.
Then a few championship hopefuls got stellar performances from young guards as Tyrese Maxey scored 38 points to lead the Sixers past the Raptors and Jordan Poole had 30 points to lift the Warriors over the Nuggets.
Sunday promises even more excitement with four more series openers.
The league-leading Suns are looking to continue their dominance against the Pelicans. The defending champion Bucks begin their road to a repeat against the Bulls. And the Celtics and Nets announced what might be the most interesting series in the first round.
SATURDAY RECAP:Warriors and Sixers roll, Jazz and Wolves steal the field
TITLE KEYS:How Every NBA Playoff Team Can Win the 2022 Championship
FEEL THE HEAT:Nine stars facing the biggest pressure in the NBA playoffs
Follow USA TODAY Sports throughout the day for live updates and analysis of all of Sunday’s action:
Takeaways from Boston’s win over Brooklyn
Jayson Tatum saved the day for the Boston Celtics. His driving lay-up when time expired gave the Celtics a 115-114 victory. You could say the Celtics were lucky to get Game 1. The Celtics rushed their last possession – and Marcus Smart delivered a pass to Tatum just in time.
There’s a reason the Brooklyn Nets are considered a dangerous No. 7 seed. They have Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Even with Durant struggling in Game 1 against Boston, the Nets nearly pulled off the upset thanks to Irving, who had 39 points, six assists, five rebounds, four steals and a block. And he did it in front of the Boston crowd who despise him for leaving the Celtics.
Irving had 13 of his 18 fourth-quarter points in the first 6:30 of the quarter and his 3-pointer with 45.9 seconds left in the game gave Brooklyn a 114-111 lead. Despite everything with Irving and the vaccine, he’s a treat to watch when he’s on his game.
The Nets trailed 84-69 midway through the third quarter and 12 minutes later had a 102-98 lead. Nic Claxton had a solid game off the bench (13 points, eight rebounds), but he was just 1 of 5 on foul shots, including three misses in the fourth quarter.
Durant finished with 23 points but on a bad game on the field: 9 for 24. Don’t expect Durant to have many more games like this.
Without Celtics center Robert Williams (left knee injury), veteran great Al Horford won with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
How did the Celtics pull this off? Tatum (31 points), Jaylen Brown (23 points), Smart (20 points) and Horford delivered enough offensively – a total of 94 points.
No matter how many games in this series, it will be fun. Hopefully there are seven.
With Durant struggling, Nets-Celtics tied at halftime
Brooklyn star Kevin Durant had just seven points on a 2-for-10 shot in the first half against Boston, but Kyrie Irving and Goran Dragic on the bench helped the Nets enter at halftime tied with Boston at 61 all. Irving had 15 points and Dragic 11 in the first half. Boston star Jayson Tatum had 15 points and seven assists, and Al Horford contributed 14 points. Marcus Smart had a great all-around half with seven points, three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Brooklyn should feel good with the first half result – on the road, tied and with Durant making no shots. The Nets just posted 61 points against the league’s best defense without much from Durant. There were 17 lead changes and eight draws in the first 24 minutes
Bruce Brown’s disparaging quote about Celtics’ inside game hits big advice
Bruce Brown was asked last week about the key to slowing down a Celtics team that won the No. 2 seed behind play by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Because center Robert Williams III, who underwent surgery in late March to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, will likely miss the first-round series, Brown said he thinks it would be best to focus on the neutralization of Boston’s forward field.
“We can’t let Tatum get 50,” Brown said. “We have to be physical with them. Now they don’t have Robert Williams, so they’re less in the paint, and we could attack Al Horford and (Daniel) Theis. So not having Robert Williams is huge.
When informed of his teammate’s comments minutes earlier, Kevin Durant was visibly irritated by them.
“We respect our opponents,” Durant said. “We don’t need to talk about what we’re going to do to them. I don’t like it, but that’s how Bruce is. He comes in and keeps the same energy throughout the season. But we we don’t have to say (expletive) like that. Let’s go and jump.
The Celtics’ scoreboard operator did his part to inflame the Celtics’ anger, putting Brown’s message on the Jumbotron.
Takeaways from Heat win over Hawks
When Duncan Robinson goes 8 for 9 of 3 and PJ Tucker goes 4 for 4, the Miami Heat are tough to beat. And that was the case in Miami’s 115-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
3-ball is more important than ever. Miami was 18-for-38 (47.4%) and Atlanta was just 10-for-36 (27.8%) — a 24-point difference just over 3s.
Good news for the Hawks: Trae Young probably won’t struggle like that on the field again. It was 1 for 12, including 0 for 7 over 3s. The last time he scored just one field goal in a game was Jan. 15, 2021, against Utah.
Miami’s defense, ranked No. 4 in the regular season, forced 18 turnovers, had 12 interceptions and limited the Hawks to 38.7 percent shooting from the field.
In his first game since March 11, John Collins (foot and finger injuries) showed he could contribute. He had 10 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.
The Heat are deep: Off the bench, Robinson led all scorers with 27 points and nine Heat players scored at least six points. Jimmy Butler had 21 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Kyle Lowry had 10 points, nine assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Kyrie Irving entertains hostile crowd at Boston Garden
When Kyrie Irving was introduced before the Nets faced the Celtics in Boston, his cold reception was hardly a mystery.
Irving, who left Boston in free agency after saying he wanted to re-sign, was not a fan favorite there. During a return to Boston last year, Irving stepped on the Celtics logo at midfield. And his most recent comments haven’t calmed things down.
Irving hopes everyone has moved on, asking fans to remember the good times they had.
“Hopefully we can get past my Boston days and reflect on some of the highlights that I left at TD Garden that they can replay,” he told reporters over the weekend. “Go ahead. Just a new paradigm, baby.”
Injuries/illnesses pile up for Raptors
After a 131-111 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, Toronto coach Nick Nurse said Sunday that rookie of the year contender Scottie Barnes (sprained left ankle), Thaddeus Young (sprained left thumb) and Gary Trent Jr. (non-COVID illness) are likely doubtful for Game 2 on Monday. “It doesn’t look good for any of these guys,” Nurse told reporters.
Hawks’ John Collins should give it a shot
Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins, who hasn’t played since March 11 with foot and finger injuries, is scheduled to play against Miami on Sunday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. . Hawks coach Nate McMillan called Collins a game-time decision Atlanta center Clint Capela, who suffered a knee injury in a playoff, is out indefinitely but could return later in the series.
Who strikes first in Celtics vs Nets?
The Brooklyn Nets have Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, two of the most gifted offensive players in the league. So it’s understandable that the Nets are thought to have a chance against the Boston Celtics in their Eastern Conference first-round series. But if you’ve been paying attention, you know the Celtics have been the best team in the East for the past three months and the best defensive team in the NBA all season. The Celtics are too good on both sides of the ball with All-NBA players (Jayson Tatum), All-Defensive players (Marcus Smart) and one of the most underrated players in the game (Jaylen Brown). The Celtics are just a better all-around team. Picks: Celtics 113, Nets 103.
Coach Willie Green’s speech ignites Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans are by far the most enjoyable team in the NBA playoffs. They got off to a dreadful 1-12 start for freshman coach Willie Green. And potential franchise savior Zion Williamson hasn’t played a game this season due to a foot injury. Their second best player, Brandon Ingram, has been limited to 55 games due to injury.
But the Pelicans clinched the final Western Conference playoff spot when they beat the LA Clippers 105-101 in Friday’s playoff. Their reward: a meeting with the Suns, the team with the best record in the league.
For a long time, it looked like Friday would be the end of the road for the Pelicans. They led 84-74 to start the fourth quarter. But Ingram brought them back with big baskets in the final quarter following an inspirational speech from Green, who told them they’d been through too much to let something like a 10-point deficit get in their way. .