The first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs tipped off over the weekend and five players excelled in Game 1, including Luka Doncic, who tallied a triple-double for the Dallas Mavericks in a victory over the LA Clippers. Other notable NBA High Guys this weekend included Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), and Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns).
With a seven-game series, you really can’t put too much emphasis on the first game. Even so, players always want to tip off the postseason on a high note with a sensational performance.
Doncic put on a clinic during his first taste of the postseason at the 2019 NBA Playoffs inside the bubble at Disney World, but the Mavericks were knocked out by the Clippers in the opening round. The two teams meet again this year with a revenge series for the Mavericks. Doncic picked up where he left off during last year’s sensational performance with his third triple-double against the Clippers in seven playoff games.
|NBA High Guys – Playoffs Edition|
- Tobias Harris (PHI) 37 points, 6 rebounds
- Nikola Jokic (DEN) 34 points, 16 rebounds
- Damian Lillard (POR) 34 points, 13 assists
- Devin Booker (PHX) 34 points, 8 assists
- Luka Doncic (DAL) 31 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds
Harris might be the biggest story of the weekend during the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers’ win over the Washington Wizards. With all eyes — and the defense — focused on Joel Embiid, Harris notched the highest points total of the weekend with a career playoff high of 37 points.
Doncic: Triple-double machine
The Clippers got guff for soft-tanking in the last week in the season to avoid a first-round matchup against the LA Lakers. The Clippers secured the #4 seed in the Western Conference and wanted to play the #5 Mavericks again, whom they ousted in the first round of the 2019 playoffs last year.
The Mavs, especially Doncic, were eager to exact revenge against the Clippers.
“We won the game,” said Doncic. “That’s all that matters for me.”
Doncic thrives in the playoffs. He scored 31 points and added 11 assists and 10 rebounds to notch another postseason triple-double. He also knocked down five 3-pointers for the Mavs, who shot 47% from long range.
In only seven postseason appearances, Doncic notched his third triple-double. As a result, the Clippers indicated that they might switch up their defensive assignments. Instead of Paul George guarding Doncic, Kawhi Leonard could take a crack at him in Game 2 to prevent another triple-double.
Tobias Harris: Pride of ‘Strong Island’
In our series preview for the #1 Philadelphia 76ers versus #8 Washington Wizards, we hinted that someone else from the Sixers must provide extra offense aside from Embiid. Harris stepped up in the first game and, if he continues to provide firepower, the 76ers will be tough to beat.
“I wanted to set the tone early on and just show what we’re about all year,” said Harris.
Harris averaged 19.5 ppg this season with the 76ers. He exploded for a career night with 15 of his 37 points happening in the second quarter. He topped Bradley Beal, who dropped 33 points in a losing effort for the Wizards.
Embiid scored 30 points and shot 12-for-13 from the free-throw line. Ben Simmons only notched six points, but he dished 15 assists and pulled down 15 rebounds in the victory. Simmons and the 76ers fed the ball to Harris, who attempted 29 shots.
Nikola Jokic: Joker scores a bunch, but no playmaking
The #3 Denver Nuggets got off to a slow start once again, losing Game 1 by 14 points against the #6 Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers had a specific defensive game plan to let Jokic score while minimizing his stellar passing skills. Jokic scored 34 points and added 16 rebounds, but the best passing big man in the NBA dished only one assist.
“It was huge,” said Damian Lillard. “When the Nugs are at their best, Joker’s setting the table, he’s dominating the game as a playmaker, and he’s scoring and he’s kind of having his way.”
“I couldn’t get the other guys involved,” added Jokic. “They made me work for it on every possession.”
The Nuggets aren’t in panic mode yet. They rallied from behind twice during the 2019 NBA playoffs and seem to play their best basketball when their backs are against the wall. Jokic and the Nuggets were 7-1 in elimination games last year.
Damian Lillard: Here comes ‘Playoff Dame’
Lillard lifted the Portland Trail Blazers to a clutch Game 1 victory over the Denver Nuggets. Dame scored 34 points in the victory, including five 3-pointers. He also dished 13 assists.
The hot-shooting Blazers shot 47.5% from 3-point range with 19 treys. Anfernee Simons and Carmelo Anthony knocked down four treys each off the bench. CJ McCollum added three and scored 21 points.
“To be honest, I think we could’ve shot the ball even better,” said Portland head coach Terry Stotts.
The Blazers’ second unit outscored the Nugget’s bench 34-20 thanks to 18 points from Melo and 14 points from Simons.
Devin Booker: Shines in first playoff game
Booker made a big splash with his first taste of the postseason. He scored 34 points and led the #2 Phoenix Suns to a key victory over the #7 Los Angeles Lakers during a rough and tumble Game 1. Booker took several big shots down the stretch while Chris Paul nursed a shoulder injury, but the Suns sealed a nine-point victory.
“The intensity’s different, the physicality is different, and it’s only one game,” said Booker.
With 34 points, Booker outscored LeBron James (18 points) and Anthony Davis (13 points) combined. The Lakers’ top two scorers struggled and shot only 11-for-29 from the field in the Game 1 loss.
“Booker is a scoring machine,” said Lakers head coach Frank Vogel. “He puts a lot of pressure on our defense to cover him in a lot of ways. When we double team him, he’s got Ayton in there.”
Big man Deandre Ayton chipped in 21 points and 16 rebounds. He shot an efficient 9-for-10 from the floor. Ayton made Suns history as the first player with 20 points, 15 rebounds, and a 90% shooting percentage in a postseason game.
Check out more highlight videos and other installments of NBA High Guys.