Blazers seek tie vs Pelicans, Raptors aim for rare 2-0 lead
By BRIAN MAHONEY
The Portland Trail Blazers fought their way through a pressure-packed playoff race to earn home-court advantage in a series, then lost it in one game.
The Toronto Raptors know that problem all too well, so they want to take advantage of playing from ahead for a change.
They try for their first 2-0 playoff series lead ever Tuesday night against Washington, while the Trail Blazers try to even things up in against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Boston and Milwaukee play the other Game 2 on Tuesday after the Celtics pulled out a 113-107 overtime victory on Sunday.
The No. 3 Trail Blazers were the highest-seeded team to lose so far, falling 97-95 on Saturday. Anthony Davis was dominant, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were slow-starting, and the Pelicans got a couple big defensive plays down the stretch from Jrue Holiday to hold on after the Blazers nearly came back from a 19-point deficit.
"I think it puts some pressure on us," Lillard said. "You know, you come in with home court, the first two games on your floor and you lose the first one, and now they're saying in their locker room we got one, why not go get another one. And our job is to defend the home court.
"We've got to tighten up, come back sharper, and take care of home floor."
Toronto had lost Game 1 at home all six times it had home-court advantage in a series, part of an overall 10-game losing streak in series openers, before beating Washington 114-106 dropped on Saturday. Finally, the Raptors could enjoy the start of postseason play.
"And for me, this year is finally a year I can be happy watching other games and not be like `Damn, I lost Game 1,'" point guard Kyle Lowry said.
Some things to know about Tuesday's matchups:
WIZARDS AT RAPTORS
Toronto leads 1-0. Game 2, 7 P.M., NBA TV.
NEED TO KNOW: Toronto's only other 1-0 series lead was in the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals against Philadelphia, which won Game 2 and ultimately the series in seven games.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The 3-point line. The Raptors made a franchise-record 16 in the opener, twice as many as Washington for a 24-point advantage behind the arc.
INJURY UPDATE: Raptors reserve Fred VanVleet (right shoulder) went through most of practice Monday after missing the opener but remains day to day. Lowry was fighting a cold but joked he was "out tanning" Sunday during an ice storm.
PRESSURE IS ON: Washington's bench. The Wizards' reserves probably aren't going to win the battle against Toronto's highly productive second unit, but need to produce something more after getting next to nothing beyond Mike Scott's 14 points in the opener.
BUCKS AT CELTICS
Boston leads 1-0. Game 2, 8 P.M., TNT.
NEED TO KNOW: Giannis Antetokounmpo has scored 20 or more points in eight straight games against the Celtics after scoring 35 before fouling out in overtime of the opener.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Boston's balance. With Al Horford (24 points), Terry Rozier (23), Marcus Morris (21) and Jaylen Brown (20), the Celtics had four 20-point scorers in a playoff game for the first time since Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Reggie Lewis and Brian Shaw did it in a 1991 game. Throw in Jayson Tatum's 19 points, and the Bucks let too many players get hot in Game 1.
INJURY UPDATE: Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Marcus Smart is getting some shots up and working on lower body and conditioning as much as he can, but has been told by the training staff that April 27 is the earliest the guard could begin basketball activity.
"We're still a ways away from that and a lot of games away from that," Stevens said.
PRESSURE IS ON: Eric Bledsoe. Milwaukee needs more from its starting guard who had more combined fouls (6) and turnovers (5) than points (9) in a bit of a Game 1 dud.
PELICANS AT TRAIL BLAZERS
New Orleans leads 1-0. Game 2, 10:30 P.M., TNT.
NEED TO KNOW: Anthony Davis had 35 points in the opener and has scored 25 or more in his first five postseason games. He can tie LeBron James for the second-longest streak to begin a career, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 14 straight, according to Elias.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Rajon Rondo. A 17-assist, eight-rebound opener was another reminder of how much the Pelicans' point guard can elevate his game in the postseason.
INJURY UPDATE: Portland's Maurice Harkless is nearing a return from late-season left knee surgery, but may not be available until later in the series.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Blazers' backcourt. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined to shoot just 13 for 41, and their three combined points on 1-for-15 shooting in the first half doomed Portland to a big hole from which it could not recover.
AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower in Boston and freelance writer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
Updated April 16, 2018