Wednesday night featured two close-out opportunities, one in the east and one in the West. We also got some injury updates on a few stars that will have major implications on Thursday’s matchups. We’ll start with the injury updates this week and then we’ll head into the two games of the night between Milwaukee and Chicago in the East and Golden State and Denver in the West.
Devin Booker making Progress
The biggest news of the night dropped about 45 minutes prior to tip-off of the Bucks-Bulls game in the east, and it had nothing to do with Wednesday’s games. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Phoenix Suns’ All-Star Devin Booker (right hamstring strain) is progressing towards a return to the lineup. This return could come as early as Thursday’s Game 6, or Saturday’s Game 7 should the Suns lose in New Orleans. Booker injured the hamstring in Game 2 on April 19th, and he was originally expected to miss 2-3 weeks. According to Woj, Booker has made “significant progress” in recent days, and he was even able to participate in some light shooting during Wednesday’s practice session.
Booker is currently listed as “out” for Game 6, but as the day goes by on Thursday, his status could be adjusted if he begins to feel better. Whenever Booker does get back on the court, there is an expectation that it would be in limited minutes in an effort to ease him back into things. Follow along with our coverage on Thursday as we continue to track this situation.
Donovan Mitchell good to go for Game 6 Thursday
Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (bruised quad) said that he will play in Thursday’s win-or-go-home game against the Mavericks. Mitchell injured the hamstring late in Game 5 and limped off the court before spending the final few minutes on the sideline. He received an MRI, that came back clean, but it revealed that he had some bruising in both of his legs, not just the left one that he aggravated on Tuesday. Spida was a full participant in Utah’s practice on Wednesday, though reports say that it wasn’t a full practice, meaning that it was likely non-contact. Thursday is an elimination game, so Mitchell will surely be looking to leave it all on the floor to extend their season to a potential Game 7.
Milwaukee 116 Chicago 100, Bucks win series 4-1.
The Bulls entered this one extremely shorthanded as they were without Zach LaVine (health and safety protocols) and Alex Caruso (concussion protocols) for Thursday’s Game 5. They have also been without Lonzo Ball (knee surgery) since January, so needless to say, the Bulls were going to need a miracle to extend their season past Wednesday night. Billy Donovan elected to move Ayo Dosunmu and Javonte Green into the starting lineup in place of LaVine and Caruso, but neither of the two made a real impact on the offensive side of the ball. Dosunmu played 22 minutes and shot 3-of-11 from the floor (1-of-4 3-pointers) and grabbed three rebounds with one assist and no turnovers. Green played 27 minutes and shot 1-of-8 from the floor (0-of-5 3-pointers) with two rebounds, two assists, and a career-high seven steals with four turnovers. The seven steals were the most in the Bulls’ franchise playoff history, passing Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Horace Grant, who all had six apiece.
With LaVine out, the Bucks focused all their defensive attention on DeMar DeRozan, sending doubles and different looks at him all night long. He finished with just 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the floor (1-of-2 free throws) with seven assists, two rebounds, three steals, and two turnovers in 43 minutes. He should have had ay more than seven turnovers, but his teammates were missing shots on his kick-outs left and right, as Chicago shot 15-of-52 from the three-point line on the evening, Nikola Vucevic had a good night, scoring 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting (3-of-9 3-pointers) and grabbing 16 rebounds with six assists and two blocks in 37 minutes. Patrick Williams added 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting (4-of-7 3-pointers) to go with one rebound, one block, and four turnovers in 35 minutes.
This concludes a roller coaster of a season for Chicago that had its highs, lows, injuries, and a lot of questions as they now head into the offseason. LaVine is expected to undergo surgery on his left knee after the season, and the Bulls will likely offer him a max contract as well, as he is set to become a free agent this summer.
For Milwaukee, they also were shorthanded coming into this one as they were without their all-star forward Khris Middleton for the third-straight game on Wednesday night. They haven’t missed a beat though, as they picked up their third-straight win to close out the Bulls in Game 5 in Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting (11-of-14 free throws) to go with nine rebounds, three assists, and two turnovers in 30 minutes. Bobby Portis tallied a double-double, scoring 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting (2-of-7 3-pointers) to go with 17 rebounds, one assist, and three turnovers in 32 minutes. Lastly, Pat Connaughton came off the bench and chipped in 20 points with six triples, two rebounds, and one assist in 23 minutes. He shot 7-of-11 from the floor and 6-of-9 from three with just one turnover in the win.
Next up for the Bucks will be a date with Boston. Game 1 is set for Sunday afternoon, and the expectation is that Middleton will remain out for the start of this series at a minimum, so buckle up and prepare for what will surely be an outstanding series.
Golden State 102 Denver 98, Warriors win series 4-1
We finally got to see that death lineup that the Warriors have played with at times this series, in the starting lineup together; Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Draymond Green. Entering Wednesday, this lineup had played a total of 32 minutes together, and was a +26 in those minutes. This included +29 at home, where they were on Wednesday, looking to close out their first-round series.. For Curry, this was his first time in the starting lineup since injuring his ankle against the Celtics back on March 12th. Chef Curry was awesome in this one, scoring 30 points on 10-of-22 shooting (5-of-11 3-pointers) to go with five rebounds, five assists, and two steals with five turnovers in 40 minutes. This game was close late, and Gary Payton II came off the bench and provided a great spark to push the Warriors over the top. Payton II scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting (3-of-3 3-pointers) with three rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block in 26 minutes. The Warriors will now await the winner of the Grizzlies and Timberwolves series to see who they will meet in the second round.
For Denver, their frontcourt of Nikola Jokic and DeMarcus Cousins came up big and nearly dragged the Nuggets to a win to extend their season. Jokic put up one of his video-game-like stat lines, scoring 30 points and grabbing 19 rebounds with eight assists, two blocks, one steal, and six turnovers in 32 minutes. He was dealing with some discomfort in his hamstring as well as some foul trouble, so his minutes were down in this one, but he got some help in the paint in this one. Cousins added 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting (2-of-3 3-pointers) to go with four rebounds, one steal, and one turnover in just 15 minutes. The 19 points were a playoff career-high for Boogie, which sounds surprising, but it indeed is true.
The future in Denver is looking bright as they are expected to get Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. back for the start of next season along with Jokic, who sounds like is going to win his second-straight MVP award this season. Denver will be a force to be reckoned with as long as they can stay healthy, and Murray and Jokic will both be hot commodities on draft day for fantasy managers next season.