We had three outstanding games on Wednesday night, and one team has officially been pushed to the brink of elimination after a heartbreaking loss. One team earned a win on the road to tie the series, while another blew a 17-point lead on the road. Unfortunately, there were also some injuries, and one of them could potentially have huge implications going down the stretch. I break down each of the games and give the latest on what we know about the injuries right here!
Embiid hits game-winner to push Raptors to brink Wednesday
Many thought that this would be one of the most competitive series in the first round of the playoffs. But we now sit here after three games and the Sixers have a 3-0 lead and are one win away from sweeping Toronto after losing three of four regular-season matchups. Joel Embiid sunk a game-winning three-pointer with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime to push the Sixers one step closer to the second round. The big fella finished with 33 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the floor (3-of-8 3-pointers) and grabbed 13 rebounds to go with two assists and one block as the Sixers beat the Raptors 104-101 in overtime. Embiid shot 6-of-9 from the foul line and had six turnovers in 44 minutes, but he made up for the turnovers with some clutch buckets down the stretch. Wednesday’s dagger marked his first career game-tying or go-ahead field goal in the final second of a game including the regular season and the playoffs. Embiid was 0-of-14 on these types of shots prior to Wednesday, but I'm sure, given the history, he wouldn’t have wanted it to come against any other team.
James Harden had a rough go of it in this one as he fouled out after playing 38 minutes in this one. He still posted a solid line of 19 points to go with 10 assists, six rebounds, and two triples with three turnovers. He shot 7-of-13 from the floor (2-of-4 3-pointers) and only attempted five free throws, making three. The five free-throw attempts were the fewest of the series, and he is averaging just 6.7 attempts through the first three games, so credit to Toronto for limiting him in that area. Tyrese Maxey also scored 19 points, but he shot 8-of-18 from the floor (1-of-5 3-pointers) and added four rebounds, one assist, and one steal in 47 minutes. Tobias Harris chipped in a double-double with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the floor (1-of-3 3-pointers) to go with 12 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block with three turnovers in 47 minutes.
For Toronto, they picked a bad night for their two all-stars to have a bad game. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet combined for just 24 points on 9-of-29 shooting for the game. Siakam shot 6-of-16 from the floor (0-of-2 3-pointers) and scored 12 points to go with five rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block in 48 minutes. He also turned it over three times and didn’t attempt a single free throw despite playing all but five minutes in Wednesday’s game. For VanVleet, he also scored 12 points but shot 3-of-13 from the floor (2-of-10 3-pointers) to go with nine assists, five rebounds, and three steals in 45 minutes. The Raptors were without Scottie Barnes (left ankle sprain) for the second-straight game, but there are reports that he could be available for Saturday’s Game 4. With Toronto down 3-0 now though, it might not be worth risking it.
But that's enough bad news for the Raptors, there were a few positives to take away from Wednesday’s loss. OG Anunoby had himself a night, scoring 26 points on 8-of-18 shooting (4-of-9 3-pointers) to go with five rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block in 46 minutes. He has stepped it up a notch since Barnes went out and has scored 26 in both of the last two games after putting up 20 in game 1. Another guy who had a big game sans Barnes is Precious Achiuwa, who was absolutely outstanding on Wednesday night. Achiuwa scored 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting (2-of-2 3-pointers) to go with six rebounds, one assist, and one block in 36 minutes. He also played some great defense on Joel Embiid down the stretch and got a deflection that nearly forced double-overtime before Doc Rivers called a timeout and Embiid drilled a game-winner on the ensuing sideline out-of-bounds play. Lastly, Gary Trent Jr. added 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting (4-of-9 3-pointers) to go with two rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block in 45 minutes. Toronto will try to avoid getting swept on Saturday as they host Philadelphia for Game 4.
Boston defeats Brooklyn 114-107 in Game 2
Boston needed a game-winning layup at the buzzer in Sunday’s Game 1 victory over Brooklyn despite Kevin Durant shooting 9-of-24 from the floor for 23 points. Most people expected a bounce-back game from Durant in this one, but instead what we got was another masterful defensive performance from Boston as they took a commanding 2-0 series lead over Brooklyn on Wednesday night. Brooklyn led 62-45 with 2:05 to play in the second quarter. The Celtics then closed the half on a 10-3 run to close within 10 at the half. They continued to chip into the deficit in the third quarter and entered the fourth quarter trailing 90-85. Boston took complete control in the fourth quarter, holding Brooklyn to just 17 points in the frame. They also held Durant without a field goal for the entire second half as he shot 0-of-10 from the floor with four turnovers. This marked the most field goal attempts without a single make in any half of his career, including the regular and postseason. Durant finished with 27 points, but shot just 4-of-17 from the floor (18-of-20 free throws) to go with five assists, four rebounds, one steal, and six turnovers in 42 minutes. Kyrie Irving came back down to earth as well after pouring in 39 in Sunday’s Game 1 loss. He shot 4-of-13 from the floor (2-of-2 free throws) for just 10 points with eight rebounds, one assist, and one block in 40 minutes. Wednesday marked the first time in 55 games as teammates that both Durant and Irving shot under 33% from the floor, including the regular season and postseason.
Luckily, they got some contributions from Bruce Brown, Goran Dragic, and Seth Curry, or this game might have gotten ugly. Brown scored 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting (3-of-4 3-pointers) to go with eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and one steal in 38 minutes. Dragic added 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting (1-of-5 3-pointers) to go with four rebounds, and one steal in 20 minutes. Lastly, Curry scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go with four triples, three rebounds, two assists, and one block in 31 minutes. Brooklyn will have to win four of the next five games to make it out of the first round. Game three is Saturday in Brooklyn, so we will see if the Nets can get on the board.
For Boston, it was the defense that won them this game on Wednesday night. They did, however, have seven players that scored in double-figures on the offensive end, even though they played just eight players. Jaylen Brown led the way with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting from the floor (2-of-6 3-pointers) with six assists, four rebounds, three steals, and four turnovers in 39 minutes. Jayson Tatum tallied a double-double with 19 points and 10 assists to go with six rebounds, two triples, and one block with three turnovers. Grant Williams came off the bench and didn’t miss a shot, going 4-of-4 from the floor (3-of-3 3-pointers) for 17 points to go with six rebounds and two blocks. Williams even made all of his free throws, going 6-of-6 from the stripe in 32 minutes. Payton Pritchard had some huge buckets down the stretch and finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 16 minutes. He added four rebounds, one assist, and one turnover, and was a +15, which was the highest of any player on either team on Wednesday. The Celtics are 40-1 all-time when leading 2-0 in a postseason series. Their only loss came to LeBron James in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals after King James led the Cavaliers to a win in game 7 before losing in the finals to the Warriors. They will look to avoid taking their second loss, and they can put the nail in the coffin on Saturday in Game 3 in Brooklyn.
Chicago wins Game 2, series tied 1-1 heading to Chicago
Chicago’s offense struggled mightily in Game 1, as the Bulls shot just 32.3% from the floor, and still lost by just seven points. DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine combined to shoot 12-of-44 from the floor for 36 total points. After the game, DeRozan vowed that he would not shoot as bad as he did in Sunday’s game, and boy did he back it up on Wednesday. The former Spurs and Raptors star poured in a career playoff-high of 41 points on 16-of-31 shooting (9-of-9 free throws) to go with seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and one steal to lead the Bulls to a 114-110 win over the Bucks on Wednesday night. Nikola Vucevic was also huge as he scored 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting (4-of-8 3-pointers) and grabbed 13 rebounds to go with two assists and one block in 36 minutes. Zach LaVine added 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting (3-of-4 3-pointers) to go with three assists, one rebound, one steal, and four turnovers as the Bulls beat the Bucks for just the second time in their last 19 games.
Now all of the pressure shafts to the Bucks, who lost the game, but might have lost even more in the process on Wednesday. Khris Middleton played 33 minutes before exiting due to what was deemed left knee soreness at the time of his departure. After the game, head coach Mike Budenholzer informed the media that it is now being deemed an MCL Sprain for Middleton, who will undergo an MRI on Thursday to assess the damage and determine a timetable for his return, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Middleton scored 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting (5-of-7 3-pointers) and added eight assists, five rebounds, and two steals before exiting the game. He was able to walk to the locker room on his own, so the Bucks are hoping that he won’t have to miss too much time going forward.
The Bucks also lost Bobby Portis after he was hit with an elbow from Tristan Thompson just before the end of the first quarter. Brook Lopez missed a bunny and Thompson went up to rebound the ball and struck Portis in the eye with an elbow. Portis began to bleed and was eventually taken to the locker room, where he was ruled out with a right eye abrasion. He had played just six minutes and scored two points on two free throws with two rebounds and one turnover. He might need some stitches, but as of now, there is no reason to think that he will miss Friday’s Game 3 in Chicago. Now Middleton on the other hand, we will have to wait and see.
If Middleton is out, the Bucks will need a huge performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as a few others. Antetokounmpo was awesome on Wednesday, scoring 33 points to go with 18 rebounds, nine assists, two blocks, and one steal in 40 minutes. He shot 11-of-20 from the floor and 11-of-18 from the foul line, but missed both of his three-point attempts, and turned it over three times. The Greek Freak also became the Bucks’ all-time leading playoff scorer, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Wednesday night. Brook Lopez also had a big night, scoring 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting (3-of-6 3-pointers) to go with six rebounds, one assist, and one block in 35 minutes. The Bucks will need a big game on Friday from both Lopez and Antetokounmpo as well as Jrue Holiday, who scored 16 points to go with six rebounds, six assists, and one block in Wednesday’s loss. Stay tuned for updates on both Portis and Middleton throughout the day on Thursday.