The second day of the 2015 NBA playoffs, Sunday, April 19, showcased four series-opening games.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers opened the day of basketball, while the defending-champion San Antonio Spurs closed it out. The Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks also began their prospective title run.
Some players stepped up and shined, but others struggled to successfully make it through their first 2015 postseason outing. Plus, while one loss doesn’t necessarily destroy a series, in the first round, it sometimes can come close.
If you missed any of the action or simply want to re-live what happened around the basketball nation, you’ve come to the right place.
No. 7 Boston Celtics at No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers; Game 1
Series Update: Cleveland 1-0
Game 1: Cleveland 113, Boston 100
Game 2: Tuesday, April 21, 7 p.m. ET, TNT
What Game 1 Meant: Cleveland avoided an early-series slip-up and put Boston into a serious hole. The Celtics were unlikely to win the seven-game set anyway, but facing the demand of winning four of their next six is borderline impossible.
Hero: In his first career playoff appearance, Kyrie Irving poured in 20 points during the first half alone, including a buzzer-beating triple that gave the Cavs a 62-54 lead at the break. He finished the contest with 30 points.
Goat: Evan Turner entered an unfavorable situation and couldn’t flip the odds in his favor. Irving put the Boston shooting guard on roller skates, a summary of Turner’s defensive performance. Offensively, he attempted to take LeBron off the dribble. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t work out well.
Turning Point: Three minutes into the second quarter, the Celtics held a 38-31 edge. Cleveland had connected on just two three-pointers, but Irving, J.R. Smith and Kevin Love each netted a trifecta within a two-minute span. The Cavaliers never relinquished the lead after LeBron scored his second basket of the game-changing 22-6 run.
Game 2 Preview: Boston proved it can stick with Cleveland, as expected. Jae Crowder was the most effective defender the Celtics placed on LeBron, so look for more of that matchup. Isaiah Thomas should see an increase in his minutes, but outdueling Irving will be quite the task.
No. 8 Brooklyn Nets at No. 1 Atlanta Hawks; Game 1
Series Update: Atlanta 1-0
Game 1: Atlanta 99, Brooklyn 92
Game 2: Wednesday, April 22, 7 p.m. ET, NBATV
What Game 1 Meant: In a roundabout manner, Atlanta showed just how outmatched Brooklyn truly is. The Hawks played mediocre at best and survived a 2-of-11 shooting performance from Paul Millsap. Without consistent production from Joe Johnson and one reserve, the Nets have no shot to win.
Hero: Kyle Korver tallied a game-best 21 points on a 5-of-11 clip from long distance, adding seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in a very solid defensive night. He scored eight points during the final frame, including a much-needed late three-pointer that helped seal the victory.
Goat: Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins turned to Bojan Bogdanovic for an offensive boost, but the 6’8″ guard converted on just one of his five three-point attempts. The rookie also had trouble defending Korver, which is as deadly as it sounds.
Turning Point: Atlanta responded to the Nets’ 9-0 run early in the third quarter by pouring in 17 of the game’s next 19 points. Brooklyn crawled back to within six, but Korver and Jeff Teague stalled the last-ditch efforts.
Game 2 Preview: Wednesday is arguably the most important game of the matchup. The Nets need to scrape out a victory at Philips Arena, otherwise, the Hawks will just about lock down the inevitable. Thaddeus Young did a tremendous job defending Millsap, so if Brooklyn can utilize Alan Anderson to limit Korver, the series might be tied 1-1 heading to New York.
No. 4 Portland Trail Blazers at No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies; Game 1
Series Update: Memphis 1-0
Game 1: Memphis 100, Portland 86
Game 2: Wednesday, April 22, 8 p.m. ET, TNT
What Game 1 Meant: Memphis protected its home court by shredding Portland, who were admittedly short-handed without Arron Afflalo—Wesley Matthews’ replacement. Grizzlies’ point guard Mike Conley returned after a four-game absence, giving a healthy Memphis squad a major advantage.
Hero: File this one in the “Where Did That Come From?” department. Beno Udrih amassed 20 points on a 9-of-14 shooting clip, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing seven assists and committing zero turnovers. Most impressively, Udrih did a fair share of his damage against the first-string, too.
If this were the first NBA game you ever watched, you'd think Beno Udrih was the best player in the league.
— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKaz) April 20, 2015
Goat: Damian Lillard had the weight of a franchise placed squarely on his shoulders. The Trail Blazers’ backcourt was severely depleted, and LaMarcus Aldridge can’t solely handle the offensive load. However, Lillard misfired on 16 of his 21 shots, ending with a disappointing 14 points. As always, his effort was excellent. Now, Lillard needs production.
Turning Point: Portland stayed close for nearly the whole first quarter, but of all players, Udrih sparked a 19-5 run for Memphis. Udrih accounted for 17 of those 19 points, scoring 11 and dishing three assists. From that point on, the Grizzlies’ advantage never dipped below nine.
Game 2 Preview: According to Jabari Young of CSN Northwest, Afflalo should be ready for Game 2. His availabilty is key for the Blazers because it gives the offense another perimter weapon and puts pressure on Memphis’ backcourt. However, if Marc Gasol (15 PTS, 11 REB, 7 AST) maintains his all-around excellence, the Grizzlies should take a 2-0 lead.
No. 6 San Antonio Spurs at No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers; Game 1
Series Update: Los Angeles 1-0
Game 1: Los Angeles 107, San Antonio 92
Game 2: Wednesday, April 22, 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
What Game 1 Meant: If you do not watch this series in its entirety, you are failing at basketball viewing. That is what Game 1 meant. That is what we learned. Barring the birth of your child, you drop your life and watch this matchup. Sorry grandma, San Antonio and Los Angeles are on.
Hero: Blake Griffin is a key to the Clippers’ success. The power forward absolutely hammered down a couple powerful dunks, one of which you’ll see below. However, with Tiago Splitter out, the Spurs have no suitable player to defend Griffin, who registered 26 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and three steals.
Goat: When Splitter is sidelined, Diaw’s role increases dramatically. He guards the quicker post player, in LA’s case Griffin. But Diaw faltered on that end, and the San Antonio power forward clanged his way through the night, trudging to a 2-of-12 outing that included an 0-of-5 mark beyond the arc—one of which was an air ball.
Turning Point: Griffin’s dunks; Simple as that. Griffin energized the crowd, then Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford couldn’t miss anything from anywhere. Without a doubt, the Clippers’ collective performance down the stretch was one of the more impressive streaks put on the Spurs.
Game 2 Preview: San Antonio shot 10-of-33 from three-point range and 14-of-26 from the free-throw line. That is very unlikely to happen again. Additionally, Defensive Player of the Year candidate Kawhi Leonard may be switched onto CP3, so Griffin will need to step up again. But if the Spurs don’t have Splitter back, Griffin might go for 40.
Photo: USA Today Sports