Welcome to Day 2 of the 2022 NBA playoffs!
Saturday saw a flurry of impressive postseason debuts, including those from Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards and Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole.
And Game 1 delivered, as Tatum’s last-second layup lifted Boston in a thriller.
The Milwaukee Bucks began their title defense with a close Game 1 win over the Chicago Bulls, while Sunday’s finale features the NBA-best Phoenix Suns hosting the New Orleans Pelicans, who are fresh off their play-in tournament run for the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed.
Our NBA experts have eyes on every Game 1 showdown. Here are the most important takeaways from Day 2 of playoff action.
The Celtics-Nets premiere felt much more like Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals than it did Game 1 of the first round. The showdown lived up to the hype that surrounded the series all week.
Tatum won the game with a layup at the buzzer that sent fans inside TD Garden into a frenzy. They also loudly booed Irving — he flipped a few of them off in the third quarter, then proceeded to get rolling down the stretch while pouring in a game-high 39 points.
“It was a scramble play,” Nets star Kevin Durant said of the game’s final possession. “They made a couple passes. They were able to find a little crease there at the end. A quick play.”
Not only did Tatum hit the winner, he provided the extra defensive push Boston needs without Robert Williams III stabilizing the defense. Tatum dropped 31 points but also had two blocks, and he teamed up with Marcus Smart to limit Durant to a 9-for-23 performance from the field.
Despite Durant’s struggles, the Nets remain confident he will get things rolling again in Game 2.
“Kevin’s Kevin Durant for a reason,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “He figures things out on his own very, very well and we’ll definitely look at it collectively and we’ll improve.”
The feeling around the league prior to this series was that it was two evenly matched teams, which through a confluence of different events throughout the season, found themselves forced to play each other much earlier than anticipated. If Sunday’s thriller was any indication, basketball fans are in for a treat the rest of the way — because this game didn’t just live up to the hype, it unquestionably exceeded it.
— Nick Friedell
Bucks 93, Bulls 86: Chicago’s woes against the East elite continue
On the video board above the Fiserv Forum court before the start of Game 1, the Bucks aired a segment to welcome the Bulls back to the playoffs — and inform their rivals down I-94 of all the things that have changed since Chicago last made the postseason in 2017.
With Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” providing the soundtrack, the Bucks’ flashback offered a reminder that the iPhone 8 had yet to be released and several trends had yet to begin, punctuated by the fact that Milwaukee was now the defending NBA champions.
And the Bucks looked every bit the part to start the game, blitzing the Bulls with a 9-0 run after the opening tip and building a 16-point lead in the first quarter. However, Chicago showed some fight, responding to briefly take the lead in the third quarter and give themselves a chance to win the game in the fourth.
The Bulls have struggled mightily against the top teams in the East — they went 1-14 against the top-four seeds in the conference this season — but they were much more competitive in Game 1 than many of their matchups against the East’s elite.
But Chicago shot just 7 of 37 (18.9%) from 3 in the game and had no answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds.
— Jamal Collier
Heat 115, Hawks 91: Miami completely shuts down Trae and the league’s No. 2 offense
On the Hawks’ opening possession of Sunday’s Game 1, no fewer than three Heat defenders switched onto Trae Young, with Kyle Lowry, then P.J. Tucker, then finally Max Strus forcing the All-Star guard into retreat mode and subverting his attack. The sequence ended with Young, with the shot clock ticking under two seconds, trying to thread the needle on a Hail Mary alley-oop to Onyeka Okongwu that the big man couldn’t corral.
And so it went for Atlanta, which couldn’t recreate the Game 1 magic it had in last year’s improbable run to the conference finals, as the Hawks’ high-flying offense was stifled all day in the Heat’s win.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Whatever is required.”
Miami’s defense, which ranked fourth in defensive rating and third in points allowed during the regular season, harassed the Hawks’ second-ranked offense all over the floor. The Heat bottled them up early, holding Atlanta to just 3-for-17 shooting in the first quarter with Young’s only field goal — an and-1 fastbreak layup — needing more English than an Ivy League college’s curriculum to go down.
The nightmare only continued for Young, who was unable to break out like he did in the second half in the Hawks’ play-in win in Cleveland. He finished with just eight points on 1-for-12 shooting (0-for-7 from 3). Coach Nate McMillan pulled him with 2:34 remaining in the third quarter and kept him on the bench the rest of the way.
“Miami played at another level,” McMillan said. “We have to get to another level.”
Offensively, Miami was disciplined. The Heat facilitated through Lowry (nine assists), but all of their personnel committed to making the extra pass to find guys like Tucker, Gabe Vincent and Lowry open for corner 3s. Duncan Robinson, who had a down year, exploded for 27 points on 9-for-10 shooting (8-for-9 from 3) off the bench, nearly tripling the boost the Hawks got from John Collins (10 points) in his first game action since March 11 because of finger and foot injuries.
The Heat looked like a rested, serious team that is the No. 1 seed in the East for a reason. Atlanta, which deserves credit for its play-in performance to snag No. 8, looked as gassed as Young.
“We’ll enjoy this win and then when midnight hits, forget about this one and then we get ready for the next one,” Jimmy Butler said. “We know our goal.”
— Dave McMenamin