The NBA playoffs got off to a rousing start with two stunning playoff upsets.
First, D’Angelo Russell rang up a scoring burst that helped the Brooklyn Nets fill the Philadelphia 76ers’ home court with a barrage of boos with a 111-102 shocker.
Then D.J. Augustin scored 25 points, including the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left, and the Orlando Magic won 104-101 at the Toronto Raptors.
Suddenly, two of the favorites to reach the NBA Finals out of the Eastern Conference are down 1-0 and have lost homecourt advantage.
The biggest trainwreck was in Philly. All-Star Ben Simmons was upset with the crowd’s booing, saying “If you’re going to boo, then stay on that side.”
But the biggest embarassment came late in the fourth quarter with the Sixers down big. TV cameras caught benchwarmer Amir Johnson sitting on the bench and scrolling through his phone. Johnson showed All-Star Joel Embiid whatever message was on the phone and then slid it into his warmup pants pocket.
Embiid said Johnson received an update on a sick daughter. Sixers coach Brett Brown called Johnson’s actions “completely unacceptable.”
Photo: Drew Hallowell / Getty Images
Image 1 1
Only Jimmy Butler was a bright spot for third-seeded Philly. He scored 36 points and kept the Sixers from losing by 25. Embiid slogged his way through 24 forgettable minutes on his bum left knee. Simmons was a postseason dud against Russell, his high school teammate.
Russell flashed some postseason magic, playing like the All-Star leader Brooklyn needed with 26 points, and Caris LeVert scored 23.
“We’ve got the right pieces to keep it going,” Russell said.
Philadelphia fined Johnson an unspecified amount for conduct detrimental to the team.
“It’s not something that we are about,” Brown said.
Johnson, who averaged 3.9 points in 51 games, was inactive and apologized for his mistake.
“I take full responsibility and will accept the consequences of my actions,” he said. “I also apologize to my teammates, the 76ers organization and the fans for the distraction this has caused.”
Brown might be in hot water too. Before the game, Sixers owner Josh Harris was very noncommittal on Brown’s return for a seventh season on the bench if the team did not make a deep run in the playoffs. Harris said Brown was a “great coach” but fell well short of giving him a vote of confidence.
“I’m focused on the Brooklyn Nets,” Harris said
• In Toronto, the Raptors felt they got the missing piece they needed when they traded DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard.
That might still work out, but Leonard got a final shot for Toronto, but missed the rim with his 3-pointer from the top.
Orlando, though, might be a tough out. The Magic went 22-9 over the final 31 games of the season to clinch its first playoff berth since 2012, and the momentuim carried over in Game 1.
“I think it helps,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said of his team’s tough regular-season finish. “We’ve been playing games that we had to win and were meaningful games for a while.”
Leonard scored 25 points, Pascal Siakam had 24 and Fred VanVleet had 14 for the second-seeded Raptors, who reclaimed the lead after trailing by 16 points in the second quarter, but couldn’t hold on down the stretch.
Toronto got 13 points apiece from Danny Green and Marc Gasol, but Lowry finished scoreless, missing all seven of his attempts. Lowry did have eight assists and seven rebounds.
“He had some really good looks that he’s normally going to knock down,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I’m sure he’ll bounce back and play a little better in the next game.”
Spurs 101, Nuggets 96: Also an upset, but less shocking, was San Antonio’s win at Denver in Game 1 behind DeRozan’s 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
Despite their No. 7 seed, the Spurs have a bit more pedigree than the Magic and Nets, and were efficient in keeping the second-seeded Nuggets off-balance. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich passed Lenny Wilkins to become the NBA’s all-time winningest coach, regular-season and playoffs combined.
Popovich has 1,413 wins, one more then Wilkens and three more than former Warriors coach Don Nelson.
For Denver, Nikola Jokic had a triple-double (10 points, 14 rebounds, 14 assists).
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/NBA-playoffs-open-with-two-upsets-as-Nets-beat-13766133.php.