Three more games on Tuesday, and while the Heat took a 2-0 series lead, the Grizzlies and Pelicans tied things up at one game apiece. More on those three games below, along with a brief look ahead to Wednesday.
Heat 115, Hawks 105 (MIA leads series 2-0)
The game ball for this one belongs to Jimmy Butler, and it’s not even remotely close. Butler came through with a new playoff career high of 45 points in the win, shooting 15-of-25 from the field (11-of-12 FTs) and also adding five boards, five assists, two steals, four 3-pointers and no turnovers in 39 minutes. Jimmy Buckets was really solid in Game 1’s blowout victory, but he more than doubled his point total and was a sniper from range, hitting four of his seven attempts from deep -- for some context, he hit 27 total threes throughout the course of the entire regular season. With a single guy scoring 39.1% of his team’s points, most of the other Miami players took a bit of a backseat, with Tyler Herro being next up in the scoring column with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He was pretty miserable in Game 1 but he could afford to be with how bad the Hawks looked, but he looked much better on Tuesday and just didn’t need to do as much. Herro added three boards, two assists, one block and one triple in his 31 minutes, and it should be no time until he officially wins the Sixth Man of the Year award. Max Strus scored 14 efficient points with four dimes, two steals and three triples in 22 minutes of a start, while Gabe Vincent played some excellent defense off the bench and was still able to hit three triples for his 11 points, also adding three dimes and two steals in 26 minutes. Other than that, the box score was pretty quiet, as Bam Adebayo (9/4/3 with a block and four turnovers) and P.J. Tucker (3/6/2 with a steal and a triple) both started but battled foul trouble. Dewayne Dedmon provided some great backup center minutes, playing 13 of them and hauling in nine boards in his limited time out there, while Duncan Robinson fell back to Earth and then some after erupting in Game 1, not even attempting a shot in his seven minutes off the pine. Kyle Lowry didn’t do much either with a 9/3/2 line with two swats and a triple, but he was second best in the plus/minus department at +12 in his 37 minutes (any guesses who led the team?).
Atlanta at least kept this one competitive and were within three points very late, but then Jimmy Butler happened and they now face a 0-2 series deficit. If you want to stay positive, at least they get to play at home for the next two games, and they ended the regular season winning 11 of their last 12 home games. Bogdan Bogdanovic had just 10 points through the first three quarters but went off for 19 points in the fourth frame to nearly lead his team to a win, finalizing his line with 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting, four rebounds, three assists, five treys and one turnover in 28 minutes. They’re going to need all of the offense they can get from Bogi against a Heat team that plays such good defense and also has so many weapons offensively, so hopefully there’s more where this came from after an awful 0-of-8 Game 1 performance. Trae Young also bounced back nicely, hitting half of his 20 shots from the floor for a 25/6/7 line with two 3-pointers, but he also turned it over a career-high 10 times to round out his “double-double.” Young had more than half of Atlanta’s 19 turnovers and just four fewer than the Heat as a whole, and that sort of carelessness with the ball helped the Heat score 21 points off of their myriad of giveaways. However, the scoring we’re so used to was back in no time, as he equaled his point total from Game 1 (eight points) within the first nine minutes of Game 2. John Collins started this one with Clint Capela (right knee hyperextension) sidelined and looked solid with a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double along with two assists and a steal in 29 minutes, and JC starting sent Onyeka Okongwu to the bench, where he was nearly invisible in his 19 minutes. Danilo Gallinari also belongs on the invisible list as he missed all six of his shots from the field for two points despite starting, also tallying six boards and a steal in his 22 minutes, and Kevin Huerter (9/5/6/1/1) had a decent line but he’ll need to shoot better than 3-of-10 from the floor for his squad to really have a chance. De’Andre Hunter looked pretty good with 16 points but also struggled via a 6-of-15 shooting clip in 35 minutes and didn’t add much else, while Delon Wright continues to make some noise off the bench with his nine points, three boards, two dimes, two steals, one triple and two turnovers in 29 minutes of action.
Grizzlies 124, Timberwolves 96 (Series tied 1-1)
After a Game 1 loss, the Grizzlies needed to make a statement in Game 2, and they did just that by notching the largest win in Grizzlies postseason history. It was an incredibly well-balanced effort by a deep and versatile team, as seven different Memphis players reached double figures in the scoring column, led by who else but Ja Morant. King Ja was efficient with a 9-of-16 mark from the field, and he was just a board shy of a triple-double, leading his team in points (23), rebounds (nine) and assists (10), also adding a steal and two triples in his 30 minutes out there. There was some slight concern as he looked to injure his upper left leg/thigh area while trying to get around a Karl-Anthony Towns screen in the third quarter, and while he took a brief trip to the locker room, he returned to the bench and even played for another few minutes, so fingers crossed that he wakes up feeling peachy. Jaren Jackson Jr. (16/7/0/1/1 with four triples) and Desmond Bane (16/4/4 with a triple) both bounced back from so-so Game 1 efforts (for their standards), and JJJ making four shots from deep is the biggest takeaway here as he missed all five attempts on Saturday. The other four double-digit performances came from the pine, as Brandon Clarke (13/3/2 with two steals), Ziaire Williams (13 points, one trey, one steal) and Tyus Jones (10/4/3 with a steal and a triple) all posted decent lines in 21 minutes or fewer each. I left one guy out from that list, and it’s because he gets his own sentence: Xavier Tillman himself. Tillman didn’t even leave the bench in Game 1, but with every other Memphis big battling foul trouble, he took advantage in his extended run with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting with seven rebounds in 21 minutes of floor time. He made some big plays early on that didn’t show up on the stat sheet and single-handedly helped energize his team, so one has to wonder if Taylor Jenkins will start to use him more at least in this series. As for Adams, he committed two fouls in the first three minutes of the game and never returned with Tillman playing key minutes and JJJ playing some five, but kudos to him for being the best Memphis cheerleader out there tonight -- I don’t think he ever took a seat despite residing on the bench for 45 of 48 possible minutes.
The majority of the Wolves struggled in Game 2, hence the massive deficit, but they’ll get to head home and try to get revenge in Game 3 on Thursday (and they technically hold home court advantage since they stole Game 1). Anthony Edwards led in scoring with 20 points, but he wasn’t all too efficient with his 7-of-16 shooting, and Ant-Man also added six boards, one assist, one steal, four 3-pointers and an unfortunate five turnovers in 34 minutes. Karl-Anthony Towns was efficient, hitting four of his seven shots and seven of his eight freebies, but his quiet 15/11 double-double with two swats (and also five turnovers) is mostly explained by his 28 foul-plagued minutes, but they had more issues than just that and KAT should get back to 20-point land in a jiffy. D’Angelo Russell struggled yet again, shooting just 3-of-11 from the field for a 11/3/4 line with a steal, two treys and two turnovers in 28 minutes, and he’s now scored a total of 21 points on 5-of-22 from the field in this series, which isn’t going to cut it. Taurean Prince (12/2/1/2/1 in 17 minutes) was one of Minny’s better players this evening, and Naz Reid’s numbers (12 points, seven boards, two swats in 20 minutes) looked good in some extended run at the five with KAT battling foul trouble, but coach Chris Finch had other things to say. Patrick Beverley was quiet, Jarred Vanderbilt was invisible in only nine minutes despite starting, and the rest of the bench is nothing worth mentioning besides Jaden McDaniels’ three blocks in 21 minutes.
Pelicans 125, Suns 114 (Series tied 1-1)
This Pelicans team really has some fight in them. They had to win two games to even get into the playoffs, and as of Tuesday night, they’re now tied 1-1 in the first round against the best team in the entire league. Brandon Ingram went bonkers for 37 points in the victory, shooting 13-of-21 from the floor and just missing a triple-double with a line that also included 11 boards, nine dimes, one steal, one block, three 3-pointers and four turnovers in 39 minutes. He tweaked his left ankle early on and was noticeably gimpy, but he powered through it and was an absolute animal. C.J. McCollum was fantastic himself and also nearly triple-doubled with a 23/8/9 line with six 3-pointers, one block and three turnovers, and the only real issue was his 7-of-18 shooting from the floor, which luckily doesn’t reflect in DFS tournaments. Jonas Valanciunas followed up his 25-rebound Game 1 with a 10/13 double-double with three dimes, one steal and four turnovers, and while he was far more efficient with a 4-of-9 clip from the field, he simply wasn’t as aggressive as the two guys mentioned before took matters into their own hands. While Jaxson Hayes only scored nine points, he added three boards, one assist and two blocks in 20 minutes of a start, and it’s borderline unfair that someone that tall can run the floor like he can, and he was worlds better in Game 2 as opposed to Game 1. Even Herb Jones (14 points, three dimes, one steal, two treys) and Larry Nance Jr. (13/6/2 with one trey) had some more fun on the offensive end, while Trey Murphy III hit three more triples with three steals and has been huge for New Orleans. The Pels now hold home court advantage in what has become a best-of-five series, and their success will largely depend on the health of…
Devin Booker. Booker was going off and scored 31 points in the first half alone (also the only player in the last 25 seasons with 30 points in a half without a free throw), but he didn’t score again after that as he was ruled out early in the fourth quarter with right hamstring tightness. Phoenix didn’t look as well-oiled as usual without Book out there and he was on pace for a massive game, but his hammy wouldn’t allow it, and coach Monty Williams said after the game that D-Book injured his hamstring trying to get back in transition on defense. The severity isn’t known right now, but on the bright side, it’s a different hamstring than the one he strained back in December that caused him to miss some time, so at least we know it wasn’t lingering for all that time. Chris Paul may have to take over if Booker misses Game 3 on Friday, and CP3 recorded a 17-point, 14-assist double-double with one steal and two triples in 36 minutes on Tuesday. This was far from the fourth-quarter explosion we saw in Game 1, but he nearly helped his team come back and he will likely need to shoot better than the 5-of-16 he shot on in Game 3. Mikal Bridges tallied a full 19/6/2/1/1 line with two triples, Jae Crowder still can’t figure out how to score but at least filled up his line to the tune of a 5/6/1/2/2 showing and Deandre Ayton was very quiet with a 10/9/4 line despite playing 33 minutes. Cam Johnson scored 11 points with four boards and two steals off the bench, while JaVale McGee scored a random 10 points with little else in 15 minutes, but even with the loss and good games from plenty of Suns players, everyone’s attention is going to be on Booker.
We’re blessed with three games yet again on Wednesday, and they’re as follows:
- Nets @ Celtics (BOS leads series 1-0) - Boston came out on top in a thriller on Sunday, and this is could end up being one of the most exciting first-round series. Only Robert Williams (BOS), Ben Simmons (BKN) and Joe Harris (BKN) are listed as out on the injury report, all of which are expected. Simmons has been cleared for contact and went through some 4-on-4 work on Monday, so maybe we’ll actually see him in Game 4 on Monday.
- 76ers @ Raptors (PHI leads series 2-0) - Philly has taken care of business rather easily in each of the first two games, but now they’ll head to Toronto to try and take a commanding 3-0 lead. On Philly’s side, Matisse Thybulle can’t play due to the vaccine mandate, while Scottie Barnes (left ankle sprain) is doubtful and Gary Trent Jr. (illness) is questionable to play. The chances of Toronto getting a mark in the winning column will depend at least somewhat on the official statuses of these two Raps starters, and if they can’t pull one out, they’re in trouble.
- Bulls @ Bucks (MIL leads series 1-0) - Game 1 was much closer than many expected, so we’ll see if Chicago can stay competitive throughout yet again. Notable injuries include Bobby Portis (right calf contusion) and Jordan Nwora (back) on Milwaukee’s side, who are both probable, and of course Lonzo Ball (left meniscus) remains out on the Bulls’ side.
- Luka Doncic - The Mavs/Jazz series is tied up at one win apiece and they don’t play until Thursday, but we got some decent news that Luka was questionable to play in that one as he continues to nurse a left calf strain. He may be less inclined to play in Game 3 since Dallas got a win on Monday night, but Game 4 on Saturday could be a real possibility.