NBA playoffs: How two contenders shifted their series — and how two hot teams got even hotter


How a lot has every NBA convention semifinals shifted after Recreation 2?

For the Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors showdowns, a lot.

In Boston, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum mixed for 59 factors because the league’s No. 1 protection restricted the Bucks to 3-for-18 from the 3-point line, whereas in Memphis, Ja Morant‘s playoff career-high 47 factors lifted the Grizzlies to the series-tying win in essentially the most thrilling matchup of the second spherical thus far.

For the Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks collection, it was extra of the identical.

Miami continued to reap the benefits of short-handed Philadelphia with one other double-digit win. Whereas newly topped Sixth Man of the 12 months Tyler Herro fueled Recreation 1, it was the duo of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo pacing the Warmth with a mixed 45 factors, 15 rebounds and 15 assists.

In Phoenix, Chris Paul led a fourth-quarter run that broke Recreation 2 huge open towards Luka Doncic and the Mavs.

After Thursday’s off day, what’s subsequent in Recreation 3? Our NBA specialists break down what lies forward in every second-round matchup.

A relentless chorus heard from Phoenix Suns gamers following their Recreation 1 victory over the Dallas Mavericks was how they took their foot off the gasoline within the fourth quarter — permitting the Mavs to chop the Suns’ 21-point cushion all the best way down to 5 within the ultimate minute — and the way they wanted to right that because the collection continued.

Boy, did they ever within the fourth quarter of their 129-109 Recreation 2 win to go up 2-0 within the Western Convention semifinals. The Suns unleashed a dominant offensive assault within the fourth on Wednesday, outscoring the Mavericks 40-26 and capturing 16-for-19 (84.2%) from the sphere, which is the second-best offensive displaying by any staff in a fourth quarter within the playoffs up to now 25 seasons, based on ESPN Stats & Info. The one staff to carry out higher? The San Antonio Spurs within the 2014 NBA Finals — a staff remembered for placing on one of many biggest clinics in historical past en path to the fifth title of Tim Duncan’s good profession.

Chris Paul remains to be trying to find ring No. 1 and is doing the whole lot in his energy to get it. He shot 6-for-7 within the fourth quarter of Recreation 2, scoring 14 of his 28 factors within the ultimate body. It was the fourth time this postseason he has scored 10 factors or extra within the fourth, which is tops within the NBA.

“It is enjoyable. I adore it,” Paul stated of the fourth-quarter stage. “The top of video games, that is thrilling for the followers. And as gamers, I believe you simply at all times obtained to lean on the work. The work. All of it goes again to the work.”

— Dave McMenamin

Heat 2, 76ers 0: Why Herro is the sixth man Miami deserves

Butler has at all times identified that, on high of the flexibility the 22-year-old possesses, he appreciates how exhausting Herro works every single day.

So to Butler, who has clashed with younger teammates in the past for what he perceived as a scarcity of constant effort, it got here as no shock that Herro not solely earned the Sixth Man of the 12 months award, but additionally dropped one other 18 factors in Wednesday’s win over the Sixers.

“It is about time that he will get the popularity that he deserves,” Butler stated after Recreation 2, “and he is gonna be a giant purpose why we find yourself profitable it this yr.”

Having Herro play at this degree solely reinforces an already-confident group. His capacity to stretch the ground for Butler and Adebayo to function provides the Warmth the kind of weapon they will want to complete off this collection, particularly with the specter of Joel Embiid returning for Game 3 or 4.

With the best way Herro and veteran Victor Oladipo, who added 19 factors in Recreation 2, are taking part in off the bench, there is a purpose the Warmth really feel so good as they head to Philadelphia.

“[Herro] is without doubt one of the younger stars on this league,” Warmth coach Erik Spoelstra stated earlier than Recreation 2. “He is been in a position to quiet all of the noise and simply sacrifice and do what we felt was finest for the group. It actually translated to success and profitable. That is what it is about. That is what Tyler is about.”

If Herro retains making the performs he has thus far on this collection, he will create one thing else for himself in addition to one other award — he will get a mega extension this summer season that may set him up for a protracted future in Miami.

— Nick Friedell

The Warriors and Grizzlies knew Recreation 2 of their Western Convention semifinals matchup was going to be bodily.

Physicality rapidly grew to become what Warriors head coach Steve Kerr referred to as “soiled” when Grizzlies ahead Dillon Brooks was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul on Warriors guard Gary Payton II that resulted in Payton fracturing his left elbow.

Sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Wednesday that Payton will miss at the least a month, a timeline that might make him out there to return provided that the Warriors attain the NBA Finals.

Payton had been the plain alternative to protect Morant — it even obtained him a beginning job in Video games 1 and a couple of earlier than his harm. Payton performs like a giant in a small guard’s physique, permitting him to stay with Morant on practically each step.

Dropping Payton is a significant blow for Golden State. Morant had gone 3-for-8 (38%) with Payton as the first defender within the collection, based on ESPN Stats & Info (Morant is 23-for-50 towards all different Warriors defenders, together with 3-for-4 in transition.)

How will the Warriors defend Morant now?

Via the primary two video games, the Warriors, who lack the sort of expert defender to match Morant within the paint or within the air, have dared the electrical guard to beat them as a fringe shooter.

On Tuesday, Morant shot 5-for-12 from past the arc as a part of his 47-point night time.

And after Payton left the sport, Morant confirmed how weak Golden State might be when he obtained downhill, too.

The Warriors switched Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole onto Morant for almost all of the sport after Payton went down. But it surely wasn’t practically as efficient.

Golden State is hoping Andre Iguodala, who missed the first two games of the series with a neck injury, can return Saturday to assist tackle a few of the defensive task. Though he lacks the quickness he as soon as had, Iguodala’s defensive IQ remains to be in its prime.

The Warriors have choices however no clear reply for Morant on this collection.

— Kendra Andrews

Celtics 1, Bucks 1: Why this might be Giannis’ hardest check but

The Celtics have given Giannis Antetokounmpo only a few straightforward baskets by means of the primary two video games of this collection.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 26 factors, 11 rebounds and 9.5 assists after the primary two video games, however he is had somebody in his face the entire method. He is capturing 38.5% from the sphere, 1-for-6 (16.7%) on 3-pointers and 55% on the free throw line whereas committing 5.5 turnovers per sport. It is in addition to he has been defended by any staff all season.

“You have to give their defenders credit score,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer stated after Recreation 2. “However Giannis, he at all times figures issues out.”

Whether or not Antetokounmpo can work out the Celtics’ smothering protection would be the key to the remainder of the collection.

The technique to defend Antetokounmpo has been the identical for years: get bodily, create a wall across the perimeter, drive him to shoot soar pictures and ship assist when he will get across the basket.

The Celtics simply might need the personnel to tug it off.

They’ve rotated Al Horford, Robert Williams III and Grant Williams as the first defenders towards Antetokounmpo, every doing sufficient to disrupt his rhythm.

Antetokounmpo didn’t go into element following Recreation 2 about the best way the Celtics had annoyed him, however the Bucks have three days earlier than Recreation 3 to discover a option to make issues simpler for his or her finest participant.

No staff has been in a position to efficiently decelerate Antetokounmpo for lengthy because the begin of final season’s playoffs, when the Bucks claimed their first championship in 50 years. Milwaukee fell down 0-2 in two completely different collection throughout their title run — towards the Brooklyn Nets within the second spherical and towards the Suns within the Finals — earlier than rallying to win every as a result of Antetokounmpo grew extra dominant as these collection unfolded.

The Bucks don’t discover themselves in practically as huge of a gap this yr. They have been in a position to steal residence courtroom benefit in Recreation 1 regardless of a poor capturing efficiency from Antetokounmpo due to his playmaking capacity. Nevertheless, the Bucks are virtually sure to require extra from Antetokounmpo offensively to win this collection.

That may require fixing one in every of his hardest challenges. The Celtics have been No. 1 within the league in defensive effectivity and neutralized Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Nets within the first spherical.

If the Bucks discover a option to advance on this collection regardless of lacking Khris Middleton and make one other run towards a championship, Antetokounmpo’s accomplishments might put him in rarified firm.

To date, the Celtics have had one thing to say about that.

— Jamal Collier

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