Day 4 of the NBA Playoffs was a day of score-settling. Which teams got the job done?
It felt like the winners in today’s quartet of Game 2’s were making some powerful statements. The Heat and Rockets wanted to let people know that they, too, are title contenders. Meanwhile, the Bucks and Lakers just wanted to remind everyone that they are the top seeds in their respective conferences.
Which moment was your favorite from Thursday’s slate of games? Let me know in the comments!
Miami Heat 109, Indiana Pacers 100
Heat lead series 2-0
This started out as a grind-it-out game, 51-46 Miami at the half. But then the Heat found the right formula and quickly began pulling away. MIA went 10-of-19 (52.6 percent) from beyond the arc in the second half, finishing the day 18-of-35 (51.4 percent). The long range onslaught was led by Duncan Robinson’s 7-of-8 performance from 3-point range. He finished with 24 points. Sensational!!
I get that Domantas Sabonis is a key piece missing, but that shouldn’t be an excuse at this point. Oladipo is supposed to be the team’s star, Warren was in the convo for Bubble MVP, and Brogdon is a former 50/40/90 guy. This is their time to step up, and they haven’t over the last two games.
For Indiana, the stars need to shine and the defense needs to learn how to adjust throughout the game. Otherwise, this team will be swept out of the Bubble by Monday.
Houston Rockets 111, Oklahoma City Thunder 98
Rockets lead series 2-0
I really feel for the Thunder. They shocked a lot of people — including myself! — by not only making the playoffs, but also clinching the fifth seed. But now that they’re here, they just can’t seem to figure out how to stop the Rockets.
Granted, they were much closer this time around compared to Game 1, holding a 59-53 lead at the half and a 78-77 advantage after three quarters. However, the Rockets broke out with a 34-20 fourth quarter and that was all she wrote.
It was good to see Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have a bounce-back game, racking up a game-high 31 points in the loss. I also enjoyed seeing Luguentz Dort, the Quebecois Cannonball, return to the lineup. He defended very well, but had a rough offensive game, going 3-of-10 from the field for only eight points and picking up five fouls.
OKC has to find a way to keep their offense from stagnating. As soon as that ball freezes up in the halfcourt, Houston quickly pounces on that indecision. Next thing you know, it’s a 12-point game and they’re coasting to another victory.
Milwaukee Bucks 111, Orlando Magic 96
Series tied 1-1
Here we go! This is how the Bucks were supposed to come out in Game 1! A wire-to-wire victory with Giannis Antetokounmpo dominating and a
little lot of help from his friends.
Antetokounmpo had another great game: 28 points, 20 rebounds, five assists (seven turnovers and four fouls, too, but alls well that ends well). This time, though, The Others came through, too! Four non-Giannis Bucks finished in double figures. Brook Lopez had 20 points, Pat Connaughton had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Eric Bledsoe had 13 points, and Donte DiVincenzo had 11.
One name missing from the fray is 2020 All-Star Khris Middleton. He finished the evening with two points (1-of-8 shooting), six assists, and four turnovers. Middleton has made five total field goals over the first two games of this series. Hopefully he finds his groove soon. Milwaukee may be able to take this series without him. However, if the Bucks are going to make an extended run, his contributions are going to be crucial.
Lastly, despite being blown out, I would like to once again show love to Nikola Vucevic. He paced the Magic with 32 points (his second-straight 30+ point game) and 10 rebounds.
Series tied 1-1
Like the Bucks, the Lakers needed to respond to a shocking Game 1 loss. Like the Bucks, they responded loud and clear. In fact, the Lakers sent an even bigger message in this game than Milwaukee did in their’s, winning by eight more points.
Anthony Davis once again led the charge with 31 points and 11 rebounds, This time, however, he shot much better from the field (8-of-24 in Game 1, 13-of-21 tonight) instead of relying on the free throw line. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope backed him up with 16 points, going 4-of-6 from 3-point range.
Oddly enough, LeBron James wasn’t his dominant self in this game. He finished with just 10 points, seven assists, six turnovers, and two steals. It’s great that the Lakers were able to get the job done without him. But, candidly, I’m a little concerned that he wasn’t able to exert his will in this game like we’re used to seeing from LeBron.
The Lakers being expectedly dominant means the Trail Blazers were, in turn, completely outmatched. Damian Lillard did what he could, pacing his team with 18 points, but he didn’t get much help like he did in Game 1. Portland runs an 8-man rotation, so the margin for error is slim. Everybody has to be on their game. Tonight, basically no one was. That’s going to equal a blowout every time.
Lillard also dislocated his finger late in the third quarter and left the game. The X-rays came back negative, so hopefully he’ll be good to go on Saturday. If the Blazers intend to steal another game in this series, they will definitely need Dame to do it.