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The theme of playoff blowouts continued on Thursday night. Despite some incredible playoff moments so far, it's peculiar just how many games we've seen decided so quickly. Let's break it down, plus a few notes and news to keep an eye on!
Celtics 127, Heat 102 (Series tied 1-1)
It shouldn’t come as shocking, but the return of Marcus Smart and Al Horford paid dividends for the Celtics. Both players missed Game 1 of the series, with Smart dealing with a foot sprain and Horford in protocols. Their presence in this game was felt immediately, and they both made a big impact in the box score. Smart played 40 minutes, finishing with 24 points, nine rebounds, 12 assists, three steals, one block, and five triples. He started off slow with his shooting, but he was able to shoot 6-for-11 in the second half, including four of his triples. Smart’s control of the game helped Boston lower their turnovers from 16 in Game 1 to just nine in Game 2. Obviously the Defensive Player of the Year’s impact doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet (though it did in this game). He made even more plays that made a huge difference in the game that won’t appear in a box score. Horford has been a steady veteran for the Celtics all year, and that proved to be a factor in this game. He didn’t shine with his numbers (10/3/3/1/1 line on 4-for-4 FGs), but Horford did play a critical role in this game on both ends. We’ve seen him fill it up throughout the postseason, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see bigger numbers from him as the series progresses.
Derrick White missed this game due to the birth of his child (big congrats!), but Boston’s bench didn’t miss a beat. Grant Williams returned to a bench role, which didn’t slow his production in the slightest. He finished with 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting with two triples and four rebounds. He also finished as a +37, which was second on the team to Payton Pritchard, who finished as a +39. Pritchard finished with 10 points and two triples in 23 minutes.
Boston’s pair of star wings didn’t disappoint. Jayson Tatum finished with a 27/5/5 line with four triples, while shooting 8-for-13 from the floor. After turning it over seven times in Game 1, he only had three turnovers in this game. Tatum did a majority of his scoring in the second quarter. After some early foul trouble cut his first quarter short, he made up for it with 17 points in the second. Jaylen Brown had an equally efficient game to Tatum, finishing with 24 points and eight rebounds on 9-for-17 shooting with four triples. Brown did his work early, scoring 11 points while making all three of his attempts from deep in the first quarter. In fact, after the Heat started the game out up 18-8, Boston closed the first quarter on a 27-6 run while shooting 9-for-11 on 3-pointers in the period.
Though it won’t have an impact on the series, Nik Stauskas left in the closing minutes of the game with an apparent ankle injury.
With a chance to go up 2-0 in the series, the Heat just didn’t show up. After a fast start to the game, it appeared they were ready to run away with it. Then Boston settled in. Boston’s first quarter barrage of 3-pointers combined with Tatum’s second quarter surge put this game away by halftime. Jimmy Butler got things going in the third, scoring 16 in the period. He finished with 29 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
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Gabe Vincent got another start at point guard with Kyle Lowry out until…? Vincent was solid with 14 points, three rebounds, three assists, and four triples. Max Strus has been a dangerous shooter for them all season. After shooting 2-for-5 in the first quarter from deep, he only got two more triples up for the remainder of the game, missing both. He can get hot, but he didn’t have much of an impact in this game.
Bam Adebayo finished with six points, nine rebounds, and no defensive stats in this game. His value is found on the defensive end, and his ability to switch. However, it doesn’t help us if he isn’t accumulating any stats to show his impact. He had four blocks in Game 1 and has added plenty of defensive numbers during the playoffs, so this game is more of an anomaly.
Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo provided some points off the bench, but they didn’t provide a positive impact for Miami. Herro finished with 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting, but the Heat were outscored by 33 points during his 24 minutes. Oladipo had 14 points on 2-for-8 shooting (9-for-10 FTs), and they were outscored by 15 in his 26 minutes. Both guys can get hot and make a difference for Miami, but that just didn’t happen in this game.
P.J. Tucker had his night cut short because of a left knee contusion. His impact on winning doesn’t go unnoticed, and Miami would miss him greatly if he weren’t able to play in Game 3. He’ll undergo an MRI on Friday morning.
- Golden State will host Dallas on Friday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors dominated Game 1, winning 112-87. Their defense, specifically on Luka Dončić, was the key to their victory. The Warriors will continue to be without Andre Iguodala for that game. Iggy hasn’t played since Game 4 of the first round but has played sparingly this season. His absence won’t be anything new, and it won’t have an impact on the game.
- The Bulls are reportedly interested in trading for Matisse Thybulle if he were to become available this off-season. I don’t see the 76ers moving on from one of the best defenders in the league for a small price. However, a backcourt of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Thybulle would give Eastern Conference guards headaches. Especially after Lavar Ball’s comments about Zach LaVine leaving to play with the Lakers.
- The Knicks apparently had interest in trading for both Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner at last year’s trade deadline. Could they be interested in making a move this summer? It would definitely fit with the Knicks’ agenda of wanting to remain mediocre. This could propel them to a play-in team, but it’s hard to imagine them being better than any of the 10 teams that finished ahead of them in the East.