While the hoops world braced itself for a unique 2020 NBA playoffs, no one could have predicted this start.
For only the second time in league history, both No. 8 seeds opened their respective series with upset victories over the No. 1 seeds. On Wednesday night, the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks also evened up their first-round tussle with the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers at one win apiece, so perhaps 2020 will be the year of the upsets (and many, many other things).
With both 8-1 matchups part of Thursday's four-game slate, we'll soon discover whether the chaos will continue or if order will be restored. After updating the postseason bracket and running through key playoff dates, we'll preview Thursday's action below.
2020 NBA Playoff Bracket Guide
No. 8 Orlando Magic lead No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks 1-0
No. 5 Miami Heat lead No. 4 Indiana Pacers 1-0
No. 3 Boston Celtics lead No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers 2-0
No. 2 Toronto Raptors lead No. 7 Brooklyn Nets 2-0
No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers lead No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers 1-0
No. 4 Houston Rockets lead No. 5 Oklahoma City Thunder 1-0
No. 3 Denver Nuggets and No. 6 Utah Jazz tied 1-1
No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers and No. 7 Dallas Mavericks tied 1-1
Key Postseason Dates
August 31: Conference semifinals begin
September 15: Conference finals begin
September 30: NBA Finals begin
October 13: Latest possible date for NBA Finals
Thursday, Aug. 20 Schedule and Preview
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
Indiana entered the postseason without its lone All-Star Domantas Sabonis, who remains outside the bubble while receiving treatment for plantar fasciitis. Then, the Pacers lost two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo to a first-quarter eye injury during their 113-101 Game 1 loss to the Heat on Tuesday.
Initial testing on Oladipo's ailment revealed "no immediate concerns," leaving the 2 guard listed as day-to-day.
The Pacers almost assuredly need Oladipo healthy and productive to get back in this series. Indiana dropped both the second and fourth quarters by double-digit margins, as Miami pulled away late to cruise to a relatively comfortable win.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets: 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
While the Rockets-Thunder series seemed a must-watch on paper, it hardly looked that way on Tuesday. Houston came out throwing fire balls, building an eight-point advantage after the first quarter and taking a 16-point lead into intermission.
The final tally saw the Rockets roll to a more-lopsided-than-it-sounds 123-108 victory. Houston led by as many as 23 points and never trailed after the first quarter. James Harden led all scorers with 37 points, while Eric Gordon topped 20 points for the first time since late January.
Containing Harden is OKC's biggest key for Game 2—especially if Russell Westbrook remains sidelined with a strained right quadriceps—but the Thunder also need to do a better job of handling the Rockets' zone defense.
"We're going to figure it out," Chris Paul told reporters. "It's a different team. You play the whole season a certain way and then you've got a team that switches everything. It's Game 1. We've got to figure it out."
Orlando Magic vs. Milwaukee Bucks: 6 p.m. ET on ESPN
Orlando scored by far the most shocking upset in Game 1, building a 10-point lead in the first quarter and maintaining it throughout its 122-110 victory.
The Bucks, who posted the NBA's best win total for the second straight season, looked out of sorts throughout the contest. Despite 31 points and 17 rebounds from reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the offense could never get in gear. All-Star Khris Middleton shot just 4-of-12 from the field, while starting center Brook Lopez managed just five points on nine shots and misfired on all four of his three-point attempts.
"There's no magic wand to point and things are going to change," Antetokounmpo said. "You've got to come out, play hard, play even harder, play together and have fun."
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
Portland's 100-93 win over L.A. was less shocking to some—chiefly, Charles Barkley, who views the Blazers as an NBA Finals team—but it was still a sight to behold.
Portland built a 16-point lead in the opening frame, then went down by as many as six points in the fourth quarter, before recovering to claim a seven-point victory. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the victory is that it didn't involve a blistering offensive effort by the Blazers, who shot just 39.2 percent from the field, but instead saw them bottle up the Lakers' attack.
LeBron James did what he could for the Purple and Gold (23 points, 17 rebounds and 16 assists), but his supporting cast couldn't throw one in the Atlantic Ocean. The Lakers posted a grisly 35.1/15.6/64.5 shooting slash, continuing the offensive struggles that plagued them during the seeding round.
"We realized that we missed 11 free throws," JaVale McGee told reporters. "We didn't make a lot of threes. I think our percentages of shots that we usually shoot wide open were extremely down. Not even a hot day, one of the days where we're just shooting our regular percentages, we would hit those shots."
The Lakers don't have much time to find their rhythm. If they keep throwing up clunkers, it will be interesting to see if James takes a more aggressive approach to finding his own shots. He didn't have the most efficient opener (9-of-20 from the field, 1-of-5 from deep), but the Blazers don't have a great defensive answer for him.