One game is in the books for each of the NBA’s eight first-round playoff series, and already there are plenty of storylines of interest.

Here are some of the top ones from the opening weekend of 2021 playoff basketball.

The Jazz got punched in the mouth

The first game of a series is all about which team can set the tone. The Memphis Grizzlies certainly did that to the Utah Jazz in just about every possible way Sunday night in their Game 1 victory.

The Grizzlies established physicality and showed willingness to hustle on 50-50 balls. Combine that with their existing strength of getting deflections and the Jazz’s awful shooting and turnovers, and it was a recipe for disaster for top-seeded Utah.

Now, a couple of things moving forward: Most notably, the Jazz probably aren’t going to miss more than 74% of their 3-pointers in a game again this series. They’ve shown to be a great shooting team, and even Sunday night, a short hot stretch in the fourth quarter was almost enough to dig them out of what had been a mostly rough night. It still feels like they’ll win the series with relative ease.

Decision to sit Donovan Mitchell for Game 1 against Grizzlies came after Sunday shootaround
Derrick Favors was the lone bright spot in the Jazz’s Game 1 loss to the Grizzlies

That said, if Memphis can continue to win the battle of wills like it did Sunday, things could start looking legitimately scary for the Jazz.

Alec Burks was cooking for the Knicks

The return of playoff basketball to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the first time since 2013 was quite the spectacle, and at the center of a great game between the Knicks and Atlanta Hawks was former Jazzman Alec Burks.

Burks, who last offseason signed a one-year, $6 million deal with New York, was sensational in the fourth quarter of a close game. On the afternoon, he scored a team-high 27 points, a whopping 18 coming in the fourth quarter, as the Knicks tried to hold off the Hawks (Atlanta won 107-105 on a game-winner from Trae Young with less than a second to play).

The 12th pick of the 2011 NBA draft by the Jazz, Burks never reached the potential many thought he had thanks in large part to injuries, but he has proven on a number of big occasions that he can get things going.

Chris Paul injury could have changed Suns-Lakers

The Phoenix Suns-Los Angeles Lakers series is probably the most interesting of the eight in the first round, but it almost got turned upside down in the second quarter of Game 1 on Sunday. With 9:19 on the clock and Phoenix up nine, Suns point guard Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury that appeared could have been quite serious.

It turned out not to be as Paul returned to the floor a short time later and the Suns ultimately won, but if he had been forced to miss any significant period of time at all, it certainly could have been catastrophic for Phoenix, as Paul is the team’s most important player.

Will Clippers-Mavericks be more fun that we thought?

Assuming the Jazz make it out of the first round, they’ll face the winner of the LA Clippers-Dallas Mavericks series. The general consensus is that the Clippers will win, but a curveball was thrown there in Game 1 on Saturday as the Mavericks won 113-103. Yes, Luka Doncic was his typical self with a triple-double, but Dallas’ supporting cast was great, as four others finished in double figures.

It would almost certainly be preferable for the Jazz if they could meet the Mavericks instead of the Clippers in the second round. The thing is, it’s probably dangerous to rely on a team’s supporting cast again and again to get you there, and it’s hard to imagine that Dallas’ players around Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis can repeatedly play as well as they did on Saturday.

Odds and ends

  • As the playoff bracket was finalized, it appeared the 3-6 matchup in the West between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers could be the most fun series in the conference. The lower-seeded Blazers took Game 1 Saturday with a 14-point win. Can Denver respond in Game 2 Monday before the series shifts to Portland?
  • The 3-6 matchup in the East between the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat was thought to be the best matchup in that conference, too, and Game 1 Saturday certainly delivered, as Khris Middleton sank a jumper in overtime to give the Bucks the win. Expect more fun there.
  • The 1-8 series in the East between the Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards, as well as the 2-7 matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics, were expected to not be all that great. Both Game 1s were actually pretty spicy for a while before the higher-seeded teams took control.