D’Angelo Russell flashed some postseason magic, playing like the All-Star leader the Nets needed with 26 points, and Caris LeVert scored 23, leading the visiting Nets to a 111-102 victory on Saturday over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
Jimmy Butler scored 36 points and saved the third-seeded Sixers, favored by many to at least reach the East semifinals, from losing by 25. Joel Embiid slogged his way through 24 minutes on a troubled left knee that cost him much of the final month of the regular season and managed 22 points and 15 rebounds. Ben Simmons came up small against Russell, his high school teammate, who scored 19 second-half points.
Russell, LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie gave the Sixers fits off the dribble and buried open looks from 3-point range, and a team that got hot late and just made the playoffs suddenly has the upper hand on the road over a 51-win team stocked with stars.
“I think earlier in the season, especially when we were struggling, we’d lose games like that,” Nets Coach Kenny Atkinson said.
With Philadelphia behind by 16 late in the fourth quarter, Amir Johnson was caught by television cameras sitting on the bench and scrolling through his phone. Johnson, who was inactive for the game, showed Embiid whatever message was on the phone and then slid the device into a pocket of his warm-up pants.
“I just looked down because he said his daughter was extremely sick and he was checking on her,” Embiid said.
Johnson issued an apology after the game, and the Sixers fined him an unspecified amount. It was a fitting episode in a game that the Sixers seemed to have phoned in.
Russell hit a string of jumpers in the third quarter, never letting the Sixers seriously chip away at the lead. LeVert’s third 3-pointer in the fourth made it a 16-point game, and there was no looking back for one of the biggest wins since the sixth-seeded Nets moved to Brooklyn.
Dinwiddie and DeMarre Carroll made consecutive 3-pointers during a 12-0 first-half run. LeVert hit two straight 3s for a 14-point lead, and the Sixers were soundly booed off the court.
“We all got to do a better job,” Embiid said. “Us. The fans. We have to bring the fun.”
WARRIORS 121, CLIPPERS 104 Stephen Curry scored 38 points and made eight 3-pointers, reaching the highest total in postseason history, and top-seeded Golden State began its quest for a three-peat by winning at home against Los Angeles on a night when tempers flared.
Kevin Durant and Patrick Beverley were ejected with 4 minutes 41 seconds to go, 19 seconds after they received double technicals when Durant stripped Beverley and the Clippers guard fell into the scorer’s table.
They both became enraged again, and the official Ed Malloy immediately sent them both to the locker room. Durant high-fived fans as he left.
Curry was 8 for 12 from beyond the arc, passing Ray Allen (385) for career postseason 3-pointers with 386.
MAGIC 104, RAPTORS 101 D. J. Augustin scored 25 points, including the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left, and seventh-seeded Orlando won at second-seeded Toronto in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Kawhi Leonard, who led the Raptors with 25 points, got a final shot but missed the rim with his 3-point attempt from the top. The Raptors are now 2-14 in playoff series openers.
WALTON TO COACH KINGS One day after parting ways with the Los Angeles Lakers, Luke Walton reached an agreement on a four-year deal to coach the Sacramento Kings, according to a person familiar with the deal who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Magic Johnson abruptly resigned as the Lakers’ president this week in part because he did not want to go through with firing Walton, as had been expected around the N.B.A. for weeks. On Friday, Walton and the Lakers mutually agreed to part ways with two seasons left on his contract — with Walton knowing that the Kings, after firing Coach Dave Joerger on Thursday, were eager to hire him.
The Lakers have the former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue and the Philadelphia 76ers assistant Monty Williams at their top of their list to succeed Walton. Lue coached the Lakers’ LeBron James for two and a half seasons in Cleveland.
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