Day 2 of the 2022 NBA playoffs is in the books.
Sunday got started with a blowout along Biscayne Bay. The No. 1-seeded Miami Heat stifled Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks en route to an easy 115-91 Game 1 win.
The day’s action continued with the most anticipated matchup of the first round, as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets faced Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics. And Game 1 delivered, as Tatum’s last-second layup lifted Boston in a thriller.
The Milwaukee Bucks began their title defense with a close Game 1 victory over the Chicago Bulls, while Sunday’s finale featured Chris Paul and the NBA-best Phoenix Suns fighting off a late charge from the New Orleans Pelicans.
Our NBA experts had eyes on every Game 1 showdown. Here are the most important takeaways from Day 2 of playoff action.
MORE: Intel on all 16 teams | Phoenix is better than you think
BOSTON — The Celtics-Nets premiere felt much more like Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals than it did Game 1 of the first round. The showdown lived up to the hype that surrounded the series all week.
Tatum won the game with a layup at the buzzer that sent fans at TD Garden into a frenzy. They also loudly booed Irving, who flipped off a few of them in the third quarter and then proceeded to get rolling down the stretch while pouring in a game-high 39 points.
“It was a scramble play,” Nets star Kevin Durant said of the contest’s final possession. “They made a couple passes. They were able to find a little crease there at the end. A quick play.”
Kyrie Irving knocks down a tough jumper from the corner and throws up a middle finger to the Celtics fans.
Not only did Tatum hit the winner, he provided the extra defensive push Boston needs without Robert Williams III stabilizing the defense. Tatum dropped 31 points but also had two blocks, and he teamed up with Marcus Smart to limit Durant to a 9 for 23 performance from the field.
Despite Durant’s struggles, the Nets remain confident he will get it going again in Game 2.
“Kevin’s Kevin Durant for a reason,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “He figures things out on his own very, very well, and we’ll definitely look at it collectively and we’ll improve.”
The feeling around the league prior to this series was that it featured two evenly matched teams, which through a confluence of different events during the season found themselves forced to play each other much earlier than anticipated. If Sunday’s thriller was any indication, basketball fans are in for a treat the rest of the way — because this game didn’t just live up to the hype; it unquestionably exceeded it.
— Nick Friedell
Suns 110, Pelicans 99: When in doubt, give the ball to The Point God
PHOENIX — Pelicans rookie Jose Alvarado got a lesson Sunday night about why Chris Paul is one of the most respected players in the league, if not always the most liked.
Paul added another fourth-quarter masterpiece to that bulging file this season with a brilliant finish, scoring 19 of his 30 points in the last 12 minutes to squash the Pelicans’ comeback attempt in the Suns’ Game 1 victory. It was the second most fourth-quarter points in Paul’s career — overall he scored or assisted on 23 of the Suns’ 31 points in the final frame.
As Paul was going through an unrelenting five-minute stretch when he scored 17 points with full onslaught of his experience and skill, he victimized Alvarado with a baseline jumper. There aren’t many players in the league that Paul is taller than, but Alvarado is one of them.
The future Hall of Famer tossed some salt toward the undrafted rookie, indicating he was too small to guard Paul. Paul has done this before, partially out of novelty and partially as an intended insult, including last year against the much more established Jrue Holiday of the Bucks. Either way, the Suns bench and crowd was loving it.
Chris Paul thwarts the Pelicans’ comeback as he scores 19 in the fourth quarter, leading the Suns to a Game 1 win.
Paul just completed one of best regular seasons of clutch play in recent history. He shot 58% in those moments and had an incredible 12-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. When games got within five points with less than five minutes left or in overtime, the Suns were 25-4 when Paul was playing.
New Orleans, which pulled off a comeback win to beat the LA Clippers to get into this series, had cut the Suns’ lead from 23 points down to six early in the fourth. Alvarado was part of a bench-heavy unit that was leading that charge.
It never officially got to crunch time, but that’s because Paul didn’t let it, all while sending a message to the youngster and the rest of the Pelicans in the process: The top seed won’t be going down easily.
— Brian Windhorst
Bucks 93, Bulls 86: Chicago’s woes against the East elite continue
MILWAUKEE — On the video board above the Fiserv Forum court before the start of Game 1, the Bucks aired a segment to welcome the Bulls back to the playoffs — and inform their rivals from down Interstate 94 of all the things that have changed since Chicago last made the postseason in 2017.
With Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” providing the soundtrack, the Bucks’ flashback offered a reminder that the iPhone 8 hadn’t been released and several trends had yet to begin, punctuated by the fact that Milwaukee was now the defending NBA champions.
And the Bucks looked every bit the part to start the game, blitzing the Bulls with a 9-0 run after the opening tip and building a 16-point lead in the first quarter. However, Chicago showed some fight, responding to briefly take the lead in the third quarter and give themselves a chance to win the game in the fourth.
“Now we understand and know how hard we have to play defensively,” Bulls star DeMar DeRozan said. “I guarantee we’re not going to shoot how we shot tonight.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo throws it off the backboard and catches it himself for the strong two-handed dunk.
The Bulls have struggled mightily against the top teams in the East, as they went 1-14 against the top-four seeds in the conference this season. However, they were much more competitive in Game 1 than during many of their matchups against the East’s elite.
Even so, Chicago shot just 7-of-37 (18.9%) from 3 on Sunday and had no answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds.
Chicago’s big three of DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic combined to shoot 21-for-71 (29.6%) from the field.
“Between DeMar and Zach, there’s going to be a lot of guard play, and we know with Vooch right there in the paint or even stepping back out to 3, they do very well in the pick-and-roll,” Bucks guard Jrue Holiday said. “I think we accepted the challenge.”
— Jamal Collier
Heat 115, Hawks 91: Miami completely shuts down Trae and the league’s No. 2 offense
MIAMI — On the Hawks’ opening possession of Sunday’s Game 1, no fewer than three Heat defenders switched onto Trae Young, with Kyle Lowry then P.J. Tucker then finally Max Strus forcing the All-Star guard into retreat mode and subverting his attack. The sequence ended with Young trying to thread the needle as the shot clock ticked under two seconds on a Hail Mary alley-oop to Onyeka Okongwu that the big man couldn’t corral.
And so it went for Atlanta, which couldn’t re-create the Game 1 magic it had in last year’s improbable run to the conference finals, as the Hawks’ high-flying offense was stifled all day in the Heat’s win.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Whatever is required.”
Miami, which ranked fourth in defensive rating and third in points allowed during the regular season, harassed the Hawks’ second-ranked offense all over the floor. The Heat bottled them up early, holding Atlanta to just 3-for-17 shooting in the first quarter, with Young’s only field goal — an and-1 fast-break layup — needing more English than an Ivy League college’s curriculum to go down.
Gabe Vincent lobs to Jimmy Butler who finishes with authority for the Heat.
The nightmare only continued for Young, who was unable to break out like he did in the second half of the Hawks’ play-in win at Cleveland. He finished with just eight points on 1-for-12 shooting (0-for-7 from 3). Coach Nate McMillan pulled Young with 2:34 remaining in the third quarter and kept him on the bench the rest of the way.
“Miami played at another level,” McMillan said. “We have to get to another level.”
Offensively, Miami was disciplined. The Heat facilitated through Lowry (nine assists). But all of their personnel committed to making the extra pass to find guys like Tucker, Gabe Vincent and Lowry open for corner 3s. Duncan Robinson, who had a down season, exploded for 27 points on 9-for-10 shooting (8-for-9 from 3) off the bench, nearly tripling the boost the Hawks got from John Collins (10 points) in his first game action since March 11 because of finger and foot injuries.
The Heat looked like a rested, serious team that is the No. 1 seed in the East for a reason. Atlanta, which deserves credit for its play-in performance to snag No. 8, looked as gassed as Young.
“We’ll enjoy this win, and then when midnight hits, forget about this one and then we get ready for the next one,” Heat forward Jimmy Butler said. “We know our goal.”
— Dave McMenamin