A lot of things have changed since my last article on the NBA playoffs. The Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns looked like they could put away their series early and get some rest for the conference finals.
Once they hit the road that was not the case. The Dallas Mavericks came together and pulled out some big wins. The Philadelphia 76ers got their big man Joel Embiid back from injury and his presence was felt.
Golden State was up 3-1 on Memphis and failed to close out and will have to try again in Game 6. The Boston and Milwaukee series is the best series so far. Back and forth for each game except one.
Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers
After a strong 2-0 start at home, the Heat at least wanted to take one game on the road and would’ve liked to finish it out at home. The Sixers had other plans in mind. Joel Embiid came back from his mild concussion in a black mask and put life in the Sixers. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Not his usual numbers but took away most of the attention from the rest of the team.
In game 4 it was Harden who came alive in the fourth, scoring 16 of his 31 in the final quarter. He hit a big step-back three to seal the game and tie up the series.
Embiid will always put up his numbers but Harden has to show up if they want to make it to the next round. For those out there asking no Harden does not have to be Harden from Houston but he will have to distribute the ball well and hit timely shots. The other guys around them will have to hit their shots and play tough defense to take the load off their two stars.
In-game 5 it wasn’t even close the Heat came out hot and did not let up. Six players scored in double figures with Jimmy Butler leading the way with 23 points. If the Heat wants to win they will have to play together and score like they do at home. On the road, it seems like only Butler shows up and that will hurt them in the long run if they make it to the next round.
Game 6 is Thursday night as the Heat will try to close out the series in Philly.
Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks
The Suns got off to a strong start leading the series 2-0 after defending home court. They defended their home court so well it seemed like they would march into Dallas and have their way. Ayton dominated the post in Game 1 and Chris Paul and Devin Booker looked like they could not be stopped in games 1 and 2.
Just like the Heat and Sixers series, everything changed when they hit the road. In Dallas Paul had two uncharacteristic games. In Game 3 he had 12 points but had seven turnovers. It is rare Paul would have more than one turnover so seven seemed like he had 100. In Game 4 he fouled out early in the fourth quarter. It was a frustrating two games for Paul to say the least.
In games 1 and 2 Luka Doncic was the only player from the Mavericks to show up. Everyone else seemed nonexistent. Doncic was putting on a scoring clinic in both those games putting up 45 in game 1 and 35 in Game 2. Putting up big numbers like that was not helping his team get wins. When they got back to Dallas for Game 3 he got his teammates more involved and he did the same in Game 4 and they would go on to win both games. Other players like Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith had big games. Smith was hot from three going 8-12 from downtown.
In Game 5 the Suns turned back to their old selves and dominated at home. Booker led the way with 28 and Ayton himself had a great game scoring 20 and pulling in nine rebounds. The Mavs seemed to have repeat games 1 and 2 becausue once again only Luka showed up and did what he could scoring 28 and grabbing 11 rebounds.
If the Mavs want to win and force a Game 7 they need to be aggressive and Doncic has to get everyone involved. His teammates have to score and help take pressure off of Doncic. If the Suns want to win Paul cannot get into foul trouble and limit turnovers and Ayton has to dominate the paint, no one on that Mavs team can hold him he has to be more aggressive in the paint.
The Suns will try to close it out on the road Thursday night after the Heat and Sixers game.
Memphis Grizzles vs. Golden State Warriors
After the first two games this series was split 1-1 and both games were decided by single digits. In Game 3 it was a different story the Warriors got hot and never looked back as they won by 30 and Grizzles star Ja Morant reinjured his knee and has been out since then with a bone bruise. Game 4 the Grizzles was ahead the whole game until the very end. Poor shot selection and poor execution was their downfall. The Warriors showed their experience down the stretch and they were able to come out with the win.
In Game 5 it was not even close, the Grizzles had a lead up to 55 at one point in time. The Grizzles ended up winning the game by 39 and forced a Game 6. It seemed as if the Warriors were going into the game believing that they would win the game. The Grizzles came out with a sense of urgency and didn’t let their foot off the gas pedal. They have played extremely well throughout the season without their star. The defense is more engaged and the whole team gets more involved. The Warriors should close out this series in Game 6 but should not take this team lightly. If they let them stick around they could mess around and force a Game 7. The Warriors are playing with fire if they don’t show their experience.
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks
This has been a back and forth series where both teams win on each other’s courts. Coming into this series a lot of fans believed this would be a close series and it is. In Game 3 Celtics star Jayson Tatum had a bad game but bounced back. He had 30 in Game 4 along with Al Horford and grabbed the win to take back home court advantage.
Giannis has been on a tear through this whole series. Without his co-star Khris Middleton he has taken on more of the responsibility and has answered every time. In Game 5 the Celtics were up for the whole game but the team never lost their cool. Understood they are a championship team with one of the best players in the world.
In the fourth quarter Giannis hit timely shots along with Jrue Holiday to come out with the win. Bobby Portis had a great putback after Giannis hit 1 of 2 free throws to put the team up one with 15 seconds to go. Holiday had two great defensive stops, blocked Marcus Smarts lay up and threw the ball off of him to get the ball back with the Bucks up by one. After Pat Connaughton hit two clutch free throws to put them up by three Smart pushes the ball up the court. When he gathers to pass he was stripped by Holiday sealing the win. The defending champs made timely plays down the stretch to take back home court advantage and give themselves a chance to close out the series at home Friday night.
Tomorrow I will break down both the Suns Mavs and Sixers Heat Game 6.