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The playoffs is when the stars shine brightest, and that held true on Sunday for the most part. We had two good games and two blowouts as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler helped their teams take control of their series, while Nikola Jokic kept Denver from elimination, and DeMar DeRozan, Trae Young, and Chris Paul were left looking for answers.
Bucks 119, Bulls 95 (Bucks lead series 3-1)
Giannis Antetokounmpo has done it all for the Bucks in this series. He’s averaging 27.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, and seven assists through the first four games. The Bulls don’t have an answer for him on either end, as he also has seven blocks so far this series. He had 32/17/7 in this one.
Jrue Holiday was more aggressive with his shot in this game, which allowed him to score over 20 points for the first time this series. He tied his playoff career-high with five triples. He continued his production in the assist and steal categories, which led to another huge win. Holiday now has a +/- of +50 over the two games in Chicago, with Milwaukee outscoring the Bulls by 54 in those games. Holiday’s defensive impact doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet, but it has shown up in the scoreboard in this series.
Grayson Allen recorded his career high in the playoffs again with 27 points, after scoring his playoff career high last game with 22. Allen has been incredible for Milwaukee over the past two games. With Khris Middleton out for at least the rest of the series, Allen has been exactly what the Bucks have needed on the offensive end. He’s scored 49 points with 11 triples over the two games in Chicago after only scoring three points over the first two games of the series. All while receiving his fair share of boos from the Chicago fans. There’s no reason to think he won’t keep this up.
Zach LaVine was dropping dimes everywhere in this game with a playoff career high of 13, one shy of his career high if you included the regular season. LaVine got off to a hot start with 12 points and four assists in the first quarter. His production slowed as the game went on, but he still posted some gaudy numbers. This was by far his best game this series, though he still hasn’t shot more than 20 shots in a game yet. With Chicago facing elimination in Game 5, it wouldn’t be shocking to see LaVine be extra aggressive in Milwaukee.
Patrick Williams started this game off poorly but ended up turning in a strong performance of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Despite the loss, it was an encouraging game for Williams, since he shot 0-for-9 in Game 3. He’s by no means a top scoring option on this team, but Williams hitting shots from deep opens up a lot for Chicago’s offense. Milwaukee was practically begging him to shoot in Game 3, and he made them pay in Game 4.
DeMar DeRozan was great in Game 2 and pretty bad in Games 1 and 3. Today should probably be considered a slightly below average performance, with a 23/5/3 line on 8-for-20 shooting. There's no denying that DeRozan can score 20 points against most teams in the league, but he didn't do much else from a statistical perspective. He's now 0-for-9 from deep in this series and is going to have to have a dominant performance in Game 5 for Chicago to stay alive in this series.
Alex Caruso was hit in the face late in the first half and is being evaluated for a concussion. Ayo Dosunmu started the second half in his place and should enter the starting lineup if Caruso misses any more time.
Nuggets 126, Warriors 121 (Warriors lead series 3-1)
Facing elimination, the Nuggets staved off the Warriors at home thanks to the Joker being up to his usual tricks while receiving help from the supporting cast.
Nikola Jokic finished with 37 points, 18 of which came in the first quarter. He added in eight rebounds, six assists, and three triples. He did turn it over seven times, but it’s hard to be perfect against this defense. He was the latest Draymond Green eye poke victim but played through it.
Monte Morris chose a good night to have his best game of the season. He scored 24 points, including the go-ahead floater with 34 seconds left. This is the second time he’s beaten the Warriors late this season. He hit a last-second triple back in February to bury Golden State just before the All-Star break. He added five assists and five triples.
Bones Hyland finished with 15 points, four rebounds, and seven assists off the bench. He hit three triples along with that, all of which came on three straight possessions and were from at least 30 feet out. He had the Denver crowd going crazy.
Even though Kevon Looney started the game, Golden State ran their StephCon5 lineup (credit @Jae_The_Truth via Twitter) for the majority of the game. Jordan Poole didn’t score at least 20 points for the first time in his playoff career. He finished with 11 points (3-of-10 FGs), nine assists, and three steals. We’ll see if Steve Kerr uses this down game to put Stephen Curry back in the starting unit.
Curry led the team in scoring with 33 points off the bench, including 15 in the fourth. He didn’t shoot great from deep (3-for-11), but he was able to add eight assists and four steals.
Klay Thompson had his best game of the series and was shooting the way he was as the regular season winded down. He had 32 points and seven triples despite being limited to 31 minutes because of foul trouble.
Draymond Green also dealt with foul trouble and ended up fouling out with about two minutes left in the game. Before that he had 13 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. The Warriors outscored Denver by 18 points during Draymond’s 34 minutes.
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Heat 110, Hawks 86 (Heat lead series 3-1)
Even with Kyle Lowry out with a hamstring injury, the Heat took care of business on the road. They took control in the second quarter and didn’t look back. They’ve set themselves up to close out the series at home. Jimmy Butler led the team with a 36/10/4/4/1 line on 12-for-21 shooting. Butler has been dominant this series, averaging 30.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.8 steals through four games.
Gabe Vincent started in place of Lowry, finishing with 11 points, four assists, and three triples in 27 minutes. If Lowry misses any more games, Vincent should continue to start.
Victor Oladipo didn’t shoot the ball well, but he did plenty of other things right to help the Heat win. He finished with six points on 3-of-10 shooting, but he added eight rebounds and four assists. He finished with a +/- of +28.
Bam Adebayo, P.J. Tucker, and Max Strus rounded out the starting lineup and all of them scored in double figures. Adebayo and Tucker grabbed eight rebounds, but Strus swiped the only defensive stat between the three of them.
Clint Capela’s return from a hyperextended knee wasn’t enough to propel the Hawks to victory. Capela played 21 minutes in his series debut, finishing with just two points and seven rebounds.
De’Andre Hunter was the only Hawk that played well. He scored a team-high 24 points, which was the most he’s scored in a game since early March. He shot 9-for-13 from the floor and 4-of-6 from deep.
There was another Hawk that played well. The second leading scorer was… Kevin Knox. He hit four 3-pointers in his four minutes, which came in garbage time. Yes, he was on pace to score 108 points on 36 triples if he played 36 minutes.
Nothing went well for the Hawks. Having Knox as your second leading scorer in just four minutes of playing time is not how you win in the playoffs. Trae Young shot 3-for-11 and had five assists to go with five turnovers. In this series, he has made 20 shots, has 24 assists, and has turned it over 24 times. That’s just not going to get the job done. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter combined to shoot 2-of-13. It was just a horrible game for Atlanta, but there’s no reason to think that they’ll fix things in Game 5 in Miami.
Pelicans 118, Suns 103 (Series tied 2-2)
Brandon Ingram scored at least 30 points for the third straight game to help guide the Pelicans to victory. BI finished with a 30/4/5 line but didn’t add much else from a fantasy perspective. Jonas Valanciunas added a 26/15 double-double. C.J. McCollum didn’t shoot great (8-of-21), but he did have 18 points and nine rebounds.
Herbert Jones had a monster game on both ends of the floor. He finished with a 13/2/3/2/3 line without turning the ball over in 35 minutes. His defense showed up in both the highlight reel and the stat sheet, which is a fantasy manager’s dream. Jose Alvarado’s defense didn’t really show up in many defensive stats (two steals), but he was a MENACE the entire game. One of those steals was late in the game to help seal the win. He forced an 8-second violation on Chris Paul. He simply made life difficult for one of the greatest point guards ever. His energy helped New Orleans play off the home crowd and even the series up. They have momentum heading back to Phoenix and took advantage of Devin Booker’s absence.
Even if it wasn’t enough to win, the Phoenix centers kept them in this game. Deandre Ayton led the team with 23 points on 11-for-14 shooting with eight rebounds. JaVale McGee had 14 points on 7-for-7 shooting in 13 minutes off the bench. They’re relied on for rebounds and didn’t really deliver, but they were able to shoot the ball very efficiently.
Chris Paul had 28 assists and no turnovers over the two previous games, but he was limited to 11 assists and three turnovers in this one. That would be considered excellent for everyone else in the league, but not for CP3. He also struggled shooting, finishing with four points on 2-for-8 shooting.
Cameron Johnson added in 12 points, while Jae Crowder finished with 11 points. Phoenix needs to regroup at home to avoid having to win in New Orleans to survive. Hopefully we’ll get some good news on Devin Booker’s hamstring soon.
Despite reports that Ben Simmons would make his season debut, he’ll remain out for Game 4 with continued soreness in his back. Whether it’s mental health or physical health that’s keeping him from playing, I hope he’s ready when he does come back. It may be Game 5. It may be next season. With the way the series is going, there may not be a Game 5.
The MRI came back on Joel Embiid’s thumb, and he does have a torn ligament in his right thumb. He’ll require surgery in the offseason, but it won’t keep him off the court this postseason. It may affect his production, considering it’s his shooting hand.