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Basketball Daily Dose

Lakers even series while Clippers fall to 0-2

by Brad Stonebraker
Updated On: May 27, 2021, 2:54 pm ET

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With one-third of the slate comprising teams from Los Angeles on Tuesday night, you knew it would be a good one. One of these LA teams was victorious, while the other may be in panic-mode, and the Nets are just too good to fathom right now. A winner will be crowned before you know it, so let’s hop in to some Game 2s.

Nets 130, Celtics 108 (Nets 2-0)

The Nets dismantled the Celtics from the start and didn’t give them the glimmer of hope they had in Game 1, which they won by “only” 11. Brooklyn dropped 40 points in the first quarter, marking a new franchise record for points in a first quarter, and the third time they’ve reached 40+ in any quarter of postseason variety.

Joe Harris of all people was the man of the match in Game 2 with a new playoff career-high 25 points (he got it by halftime, too), also adding four boards, three assists, two steals, a block and seven triples in 29 minutes. His first half was extra special, as he had 16 of his points and four of his triples in the first quarter (career-high points for any quarter in his career), and his six triples in the first half set a new Nets playoff record in a half. Harris is setting all of these records and he’s at best the fourth-best player on this team, so when we say look out for Brooklyn, we mean it. Kevin Durant led the game in scoring with 26 points of his own with eight rebounds, five dimes, a steal and four blocks, one of them being an emphatic volleyball spike to further set the already-dominant tone. James Harden had a 20/5/7 line with four 3-pointers, which moved him to sixth on the all-time list for made triples in the playoffs. Kyrie was the one in the trio taking the night “off” with a quiet 15 points with six boards and six assists, while Landry Shamet dropped 10 points off the bench. Vintage Blake Griffin came to play with two dunks in the span of a couple of minutes in the third quarter, and any Detroit fans watching this must feel betrayed and finessed by the six-time all star and dunk contest champ. The only bad news for the Nets is that Jeff Green played just 12 minutes before being ruled out with an ankle injury, so hopefully the two days of rest are enough for him to heal up and get back on the floor.

The Celtics were a train wreck from the tip and no one even scored over 20 points. Marcus Smart led the way but only because of a three-point barrage in the third quarter, in which he hit four of them in a ridiculous 64-second span. But despite this, the Celtics still never got within 20 points of the red-hot Nets. Smart finished the contest with 19 points, six dimes, five triples and per usual a pair of steals, while other backcourt partners Evan Fournier (16 points) and Kemba Walker (17 points, seven dimes) were decent. Tristan Thompson had one of the Celtics’ better statistical performances with a 15/11 double-double, but no one else did much. Yes, I haven’t mentioned a very important name yet in Jayson Tatum, and it’s because he had just nine points in the defeat with a team-worst -28 net rating. He was inadvertently poked in the eye with about nine minutes left in the third quarter, which caused him to head to the locker room, eventually returning back to the bench, probably saw the score, and went back to the locker room and did not return for the remainder of the game. He added four boards, an assist, two steals and two blocks in 21 minutes of action, and if for some reason he isn’t able to suit up for Friday’s Game 3, Boston is somehow in more trouble than they already are. For what it’s worth, coach Brad Stevens said that is eye was pretty red and swollen, and that he had a hard time adjusting to the light when heading back to the court, so we’ll keep a close ... eye on him.

Lakers 109, Suns 102 (tied 1-1)

This game was arguably one of the best games of the year thus far but had an incredibly odd start, with both teams picking up four fouls each in the first five minutes of the first quarter. Luckily, the refs swallowed their whistles for the most part after that, as the final 43 minutes saw just 38 more fouls for a total of 46 (23 each) for the game - they were on pace for a combined 76.8, for what it’s worth. 

Anthony Davis led the Lakers to a win behind his game-high 34 points (7-of-15 FG, 18-of-21 FT), 10 rebounds, seven assists, one steal and three big blocks, and he looked significantly better tonight than he did in Game 1. Dennis Schroder also looked a lot better after only taking seven shots in Game 1, more than doubling that with his 8-of-16 mark from the field for 24 points and not much else, and LA needs for him to be as aggressive as he was tonight in order to win games. LeBron James was hot from beyond the arc, sinking four of his nine 3-point attempts on his way to 23 points, four rebounds, nine assists and two steals, and it seems like he more frequently makes his tougher shots than his easier ones. So if you see LeBron shooting a Kobe-esque turnaround fadeaway with the shot clock winding down, I’d let it happen. Andre Drummond had a double-double by halftime and was incredibly active the entire night, tallying a 15/12 line with two steals and a swat, and this is what the Lakers are looking for from the Big Penguin. He individually out-rebounded Phoenix in the first quarter and kept at it throughout the evening, including an and-one hook shot that isn’t generally in his arsenal. The bench was basically invisible tonight and totaled just 13 points on the night (outscored by Cameron Payne on his own), and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was scoreless on just four field-goal attempts, but had the best net rating on the team at +19. So, at least he’s doing something right even when he’s missing his shots. 

Give credit to the Suns for fighting through this one with a one-shouldered Chris Paul, who clearly wasn’t himself. His shot didn’t look CP3-like, and his five field-goal attempts is even less concerning than his 2-of-4 mark from the free throw line, from where he led the league in percentage this season. His shots looked like he was practicing for a shot-put tournament, but he supposedly can’t make his injury worse, so he’ll keep doing his best. Luckily, Phoenix has another point guard named Cameron Payne who just loves playing the Lakers, and he kept them in this one with 19 points, three boards, seven assists, a steal, two blocks and three triples in 33 minutes. He got more playing time than three of the Phoenix starters, and it’s unbelievable that this is a guy who couldn’t make a triple to save his life just a couple of years ago. Devin Booker led the team with 31 points, but shot just 7-of-17 from the field and had four turnovers. Had he not attempted and made a whopping 17 free throws, he would've had a pretty rough night, but we saw him slip the refs a few Benjamins during pregame warmups. Deandre Ayton notched a 22/10 double-double, and he’s now shooting 21-of-24 (87.5%) throughout this series so far (including a ton of dunks), so the Lakers need to figure out their rotations to avoid him getting so many easy looks at the rim. Jae Crowder was in foul trouble, including two of them in the first 58 seconds of the game, but mostly minded his manners in the second half and finished with eight points and six boards.

(As a side note to anyone who bet the under 210.5 (odds via Yahoo Sportsbook), I send my sincere condolences to all of you poor beings that witnessed the Suns fouling about a million times unnecessarily when the result of the game was already determined. And yes, I bring it up because I am, in fact, one of those poor beings. Thank you, Phoenix.)

 

Mavericks 127, Clippers 121 (Mavericks 2-0)

The Dallas Mavericks have now taken care of business twice at Staples Center, and will go back home with a 2-0 lead against one of the favorites to win the NBA championship this season. It’s the Mavericks’ fist 2-0 lead since sweeping the Lakers in the 2011 WCF, so this must feel good for Luka and company. Yes, Kawhi has come back from 0-2 before, but the odds are not with him - on the 38 occasions that a higher seed has trailed 0-2 (since playoff expansion in 1983-1984), only six of the 38 series (15.8%) saw the higher seed coming back and actually winning the series. Game 3 will be very important to the present and future of the Clippers, to say the least.

Dallas led 35-33 after the first quarter, and now remain undefeated this season after leading once the first 12 minutes are up, which is ridiculous. Luka Doncic was magical all night with a 39/7/7 line to go with one steal, one block, five triples and seven turnovers (but who cares) on 16-of-29 shooting. He will be the MVP of the league one day and we’re watching a future Hall-of-Famer right before our eyes, so enjoy the ride while we’re on it. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 28 of his own with six triples and five assists, and Dallas is going to have a hard time not resigning him this offseason. Maxi Kleber was questionable at first with an Achilles injury, but still managed a playoff career-high 13 points, 12 of which were in the first quarter, and they mostly needed him to try and lock up Kawhi Leonard (which didn’t really work, but a win is a win). Kristaps Porzingis had 20 points of his own with four boards, three steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers, and it seems like when Porzingis is good, Dallas is even better.

Kawhi Leonard hit playoff highs for points in a quarter (18 in the first) and points in a half (30), finishing with a 41/6/4 line with two steals, but he may have to score 60 in Game 3 to give LAC a chance. Paul George had a 28/12/6 line, but was also a team-worst -18, so maybe his defensive rotations (or lack thereof, rather) are hurting his team. Reggie Jackson was the only other Clipper in double figures with 15 off the bench, and it’s becoming quite evident that it takes more than two studs to win you a championship, or even a series at that. If the other guys don’t step up, this offseason will be very busy for the Clips, and it’ll be very interesting to see what the front office does. But for now, LA won’t count themselves out, and I don’t blame them given how talented they are.

Looking ahead: Wednesday, May 26 will see three more Game 2s. Two of these games will see the higher seeds (Knicks and Jazz) trying to even up the series against their underdog opponent, while the No. 8 seed Wizards will look to tie things up against the dominant No. 1 seed Philadelphia 76ers. 

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Brad Stonebraker

Brad has a finance degree and works in Business Management. He has been playing fantasy basketball since 2012 and specifically enjoys sports statistics and crunching numbers. You can find Brad on Twitter @bradbraker97.