For the last half-decade, Philadelphia fueled its Process with top-three picks while Brooklyn scrounged and scraped for a way out of asset purgatory.
In stunning fashion, the Nets’ assortment of underrated role players won out over the Sixers’ star-studded lineup in the 2019 playoffs opener, stealing Game 1 and Philadelphia’s homecourt advantage in the process.
Brooklyn’s most iconic former outcasts led the way: D’Angelo Russell, the once-traded No. 2 overall pick, and Caris LeVert, acquired two weeks after draft day in a calculated gamble as a series of not-yet-rehabilitated leg injuries had significantly dropped his stock. The duo finished with 49 total points — more than any three Sixers not named Jimmy Butler (36 points).
The victory was symbolic of Brooklyn’s season — unrelenting and full of feel-good chemistry.
The opposite could be said of Philadelphia, which suffered a nightmarish outing from everyone save No. 23. Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick combined for just 18 points. Joel Embiid’s 22 came on 5-for-15 shooting. Even with their playoff opener descending into disappointment, Embiid and Amir Johnson found themselves-more interested in cell phone activity than how their teammates were faring.
By the end of the night, Sixers fans could be heard booing the contender they waited years to witness. Simmons didn’t mince words on the subject after the game.
“If you’re going to boo, stay on that side,” Simmons warned.
The Nets will do all they can to keep them there. Brooklyn’s effort (23 second-chance points) and accuracy (11-for-26 from 3) made for a sound recipe against this Sixers team. And unlike Philadelphia, the Nets’ stars got plenty of help.
For Philadelphia, the question is already looming heading into Game 2: Can they still trust “The Process”?
The Sixers clearly thought they would hold serve on home court. Unfortunately, those plans — and the accompanying celebration — went unfulfilled.
The Sixers’ playoff balloons being hauled away in a giant trash bin feels pretty accurate to describe what we saw today. pic.twitter.com/mPGj5YxEqm
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 14, 2019
Ever since he was drafted No. 9 overall in 2008, DJ Augustin has been the point guard just good enough to get, but not good enough to keep. Orlando is his eighth NBA stop, the longest one since he left Charlotte in 2012. He entered this season as the Magic’s full-time starter … because there was no one else.
But something funny happened in Orlando’s playoff opener at second-seeded Toronto. Down the stretch, the Magic organically seemed to realize that Augustin (along with former Raptor Terrence Ross) was one of their only players with significant postseason experience and confidence. Those peaked with 4.2 seconds left, when Augustin drilled the game-winning 3 in Orlando’s shocking 104-101 Game 1 victory.
Augustin wasn’t the only castoff point guard to prove himself on the big stage. Former Kia Rookie of the Year and thrice-traded Michael Carter-Williams was solid off the bench (10 points, five rebounds, two assists), even if the outing was marred by an errant Kyle Lowry arm.
Game 1 curse?
At this point, it’s too eerie to ignore. Kyle Lowry just isn’t himself when a playoff series tips off. The five-time All-Star missed all seven of his shot attempts in Saturday’s loss, finishing with zero points.
Lowry is now averaging 9.7 points, 6.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 32.5-percent shooting and 18.6 percent from beyond the arc across 12 career Game 1s.
White takes flight
Maybe LeBron should give Derrick White a call…
White was much more than a four-star highlight, serving as one of the Spurs’ few efficient sources of offense in their Game 1 upset at second-seeded Denver. He is most recognized for his defense, and he cemented that reputation with the game-clinching steal in the final seconds.
Pat and Kevin
It sounds more like a throwback sitcom than a budding playoff rivalry, but Beverley’s physicality meeting Durant’s dominance produced some memorable photos and a double-ejection before the night was over.