Heat look good in Game 1 playoff win vs Bucks

The Heat were impressive yesterday, taking a 1-0 series lead against a Bucks squad that was missing starting guard Eric Bledsoe but was otherwise at relatively full strength. Here’s the Miami Herald reporting:

Even before the start of the Miami Heat’s playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks, it had already become a popular take.

The Heat matches up well against the Bucks.

Top-seeded Milwaukee did little to disprove that thinking in an 11-point loss to fifth-seeded Miami on Monday in Game 1 of their second-round series. The Heat is the first team to defeat the Bucks three times this season, as Miami also posted a 2-1 record against Milwaukee in the regular season.

The Heat is one of the most efficient three-point shooting teams in the NBA and the Bucks’ defense allowed the most three-point attempts in the league in the regular season. That’s certainly part of Miami’s perceived matchup advantage, with Game 2 of their best-of-7 series set for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.

The Bucks rely so heavily on production from Giannis Antetokounmpo that any team that can limit him even a little has a shot to win.

And while Giannis did put up 10 points and nine assists in Game 1, he scored a modest 18 points, and also committed six turnovers. While in the win for the Heat, Jimmy Butler was stellar, scoring 40.

Bledsoe’s status for Game 2 is not yet known.

Jamal Murray shines as Nuggets win Game 5 vs Jazz

While Nuggets center Nikola Jokic scored big, guard Jamal Murray went wild dropping serious buckets Tuesday. Here’s the Denver Post reporting:

With the Nuggets facing elimination from the playoffs and trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half, Murray ripped Game 5 away from Utah’s grips and ensured Denver could fight another day. The Nuggets’ 117-107 white-knuckle win guaranteed, at least, a Game 6 on Thursday, with Utah holding a 3-2 lead.

As his late 3-pointer rattled home, giving the Nuggets a 108-101 lead with 2:00 remaining, there was no hiding Murray’s smile. As this series has proved, Murray thrives as the tension mounts. His monumental 42-point masterpiece saved the Nuggets’ season…

Nikola Jokic added 31 points, six rebounds and four assists, his selfless nature more than willing to cede the spotlight to his counterpart. Neither Nuggets cornerstone rested during the second half.

Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 30 points, but the Nuggets may have finally found the answer to Utah’s offensive riddle. The Jazz managed only 44 points in the second half.

In addition to his scoring, Murray contributed eight rebounds, eight assists and no turnovers. A fantastic performance.

Mitchell has been incredible for the Jazz all series. Through five games he’s averaging 37.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game, on 54% FG shooting and 53% from three-point range.

Clippers beat Mavericks 130-122, take 2-1 playoff series lead

On Friday, the Clippers beat the Mavericks 130-122 to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series. Below are Mavs team notes on the loss:

Luka Doncic recorded 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, making him the first player in franchise history to record a triple-double in the playoffs.

Doncic (21 years, 175 days) becomes the third-youngest player ever to record a triple-double in the playoffs (Magic Johnson, LeBron James). The sophomore guard left the game with a left ankle sprain midway through the fourth quarter.

Kristaps Porzingis finished tonight’s game with 34 points and 13 rebounds. Porzingis becomes the first player to record 30+ points and 10+ rebounds for Dallas in a playoff game since Dirk Nowitzki (34p-11r) in Game 3 of the 2011 NBA Finals.

Seth Curry came off the bench and scored a playoff career-high 22 points to go with 3 assists. Curry shot 9-11 from the floor and a perfect 4-4 from beyond the arc. Curry’s previous high was 16, a mark he hit twice in the 2019 playoffs with Portland.

Tim Hardaway Jr. also scored a playoff career-high 22 points to go with 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Hardaway Jr.’s previous high was 19 points, set with Atlanta (at Washington, 4/19/17).

Dorian Finney-Smith finished with 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, all of which were career playoff highs.

Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 37 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists tonight. The veteran is 3rd in the Playoffs thus far with 33.3 points per game, trailing only Utah’s Donovan Mitchell (35.7) and Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic (33.5).

The Clippers saw seven players score in double figures tonight. Joining Leonard was Landry Shamet (18), Ivica Zubac (15), Marcus Morris Sr. (14), Montrezl Harrell (13), Paul George (11) and Lou Williams (10).

Sixers look bad in Game 2 loss to Celtics

On Wednesday, the Celtics put up a convincing 128-101 Game 2 win against the Sixers to take a 2-0 first round playoff series lead.

NBC Sports Philly:

The Sixers were up against the odds heading into their first round matchup against the Celtics. No Ben Simmons, a team that failed to gel all year long, and tough recent postseason history against the Celtics? Not ideal.

But no one could’ve predicted the absolutely listless effort they put forth on Wednesday night in the second game of the series.

After taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter, the Sixers were outscored by 29 points in the second and third quarters combined, and looked more like a lottery team than a playoff participant. The Celtics got whatever they wanted, and the Sixers looked helpless.

In the win for the Celtics, Jayson Tatum hit 8-of-12 from three-point range in finishing with 33 points, five rebounds and five assists. Kemba Walker scored 22 points. Jaylen Brown added 20, plus five rebounds.

For the Sixers, Joel Embiid put up 34 points and 10 rebounds. Josh Richardson scored 18. Tobias Harris grabbed 11 rebounds, but shot just 4-of-15 for 13 points.

Al Horford, coming off the bench, was not a factor.

A huge difference was three-point shooting. The Celtics hit 19-of-32, while the Sixers only hit 5-of-21.

Philly is without Ben Simmons, while Boston is missing Gordon Hayward.

Raptors beat Nuggets as starters focus on rest

The regular season “seeding play” portion of the NBA restart is wrapping up, with the playoffs starting Monday. Here’s the Denver Post on today’s Nuggets game:

For seeding purposes, Friday’s game between the Nuggets and Raptors was meaningless, and both teams would treat it as such. The Nuggets’ playoff quest begins Monday vs. Utah, and they would do nothing to jeopardize the availability of the team’s regulars.

On the bus ride to the arena, Denver’s coaching staff got word Toronto planned to rest several of its starters, including Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam. The Nuggets acted accordingly, limiting starters Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to just 10 minutes each.

The Raptors hung on against most of Denver’s reserves, winning the final game of the regular season, 117-109. The Nuggets finished the regular season 46-27, content to cede minutes to reserves Monte Morris, P.J. Dozier and Troy Daniels.

In the win for the Raptors, Stanley Johnson came off the bench to put up 23 points, four rebounds and six assists, while Paul Watson, also off the bench, had 22 points and six rebounds.

In the loss for the Nuggets, PJ Dozier off the bench had 20 points, five rebounds, eight assists and two steals.

Phoenix Suns now 6-0 in Disney NBA Restart Bubble

The final Western conference playoff spot is still in play, with multiple teams chasing it. One of those squads, the Suns, had been playing a very unspectacular NBA regular season, but then showed up to Disney Wide World of Sports for the NBA restart and decided they’re actually as good as any team in the league. Here’s the Arizona Republic reporting:

Oklahoma City led by 15 points early, but the Suns surged back to remain undefeated in seeding games, winning, 128-101, Monday at The Field House in the Orlando Bubble.

Phoenix is now 6-0 in seeding games in the NBA restart.

All-Star Devin Booker scored 35 points in three quarters to tie Walter Davis for most 30-point games in Suns history with 90 as the Suns (32-39) are now a game behind Memphis (8th place) and just a half game behind ninth-place Portland.

Ayton didn’t get the start as he missed Sunday’s COVID-19 testing window…

The Suns (32-39) led by as many as 29 in winning their sixth consecutive game, the longest winning streak since the 2014-15 season.

No matter what happens this week in regard to the West’s final postseason spot, the Suns have to be proud of their play in this restart. And Suns fans have every reason to be legitimately excited about the team’s prospects heading into next season.

Pacers fall to red-hot Suns, who have won four straight games

The Suns are hot. And not just because their team name is “the Suns.” And not because they’re in Florida in the summertime. But because they’re winning a lot lately. Here’s the Indianapolis Star reporting on Pacers play today in the Disney NBA bubble:

[The Indiana Pacers are] 3-1 and were held well under their 119.3 scoring average in their first three games, 114-99.

T.J. Warren (16 points, 11 rebounds) couldn’t keep up his torrid scoring pace against the team that traded him to Indiana last summer for cash considerations. He missed his first 4 shots and then went 6-for-8 before foul trouble cooled him off in the third quarter. He had been averaging 39+ points per game in the “bubble.”

Devin Booker (20 points, 10 assists) and DeAndre Ayton (23 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks) were the primary threats, though the Pacers took a 75-72 lead on Justin Holiday’s 3. Cameron Payne (15 points) did them in during a 21-0 run.

It wasted a strong effort from Malcolm Brogdon (game-high 25 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) for Indiana.

In the win for the Suns, center Deandre Ayton had 23 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, Devin Booker had 20 points and 10 assists, Dario Saric had 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench, Cameron Payne scored 15 off the bench, and starting forward Cameron Johnson had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

With Jimmy Butler out, Heat fall to Bucks

Playing without Jimmy Butler and getting outscored by 20 points in the 4th against a team like the Bucks is a pretty solid recipe for losing a basketball game. And that’s what the Heat did, falling 130-116 to a Bucks team that has now clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern conference. Here’s the Miami Herald reporting on Butler but also guard Goran Dragic, who missed the game as well:

Butler has now missed two consecutive games. Coach Erik Spoelstra said prior to Thursday’s game there has already been an X-ray and MRI done on Butler’s injured foot, and “at this point, it’s rest and recovery.”

“Jimmy, his foot is sore,” Spoelstra said. “We want to make sure that he’s feeling like he did even a week ago.”

Meanwhile, Dragic limped off the court with 5.2 seconds to play in Tuesday’s victory over the Boston Celtics after landing awkwardly on his left ankle. The Heat announced later that night that an X-ray on his injured ankle returned negative.

“Goran, obviously you saw at the end of the game with a sprained ankle,” Spoelstra said Thursday. “Moving around a lot better, had a really good day yesterday and today of treatment.”

In the win for the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 33 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, though he did commit six turnovers. Khris Middleton also scored 33 points, plus six rebounds and an impressive eight assists. While Brook Lopez added 17 points.

In the loss for the Heat, Duncan Robinson shot well for 21 points, as did Tyler Herro who had 20 off the bench.

Jazz show life but fall to Lakers, 116-108

Monday night on national TV, the Jazz faced the Lakers, and hung around, but Anthony Davis’ dominance was too much to handle. Here’s the Deseret News reporting:

For exactly 30 minutes on Monday night against the Los Angeles Lakers at Disney World, the Utah Jazz looked like a completely different team from the one that was altogether befuddled in a 16-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder last Saturday.

The new week brought a new Jazz squad, as they were aggressive in getting into the lane, moving the ball and they caught some fire from distance in the second quarter after an 0-for-9 start in the first.

But then suddenly at the midway point of the third quarter, the wheels came off. Up by four at 71-67, Utah surrendered a 14-0 run in less than five minutes, and the new double-digit deficit was too much to overcome in an eventual 116-108 loss.

The defeat moved the Jazz to 42-25 overall on the season and 1-2 during the NBA’s restart in Orlando.

And the Salt Lake Tribune:

What are the Jazz playing for here, exactly?

After tonight’s loss, they’re now in fifth, half a game below the Houston Rockets for the four seed. That means they’d play the Rockets again in the playoffs in the first round, if things started today.

Normally, you’d say that they’re playing for home court positioning. But everyone’s playing in Orlando this year, and I have a hard time believing that the virtual fans are making the Jazz play better or worse. Sorry, virtual fans. The Jazz’s home-court advantage is usually one of the best — if not the best — in the NBA, but it simply won’t matter this year.

So given that, the only reason the Jazz are playing right now is to

A) avoid the seventh seed, which would mean playing the Clippers in the first round

B) figure things out so that they can play well in the playoffs while staying healthy

C) find the best matchup they can in the first round and throughout the playoffs

And the OC Register:

The Lakers (51-15) are a better team when Davis is a focal point. And while LeBron James (22 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists) got in on the action, particularly in the fourth quarter, it was no coincidence that Davis’ most assertive game so far in the restart was also the Lakers’ most convincing win.

The added emphasis on getting Davis rolling early was part coaching script, part teammates feeding him, and part Davis himself, feeling unsatisfied after his 14-point effort two nights before.

“I have to play better basketball than I did to help the team win,” Davis said. “Even though I was making the right plays, I still have to be aggressive. I didn’t like the way I performed. … So it was a collective effort to come out more aggressive.”

In the win for the Lakers, Davis shot 13/28 for 42 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals, while LeBron James shot 9/16 for 22 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and two steals.

In the loss, Donovan Mitchell shot 9/22 plus 11/12 free throws for 33 points, while Mike Conley hit 8/17 shots for 24 points and eight assists. But 21 turnovers and just 10 combined points from their starting forwards made it tough for Utah.

Rockets break losing streak, beat Timberwolves

The Rockets have racked up losses lately. But the Timberwolves are in a state of rebuild, and do have D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns, but with KAT out of action, Houston suddenly remembered how to win again. Here’s the Houston Chronicle:

Facing a team with the third-worst record in the NBA and playing without star Karl-Anthony Towns, the Rockets had seemed heading to another inexplicable defeat, trailing by 10 late in the third quarter. When they finally got on the sort of roll they could not find for a week, the Rockets built a 13-point lead and finished off the Timberwolves, 117-111, Tuesday at Toyota Center.

It might have been much more difficult than they would have liked. But by the fourth quarter, much of the formula was back in place. Harden finished with 37 points, making 5 of 10 3s (including a heave from the backcourt he missed.) Russell Westbrook had 27, driving to fourth-quarter slams.

When the Timberwolves were within six, Eric Gordon, who had missed his first six 3-pointers in his first game back from a sore knee, nailed consecutive 3s to take the lead back to a safe double-digits.

The Rockets continue to play extreme “small-ball,” starting 6-foot-7, 209-pound Robert Covington and 6-foot-5, 245-pound forward P.J. Tucker at their big-man spots.