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Basketball Daily Dose

Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal go off, Domantas Sabonis fouls out

by Steve Alexander
Updated On: May 21, 2021, 12:57 pm ET

So I was a day or two early on my Pacers’ burial from the playoff race social media takes. The Pacers stunned the Hornets on Tuesday night with an incredibly easy win, despite the absence of Caris LeVert. The Wizards had something else in mind on Thursday night when they destroyed the short-handed Pacers from the get-go, taking an easy 142-115 win on Thursday that wasn’t as close as the score might indicate. A healthy Pacers’ team might have put up a different fight this season, but then again, they may not have even been in the same situation if Myles Turner, Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis hadn’t had serious injuries to deal with this season.

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Wizards 142, Pacers 115Bradley Beal racked up a team-high 25 points, five rebounds, four assists, a block and four 3-pointers on 9-of-17 shooting and Russell Westbrook bounced back from a lethargic-looking night on Tuesday with 18 points, eight rebounds, 15 assists and a steal on 6-of-13 shooting in 33 minutes on Thursday. As if Beal and Westy weren’t enough for a team that led 66-52 at halftime, the Wizards opened up a 114-83 lead after three quarters and there was no looking back as they made the playoffs for the first time since 2018. Rui Hachimura added 18 points and a couple 3-pointers, Daniel Gafford came off the bench for 15 points, 13 rebounds, a steal and five blocks, and Raul Neto added 14 points, three boards, two steals and two 3-pointers in another start.

Gafford was the real hero tonight and the Roundball Stew team has been crying for more minutes all season for Gafford. Robin Lopez played just six minutes and starter Alex Len played 13 minutes, so it’s possible that Scott Brooks has finally realized what we knew all along – Gafford needs more minutes. He hit 6-of-8 shots tonight and looked like the real deal, so we can only hope that Brooks continues to lean on him in Round 1 against the Sixers. If you want to use Gafford against Joel Embiid and the Sixers, by all means, do so. Westbrook, for all the crap he catches, has made the playoffs in 11 of the last 12 seasons with three different teams as the first- or second-best player on each team. The one year he didn’t make it, Kevin Durant missed 55 games, Westy missed 15 and Serge Ibaka missed 18. Hat tip to @BrandonRahbar. Westbrook is a beast, whether you love him or hate him.

The Pacers were missing Caris LeVert (protocols) tonight badly and Domantas Sabonis (19 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, fouled out) and Malcolm Brogdon (24 points, 4 assists, 4 3-pointers) weren’t enough against the Wizards. Oshae Brissett, Doug McDermott, Justin Holiday, Kelan Martin and T.J. McConnell couldn’t make up the difference and weren’t nearly enough for the jacked-up Wizards. This game was a disappointing affair from the opening tip and I’m just surprised that the Pacers played so well against the Hornets on Tuesday. Honestly, the Hornets would have given the Wizards a better battle last night. The Pacers are going fishing but have nothing to be discouraged about. They just lost too many of their horses in the regular season and the play-in to be ready to battle a guy like Westbrook, who put his name all over this game.

The Pacers are going fishing and the No. 8 Wizards are set to take on the No. 1 seeded Sixers in what should be a thrilling first-round playoff series. I can guarantee you the Sixers are not thrilled about seeing Westbrook and Beal in Round 1.

Friday’s action features the Grizzlies @ the Warriors to see who will be the No. 8 seed in the West. The winner of this game (Warriors-please?) will take on the Utah Jazz and I’m guessing Utah doesn’t want any part of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole, not to mention Kent Bazemore, Kevon Looney and Juan Toscano-Anderson. Love or hate the play-in format, it has certainly added some intrigue and fun to the NBA playoffs.

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Miami @ Milwaukee 2 p.m. (I’ve got the Bucks)

Dallas @ LA Clippers 4:30 p.m. (I’ve got the Mavs)

Boston @ Brooklyn 8 p.m. (I’ve got the Nets)

Blazers @ Nuggets 10:30 p.m. (I’ve got the Nuggets)


Washington @ Philadelphia 1 p.m. (I’ve got the Sixers)

LA Lakers @ Phoenix 3:30 p.m. (I’ve got the Lakers)

Atlanta @ New York 7 p.m. (I’ve got the Hawks)

(Warriors or Grizzlies) @ Utah 9:30 p.m. (I’ve got the Jazz – and Donovan Mitchell is planning on playing!)

The real playoffs are here! And I couldn’t be more excited about it! Be sure to check out all the tools that NBC Sports EDGE has to offer, including who to bet on in the NBA Playoffs!

Steve Alexander

Steve "Dr. A" Alexander is the senior editor for the NBA for NBC Sports Edge and a contributor to NBCSports.com. The 2020-21 NBA season marks (at least) his 20th year of covering fantasy hoops for NBC Sports. Follow him on Twitter - @Docktora.