There was a disappointing lack of drama during the opening weekend of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. The first game of the playoffs between the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors went to overtime, but it was an ugly game that only got “good” at the very end. Two of the other three Saturday games finished with double-digit point margins (although watching Derrick Rose kill it was fun), and three of the Sunday games had a final margin of at least 13 points. Two of the closest games surprisingly involved the top-seeded teams, although both the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks controlled their games throughout.
For young players, sometimes the enormity of the postseason can lead to some jitters. That certainly appeared to be the case for Davis, who had just 15 points, one rebound and five turnovers in the first three quarters against the Warriors as the New Orleans Pelicans trailed by 18 points.
However, Davis finally found his groove in the fourth quarter, leading a surge that made Golden State sweat a bit. The big man scored 20 points in the fourth quarter alone, setting a new career high for points in a quarter. He shot 7-of-10 from the field, grabbed six rebounds and didn’t turn the ball over a single time in the frame, and he also did this:
Davis finished with 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting in a 106-99 Game 1 loss, and the 35 points were the second-most ever for a non-rookie playoff debut. The 22-year-old admitted after the game that he felt nervous to start but clearly got more comfortable as the game went on, according to John Reid of The Times-Picayune:
”It was a little butterflies, but at the end of the day, it’s just another basketball game,” Davis said. ”I think the whole team was nervous. This is our first time as a unit in the playoffs.
“So we’ve got to learn how to play fast, but have our minds move slow. We did that in the second half.”
Perhaps the Warriors got complacent and took the foot off the gas pedal, but Davis showed them that they can’t afford to do that with him around. Golden State will almost certainly win this series (especially with Tyreke Evans hurting), but if fourth-quarter Davis shows up for the rest of the series, it’s going to be highly competitive and incredibly entertaining. That’s all we can really ask for, and it would represent an important step in Davis’s development.
As for Irving, he came out firing and didn’t look back. While the Cleveland Cavaliers got off to a slow start before pulling it together and notching a 113-100 win over the Boston Celtics, the point guard had eight points and two assists in the first quarter. He then came alive in the second quarter, scoring 12 points, all on three-pointers, as the Cavaliers stormed ahead.
The final three-pointer of the second quarter was a bomb to head into the break:
Irving finished with a game-high 30 points and shot 11-of-21 from the field. Not only did he bury five three-pointers, but he also did some damage around the rim, and the Celtics simply had little answer for the flashy point guard.
Also making his playoff debut for Cleveland was Kevin Love, and while Love struggled to start the game by going 2-of-11 in the first half, he made his last three shots and finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Love’s final bucket of the night was a dagger three off a nice feed from LeBron James, and the power forward also made an impact at the free throw line, going 7-of-8. All in all, a very productive playoff debut after a shaky start.
After these strong debuts, now we’ll see what these stars have in store for an encore. I expect more of the same.