Unlikely heroes lead way to start NBA playoffs

Unlikely heroes lead way to start NBA playoffs


yrese Maxey of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrates after scoring in the first quarter against the Toronto Raptors during Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs.
Image: Getty Images

The stars were out for the first day of the NBA playoffs, with Donovan Mitchelll scoring 32 points to lead the Jazz to a 99-93 win in Dallas, Karl-Anthony Towns putting up 29 points and 13 boards to lead the Timberwolves to a Game 1 upset in Memphis, 130-117, and then Tyrese Maxey scored 38 points for the 76ers and Jordan Poole tallied 30 for Golden State in routs of the Raptors and Nuggets, respectively.

Wait a minute… Tyrese Maxey and Jordan Poole?

In last year’s playoffs, there were 30-point performances 106 times, with Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way with 13. But there were a total of 27 players who did it, from Devin Booker and Kevin Durant to Dillon Brooks and Terance Mann. Sometimes it’s who you think, and sometimes it’s not.

Maxey did have a 33-point game this season, and it was against the Raptors. It was also in November, long before James Harden got to Philadelphia, and with Joel Embiid out of the lineup. Both were playing Saturday, and both contributed — Harden with 14 assists, Embiid with 15 boards — but they combined to shoot 11-for-32, compared to the 14-for-21 show that Maxey put on. The Raptors have to win the game in a series where neither Embiid nor Harden scores 25 points. They didn’t, because of Maxey.

As for Poole, he scored 30 or more points in 10 games this season, averaging 18.5 a night, but when you get Golden State in the playoffs, you’re thinking about the Splash Brothers. Klay Thompson did deliver 19 points on 5-of-10 shooting from downtown, but Steph Curry was only 5-for-13, scoring 16 points off the bench in his return from a sprained foot ligament.

Still, like with the Raptors, the Nuggets have to win the game where Curry only scores 16 points, or there’s not much point in playing the series. Instead, Denver got overwhelmed by Poole, and even though Nikola Jokić put up 25 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists, Denver lost for the second time in three playoff games that the MVP has recorded numbers that good or better.

The other Curry, Seth, gets his playoff start with the Nets on Sunday. If he puts in 30 after Steph didn’t, and somehow neither Durant nor Kyrie Irving does… even if Seth had a pair of 30s in last year’s playoffs, something is up.



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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.