Boston Celtics – Atlanta Hawks: 112-99 (1-0 on series)
Don’t be fooled by the final score: Boston never flinched. Second in the East after the regular season, the Celtics dominated Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks (112-99) as they pleased before loosening the noose in the second period, narrowing the gap. Because it was thirty units at the break, after a first period like in a dream for the C’s, when the Hawks lived an absolute nightmare.
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The opposition was already shaping up to be complicated for the Georgia franchise, all but equipped to respond to the strengths of their opponent in this series. The start of the match confirmed all fears. Unable to limit opposing outside players, and squeezed by the Boston defense, the Hawks did not exist and saw the gap swell visibly. Muzzled, Trae Young (2/10 shooting at the break, 5/18 in the end, and 5 stray bullets) could never be the spearhead of his people. Quite the opposite of Jayson Tatum, 21 points at rest with an exclamation point shot from eight meters to bring the gap to 74-44 at halftime.
From then on, Boston relaxed a little, seeing the visitors nibble their delay despite a terrible clumsiness in shooting (5/29 from afar). Maus a time-out and two actions again perfectly controlled saw the Celtics of Jaylen Brown (29 points, 12 rebounds) close the debates once and for all in the fourth quarter. Impeccable defensively, in control in attack, the players of Joe Mazzulla will have had the task almost too easy. Atlanta is warned.
Philadelphie 76ers – Brooklyn Nets : 121-101 (1-0)
Underdogs for the title, the Sixers begin their final phase with flying colors. Against eye-catching Nets in the first period, the Philadelphia franchise was able to respond from start to finish to win by twenty points (121-101). Joel Embiid, among the favorites for the title of player of the season, was effective despite the heavy surveillance of the opposing defense. The Pennsylvania team made the difference above all by the quality of its shooters, authors of a franchise record at three-pointers.
The Nets had a well-established plan: target Embiid and offer him a systematic two-man take as soon as he received the ball. The maneuver had the merit of limiting the ammunition of the pivot, contained to only 15 shots (26 points, best scorer of his team all the same). But this permanent shift allowed the Philadelphia triggers to have fun and get into the rhythm for the rest of the series. With a 21/42 from three-pointers, unheard of for Philly in the finals, the success behind the arc has constantly put Brooklyn under pressure. In this little game, James Harden was impeccable, alternating between distribution (13 assists) and sanction (7/13 from afar, 23 points).
The Nets will have had the merit of hanging on, thanks to the first half of fire from Mikal Bridges, author of 23 of his 30 points before the break. Better content on returning from the locker room, the winger was sometimes a bit alone to feed the mark, unlike the 76ers (five players with ten or more points). This is one more adjustment that the New York formation will have to make to hope to shake Philadelphia in this series.
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