Aussies open NBA playoffs with wins
Aussies open NBA playoffs with wins

A year ago Thon Maker was a high school student sitting courtside at a Toronto Raptors NBA game marvelling at the players and spectacle before him.

On Saturday, the Australian 20-year-old rookie was back at the Air Canada Centre, but instead of being a spectator he was starring on the court as his upstart Milwaukee Bucks punished the Raptors 97-83 to take game one of their first round playoff series.

It was a big day for Australians with Joe Ingles and Dante Exum's Utah Jazz winning a thriller and Patty Mills' San Antonio Spurs also successful in their opening playoff games.

The Sudanese-born Maker, who stands 216cm tall and came to Australia as a child refugee, started for the Bucks and was an intimidating force fighting for rebounds and menacing Raptors' shooters around the basket.

Maker had four points, three rebounds and three athletic blocks in 15 minutes on the court.

"It's such a weird feeling," Maker, who spent his final high school year at Canada's Athlete Institute and has been mentored by NBA great Kevin Garnett, told reporters.

"A year ago I was in high school watching the Raptors play and now I'm here playing in the playoffs.

"I remember one of the refs came to sideline and said 'Hey, when are you going to get here?' and I said soon, soon'."

Maker's Australian teammate Matthew Dellavedova scored 11 points off the bench, including a key three-pointer in the third quarter that launched the Bucks on their winning run.

Ingles played a key role in the Jazz's upset 97-95 win over the Los Angeles Clippers with eight points from 32 minutes on the court.

Ingles started and played the final tense minutes when the Clippers almost clawed their way back from a seven-point deficit, but veteran Joe Johnson scored the winning basket for the Jazz with a driving floating jump shot at the buzzer.

Utah's victory at LA's Staples Centre on Saturday came despite losing their star centre Rudy Gobert with a left knee sprain just 17 seconds into the game.

The Jazz's other Australian, Dante Exum, was left on the bench for the entire game.

Mills' Spurs also had a strong opening to the post season thrashing the Memphis Grizzlies 111-82 at home on Saturday to take the first game in their best-of-seven series.

Mills was perfect from distance, hitting all three point attempts for his nine points and three assists.

The Spurs' NBA MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard had 32 points.

LeBron James' defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers survived an upset loss in their playoff opener when Indiana Pacers' guard CJ Miles missed an open shot in the final seconds.

The Cavaliers held on 109-108, with James scoring 32 points, 13 assists and six rebounds and Kyrie Irving 23 points and a key steal and block in the final minutes.

Paul George led the way for Indiana with 29 points.


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