Tuesday featured a great game and big win from the Denver Nuggets, led by another heroic performance from Jamal Murray and a big night from Nikola Jokic, as well as an ugly, nearly unwatchable Clippers blowout win after Luka Doncic hit the shot-heard-around-the-world on Sunday. Here’s everything you need to know about Tuesday’s games, as well as a preview of Wednesday’s three-game slate.
Nuggets 117, Jazz 107 (Jazz lead 3-2) – The Nuggets had their backs up against the wall in a 3-1 hole entering last night’s game and used a key 13-5 second-half run in which Murray scored 11 to get back into the game and eventually get the win. Utah built a 63-54 lead and were up by 10 for much of the game before the Nuggets and Murray went on that run in the second half. Murray was also a tale of two halves, scoring nine in the first half but racking up 33 points after the break to finish with 42 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, a steal and four 3-pointers on 17-of-26 shooting. Murray has looked like one of the best players in the league over his last two games but wasn’t exactly killing it before that. He’s averaging 46 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 6.5 3-pointers over those two games. And the most remarkable thing to me, which was completely ignored on the telecast last night, is that in addition to those incredible numbers, he hasn’t committed a turnover in either of his last two games and had just one of them in Game 3. Murray will need to keep it going if the Nuggets are going to win the next two games and shock the Jazz, but after watching him and some of the moves he made in the last two, I wouldn’t put anything past him. As for where you draft him next season in fantasy, I’m not ready to declare him one of the league’s best point guards just yet, but if he had the mindset on a nightly basis that he’s had in the last two games, he’d be a second-round player instead of a fifth- or sixth-rounder.
Nikola Jokic was a tale of the first quarter when he hit 8-of-8 shots and 5-of-5 3-pointers for a season-high 21 points in any quarter this season. He also hit a career-high seven 3-pointers last night on his way to 31 points, six rebounds, four assists and a block on 12-of-19 shooting and the big win. He also hit his seventh 3-pointer with 22.8 seconds left in the game which was a dagger. Michael Porter Jr. was fun with 15 points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers on 5-of-11 shooting and he’s going to be a popular sleeper pick next year, who will probably end up being drafted too early. And I might be one of those guys reaching for MPJ before I should. He also got dapped up by his coach tonight for his defense and given that Paul Millsap was almost invisible in his 19 minutes, you have to think MPJ is primed to be a monster next season. On a side note, Gary Harris seems like he’s ready to play, but he’s been out for so long with his hip injury I just don’t think the Nuggets are ready to run him out there any time soon. And even if he does get the green light at some point in the near future, I doubt he’ll be worth messing with in DFS.
The Jazz had a pretty boring box score, led by Donovan Mitchell’s 30 points, two rebounds, five assists, a steal and four 3-pointers on 11-of-23 shooting. He also had a monster dunk and watching he and Murray go at it for the last two games has been exhilarating. All five Jazz starters (Royce O’Neale, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley, Joe Ingles, Murray) scored in double digits and Gobert had a double-double. Jordan Clarkson has been a problem for the Nuggets’ defense the entire series and finished with 17 points, three rebounds, two assists and four 3-pointers last night, and remains a solid DFS option right now.
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Clippers 154, Mavericks 111 (Clippers lead 3-2) – I don’t know about you, but I was pretty fired up about watching Game 5 after Luka Doncic’s heroics on Sunday. However, as soon as I heard that Kristaps Porzingis (sore right knee) was out again, I didn’t have a lot of hope for a Dallas win last night. Then again, I also didn’t see one of the most massive playoff blowouts ever coming, either. Paul George, who had been MIA for the last three games when he hit just 10-of-47 shots, came through in a big way by hitting 12-of-18 shots, four 3-pointers and 7-of-7 free throws for 35 points, three rebounds and two assists in one of the Clippers’ easiest wins in history. George’s shot looked amazing and he looked really comfortable, despite admitting after the game that he had been in a “dark place” prior to Game 5. His shot was fluid and he was beaming with confidence as Kawhi Leonard chipped in 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting in the blowout. The Clippers set franchise-playoff records for points in a first half (76), points in a playoff game (154), 3-pointers made (22) and field goal percentage (63.1%).
Montrezl Harrell came off the bench for 19 points, 11 boards, a block and his first 3-pointer of the season (he came in 0-for-18) and was a bundle of excitement and energy from the opening tip, even though he started the game on the bench. I felt like Harrell got into the Mavericks heads early and they never recovered. Marcus Morris scored 12 points with six boards, four assists, a steal and four 3-pointers, but also stepped on Luka’s left shoe, taking it off his gimpy foot. I’ll let the others be the judge of whether or not he did it on purpose, but it really doesn’t matter. Luka didn’t get hurt and no foul was called. But after seeing this, the Mavs might use it as motivation. Morris has been solid for the Clippers and they’ll need his 3-point prowess going forward for the rest of the playoffs, however long they last for LAC. Landry Shamet and Reggie Jackson, the two guys filling in for Patrick Beverley (calf), both scored 11 and both hit three 3-pointers in the win. Beverley got some good work in prior to the game and my guess is he’ll play in Game 6. If he does, he’ll hurt both guards in DFS, but I bet Jackson will still get enough run to make an impact. Harrell’s emergence after missing a ton of bubble time early will hurt Ivica Zubac and he had just nine points and seven boards with a steal and two blocks in 24 minutes last night. My guess is Doc Rivers is going to turn Harrell loose again in Game 6 on Thursday. Jackson hurt his head and went to the locker room early but returned to play through it with no ill effects.
As for the Mavericks, this was an unmitigated disaster. Luka’s left ankle was clearly in pain and he was getting treatment throughout the entire game and at times looked like he was only moving at about 50 percent. In hindsight, he may have overextended himself on Sunday, but had he not done that the Mavericks would be on their way home right now. He’ll get a ton of treatment between now and Game 6 on Thursday and I don’t see any way he misses that game. Doncic finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, four assists, a block, a 3-pointer and five turnovers, hitting 6-of-17 shots, 1-of-6 3-pointers and 9-of-14 free throws before leaving early to rest his ankle. The Clippers did a great job defending Luka last night, constantly trapping him and forcing him to the outside, clearly throwing the Mavs’ offense into shambles. Porzingis is another story, as his sore right knee has now kept him out of two straight games, and he was thrown out of Game 1 on some questionable technical fouls. The Mavs badly need KP and his rebounding and they’re not going to win this series without him. And they will have a hard time winning it even if he makes a miraculous comeback. This is not his surgically-repaired knee, making his mysterious absence even more worrisome. And the fact KP is missing such crucial games after the long pandemic layoff is highly concerning in regard to where he will be drafted next season. A lot of us are going to be scared away after these missed games under a cloud of secrecy and lack of information.
Dorian Finney-Smith played through his sore hips and had nine points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and three 3-pointers, and he showed no signs of the injury during the game. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 19 points and three 3-pointers, Trey Burke stepped up with 15 points and a couple 3-pointers in another start, Maxi Kleber, filling in for KP, had 12 points, four boards, a steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers, and Delon Wright came off the bench for 11 points in 21 minutes. Boban Marjanovic was in early foul trouble and never got on track and Seth Curry hit just 2-of-6 shots and missed both of his 3-pointers off the bench. It will be interesting to see if the Mavericks can figure out how to beat the suddenly new and improved Clippers’ defense in Game 6.
Magic @ Bucks (Bucks up 3-1) – The Bucks will look to celebrate newly named Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who became the first player to win the DPOY, MVP and Most Improved Player Award in NBA history. And he may join Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to win the regular-season MVP and DPOY in the same season. Aaron Gordon (left hamstring) is being listed as questionable for the Magic but he still hasn’t been running or sprinting, making him a longshot. And if he does play, you have to wonder how effective he’ll be.
Thunder @ Rockets (2-2) – Russell Westbrook appears to be getting closer but has already been ruled out for tonight due to his right quad injury. James Harden, Eric Gordon and Danuel House all benefit from his absence.
Blazers @ Lakers (Lakers up 3-1) – Damian Lillard has already been ruled out for Game 5 with a sprained right knee and it’s hard to see the Blazers winning without him. Anthony Davis is probable for tonight with a sore back, while Rajon Rondo is doubtful with his back injury. And yes, LeBron James will be out there with AD as they look to advance to Round 2.