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The 76ers are showing us why they are the No. 1 seed in the East, the Knicks evened things up with some vintage Derrick Rose leading the way and Donovan Mitchell returned to even the series vs. Memphis. Let’s dose!
76ers 120, Wizards 95 (76ers lead 2-0)
After a close battle in Game 1, Game 2 was a completely different story with Philly dominating from the jump to secure a 2-0 series lead. Joel Embiid only needed to play 26 minutes and was able to get some valuable rest down the stretch, scoring 22 points with seven rebounds, three assists and three triples. He’s quietly having a career year from deep and shot just under 38% during the regular season, so if that holds then the 76ers will like their chances against anyone since taking away some of his post touches is always part of the opposing game plan with a league-leading 12.3 post ups per game.
Ben Simmons, who has struggled mightily in previous playoff appearances, has flipped the script so far this series and had a monster 22/9/8 line with two steals and a block, but let’s not overreact until we get a little deeper into the postseason. Tobias Harris, who had 37 points in Game 1, kept his foot on the gas for Philly with 19 points and survived an ankle scare early on. "You have nights like this and you get in those types of rhythms with the work that's put in," Harris said of his Game 1 performance. "I would say like the past two, three months. I've been preparing for this type of moment, preparing myself. And just telling the team as well, this is the nitty gritty, this is the playoffs."
Seth Curry did go down for Philly though with an ankle sprain, but the severity isn’t known yet and it’s very possible the 76ers held him out due to the lopsided score. Furkan Korkmaz would become a viable bargain bin option in DFS if Curry does need to miss time for his 3-point shooting prowess with 3.2 triples per 36 for his career, but Matisse Thybulle is the more intriguing option in leagues where steals/blocks are more valuable. He’s without a doubt the best per-minute producer of those in the league, this time racking up five blocks and four steals in 20 minutes...That’s the 20th playoff performance with those stats ever recorded, but Thybulle is the only one to do it under 20 minutes (h/t to Jimmy McCormick for the stat)!
Bradley Beal had 33 points in Game 1 but admitted that he wasn’t at his best. "We didn't play great at all and we were still in the game, still had an opportunity to win," Beal said. "That's what kind of keeps me going, keeps me motivated -- the fact that I don't think I played great. I don't think I had a good game. I think we've still got a couple levels we could tap into from everybody across the board." He put together another noble effort with 33 points again in Game 2, but didn’t get much help from his teammates.
Daniel Gafford was one of the bright spots for Washington in Game 1 with a perfect 6-of-6 shooting line for 12 points, six rebounds, two dimes and a block, finishing as a +14 in 20 minutes of a 7-point loss, but it didn’t translate to more minutes in Game 2 because Scott Brooks is being Scott Brooks. This series already looks over for Washington and now they may be without Russell Westbrook who suffered a pretty nasty right ankle roll. He’ll be in the headlines for another reason unfortunately, as a Philly fan dumped popcorn on his head while exiting the game and security had to hold him back. Here’s to hoping his ankle will be ready for Game 3, but if not, expect to see a ton of Ish Smith.
Knicks 101, Hawks 92 (Series tied 1-1)
The Knicks evened the series after a very shaky start to Game 2 thanks to a huge eruption from Derrick Rose and some old man energy from Taj Gibson. Tom Thibodeau admitted after Game 1 that he needed to make some “corrections” and his answer to that in Game 2 was more of the same because of course. Elfrid Payton had a disastrous eight minute stint in Game 1 and only played five minutes in Game 2 before Thibs saw enough. Rose started the second half and the rest is history, as he poured in 26 points, four rebounds, four dimes and two triples.
Rose has been on minutes restrictions for years, but I think it’s clear that the Knicks will be easing those the rest of the way which is great news for his DFS value. If Payton starts Game 3, or even plays for that matter, it will be a major upset.
Julius Randle was undoubtedly one of the best players in the East this season but was quiet in Game 1, hitting just 6-of-23 from the field. "I'm not making no excuses," Randle said. "I've got to be better, and I will be better. I'll just leave it at that." He didn’t back up his comments though, going 5-of-16 from the field in Game 2 and looking shaky until a couple good moments after halftime. Getting him going is a MUST in Game 3, but De’Andre Hunter may have other plans.
It will be interesting to see if Taj gets the start over Nerlens Noel in Game 3, as Noel didn’t exactly look right and was coming off an ankle injury (he was considered a game-time call). As for Mitchell Robinson, Thibs said he “remains several steps away” from a return so New York will have to put that dream to bed for now.
Trae Young was the hero of Game 1 when he scored 13 of his 32 points in the fourth, including a go-ahead basket with a second left to quiet the crowd who were giving him an earful all night. "I thought Trae did a good job of blocking out the noise, which you have to do,” Nate McMillan said. “It didn't seem like it impacted him at all. He was able to stay focused on what he had to do out there on the floor and was able to get a win." He dropped 30 points this time around and was a +5, but coach Nate McMillan made a huge mistake by leaving him, Bogdanovic and Hunter on the bench for too long and paid the price for it.
Speaking of Hunter, he was absolutely terrific again and looked like the same two-way stud we saw before the knee injury with 18 points, six rebounds and three triples. Hunter was one of the main reasons why Julius Randle was held to 6-of-23 shooting in Game 1 and tonight was no different. "I thought he stayed within himself. He didn't try to force anything,” McMillan said. Defensively, he was solid for us. We started him out on Randle. Offensively he didn't get a lot of attempts but he made a big bucket in that fourth quarter."
He was asked about his restrictions before Game 2 and didn’t provide any clarity, but did say that his knee was “pretty much back to normal.” But playing 32 minutes is a pretty big indication that he’s all systems go. John Collins played 15 scoreless minutes due to foul trouble and Danilo Gallinari couldn’t pick up the slack with just six points. This series is already my favorite and shifts to Atlanta for Game 3.
Jazz 141, Grizzlies 129 (series tied 1-1)
The Jazz evened things up on Wednesday night despite a truly heroic effort from Ja Morant. Donovan Mitchell made his return after missing Game 1 and the final 16 games of the regular season. He was reportedly “incensed” that the training staff held him out of Game 1, and it makes you wonder if the Jazz tried to be cute thinking they could steal one from the Grizzlies without their star guard. "I felt like I should have played. It's no secret," he said. "At the end of the day, the experts said no. We can disagree on those things, but that was the frustration.”
Mitchell definitely seemed ready tonight, dropping 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting in just 26 minutes, but didn’t do much ball-handling which may have been by design. He did go to the locker room at one point, but it appears that he was simply re-taped. Mike Conley picked up the slack in that regard with a career-high 15 dimes to go with 20 points and three triples. Rudy Gobert was a monster inside the paint as per usual with a 21/13 line to go with four blocks, but also had some pretty impressive acting which Grizzlies’ Twitter really seemed to enjoy.
As for Memphis, Ja Morant was simply spectacular. His 47 points were a Memphis record and the most by a player 21 or younger in NBA history. His 73 points through his first two playoff appearances only trails George Mikan for the most in NBA history as well.
Dillon Brooks will either shoot you in or out of a game, but has so far been excellent on both ends of the court. He had 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting tonight, but the Grizzlies need more from the SG position. Grayson Allen clearly isn’t the answer, going 0-of-6 from the field for zero points and finishing as a -23 in 19 minutes. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before, as he was a -32 in his previous 10 games while averaging 5.3 points on 30% shooting. Not even kidding.
De’Anthony Melton would be the answer by default, though he’s been slumping hard for the last several weeks. If the Grizzlies are going to go the distance in this series, Melton will need to play significant minutes and find the form he had earlier this season. Jaren Jackson Jr. has looked lost on defense since returning from his knee injury but showed signs of life tonight at least, finishing with 16 points on 3-of-6 shooting and 9-of-11 from the line. He’s still shaking off the rust but will he do it soon enough against the DPOY?