NBA playoffs Game 1 winners and losers: Knicks’ Miles McBride breaks out, Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell goes cold

The 2024 NBA Playoffs are officially here. With the Play-In Tournament concluded and the 16-team postseason bracket set, four first-round series started Saturday. It will be a heck of a ride from start to finish, and Saturday’s contests proved just that.

The playoffs got going with a Cavaliers’ victory, as they defended their home court with a low-scoring win over the Orlando Magic. The Timberwolves, looking for their first playoff series victory since 2004, got off to a strong start as well with a lopsided win over the Suns. The Knicks, fresh off their first 50-win regular season in 11 years, got Madison Square Garden rolling with a big win over Philadelphia, while the defending champion Nuggets began their quest for back-to-back titles with an easy win over LeBron James and the Lakers.

CBS Sports writers made their picks for every first-round series with most experts picking the Knicks, Mavericks, Pacers and more to move on.

Below is a look at the results from the first set of Game 1s, along with a handful of winners and losers from Saturday’s action.

NBA Playoffs scores, schedule — April 20

Cavaliers 97, Magic 83 (Cavs lead 1-0) — Box score

Timberwolves 120, Suns 95 (Wolves lead 1-0) — Box score

Knicks 111, 76ers 104 (Knicks lead 1-0) — Box score

Nuggets 114, Lakers 103 (Nuggets lead 1-0) — Box score

And now for some winners and losers from Saturday’s action.

Winner: Nikola Jokic, the scorer

Everyone knows how great of a passer Jokic is, but when his team needed him, he showed just how unstoppable he can be as a scorer. As the Nuggets launched their assault during the third quarter, Jokic went to his office in the paint, bullying the Lakers’ helpless defenders.

Once he established himself inside, Jokic got back to doing what he loves most — setting up teammates — and the Lakers had no answers. The likely three-time NBA MVP finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists on 15-for-23 shooting. Just a masterclass in Game 1 to help demoralize a Laker team that had a double-digit first-half lead. – Colin Ward-Henninger

Loser: Playoff DLo

D’Angelo Russell had a tremendous regular season, but when the Lakers drew the Nuggets in the first round it was hard not to recall last year’s Western Conference finals, when he was played off the court due to his defensive deficiencies and inconsistent shooting. Well …

Things didn’t go great for Russell in Game 1, as he shot just 6-for-20 from the field and 1-for-9 from 3-point range en route to 13 points. The inherent problem is that Russell needs to shoot a lot to be effective on the court, so when he’s not making them, you can’t really tell him to stop putting them up. Would Darvin Ham love to see Austin Reaves take more than nine shots? Sure. But it’s not like you can just forbid Russell — your most consistent shooter all season long — from taking shots he knows he can make. We’ll have to see how Ham handles Russell’s minutes moving forward, but he was bad once again against the Nuggets on Saturday night. – Colin Ward-Henninger

Winner: The refs (for now)

The Nuggets won’t likely complain after a resounding Game 1 win, but the Lakers took 19 free throws compared to Denver’s six. Obviously the Lakers attacked the rim (Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined for 14 of the 19 free throw attempts), but we’ve heard that reasoning for years in regards to the large discrepancy and it hasn’t prevented other teams from complaining one bit. If there’s another lopsided total like this and the Lakers end up on the winning end, you can probably expect at least a mention from the Nuggets before this series is over. – Colin Ward-Henninger

Winner: Josh Hart, 3-point marksman

Hart shot 31% from 3-point range during the regular season. For most of Game 1, the 76ers were leaving him wide-open, daring him to put one up from long distance. And it worked. Through the first three quarters, he was 1-of-4 from behind the 3-point arc.

So what does he do? Goes 3-of-4 on longballs in the fourth quarter, including an absolute dagger to push the lead to seven with a minute left, after which he hyped up the MSG crowd.

“It’s just the passion that I play with. I knew I was gonna be left open and kind of disrespected from the 3-point line, and if you base it off the numbers from the regular season, I think I shot like 30%. So, you know, smart game plan,” Hart said after the win. “But for me, it’s just continuing to take shots. I think I made my first one and missed, like, my next four. Normally, I would have just, kind of, been hesitant. But this one was just, continue to shoot, continue to make them respect me at the 3-point line.” – Colin Ward-Henninger

Loser: Another Joel Embiid injury

Yo, can we just stop with this? Please? After one of the most impressive plays we’ve seen all season, Embiid went down with what appeared to be an aggravation of the left knee injury that caused him to miss almost 30 regular-season games.

Though he returned for the second half, it was clear that Embiid was struggling physically — wincing and limping consistently throughout the remainder of the game. The reigning MVP went just 2-for-11 in the second half, though he was able to score 11 points by getting to the free throw line and was still a plus-10 in the box score. That shows you how impactful Embiid can be, even when he’s not at full strength.

But we’re sick of seeing Embiid at less than 100%, which he’ll almost certainly be for at least the next couple of games in this series. Injuries never stop being the worst, and Embiid has experienced more than his fair share in the postseason. – Colin Ward-Henninger

Winner: Miles McBride

If you didn’t know his nickname before the playoffs began, you certainly do now. Deuce McBride was the key to the Knicks’ Game 1 win over Philadelphia, pouring in 21 points on 5-for-7 3-point shooting in 28 minutes. He finished as a ridiculous plus-37(!) in the box score – no wonder Jalen Brunson gave a two-word answer when asked how the Knicks pulled this one out.

McBride has been an essential part of Tom Thibodeau’s rotation since the latter part of the regular season, when he averaged 13 points on 42% 3-point shooting in his last 20 games. That clearly carried over into his first significant playoff action, as he saved the Knicks with his hot shooting when they appeared to be dead in the water. – Colin Ward-Henninger

Loser: Sixers’ supporting cast

Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Kyle Lowry combined for 80 of the 76ers’ 104 points on Saturday, meaning that the other six players who stepped foot on the court produced *checks calculator* … 24 points. Tobias Harris performed the most mystical disappearing act, finishing with just seven points after averaging 17 during the regular season (though he was one of the rare Sixers to actually grab some rebounds) — and he only took seven shots.

Nicolas Batum, Buddy Hield, Paul Reed and Cam Payne combined to put up just seven total bench points, compared to 42 from the Knicks. That’s where Game 1 was lost, and they’re going to have to step up if the Sixers are going to make this a series. – Colin Ward-Henninger

Winner: Anthony Edwards

Edwards dipped his toe into the postseason waters last season, and the results were mixed. He started slow, practically disappearing in a Play-In loss to the Lakers before exploding in a first-round defeat against the Nuggets. This time around, he plans to dive into the playoff pool completely, and he did so emphatically in Saturday’s Game 1 win over the Phoenix Suns.

The third quarter belonged completely and utterly to Edwards. His 18 points were impressive enough on their own, but it was the manner in which they came that were so impressive. These weren’t easy layups created by teammates. He just beat Phoenix off the dribble again and again and again and again. The quarter ended emphatically with Edwards drilling a step-back 3-pointer in Kevin Durant’s face, as if to say “I’m the best player in this series.” Minnesota doesn’t just need All-Star Edwards to go on a deep playoff run. They need future MVP Edwards. He more than delivered on Saturday. – Sam Quinn

Loser: Frank Vogel

Remember the old adage “you can’t fire the players?” Well, who’s going to get blamed if the Suns lose in the first round? It won’t be the players that make up their exorbitantly expensive roster. Even in his first season in Phoenix, Frank Vogel is coaching under pressure. Mat Ishbia has been so aggressive as owner of the Suns that he’d likely make changes somewhere with such an early exit, and Vogel is the easiest target.

Chris Finch out-coached him badly in Game 1. The Timberwolves came out with a game-plan that was eerily reminiscent of the approach Houston used to take against Kevin Durant when he played for the Golden State Warriors. By putting an apparent mismatch on him in Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves successfully baited Durant into taking a ton of mid-range shots. He made them, but their best perimeter defenders (Jaden McDaniels, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Anthony Edwards) could then stifle Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, taking away easy points from deep and near the basket. The Suns were outscored significantly from the paint and on 3-pointers during the competitive portion of the game.

The series is young. Vogel has time to make adjustments that will get Booker and Beal going and diversify the offense a bit. But Chris Finch threw the first punch, and now the Suns are three losses away from elimination. – Sam Quinn

Winner: Klay Thompson

The Orlando Magic shot 8-of-37 from 3-point range in Game 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. I promise, it looked worse than the numbers suggest. Orlando didn’t make a single 3-pointer in the second quarter. Paolo Banchero committed nine turnovers because he had no space to drive. The Magic are a great defensive team. They badly need another shooter.

That’s good news for Klay Thompson, their reported target in free agency this summer, who is coming off of a game that likely hurt his value a bit. Thompson was held scoreless as the Sacramento Kings eliminated the Warriors in the Play-In round. The Warriors reportedly offered him only $48 million over two years before the season, a major pay cut from his current max contract. But if Orlando keeps shooting like this? They’ll have no choice but to back up the Brinks Truck for Golden State’s aging sharpshooter. – Sam Quinn

Loser: The basketball gods

Remember when the Cavaliers were playing the Hornets on the final day of the regular season and decided to make some… interesting lineup choices? Well, they wanted to avoid the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, where they would meet either the Philadelphia 76ers or Miami Heat. So they put in all of their end-of-bench players against Charlotte hoping to lose so they could fall to No. 4 and face the Magic at No. 5. This was met with the typical round of “oh, the basketball gods won’t like that” reprimands.

But after one game… it doesn’t seem like the basketball gods mind all that much. Orlando has a very promising future. It seems hard to believe that the Magic will be able to score enough to win a playoff series in 2024. Strategically, the Cavaliers made the decision that gave them the best chance of winning their first-round series. The Game 1 result suggests they made a good call. Thus far, they have not been punished by the basketball gods for intentionally losing a game. Of course, if you’re a Cavs fan, you might want to go knock on some wood just to be safe. – Sam Quinn

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