The Brooklyn Nets downed the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors were left spellbound by the Orlando Magic as the NBA’s playoffs got under way on Saturday with a pair of upset defeats.
D’Angelo Russell scored 26 points as sixth-seeded Brooklyn jolted third-seeded Philadelphia 111-102 at the Wells Fargo Center to give the Nets a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Nets were also reliant on a big performance from their bench, with three players delivering double-digit displays to boost their offense.
Caris LeVert had 23 points while Spencer Dinwiddie added 18 and Ed Davis 12 as the Nets silenced the Sixers’ home Wells Fargo Center crowd.
The Sixers meanwhile saw Jimmy Butler lead the scoring with a playoff career high 36 points while ailing Joel Embiid had 22 points.
But it was a disappointing outing for Australian star Ben Simmons, who was restricted to just nine points for Philadelphia.
Embiid had been doubtful with left knee soreness and was cleared to play less than 10 minutes before the game. Embiid, who missed 14 of the team’s final 24 games, looked hampered by his injury.
Afterwards Embiid expressed dismay at Sixers fans who booed the home team as they slid to a disappointing loss.
“The fact that it’s after every single miss,” he said. “Every missed shot, then you get booed. You get the next one and you think ‘Should I shoot it or not because I’m about to get booed?'”
But team-mate Simmons risked the wrath of Philadelphia’s support by lashing fans who booed.
“If you’re going to boo, then stay on that side,” Simmons said. “That’s how I feel, if you’re a Sixer fan and you’re going to boo then stay on that side.”
Butler however said the Sixers could only remedy the fan response by delivering a win in game two of the series in Philadelphia on Monday.
“I understand it. They want to see us win. I want to see us win, too,” Butler said. “We just gotta do better. I guarantee if we’re winning they’re not booing. That’s how we change it. Just got to go out there and win on Monday.”
In the day’s other Eastern Conference match-up, the second-seeded Raptors were left ruing missed chances after crashing to a 104-101 loss to Orlando at the Scotiabank Arena.
D.J. Augustin was the hero for Orlando, draining a three-pointer with 4.2 seconds to play to seal a famous win for the seventh-seeded Magic, who finished the regular season with 16 fewer wins than Toronto.
Augustin’s winner gives Orlando their first lead in a playoff series since 2012, and will reawaken the doubts surrounding Toronto’s playoff mentality following consecutive sweeps by Cleveland in 2018 and 2017.
Magic coach Steve Clifford praised his team’s dogged never-say-die approach. “Just the fight and way we hung in there,” Clifford said afterwards.
“I thought our defense was very good for most of the game. Even when things went against us, we hung in there.” (AFP)