Lake Buena Vista, Florida: The Milwaukee Bucks’ hopes of winning their first NBA title since 1971 got off to a rocky start.
Nikola Vucevic scored a playoff career-high 35 points and had 14 rebounds, and the Orlando Magic stunned the top-seeded Bucks 122-110 on Tuesday in the league’s fan-free Disney World bubble.
Terrence Ross scored 18 points, Gary Clark added 15 and D.J. Augustin had 11 points and 11 assists for the eighth-seeded Magic, who were 14-point underdogs.
Orlando took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, an intriguing result given that the Bucks can’t rely on home-court advantage in these pandemic-altered playoffs.
“We don’t care what other people have to say,” Vucevic said. “We focus on ourselves and we came out and played a great game on both ends of the floor.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 31 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists for Milwaukee. Last season’s MVP was held without a field goal over the final 11 minutes and seemed to get more frustrated as the fourth quarter went on.
“You have to really be ready for what they do,” Vucevic said. “Especially us against a team like Milwaukee where we have to make sure we know their stuff and we are prepared for everything. Tonight, we definitely were on top of that. We did a good job executing the game plan.”
The Bucks came into the postseason as the favourites to win the NBA title. But they went 3-5 in seeding games in the bubble, and that sluggish play carried over into the postseason.
George Hill said the Bucks needed to do some “soul searching.”
Antetokounmpo didn’t go that far, saying the Bucks’ energy level was fine, but that they need to make more shots. Milwaukee made 43% from the field and was 14 of 42 from 3-point land.
“There’s no magic wand to point and things are going to change,” Antetokounmpo said. “You’ve got to come out, play hard, play even harder, play together and have fun.”
Orlando takes Game 1 👀
Nikola Vucevic led the way for the Magic with 35 PTS & 14 REB. pic.twitter.com/jklw20EadU
— NBA TV (@NBATV) August 18, 2020
Milwaukee swept the season series against Orlando, winning four games by an average of 17 points, but struggled with the Magic’s stingy defense, which caused 16 turnovers and repeatedly clogged the lane, forcing Antetokounmpo to settle for jump shots.
The Bucks’ frustration was evident when center Brook Lopez stomped on a chair — and then kicked it — in the bench area during a timeout.
“Obviously, our main focus was try to make it hard on Giannis, to protect the paint,” Vucevic said. “We did that as a team. Gary (Clark) did a great job fighting him and we were able to help.”
The Magic led most of the game.
Orlando used an early 15-2 run to build a 51-33 lead midway through the second quarter behind 16 points from Vucevic.
Milwaukee made several runs in the second half, but the Magic had an answer every time.
Vucevic had 14 points in the third quarter, scoring down in the low post against smaller defenders and stepping out to knock down 3s against bigger men as the Magic carried a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter.
The Bucks trimmed the lead to six in the fourth, but Ross had a dunk and a layup off hard cuts to the basket and Augustin and Vucevic added 3s to push the lead back to 14. Evan Fournier, who went scoreless for three quarters, delivered the knockout punch with three 3-pointers in the final five minutes.
The challenge for the Magic will be to maintain their intensity. A year ago they beat the eventual NBA champion Raptors to kick off their opening-round series, but lost the next four.
“We came out with a huge victory,” Vucevic said. “Again, it’s just one game. We’ve got to move on.”
Lillard scores 34 and Blazers beat Lakers 100-93
After sinking a deep 3-pointer midway through the final quarter, Damian Lillard did a little dance and teammate Jusuf Nurkic pointed to his wrist.
This was Dame Time, playoff edition.
“Every game since we’ve been here has been a playoff game. So that prepared us for a game like this,” Lillard said. “It’s only one win. I’m happy to be here competing in the playoffs again, but we’ve got to move on to the next one.”
Lillard had 34 points and the Portland Trail Blazers spoiled LeBron James’ first playoff appearance for the Los Angeles Lakers with a 100-93 victory on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the teams’ playoff series.
LeBron James is the first player in #NBAPlayoffs history to record 20+ PTS, 15+ REB, and 15+ AST in a game. pic.twitter.com/r0oIf49b7Q
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) August 19, 2020
James had 23 points, 17 rebounds and 16 assists, becoming the first player to have as many points, rebounds and assists in the playoffs. It was his 24th postseason triple-double and his assists were a career playoff high.
“We had a couple of breakdowns, which you can’t have down the stretch, especially against a team like Portland,” James said.
Jusuf Nurkic had 16 points and 15 rebounds for Portland, which led by as many as 16 points in the first half. The Lakers, making their first playoff appearance since 2013, narrowed the advantage to 57-56 at the break and stayed close the rest of the way.
Trailing 78-75 going into the final period, the Lakers tied it at 78 on Kyle Kuzma’s 3-pointer. James’ layup gave Los Angeles the lead, and Kuzma added a pair of free throws and another layup to extend it to 84-78.
Damian Lillard… unreal. pic.twitter.com/EAu54U4BF5
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) August 19, 2020
Lillard’s 3-pointer tied it again at 87 with 5:46 to go and CJ McCollum’s floater gave Portland the lead. Lillard said afterward he danced after his 3 because the song Blow the Whistle was played in the bubble arena, which Lillard called the “East Oakland anthem.”
After Danny Green’s layup tied it again for Los Angeles, Lillard nailed another 3-pointer. Anthony Davis’ dunk got the Lakers within 95-93, but Gary Trent Jr. made a 3-pointer that put Portland up 98-93 before Nurkic dunked to seal it.
Anthony Davis had 28 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers.
Portland won the first play-in postseason NBA game since 1956, beating Memphis 126-122 on Saturday to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. The Blazers were among three teams with losing overall records to make the bubble playoffs. No team below .500 had advanced to the postseason since 2015.
The Blazers were without forward Zach Collins because of inflammation in his left ankle. Wenyen Gabriel started in his place.
Portland led by 33-17 in the first half after Nurkic’s dunk. The Lakers got within 40-38 but couldn’t pull in front until Davis’ dunk off of James’ pass made it 50-49 with just over three minute left in the half. But it was short-lived.
The game was delayed for a time in the first half when the Lakers’ rim got tilted and had to be adjusted.
Harden’s 37 points lead Rockets past Thunder
🏀 37 Points l 11 Rebounds
🚀 #OneMission pic.twitter.com/iZ6PXf322l
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) August 19, 2020
James Harden had 37 points and 11 rebounds, and the Houston Rockets rolled past the Oklahoma City Thunder 123-108 on Tuesday in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.
Houston All-Star Russell Westbrook, who played his previous 11 years with the Thunder, was out with a quad injury. The fourth-seeded Rockets still made 20 3-pointers and shot 48% from the field.
“Our ball movement tonight was excellent,” Harden said. “We were just playing off the catch, guys were very confident in their shots when they’re open. When they’re not open, they’re getting off the ball and making a quick decision.”
Jeff Green scored 22 points and Eric Gordon added 21 for Houston, which isn’t sure how long it will be without Westbrook. The Rockets got 42 points from their bench.
Danilo Gallinari matched a playoff career high with 29 points for the fifth-seeded Thunder. Chris Paul, who joined the Oklahoma City in the trade that sent Westbrook to Houston, finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Steven Adams added 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Gordon scored 16 points and Harden had 15 in the first half to help the Rockets take a 68-52 lead.
“I think probably, that six-minute mark in the first quarter to about the six-minute mark in the second quarter, there was a 12-minute stretch where we got very slow,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “We didn’t play with any force, we weren’t playing downhill. We weren’t really getting out and running like we needed to.”
Oklahoma City cut its deficit to 10 at one point in the third quarter, but the Rockets pulled away and led 104-83 heading into the fourth.
The Thunder need to adjust to Houston’s zone defense in Game 2.
“We’re going to figure it out,” Paul said. “It’s a different team. You play the whole season a certain way and then you’ve got a team that switches everything. It’s Game 1. We’ve got to figure it out.”
Butler, Dragic help Heat pull away to beat Pacers
Jimmy Butler does plenty of talking on the court to anyone who will listen: opponents, referees or teammates.
Luckily for the Miami Heat, on Tuesday Butler also listened.
Bam Adebayo has been imploring him to shoot 3-pointers, and Butler knocked down two big ones late in the fourth quarter to help the Heat pull away for a 113-101 victory over the Indiana Pacers in the opener of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
“I yell at him all the time to shoot the ball,” Adebayo said of Butler, who hadn’t made a 3-pointer since 2 March.
“Tonight it just clicked where he listened to me and he made some big 3s.”
Butler scored 28 points and Goran Dragic had 24 for the Heat, who pulled away in the closing minutes, long after the Pacers had lost star guard Victor Oladipo to an eye injury.
BBQ Chicken Alert@Bam1of1 couldn’t be stopped in the post today 😤
🔥🎥 #HEATHighlights pic.twitter.com/C9gz4qw3LW
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) August 19, 2020
Adebayo had 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Heat, who were just a little bit better in a mostly even matchup between the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds, who were separated by a game in the standings in this pandemic-shortened season.
“I thought tonight we just didn’t play a 48-minute game,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said.
Indiana went 6-2 in the seeding games and Miami was 3-5, with the teams splitting a pair of meetings. The Pacers’ victory on Friday in the finale allowed them to take the No. 4 seed, which in other years would have been a bigger deal because it meant Indiana would have had home-court advantage.
Butler seemed to treat it like a road game, appearing to jaw at one point toward the virtual Pacers fans filling the sides of the arena in the NBA’s Disney World bubble — though he said it was to a coach he heard yapping at him.
Butler’s first 3-pointer pushed a six-point lead to 104-95 with 3:26 left. He then forced a jump ball with T.J. Warren that he won, then came down and hit another 3 with 2:29 to play.
“I mean, I take what the game gives me the majority of the time,” Butler said. “Sometimes I’m forced into taking some bad shots, but in the end my teammates, my coaches was like ‘Don’t lose this game, win it for us’ and that’s what I was thinking. Make the right play and those two possessions it was a pull-up 3.”
T,J. Warren and Malcolm Brogdon scored 22 points apiece for the Pacers, who will try to even the series on Thursday.
Oladipo was limited to 8 minutes before he was scratched in the left eye with 3:26 remaining in the first quarter, appearing to be hit first by Miami’s Jae Crowder. The Pacers said he visited the NBA’s on-campus clinic for further evaluation, which showed no initial concerns. He will monitored over the next few days.
Miami opened a 72-62 lead midway through the third quarter but the Pacers used a good finish to knock it down to an 81-80 deficit heading to the fourth.