NBA Playoffs 2019: Winners and Losers from April 13th

NBA Denver Nuggets Paul Millsap (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
NBA Denver Nuggets Paul Millsap (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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NBA Toronto Raptors Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

A Philadelphia civil war, March Madness upsets, the D.J. Augustin performance of a lifetime, and much, much more from day one of the NBA Playoffs

As the 2019 NBA Playoffs get underway, let’s take a look at a few of the winners and losers from the first day of the post-season.

Winner: Pressure

Saturday’s slate featured two Eastern Conference franchises facing fanbases bubbling with unrest and nervousness. Toronto and Philadelphia (consequently, both losers) each have bonafide Finals-contending rosters. The Raptors field the deepest frontcourt in the NBA, and have a perennial all-star at point guard in Kyle Lowry.

Philly boasts arguably the second most talented starting five in the country: Ben Simmons, J.J. Reddick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid. These club’s regular season campaigns mirrored the talent level reasonably well, as both soared past 50 wins on the year and secured the 2 and 3 seeds in the conference. What’s all this data mean?

Well, the cold-weather-enduring loyalists of these franchises expect postseason success, and now. Especially after last season ended in sweeps for both. For Toronto and Philadelphia, the pressure is immense, and it showed.

From tip to the final horn in game one of the Sixers/Nets series, the looser, more confident bunch asserted themselves. The Brooklyn Nets, playing with second- third- and fourth-chancers all over the court (more on that in a bit), operated fluidly as a unit on offense, and executed a tremendous gameplan on that end of the court.

Guards D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, and Spencer Dinwiddie carved up the porous 76er perimeter defense all afternoon. Much like Texas Tech throughout the NCAA Tournament, Brooklyn’s unheralded (relative to Philadelphia) scorers oozed confidence and played unafraid. And on defense, the Nets were also spectacular. They capitalized off the tentative shooting hands of every sixer not named Jimmy Butler and frustrated a gimpy Embiid, challenging absolutely everything in the paint.

The Nets played like a team with no expectations who was ready to give a powerhouse their best shot. Philly shrunk in their inaugural postseason spotlight, and played like their fans would turn on them at a moments notice, which they did.

Toronto, on the other hand, is now a mainstay atop the Eastern Conference standings and has been for the latter half of this decade. Now, with LeBron completely out of the picture, the East should open up like the Red Sea, so their fanbase believes.

That’s not exactly how things played out in their playoff opener. Instead, Toronto, a notorious sufferer in first-round game-ones, dropped the ball…again. And the longest-tenured player on roster, all-star point-guard Kyle Lowry, was abominable: 0-7 from the field and zero points. Statheads clamor that he posted the highest +/- of any Raptor at +11, as to claim he was actually productive. Mularkey.

For a team who desperately lacks a second seasoned, go-to scorer, Lowry’s absence was unacceptable. The ghosts of Canadien postseason basketball haunted him yet again. He played timidly and settled for far less than his best. At least his fans didn’t openly boo him, though.

Their foe, Orlando, took the form of the Nets: unheralded, and unfazed by the pedigree of their opponent. Behind a potpourri of average-at-best NBA players who each performed with a significant chip on their shoulder, the Magic willed themselves to victory. From start to finish, the Orlando and Brooklyn sidelines were all smiles, while Toronto and Philadelphia flashed gloom and creeping despair.