NBA Playoffs, Day 1

The league is in good hands.

Jim Rome
August 18, 2020 - 10:45 am
Donovan Mitchell

USA Today

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The NBA playoffs started yesterday morning, Pacific Time. Four games back to back to back to back. And it was a trip. I’m not saying it tight and all the best of the best were balling out. Far from it. But it was something. 

Denver and Utah faced each other in the opener and things looked a little ragged late in the second quarter. In fact, so ragged, the announcers were clowning it.

“It’s looking like LA Fitness at 3 o’clock right now.” Damn, that’s cold and yet, pretty accurate. Up and down, back and forth, the ball flying everywhere but in the basket. And that was a rough stretch.

But the game as a whole? Pretty good. Pretty damn good. I’m not sure what else you can say about a game where Donovan Mitchell goes for 57, the third-most points scored in a playoff game in NBA history, and it goes to overtime. That was a monster performance from Mitchell, especially with the Jazz playing without Mike Conley.

Mitchell had 22 points in the fourth quarter. Jamal Murray, who’ll be on the show in the third hour, had 20 in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Nuggets pulled away for a 135-125 win.

And you know that loss is going to sting the Jazz and Mitchell. Because as great as he was in the game, he had one really bad moment at a really bad time. 

With Utah up by four with less than two minutes to go, Mitchell was called for an eight second violation as he came up the floor. That is brutal. Absolutely brutal. 

And to make matters even worse, Murray immediately responded to that turnover with a three. From a four point lead to a one point lead in a heartbeat. And the entire game changed in that moment. And Mitchell knows that, quote,

"That's my fault. As a leader and as a point guard at that time, that's terrible on my part. That really changed the entire game, that sequence right there.”

He owned it. That is the kind of thing that never happens in a moment like that, because, honestly, it can’t happen in a moment like that. But it did. And he did own it.

And he had 57 points, so it’s pretty hard to kill a guy for a mistake when he just joined Michael Jordan and Elgin Baylor on the podium for most points in an NBA playoff game. I just know that he’d be feeling a helluva lot better today if he had that number and a W to go along with it.

The second game of the day can be summed up very simply: Toronto 134, Brooklyn 110. I’m not going to read too much into the Raptors blowing out what’s left of the Nets, but it should be a good reminder that the defending champs may look a little different this year, but they are still the defending champs and they are still damn good. 

In the third game of the day, I can’t believe I’m saying that – it’s like it was an NCAA tournament day. If I’m talking about the third basketball game of the day, I’m usually talking about a 16 and a 1, but the third game yesterday was Boston v. Philly. 

If it’s the playoffs, the Celtics and Sixers will probably find each other. And last night was all about Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. 

Yes, the Celtics have to be concerned about Gordon Hayward getting injured again, but when Tatum and Brown are combining for 61 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks in a playoff win, Celtics fans have to be feeling pretty good.

And then came the final game, Clippers v. Mavs. And that was a whole season of its own. The Clippers jumped all over Dallas at the start. They were up 18-2 just 3 and a half minutes into the game. Dallas looked like it hadn’t left the hotel. It felt like the series could be over before the end of the first quarter.

If this was baseball, the Mavs would’ve asked the Clippers to stop shooting the ball. But it’s not baseball, so the Mavs didn’t do that and instead, they battled. And started landing serious punches. 

And then with just seven and a half minutes left in the second, Dallas was up 50-36. They went from down by 16 to up by 14 in the same half. That’s a 48-18 swing in a matter of minutes.

And it was about to get crazier. Because at the start of the third quarter, Kristaps got ejected.

That was a wack, cheap technical. Better yet, both of his technical were bad. The first one for slightly arguing a call and the second one for, whatever that was. 

And what was, was really, really bad. And I’m not alone in thinking that. 

LeBron tweeted: Man that was BOGUS AS HELL MAN!!!!! Cmon man.  

Dirk chimed in: That ejection is super soft...

Even Patrick Mahomes had thoughts: That’s trash man! And he included a trash can emoji. 

That is trash. I’m not sure which T was worse: the garbage first one or the trash second one. The refs really have to be better than that.

Because that wasn’t just a game changing ejection, it was potentially a series changing ejection. The Mavs battled their asses off the rest of the way and had a look, but ultimately came up on the wrong end of a 118-110 loss. 

And you have to think that game looks totally different if Kristaps is out there for the entire second half. In fact, you have to think the whole series looks different. Because if Dallas wins game 1, then we have a totally different series from what it is now with the Clippers up 1-0. 

So yes, not only was it a horrible ejection, and game changing ejection. It’s potentially a series changing ejection. Dallas wins game 1 and it’s a different series. I’ll say it again, the refs have to be better than that. I know the job is complicated and it’s tough, but that was a really rough call. That wouldn’t even fly at 3 o’clock run at LA Fitness.