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Some may have expected the 2023 NBA Playoffs to have some quick series in the first round, but three road teams pulled off Game 1 upsets on Sunday. Only the top-seeded Denver Nuggets were able to dominate at home in the day’s most decisive game. Let’s go over the injuries and outcomes.
Lakers Get Full Team Effort in Memphis
The 128-112 final is absurdly misleading when this was a very competitive, close game for most of the day. But the Lakers pulled away thanks to huge fourth quarters to close off impressive games by Rui Hachimura (29 points) and Austin Reaves (23 points).
The Lakers had four 20-point scorers in a playoff game for the first time since 1988. Anthony Davis was all the talk early with 5 quick blocks, then an injury to his arm that saw him head to the locker room after mouthing he could not move it.
Memphis had a 6-point lead at the half and all the momentum, but Davis returned, played well, LeBron James finally got some threes to fall, and the supporting cast was incredible down the stretch with Reaves shining the brightest in the final minutes as the Lakers ran it up with several breakaway dunks.
It was Memphis leaving the game with an injury concern after Ja Morant injured his hand or wrist late in the game. X-rays are negative, but he has already said his Game 2 status is in jeopardy. It was a huge second half for the Lakers, who are solid favorites to win the series now after stealing a home game from a Memphis team that was 35-6 at home.
Giannis Injures Back as Miami Lights Up No. 1 Seeded Bucks
Is this going to be the 2020 bubble again? That year, Miami was already up 3-0 when the Bucks lost Giannis Antetokounmpo to injury, but Sunday saw him leave the game twice before a back injury knocked him out for good in the second quarter. He finished with 6 points in 11 minutes.
Obviously, losing Giannis would be devastating, but the Bucks also allowed the lowest-scoring team in the NBA to score 130 points for just the fourth time this season. Jimmy Butler scored 35 points and the Heat were red hot from downtown, hitting 15-of-25 threes in the 130-117 win.
The only sour note for Miami is Tyler Herro broke multiple fingers on his shooting hand and will miss 4-to-6 weeks. But the NBA world awaits what news will come on Giannis’ health in this series with Game 2 this Wednesday.
Kawhi Leonard Carries Clippers to Hand Suns First Loss with Kevin Durant
In another standout game this Sunday, the 7.5-point underdog Clippers overcame the Suns at home despite Phoenix being 8-0 with Kevin Durant and the Clippers 0-13 as an underdog of more than 4 points this season.
But Kawhi Leonard is an elite playoff performer and he proved it again with 38 points, putting the finishing touches on his big game in the fourth quarter the game was tied after 36 minutes.
The Suns were just 6-of-19 from three but had a chance late in the game with a one-possession deficit. But Russell Westbrook, who shot 3-of-19 from the field, made the play of the game by blocking Devin Booker’s shot and deflecting the ball off him out of bounds to give the Clippers possession in the late seconds of the 115-110 win.
Durant scored 27 points in his playoff debut with Phoenix, but the Clippers lead the series. They will have to find more scoring to help Leonard as Paul George remains out.
Nuggets Make Short Work of Minnesota
Someone had to defend home court in the NBA on this day. Go figure, it was the top-seeded Nuggets against a Minnesota team that had a trying week in the play-in tournament. The Nuggets blew the game open In the third quarter with a 32-14 score, and they cruised through the fourth quarter to a 109-80 win.
Anthony Edwards (18 points) was the only Minnesota player to score more than 12 points as the team shot an abysmal 37% from the field on the way to a season-low 80 points.
All of Denver’s starters were a plus-15 or better on the scoreboard. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists in 28 minutes. Jamal Murray made his triumphant return to playoff action with a game-high 24 points.
The big injury bug spared this game, but it was the blowout of the day with the Nuggets in command of the series.
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