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One series was wrapped up on Tuesday evening, while the other two saw teams go up 3-2 and officially have their opponents worried. Let’s dive in!
Nets 123, Celtics 109 (BKN wins series 4-1)
The Nets officially took care of business in the first round on Tuesday, eliminating the Celtics by winning their fourth game in only five tries. This is the Nets’ second playoff series victory since the franchise moved from New Jersey in 2012, with the last series win being in 2014 by a team composed of some guys named Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. James Harden led the way with the fourth triple-double of his playoff career (the first by a Net since Jason Kidd in 2007) with 34 points, 10 boards, 10 assists, two steals, two blocks, four triples and just a single turnover in 39 minutes. He had an 18/7/9/2/1 line by halftime and was on pace for almost 100 fantasy points for any of you who dabble in DFS (he ended with 72 on the dot). Kevin Durant had 24 with four triples and three swats, while Kyrie Irving had 25 with three 3-pointers and not a whole lot else. That makes 83 combined points for the big three, which is almost right in line with the 85.2 points per game these three averaged in the first round - it’s the most ever by a trio in a playoffs series. With the win, Brooklyn gets a meeting with the Bucks in the second round, and the much-improved Milwaukee defense (in comparison to both the Celtics and the 2019-2020 Bucks) will look to slow down one of the most incredible offensive trios the game has ever seen. It’ll be a much different task for the Nets, as guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton are all capable of guarding any of Brooklyn’s big three, so we’ll see how Mike Budenholzer plans his attack.
With Boston’s season officially in the books, they’ll get a nice chance to get some rest and get Jaylen Brown healthy and ready to roll for next season. I’m not saying the Celtics had a chance if Brown and Kemba Walker (knee) were completely healthy, because this Nets team might be one of the scariest No. 2 seeds ever, but it couldn't have hurt. Boston’s entire season was incredibly injury-riddled, and coach Brad Stevens said that “In a lot of ways, it was as hard of a year as any of us had been through.” Jayson Tatum will get some well-deserved rest this offseason after scoring 32 points with nine rebounds, five assists, two blocks and four triples in Game 5, so make that an average of a ridiculous 40.7 points per game in the three-game span from Game 3 to Game 5. He is only 23 years old, which is absolutely mind-boggling, and he humbly stated after the loss that “There’s still a lot I can improve on in all areas, and that’s what I’m gonna do.” Evan Fournier had 18 points with six rebounds and a triple, while Marcus Smart had a 14/7/4 line on 5-of-17 shooting, which didn’t do Boston any favors. Romeo Langford had 17 points and a career-high three 3-pointers in a start, while Jabari Parker provided a temporary second-quarter spark to finish with 13 points in just 14 minutes of action.
Suns 115, Lakers 85 (PHO leads series 3-2)
I try to go in chronological order with these games, but I just refuse to put a game as awful as Lakers vs. Suns last in an article that also includes the madness that was Game 5 of Nuggets vs. Blazers. The Lakers looked like your local YMCA team for the majority of the night and never looked like they had any interest in winning this game and now face elimination come Thursday night. Devin Booker led the Suns with 30 points (18 of which came in the first quarter), seven rebounds, five dimes, a steal and two triples in 33 minutes, and he probably didn’t even need to play that much in hindsight. Cameron Payne continued his incredibly strong bench play with 16 points in 19 minutes, all but two coming in the first half, and Mikal Bridges put up a perfect nine-cat gem with a 13/6/3/3/2 line with three triples on 50% from the floor. Sure, he didn’t make or take a free throw, but he didn’t turn it over and was basically perfect. Chris Paul looked like the old CP3 early, but re-aggravated his shoulder injury on a contested rebound with Wesley Matthews and did not return to the game. He was in a decent amount of pain upon impact, and hopefully Monty Williams and the Suns were playing it safe due to the blowout scenario.
There is far more bad than good to say about the Lakers, so I’ll try to keep it short (and not-so-sweet, unfortunately). This was the first time LeBron James (24/5/7 with six 3-pointers) has ever lost consecutive games in the first round of the playoffs, but he can’t say that anymore after losing this one and Sunday’s Game 4. Andre Drummond had 13 rebounds, Kyle Kuzma had 15 points, and Talen Horton-Tucker finally saw the court and had an unusual 11-point, 11-rebound double-double in just 16 minutes. The Lakers had no offense all night, with the highlight of this being unable to make a field goal in the second quarter until 4:21 left in it. The defending champions are now in actual win-or-go-home mode, and the Lakers can only hope that Anthony Davis’s groin heals up quickly so that he can help try and force a Game 7.
Nuggets 147, Trail Blazers 140 (DEN leads series 3-2)
This double-OT thriller was an instant classic, and someone might be getting fired tonight for putting this game on NBA TV and leaving the abysmal and Anthony Davis-less Lakers nationally televised. The Nuggets pulled away in this one after a full 58 minutes of clock time, and they now have a crucial 3-2 lead before heading into Portland for Game 6 on Thursday. MVP-favorite Nikola Jokic somehow didn’t have the line of the night, but racked up an absurd 38 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, three 3-pointers, a steal, and a playoff career-high-tying four blocks in 46 minutes. Austin Rivers (18 points, seven dimes, four triples in 47 minutes) and Michael Porter Jr. (26/12/3 with two steals and three 3-pointers in 48 minutes) were the only ones on the team that played more minutes than Jokic, but the unsung hero by a long shot was Monte Morris. He played 41 minutes off the pine with a new career-high 28 points, three rebounds, five assists and four triples, and who knows how this game would have turned out without his aggressiveness and clutch free-throw-making ability tonight (10-of-11 FT). Aaron Gordon had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, adding four dimes, a block and a pair of triples in 39 minutes, while Facundo Campazzo played just 21 minutes due to the aforementioned Morris outbreak and scored just three points with two rebounds and two assists.
Damian Lillard had an absolute must-see performance despite a loss on Tuesday, breaking records and highs galore and single-handedly causing the NBA Twitter world to go berserk. Dame scored 55 points to notch a franchise postseason record and a personal playoff career-high, also adding six rebounds, 10 assists, a steal and three blocks. Oh, and he had an NBA playoff record 12 made triples across his 52 minutes of action tonight, two of which helped his team have a chance to fight in each of the two overtime periods. Lillard also became the first player in NBA history with 55 points and 10 assists in a playoff game, and the first to do so with at least 10 triples in the history of the game (regular season or playoffs). The dude is just unfair, and it’s hard to name someone in this era more consistently clutch than he is. Dame was so good that the rest of Portland is kind of an afterthought, but the box score wasn’t empty otherwise by any means. CJ McCollum made only seven of his 22 shot attempts, but had a nice and full 18/7/7/1/2 line despite the inefficiency, while Robert Covington saw 44 minutes of action on his way to 19 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and three triples. Jusuf Nurkic played just 24 minutes before fouling out, notching a cheap double-double of 13 points and 11 boards with six costly turnovers, and who knows what would have happened if he was able to stay on the floor for those OT periods.
Looking ahead: Wednesday, June 2 will see a four-game slate, with three of the teams (76ers, Hawks, Jazz) up 3-1 and attempting to close out their series. The must-see Clippers vs. Mavericks series (tied 2-2) will be the final game of the night, and we should be in for a treat assuming Luka Doncic’s cervical strain doesn’t act up overnight. He’s currently probable, so we fully expect him to give it a go in the all-important Game 5.