NBA playoffs 2019: Westbrook next question; Giannis monsters Pistons
After eight straight playoff losses over the past two years, the Portland Trail Blazers finally got a win.
Damian Lillard scored 30 points and the third-seeded Blazers opened their series against the No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder with a 104-99 victory. “We know how it feels to win again,” Lillard said. “Now we can just kind of move on from that and stay focused on this series.”
Portland was swept by New Orleans last season and the Warriors the year before. Enes Kanter added 20 points and a career playoff-high 18 rebounds for the Blazers, who were making their sixth straight postseason appearance. CJ McCollum added 24 points.
Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth career postseason triple-double. Paul George, who was a game-time decision because of a sore shoulder, added 26 points and 10 rebounds despite a rough shooting night. “Four days ago I couldn’t even lift my shoulder,” he said. “Then fast forward to today this is the first day I’ve even shot the ball, so for me it’s just rhythm.”
Westbrook appeared to hurt his right ankle in the final quarter and grimaced while trying to walk it off. Trainers attended to him on the bench at the next time-out but he returned and his layup closed the gap to 91-87 with just under 4 minutes left.
Asked about it afterwards, Westbrook said: “We’ll see.” He was even less talkative with The Oklahoman reporter Berry Tramel, who he has clashed with in the past, offering only “next question” every time Tramel asked him something.
After trailing by as many as 19 points in the first half, Oklahoma City pulled it back to 93-92 on George’s three-pointer with 2:44 left. Lillard answered with a long three-pointer and that was it.
Oklahoma City beat the Blazers in all four meetings this season, including a heated 129-121 overtime victory on March 7.
DRUMMOND EJECTED FOR GIANNIS SHOVE
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 17 rebounds in just 24 minutes, and the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks showed they were serious about making a playoff run with a 121-86 rout of the Detroit Pistons in Game 1.
The MVP candidate ran and dunked all over the Pistons, who only really caught him when centre Andre Drummond shoved him to the ground with both hands late in the third quarter after Antetokounmpo grabbed an offensive rebound with Detroit trailing by 41 points.
Drummond was given a flagrant foul and ejected. He threw a kiss to the crowd as he was escorted off the court.
Seven Bucks players scored in double figures. Eric Bledsoe had 15 points, and Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton each added 14. George Hill scored 16 points off the bench.
Luke Kennard paced the Pistons with 21 points off the bench and Drummond had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
BAYNES IN PAIN IN BOSTON
The Boston Celtics held the visiting Indiana Pacers without a field goal for the first eight and a half minutes of the second half after rallying from a halftime deficit for an 84-74 victory in game one of their NBA playoff series.
But the win wasn’t without jitters for home fans with Australian centre Aron Baynes seen grimacing in pain on the bench in the fourth quarter before returning to the court for the final five minutes.
Baynes has battled injuries all season and was only a late inclusion after missing the last game of the regular season with ankle soreness. “I looked like I was in pain? That’s all right. Looks can be deceiving. For sure, I must have been breathing harder than normal,” Baynes said. When a reporter suggested the Aussie had been “screaming”, he replied: “I might have been a little bit emotional.”
After failing to make even one-third of their shots in the first half to fall behind 45-38, the fourth-seeded Celtics became a defensive force in the third quarter.
The Pacers, seeded fifth in the east, missed their first seven shots of the second half and mixed in three turnovers as their seven-point lead turned into a 47-45 deficit.
Indiana missed three more shots before Cory Joseph connected on two foul attempts at the 5:27 mark. By then, the Celtics had scored 15 of the quarter’s first 16 points to go ahead 53-46.
Indiana made just two more baskets in the quarter and finished the period with just eight points, getting outscored 26-8. The Pacers never got the deficit under double digits in the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris each scored 20 points.
Originally published as ‘Next question’: Russ’s rapid refusals