NBA Playoffs: Nets, Magic win road openers
PHILADELPHIA — D’Angelo Russell flashed some postseason magic, playing like the All-Star leader Brooklyn needed with 26 points, and Caris LeVert scored 23 to lead the Nets to an impressive 111-102 win Saturday over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
The sixth-seeded Nets turned Philly in the city of 20,000 boos — and that’s just counting the ones echoing throughout the Wells Fargo Center — as they smoked a Sixers team that resembled one straight out of the early Process era.
Jimmy Butler scored 36 points and saved the Sixers, widely considered a favorite to at least reach the East semis, from losing by 25. Joel Embiid slogged his way through 24 forgettable minutes on his bum left knee. Ben Simmons was a postseason dud against Russell, his high school teammate.
Russell, LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie gave the Sixers fits off the dribble, buried open looks from 3-point range, and suddenly a team that got hot late just to make the playoffs has the upper-hand on the road over a 51-win team stocked with stars.
MAGIC 104, RAPTORS 101
TORONTO (AP) — D.J. Augustin scored 25 points, including the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left, and Orlando beat Toronto in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Kawhi Leonard got a final shot for Toronto, but missed the rim with his 3-pointer from the top.
Aaron Gordon had 10 points and 10 rebounds, Evan Fournier scored 16 points and Jonathan Isaac had 11 as the No. 7-seeded Magic became the latest team to beat Toronto in the opening game of a playoff series. The Raptors are 2-14 in playoff openers.
Leonard scored 25 points, Pascal Siakam had 24 and Fred VanVleet had 14 for the second-seeded Raptors, who reclaimed the lead after trailing by 16 points in the second quarter, but couldn’t hold on down the stretch.
WARRIORS 121, CLIPPERS 104
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 38 points and made eight 3-pointers to give him the most in postseason history, and top-seeded Golden State began its quest for a three-peat by running away from frustrated Los Angeles in their playoff opener on a night tempers flared.
Kevin Durant and Patrick Beverley were ejected with 4:41 to go, just 19 seconds after they received double-technicals when Durant stripped Beverley and the Clippers guard fell into the scorer’s table. They both became enraged again and official Ed Malloy immediately sent them both to the locker room. Durant high-fived fans as he exited and the home crowd went into chants of “Beat L.A.!”
Curry shot 8 for 12 from deep to pass Ray Allen (385) for career postseason 3s with 386, had a postseason career-high 15 rebounds, seven assists and the 31st 30-point postseason performance of his career.
Montrezl Harrell scored 26 points and fellow reserve Lou Williams contributed 25 points and nine assists as Los Angeles returned to the playoffs after missing last season following six straight appearances.
SPURS 101, NUGGETS 96
DENVER (AP) — DeMar DeRozan scored 18 points and Derrick White had a key steal in the closing seconds in the San Antonio Spurs’ 101-96 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night in Game 1 of their playoff series.
White stole the ball at midcourt from Jamal Murray with 1.3 seconds left after LaMarcus Aldridge sank a pair of free throws following his key defensive rebound of Murray’s errant shot that would have given the Nuggets a 98-97 lead with seven seconds left.
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Denver, where the second-seeded Nuggets failed to parlay the NBA’s best home-court record (34-7) into a win against the seventh-seeded but much more seasoned Spurs.
San Antonio is making its 22nd straight playoff appearance, this one with a new cast that includes DeRozan, who came over from Toronto in the Kawhi Leonard trade.
The Spurs’ win marked the third by a road team on the opening day of the NBA playoffs. They joined the Nets, who won at Philadelphia, and Magic, who won at Toronto.
The Nuggets, making their first playoff appearance in six years, trailed most of the night. Their last lead came with four minutes left in the first quarter but they trimmed a 12-point deficit to one in the closing minutes.
They had the ball with 13 seconds left trailing 97-96 but Murray’s shot was off — as it was all night — and Aldridge, who shot just 6 of 19 himself, corralled the rebound, then sank two free throws to make it 99-96 with 6.9 seconds remaining.
The Nuggets were hoping for a game-tying 3 although they were just 6 of 28 from long range.
They never got the chance, though, as White stripped Murray and drew the foul, then sank both shots.
Denver All-Star Nikola Jokic posted the fourth triple-double in Nuggets playoff history, with 10 points, 14 assists and 14 rebounds. But he was hesitant on offense all night, taking just nine shots and making four of them.
Throttled by Aldridge, Jokic passed up opportunity after opportunity and shot an airball on a 3-pointer at a crucial moment in the second half that helped San Antonio hold off Denver’s surge.
White added 16 points for San Antonio and Aldridge and Bryn Forbes each had 15. Reserve Rudy Gay scored 14.
Gary Harris led Denver with 20 points and Murray had 17.