Celtics duo gets back on track, Ja goes crazy

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Just like many nights in these Conference Semifinals, there was just a pair of games on Tuesday night. Both teams that lost Game 1 were able to get a Game 2 victory to tie up the series at one win apiece, but before we dive into those games, another award was handed out.

Tyler Herro wins 2021-2022 Sixth Man of the Year Award

It’s finally official. Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat has easily walked away with the 2021-2022 Sixth Man of the Year Award, and this was truly the only award that someone really ran away with. He’s the first Heat player to ever win the award, and with averages of 20.7 points per game and nearly a 40% clip from range on the best team in the East, it was basically a no-brainer. Now that he’s locked up the award, he’ll try and help his Heat team advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time over the past three seasons. Herro received 96 of 100 possible first-place votes and received 488 total points, while Kevin Love (214) and Cam Johnson (128) rounded out the top three for this award.

Celtics 109, Bucks 86 (Series tied 1-1)

The Celtics having a lead of as many as 26 and never trailing in this game really tells a lot of the story about how dominant they were in a series-tying Game 2 win. Another massive factor was the three-point discrepancy, as Boston made 20 (20-of-43) trey-bombs as opposed to Milwaukee’s three (3-of-18), and it’s not easy to make up 51 points anywhere. This actually almost set the record for largest three-point differential in the playoffs, set by the Warriors, who made 18 more treys than the Thunder in the WCF of Game 6 in 2016. After scoring just 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting in Game 1, Jaylen Brown had the hot hand in Game 2, scoring a game-high 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting to go with a big line consisting of five boards, six dimes, two steals, one block, six 3-pointers and two turnovers in 38 minutes. Brown had just five points in the second half, but he seemingly couldn’t miss in the first half, scoring 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting (5-of-5 triples) to help Boston get to a 25-point lead at halftime. Jayson Tatum bounced back in an incredible way as well, scoring 19 of his points in the second half and finishing with a 29/3/8/3/1 line with five triples and four turnovers in 43 minutes. Tatum also shot the ball 20 times and hit 10 of those, so it’s safe to say this dynamic duo showed up in a big way on Tuesday. Reserve Grant Williams cannot go overlooked, however, as he scored a career-high 21 points (7-of-14 shooting) with a career-high six 3-pointers, adding five boards and two assists with no turnovers in 35 minutes, not to mention he played some fantastic defense on Giannis for much of the night. Coach Ime Udoka basically ran with a seven-man rotation in this one (with the exception of a few guys playing a couple minutes in garbage time), but final reserve Payton Pritchard didn’t fare as well as Williams, as he scored just six points with three boards, three assists and two treys in 24 minutes. Al Horford had a low-end 11/11 double-double, but he recorded plenty of other goodies with three assists, four steals, one block, one triple and just one turnover in 37 minutes. It’s incredible that old man Horford is still this good at this point in his career, and he’s eight years older than the next oldest player that was in the rotation in Game 2. With Marcus Smart (right thigh contusion) not being able to play, Derrick White got the spot-start but was miserable, going scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting in 28 minutes. He did have four boards, five assists, one steal and two turnovers, but that’s not a great look for someone who played decent minutes, but luckily they could get away with it this time. Robert Williams was semi-quiet again with 10 points, five boards and two swats in 25 minutes, but it should be no time before he’s up to his old defensive stat-stuffing ways once he completely gets back into the swing of things.

The Bucks’ side of the box score was not pretty, with the one anomaly being who else but Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis finished a Game 2 loss with a team-high 28 points on 11-of-27 shooting, and filled it up with nine rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one block, one 3-pointer and six turnovers in 38 minutes. The shooting wasn’t great and the free throws (5-of-9) weren’t good either, but he shook off a 2-of-12 first-half effort by going 8-of-11 in the third quarter alone to help his line look insurmountably better than it started. Jrue Holiday wasn’t too bad with his 19/4/7 showing with two steals, one trey and three turnovers in 40 minutes, but he also struggled with his shot as he went just 7-of-20 from the floor and missed all but one of his six attempts from downtown. Bobby Portis (13 points, eight boards in 26 minutes of a start) and Pat Connaughton (13 points, one board, one trey in 25 minutes off the bench) both reached double figures in scoring but only Portis’ rebounding numbers were worth noting otherwise, and everyone else simply flopped. This list includes Brook Lopez (two points, six boards, three blocks), Wesley Matthews (four points, four rebounds) and Grayson Allen (5/2/1 with a steal and one trip to the floor via Brown in 28 minutes), and all three guys will look to improve their productivity in Games 3 and 4, which will be played in their home arena.

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Grizzlies 106, Warriors 101 (Series tied 1-1)

Before I get into the brilliance that is Ja Morant, it’s worth noting that this game did not start off all too well for either side. Dillon Brooks hit Gary Payton II in the head on a drive less than three minutes into the game and was ejected, finishing with three misses from the field and a steal. It was a dirty play that caused Payton to land pretty hard on his left elbow, and the initial diagnosis was a left elbow fracture, but he has a MRI scheduled for Wednesday to determine the extent of the injury. Not even a minute later, Draymond Green received an inadvertent elbow to the head from Xavier Tillman and had to leave to get stitched up, but he did return to action, unlike Payton.

I think that’s it for the chaos that was the first few minutes of the game, but now back to the main topic: King Ja Morant. He scored a playoff career-high tying 47 points in the huge win, and he became the third player in the history of the game to record multiple 45-point games in the playoffs before turning 23 years old. The other two? Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Just unreal. As if the points weren’t enough, he was efficient from both the field (15-of-31 FGs) and especially the line (12-of-13 FTs) and also added eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals, five 3-pointers and just two turnovers in 41 minutes of action. The kid is just insane, and the fact that we have many years to watch him learn and grow and somehow become better is a real treat. With Ja scoring over 44% of the Grizzlies’ total points in Game 2, the next highest scorer was rookie Ziaire Williams, who was phenomenal with 14 points, five boards, one assist and four triples in 28 minutes. He started the second half for Brooks and hit some huge shots to make sure Memphis retained a lead at times, and his growth over the years is going to be so much fun to watch as well. Jaren Jackson Jr. was borderline awful with 12 points on 3-of-14 from the floor, seven boards and two blocks in 29 minutes before fouling out… yet again. He can either be the most fun or most frustrating player out there (for real-life or fantasy purposes), because it’s a shame that someone that can go for 33 and 10 with six threes two nights prior has a dud like this one. Of much importance, JJJ only committed three fouls in that dominant Game 1, and his silly fouls just disrupt his play, so we’ll see what version of him we get in Game 3 on Saturday. Desmond Bane was iffy coming in with lower back soreness, and it very much showed as he scored just five points on 2-of-7 shooting with six boards, one assist, one triple and two turnovers in 32 minutes. He was far from the same Bane that we saw in the first round, and after a so-so Game 1 as well, one has to wonder how bad the injury really is. Brandon Clarke also wasn’t himself with a 10/3/0/1/1 line with two turnovers, and while that’s not all bad, he was a team-worst -17 plus/minus in his 27 minutes. Xavier Tillman only played 13 minutes but still went for seven points, six boards and three steals and was everywhere, while De’Anthony Melton only scored three points but also tallied eight rebounds, two steals and three blocks in 26 minutes. He definitely benefitted with Brooks out, as did Williams, but he made it very difficult to keep him off the floor with a couple highlight-worthy plays.

The Warriors basically shot themselves out of this one with just seven made triples on 38 attempts (18.4%) and also accumulated 18 turnovers as a team, and it’s almost a miracle that they kept it this close. Stephen Curry shot 11-of-25 from the field overall but just 3-of-11 from three-point land to add to the Dubs’ shooting woes from deep, finishing with a 27/9/8 line with a steal and five turnovers in 39 minutes. Jordan Poole started the second half for Payton and also joined the 20-point club with exactly that many, getting his points efficiently (8-of-16 FGs) and additionally chipping in with three boards, five assists, one 3-pointer and three giveaways in 34 minutes. Klay Thompson did not fare as well, however, as he shot a miserable 5-of-19 from the field for 12 points and only converted on a pair of treys despite taking 12 shots from there, and besides his three steals, nothing else really jumped out. Klay has now shot 11-of-38 (28.9%) over the first two games of these Western Conference Semis, but if you know Klay at all, he needs almost no time to get back on track, which he should have a much easier time doing at home in Games 3 and 4. Andrew Wiggins didn’t shoot it well either with a 6-of-16 shooting clip but was active overall with his 16/9/2/1/1 effort in 38 minutes, and Draymond Green’s 6/10/7/0/1 line looked per usual despite having a wonky-looking eye. Rookie Jonathan Kuminga needed just 14 minutes to score nine points with five rebounds, and he’s going to be truly incredible one day down the line.

Wednesday’s Games

- 76ers @ Heat (MIA leads series 1-0) - Miami took care of the Sixers pretty easily in Game 1, and they’ll look to take advantage in Game 2 yet again with Joel Embiid (facial fracture/concussion) still out of the lineup. Kyle Lowry (left hamstring strain) will miss his fourth straight game of these playoffs, and being ruled out this early isn’t great news for the point guard. All of Tyler Herro, P.J. Tucker, Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin and Max Strus are listed as questionable, but this is just standard procedure for the ultra-cautious Heat. I’d expect them all to give it a go unless any of them suffer any setbacks.

- Mavericks @ Suns (PHO leads series 1-0) - The Mavs made a late push in Game 1 to bring it to a two-possession game with under a minute left, but it was a classic case of too little, too late for Dallas. There aren’t any surprising injuries with just Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dario Saric on the injury report for both sides, and for the Mavs’ sake, hopefully the Suns don’t shoot in the 60s for much of the game again. Luka Doncic went berserk and he figures to carry the majority of the offensive responsibility throughout the series, and he’s going to need Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie to help him out much more than they did on Monday.