The most important takeaways from Day 1 of NBA playoff action
The 2022 NBA playoffs have finally arrived! After an unprecedented regular season, featuring some of the closes races in recent memory, Saturday marks the beginning of what each of these 16 teams hope will be a two-month march to the NBA championship.
In Western Conference, Donovan Mitchell as well as the No. 5 seed Utah Jazz will take on the No. 4 Dallas Mavericks , without franchise star Luka Docic , were ruled out of Game 1 Saturday morning due to a strained left leg. Sources told ESPN that there is concern about Doncic’s availability to play Game 2.
The No. 7 seed Minnesota Timberwolves, who defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in the No. 7-No. 8 play-in game, will be in Memphis to face Ja Morant as well as the No. 2 seed Grizzlies, who finished with the league’s second-best record — 56-26 — this season. In the late game, the Nikola Jokic and the No. 6 seed Denver Nuggets are in San Francisco to face a No. 3 seed Golden State Warriors team hoping to recapture it dynastic past.
Over in East, the No. 5 seed Toronto Raptors face Joel Embiid, James Harden and the No. 4 seed Philadelphia 76ers, who will be without defensive star Matisse Thybulle for potentially all three games in Toronto.
Our NBA experts are watching it all. Here are the key takeaways from the four games of Day One of the playoff action.
More: Everything you need to know about the 16 teams still standing
No. 5 Utah Jazz vs. No. 4 Dallas Mavericks
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Mavericks’ offense sputtered while injured superstar Luka Doncic wore a hoodie and watched from the bench.
The Mavs’ chances of advancing past the first round for the first time since their 2011 title run take a major hit if Doncic is munching popcorn during games. Dallas’ chances of winning the playoffs depend on its perennial MVP candidate putting on an entertaining show. This is unlikely to happen Monday night for Game 2, even though Doncic and the Mavs medical staff are trying to speed up the healing of his left leg strain. Jason Kidd, Dallas coach, calls Doncic “day-to-day,” but the Mavs would be thrilled if Doncic is ready to return before the series shifts from Dallas to Salt Lake City.
The Mavs proved Saturday in their 99-93 Game 1 loss that they can make the Jazz play in the mud, almost pulling off a double-digit comeback against a team particularly prone to giving them up. Utah’s offense was terrible. Dallas prevented the NBA’s top-ranked offense from getting clean 3-point looks and lobs to All-Star big man Rudy Gobert — quite an accomplishment to deny both weapons and make All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell (32 points on 10-of-29 shooting) work so hard to score. The Mavericks’ problem was, predictably, their offense. For the second consecutive season, Doncic was the NBA’s most used player. He is as skilled as any player in the league at solving defenses, and he is also a threat to score at all levels. He is also an elite setter for his teammates for dunks or 3s. He’s surrounded with role players who can play off him, but aren’t able to create offense consistently, especially with Gobert closing down the paint.
“They didn’t score 100 points,” Kidd said. “When you do this in basketball today, it tends give you a better chance of winning. We didn’t have enough offensive power down to the end. “
It’s difficult enough to win in the NBA playoffs when you have a star player, but it’s possible with one star. — Tim MacMahon
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.