basketball 1 week ago

Magic, Spurs, Blazers look for 2-0 series leads

The Associated Press — By TIM REYNOLDS - AP Basketball Writer

Orlando had to fight until the final days of the regular season to get its postseason berth. Portland had to scramble down the stretch to replace a huge part of its success.

And as is usually the case, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich had his team playing its best basketball at the end.

The Magic, Trail Blazers and Spurs were playoff ready. That's why they're all taking 1-0 series leads into their respective Game 2s on Tuesday night — with Orlando at Toronto, San Antonio at Denver and Portland playing host to Oklahoma City.

Orlando and San Antonio, both No. 7 seeds, won on the road and grabbed home-court advantage. But they both know what's coming when Denver and Toronto get fueled by desperation on Tuesday night.

"It's going to be a lot tougher," Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan said.

"We're going to get their best," Magic coach Steve Clifford said.

It goes without saying that all the teams that are down 1-0 found ways to get better for Game 2. The same goes for the teams leading those series. Clifford has spent two days imploring the Magic to clean up their offense. San Antonio felt it gave Denver too many open looks. Portland won with the help of Oklahoma City missing 28 tries from 3-point range, which likely won't happen again.

"We played nine players, six of those players it was their first time in the playoffs, their playoff debut," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "Overall they handled those playoff nerves fairly well."

The nerves should be lessened Tuesday.

Toronto dropped a Game 1 for the 14th time in 16 playoff series. The Raptors aren't fazed. Kyle Lowry was scoreless in Game 1, but Raptors coach Nick Nurse said defense was the bigger issue for his club.

"We didn't guard the ball well enough," Nurse said. "And when we didn't guard the ball well enough, we didn't have our second line of help in position. And then we did a poor job of executing some of the game plan portions. Just too many, just strange things I almost can't explain. Somebody would leave a guy and all of a sudden he's standing there wide open. Those things can't happen."

Portland, perhaps written off by some when Jusuf Nurkic got hurt late in the season, had a great Game 1 performance from Enes Kanter.

"He gave us a lot of toughness," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.

A look at Tuesday's games:

MAGIC AT RAPTORS

Magic lead 1-0. Game 2, 8 p.m. EDT, TNT

NEED TO KNOW: Toronto was 32-3 in the regular season when allowing 105 points or less. Magic center Nikola Vucevic had his worst shooting game of the season in Game 1. And Orlando won anyway, 104-101.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Kyle Lowry. Much was made of how the Raptors' point guard was scoreless in Game 1. But Toronto outscored Orlando 75-64 when he was on the floor, and was outscored 40-26 when he was on the bench — including a couple of fast-moving, momentum-shifting 9-2 and 10-4 runs by the Magic.

INJURY WATCH: Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams is fine after getting hit in the face by Lowry in Game 1.

PRESSURE IS ON: Obviously, Raptors coach Nick Nurse. He has this job in large part because his predecessor didn't get it done in the postseason. If Nurse starts 0-2, the 58-win regular season will be fast forgotten.

SPURS AT NUGGETS

Spurs lead 1-0. Game 2, 9 p.m. EDT, NBA TV.

NEED TO KNOW: Denver center Nikola Jokic had the 10th game in NBA playoff history of at least 14 rebounds and 14 assists, and the Nuggets lost anyway. Jokic had the ball plenty in Game 1. The Nuggets need to get him more shots in Game 2; he had only nine in the opener.

KEEP AN EYE ON: San Antonio's defense. The Spurs challenged Denver to beat them from the perimeter in Game 1 — and Will Barton, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray shot a combined 21 of 50, 2 for 16 from 3-point range.

STAT QUIRK: The Spurs were 1-9 in the regular season when LaMarcus Aldridge shot 33 percent or worse. He shot 6 for 19 in Game 1 (31.6 percent) and the Spurs prevailed.

PRESSURE IS ON: The Nuggets in transition. They forced 11 turnovers, eight of them off steals, but turned them into only eight points. If the Spurs are going to make mistakes, they must capitalize better.

THUNDER AT TRAIL BLAZERS

Trail Blazers lead 1-0. Game 2, 10:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.

NEED TO KNOW: Out of the first 2,476 games by teams this season, only 14 shot worse from 3-point range than the Thunder (5-33) did in Game 1. Not surprisingly, all 14 of those teams lost, too.

KEEP AN EYE ON: It looks like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have had enough with the first-round exits. Neither shot it great in Game 1 — Lillard was 9 for 21, McCollum 9 for 24 — but they were aggressive and set the necessary tone, which is exactly what the Blazers need from their starting guards.

INJURY WATCH: It all hinges on Paul George's right shoulder, which he says is fine. "It's well enough now," George said after Oklahoma City practiced Monday. It bears noting that he said that with a large ice pack strapped to his shoulder.

PRESSURE IS ON: Russell Westbrook. Starting with when the Thunder took (and eventually wasted) a 3-1 lead against the Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference finals, OKC has lost 12 of its last 15 postseason games.

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AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson and Associated Press Writers Ian Harrison and Michael Kelly contributed.

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