Tuesday’s NBA action was interesting even before the games started given that all three lower seeds playing had a 1-0 lead coming in. And things got even more interesting (or depressing, if you’re a Boston fan) when the No. 8 seed Bulls easily won 111-97 to take a 2-0 lead over the No. 1 Celtics. And the Clippers handled the Rudy Gobert-less Jazz.
Bulls 111, Celtics 97 (Bulls lead 2-0)
Rajon Rondo, whose hatred of the Celtics I can only imagine, just missed a triple-double with 11 points, nine boards, 14 assists and five steals, and tied the franchise record for assists in a playoff game. Jimmy Butler also flirted with a trip-dub with 22 points, eight boards, eight assists, four steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer, and Dwyane Wade also had 22 points in a bounce-back game. Robin Lopez dominated Al Horford (again) with 18 points, eight boards, two steals and a block, and Nikola Mirotic was solid with 13 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and three 3-pointers in the easy win. Paul Zipser led the bench with 16 points and two 3-pointers on 6-of-8 shooting, while Bobby Portis disappeared with three points in nine minutes after getting loose for 19 points, nine boards and two blocks in Game 1.
Dwyane Wade talked about his hatred of “playoff Rondo” back in the day. “I hated him,” he said. “Hated him competitively. Hated him is a respect. I told him tonight, ‘way to control your team.’” Rondo also gave some props to coach Fred Hoiberg, saying “he’s done a helluva job getting us prepared.”
Only four No. 8 seeds have ever beaten a No. 1 seed in the NBA Playoffs.
1994: Nuggets over Seattle Supersonics
1999: Knicks over Heat
2007: Warriors over Mavericks
2011: Grizzlies over Spurs
I’ll be shocked if the Bulls don’t become the fifth team to do so and it might even be a sweep, as the Celtics just look lost out there, while the Bulls look like a team that can win the East if they can get by the Celtics. With Games 3 and 4 in Chicago, and then a pending matchup with the winner of the Wizards-Hawks series, the Bulls appear to have a pretty decent chance of facing the Cavaliers in the Eastern Finals, assuming the Cavs get there. And if that happens, we should be in for a doozy, as the Bulls were 4-0 against the Cavs this season. Bring it!
The Celtics are a mess. Isaiah Thomas is reeling from the death of his sister, Al Horford doesn’t look like a $113 million man and is getting dominated by Ro-Lo, of all people, and Jae Crowder can’t hold a candle to Jimmy Butler. The Celtics finally benched Amir Johnson for Tyler Zeller in the second half last night, but it really didn’t make a difference. And the Bulls have a lot more playoff experience than does Boston. The Celtics will need the grieving Thomas to go crazy in Games 3 and 4 if they’re going to get back into this series, but I don’t see how that’s going to be possible with A. Rondo doing everything he can to stop the Celtics and Thomas, and B. Thomas trying to deal with the tragic death of his sister. Oh, and Marcus Smart got mad after a missed shot and flipped off a fan, so there’s that. No, this series isn’t over yet. But it sure feels like it is. Game 3 is Friday in Chicago.
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Raptors 106, Bucks 100 (tied 1-1)
The Raptors got a must-win last night when Kyle Lowry hit a step-back jumper over Malcolm Brogdon with 8.9 seconds left to give the Raptors a four-point lead. They obviously held on for the win and the Raptors were led by DeMar DeRozan’s 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Lowry had 22 points, four boards, five assists, three steals, a block and two 3-pointers, Serge Ibaka added 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and four 3-pointers, and Jonas Valanciunas double-doubled with 10 points and 10 rebounds. DeMarre Carroll played just 17 minutes and scored nine points, despite hitting 3-of-4 shots. Patrick Patterson played through a toe injury and logged 30 minutes, and P.J. Tucker played 28 minutes off the bench. It’s becoming clear that Dwane Casey trusts the two bench guys more than Carroll and I really can’t blame him. As far as DFS or fantasy goes, I think I’m most comfortable with Patterson out of that trio. This series will head to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4, where the Raptors will try to steal one and retake home-court advantage.
For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points, 15 boards, seven dimes, two steals and a 3-pointer, Khris Middleton scored 20 with five boards, a steal and three 3-pointers, and Greg Monroe added 18 points and four boards in 22 minutes off the bench. Thon Maker, Tony Snell and Malcolm Brogdon all started, but none of them did much to write home about, while Matthew Dellavedova hit just 3-of-10 shots off the bench for seven points. Delly missed a huge 3-pointer with the game on the line, which would have negated Lowry’s dagger that came a few moments later. This series is up for grabs and I’m not going to lie. I love watching Giannis play basketball and think he’d be a good matchup for LeBron James. The longer we can all enjoy the Giannis show, the better, at least in my book. Game 3 is Thursday in Milwaukee.
Clippers 99, Jazz 91 (tied 1-1)
The Clippers did what they were supposed to do last night. Took advantage of the absence of Rudy Gobert, featured DeAndre Jordan, and got big contributions from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Jordan hit 9-of-11 shots and finished with 18 points, 15 boards, a steal and a block, Griffin scored 24 points with five rebounds, two assists and a 3-pointer on 11-of-21 shooting, and Paul dropped 21 points, 10 dimes, three steals, a block and three 3-pointers on 9-of-15 shooting. I’m a little surprised that the score was as close as it was, but I feel pretty confident that the Clippers will get at least one of the next two games in Utah and win the series in the end. If that doesn’t happen, I don’t know how this team isn’t blown up. J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford both struggled in this one, hitting a combined 5-of-19 shots and zero 3-pointers for 14 points.
For the Jazz, Ol’ Man Derrick Favors started and had 13 points, seven boards and a block in 33 minutes, while Gordon Hayward led the way with 20 points, six boards and two assists, but hit just 5-of-15 shots. George Hill was decent with 12 points, seven boards, four assists and two 3-pointers, while starters Joe Ingles and Boris Diaw scored nine and seven points respectively. Ingles was solid though, adding six boards, three assists, three steals and two 3-pointers to his nine points. Joe Johnson added 13 points off the bench and Rodney Hood chipped in 10 and a 3-pointer as a reserve. Again, I’m not sure how this game was as close as it was and I’m still waiting for the Clippers to put it into overdrive and move onto the next round.
The Hawks are at Washington for Game 2 and will try to find a way to slow down John Wall and steal a road win. Bradley Beal wasn’t great in Game 1, so the Hawks also have to worry about him bouncing back with a big game. Chances are the Wizards are going up 2-0 tonight.
The Thunder are at Houston and are hoping to make Game 2 a closer affair than the Game 1 blowout that put the Rockets squarely in control of this series. Russell Westbrook can change that tonight, but I don’t think he has the teammates he needs to upset the Rockets.
The Blazers are at Golden State and the Warriors don’t appear to be scared of Portland, at all. I’m expecting a good game in D.C. and a couple blowouts in the West.