Heat 109 – Pacers 100 (MIA leads series 2-0)
Jimmy Butler guided the Heat to their second straight win over the Pacers on Thursday, scoring 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting (6-of-8 from the line) to go with seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, five turnover and another two triples over 38 minutes. The 3-point shot wasn’t a part of Jimmy’s game for much of the regular season, but he’s gone 4-of-5 from distance in the first two games of this series, and he’s been taking those shots confidently. He’s not a lights-out 3-point bomber, but he can hit ‘em when given the opportunity, and when he is connecting from deep that really opens up the floor for Miami.
Speaking of 3-point shooting, Duncan Robinson helped the heat set a new playoff franchise record in 3-pointers made by dropping in seven trey-bombs on his way to 24 points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal and two turnovers in 25 minutes. He had a rough going in Game 1 with just six points on 2-of-8 shooting, but he went 7-of-8 from the floor in Game 2 and was a perfect 3-of-3 from the stripe.
Goran Dragic stayed hot, netting 20 points on 9-of-18 shooting to go with two triples, three boards, six dimes and four turnovers in 32 minutes, and he’s seriously picked up his game this postseason while former starter, Kendrick Nunn, has been collecting DNP-CDs on the sidelines. He’ll be a free agent this summer, but with Butler regularly referring to him as one of his favorite teammates ever, I’d be shocked if Miami didn’t bring him back next season on a one-year deal.
Tyler Herro was again part of the closing group that featured Dragic, Butler, Andre Iguodala and Bam Adebayo, and he finished with 15 points, three triples, five boards, three assists, one steal and one turnover across 35 minutes. That closing group didn’t spend any time together during the regular season, but they’ve been crushing through the first two games of this series with a 30.5 net rating.
Bam Adebayo didn’t have a great game statistically, tallying just seven points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block over 32 minutes, but head coach Erik Spoelstra singled him out for praise after the game, saying: “If there’s ever a game where a stat line doesn’t indicate how much somebody impacted winning, that would be this stat line with Bam. His minutes were so productive.” He did finish with a team-high plus/minus rating of 19, but that won’t do much for those who rolled the dice on him in DFS. That said, I’d expect him to bounce back with a more stat-worthy performance for Game 3 on Saturday.
On the other end of the floor, Victor Oladipo’s shooting woes continued, as he hit just 5-of-14 shots (8-of-8 from the line) for 22 points, four 3-pointers, one rebound, four assists, two steals and six turnovers through 37 minutes of floor time. He’s had a rough year trying to come back from a devastating injury, and I don’t think things will suddenly improve for him under the bright lights of the postseason. He’ll make for an intriguing late-round gamble next year, although if the 2020-21 season isn’t pushed back from the currently projected Dec. 1 start date, I won’t be very interesting in him as he won’t have much time to get his body right.
Malcolm Brogdon went 4-of-14 from the field and 7-of-9 from the line on his way to 17 points, two 3-pointers, five rebounds and nine assists over 38 minutes. He’s been converting on just 31.3% of his shot attempts through the first two games of this series, and he’ll need to be better for Indiana to have any chance of taking even one game in their first-round matchup.
It’s no secret why the Pacers are struggling. They’re missing Domantas Sabonis (foot) and Jeremy Lamb (knee), and Vic just hasn’t been himself this season. I’d expect it to be a clean sweep for Miami.
Rockets 111 – Thunder 98 (HOU leads series 2-0)
The Rockets trounced the Thunder in Game 2 despite not getting much from James Harden, who finished with 21 points (5-of-16 FG, 9-of-9 FT), two triples, five rebounds, nine assists, three steals and one block in 36 minutes. Harden addressed his lackluster performance after the game, saying: “Nights like tonight, it’s great for me. It humbles me because I know that I can do so much more. If I’m not making shots, then I gotta find other ways to impact the game.” While his shot was off, he still took care of the rock with his zero turnovers, and as a team, the Rockets only committed seven TOs.
The 2-0 lead gives the Rockets some more discretion with regards to when they’ll need to bring back Russell Westbrook (quad), and Mike D’Antoni touched on that after the game. “If you’re down 0-2 that puts you in a different position than if you’re up 2-0, but we’re going to be careful with Russ,” said D’Antoni. “He’s too valuable to just throw out there no matter what the situation is. He’s going to be well.” Westbrook has been highly animated on the sidelines during these games, which gives the appearance that his quad issue isn’t super serious, but there’s not much incentive for Houston to rush him back while they’re winning. It’s a team-wide effort to replace Russ’s production, but Harden and Eric Gordon are the most obvious beneficiaries.
Gordon went 6-of-20 from the field, 0-of-10 from distance and 3-of-5 from the line on his way to 15 points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and one turnover in 33 minutes. His usage is up (31.7) but his efficiency is down (35.1 FG), although I wouldn’t expect him to keep chucking up bricks forever. He’s still finding his rhythm after missing most of the seeding games, but it shouldn’t be too long before he finds his flow again.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was held to just nine points on 2-of-8 shooting in Game 1, bounced back in a big way on Thursday with 31 points (9-of-17 FG, 10-of-11 FT), three triples, six rebounds, two assists, one steal and one turnover across 38 minutes, but it wasn’t enough to get the job done with most of his teammates struggling.
Chris Paul hit 6-of-15 shots for 14 points, two treys, six boards, two assists, one block and two turnovers in 37 minutes and he finished with a team-worst, minus-36 plus/minus rating. Danilo Gallinari, who had 29 points in OKC’s Game 1 loss, was held to just 17 on Thursday to go with five rebounds, one 3-pointer, one assist and two turnovers in 33 minutes.
It was a winnable game for OKC, and they came up short, and those kinds of losses can swing a series. It’ll only get worse once Russ gets back, but I don’t think the Thunder have the firepower to be able to overcome the Rockets in Round 1.
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Bucks 111 – Magic 96 (series tied at 1-1)
Giannis Antetokounmpo powered the Bucks to a statement Game 2 win over the Magic after they were embarrassed in Game 1, tallying 28 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, one 3-pointer and seven turnovers across 32 minutes. During the regular season, Antetokounmpo's usage was at a respectable 36.3, but that has spiked to 39.1 through the first two games of Milwaukee's first-round series, and he should continue to dominate this matchup with Orlando not really having the personnel to check him.
Brook Lopez, who was held to just five points on 2-of-9 shooting on Tuesday, bounced back and hit 8-of-12 shots on his way to 20 points, four triples, three rebounds, one steal, one block and one turnover in 33 minutes.
Khris Middleton’s shooting woes continued, and he finished with just two points on 1-of-8 shooting to go with five rebounds, six assists, one steal and four turnovers in 31 minutes. He’s been connecting on just 25% of his FGA through the first two games of this series, but I wouldn’t expect that to last long. Through four games against the Magic during the regular season, Middleton averaged 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.5 triples, 1.3 steal and 3.0 turnovers per contest on 50.8% shooting. Maybe we’ll see a regression to the mean for Game 3 on Saturday.
Pat Connaughton was Milwaukee’s X-factor in Thursday’s win, scoring 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go with five triples, 11 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one turnover in 24 minutes. He was held to just three points on 1-of-4 shooting in Game 1, but he seemingly couldn’t miss on Thursday, and he helped the Bucks win the rebounding battle 57-42.
Nikola Vucevic kept his foot on the gas pedal with a 32-point, 10-rebound double-double to go with two triples, two assists, one block and three turnovers, but ultimately, it was not enough to seal the deal for the Magic. Orlando pulled off an impressive upset in Game 1, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that turns out to be their only victory.
Aaron Gordon (hamstring) and Michael Carter-Williams (knee) did not play, but AG was able to get through some pregame work and Steve Clifford did note that he’s been improving, so perhaps he’ll be able to get back out there for Game 3 on Saturday. MCW seems further away. Once AG is back, Gary Clark will return to the second unit, but Gordon will likely be limited which removes his DFS appeal when active.
Lakers 111 – Portland 88 (series tied at 1-1)
This wasn’t much of a game with the Lakers actually converting on their 3-point makes (14-of-38 from distance after a 5-of-32 performance in the Game 1 loss), and their defense against the Trail Blazers was suffocating. Anthony Davis went off for 31 points (13-of-21 FG, 2-of-2 FT), 11 rebounds, three 3-pointers, three assists, one steal, one block and two turnovers in 29 minutes; while LeBron James coasted to 10 points (4-of-11 FG, 2-of-2 FT), six rebounds, seven assists, two steals and six turnovers in 27 minutes.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who missed all nine of his field goal attempts during Game 1, scored 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting (2-of-2 FT) to go with four triples and two rebounds over 22 minutes.
On the other end of the floor, Damian Lillard finally cooled off with 18 points (6-of-14 FG, 5-of-5 FT), one 3-pointer, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and four turnovers across 30 minutes. Unfortunately, he dislocated his left index finger during the game, but the injury is to his non-shooting hand and he’s fully expected to power through for Game 3 on Saturday. This was Dame’s first game without multiple triples in The Bubble, and it’s the first time it’s happened since February 11. I’d expect a more impressive outing in Game 3, but I don’t expect the red hot Blazers to upset the No. 1 seeded Lakers in this first-round series.