Tuesday night gave us a couple fun games, as the Celtics held off the Raptors in a thriller for a 2-0 lead in their series, and the Nuggets closed out the Jazz in Game 7. Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker and Nikola Jokic were the heroes of the night as we get ready for the Heat-Bucks Game 2 and the Thunder-Rockets Game 7 on Wednesday night.
Celtics 102, Raptors 99 – Boston leads East Semis 2-0
Jayson Tatum had a career playoff-high 34 points, eight rebounds, six assists, a steal and four 3-pointers on 8-of-17 shooting in 42 minutes of a huge win. The former World Champ Raptors have their collective backs up against the wall early and Tatum might be the second- or third-best player in the league in a year or two. I still can’t believe 34 is his playoff career high, but it is. I love everything about him and if I don’t get Luka Doncic or Trae Young in next year’s drafts, I’d be happy to walk away with Tatum, who could easily lead the Celtics to an Eastern Conference Championship this year, as well as an NBA title.
Kemba Walker was 0-for-8 in the first half and just 2-of-14 in through three quarters last night, but then went 4-of-4 with a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter and was the only Celtic to hit a field goal in the final five minutes, and the only Celtic to even score in the final three minutes of an incredible win. "I've missed so many shots in my life," said Walker. "I'm never going to get down on myself. I'm going to find ways to help my teammates. I thought tonight, I thought I stayed solid defensively, which was most important." You have to think Celtics fans are ecstatic having Walker instead of a guy who goes by the last name of Irving and plays, occasionally, for the Nets.
And then there was Marcus Smart. He may have been the biggest hero of all for the Celtics, hitting five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and single-handedly bringing the Celtics back from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Smart started (remember, Gordon Hayward is out for at least another month due to an ankle injury) and hit 6-of-13 shots and 6-of-11 3-pointers for 19 points, three rebounds, one assist and two steals in the win. “Once I saw the first one go in, I knew,” he said. He was right and his defense was impeccable.
Jaylen Brown chipped in with 16 points, eight boards, three steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers and Robert Williams hit 5-of-5 shots for 11 points, four boards and a block. Williams left with a tailbone injury after a nasty fall and went to the locker room but returned to finish. I’m guessing he’s fine for Game 3 on Thursday, although I wouldn’t advise using him in DFS unless you’re desperate.
The Raptors saw both Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet struggle, while OG Anunoby came through with a big game. Lowry hit just 5-of-16 shots and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts for 16 points, five boards, seven dimes, four steals and a block. And FVV hit just 8-of-22 shots and 3-of-12 3-pointers for 19 points, five rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a block. The pair of guards came through in DFS thanks to their counting stats, but the poor shooting really hurt their team tonight. And Smart played a big role in their demise. Lowry is now 1-of-12 from downtown in this series and hit just 8-of-23 of them in four games against the Nets. FVV was on fire against the Nets, hitting 19-of-34 3-pointers in four games against the Nets, but is just 5-of-23 from beyond the arc in this series. Both players are due to bounce back in Game 3. VanVleet also missed the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer last night after a costly OG Anunoby turnover.
Speaking of Anunoby, he was the best Raptor in this one, hitting 7-of-12 shots, 4-of-6 3-pointers and 2-of-3 free throws for a team-high 20 points, seven rebounds and a steal in 38 minutes. If you played him in DFS, I’m guessing you did well. Other contributors for the Raptors were Pascal Siakam (17 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 1 3-pointer) and Serge Ibaka (17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 3-pointers) in the loss. A lot of people are calling for Ibaka to start over Marc Gasol (6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks), who started and played 21 minutes. And given the 0-2 hole the Raptors are in, I wouldn’t be shocked if Ibaka gets the call on Thursday, making him a really intriguing DFS target.
Nuggets 80, Jazz 79 – Denver takes series 4-3, face Clippers in West Semis
Jamal Murray, who had been all the rage after two 50-point games and a 40-point game in this series, was nearly invisible last night, hitting just 7-of-21 shots and 1-of-6 3-pointers for 17 points, two rebounds, four assists and a steal in 41 minutes. Donovan Mitchell and Royce O’Neale were draped over him all night and he was never able to get it going. He let his fantasy managers down in a big way, but he wasn’t alone for the Nuggets. Jerami Grant hit just 1-of-5 shots for three points, Monte Morris started and hit just 3-of-8 shots, Michael Porter Jr. hit just 3-of-7 shots in 17 minutes, Torrey Craig hit 3-of-9 shots in 34 minutes, and Gary Harris, playing through his hip injury, hit just 1-of-9 shots in his 26 minutes.
I’m still not sure how the Nuggets won this game, but they withstood a 12-0 Jazz run in the second and a 13-0 Jazz run in the third and fourth quarters to pull off the win. Nikola Jokic deserves most of the credit, as he hit 12-of-23 shots, two 3-pointers and 4-of-4 free throws for 30 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in the win. Jokic, Murray and Porter Jr. (10 points) were the only Nuggets to hit double figures in scoring. Murray, Grant, Morris and Porter should bounce back in the Western Semis against the Clippers, while Harris will have some big games and some duds the rest of the way. I’m not sure why MPJ only played 17 minutes, but he still got it done with his 10 points, nine boards, two steals and a 3-pointer. I suspect he’ll get more minutes going forward and am not afraid of using him in DFS from night to night. Murray took a shot to his left thigh and while it didn’t appear to physically slow him down, you have to wonder if it was bothering him. I think he’ll be fine for Game 1 on Thursday.
The Jazz were led by Donovan Mitchell’s 22 points on 9-of-22 shooting and he added 2-of-8 3-pointers, nine rebounds, one assist, one block and nine turnovers in the loss. Mitchell didn’t look as good as he did in the rest of the games in this series and the nine turnovers obviously crushed the Jazz. But he played incredible defense on Murray and left his heart on the floor. And if there was any question about the relationship between Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, they were put to rest last night.
And speaking of Gobert, he was a second-half beast in this one. He had just one rebound at halftime but finished the game with 19 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks on 8-of-13 shooting. If the Jazz would have pulled this one out, Gobert would have been the reason why with his 17 second-half boards and his play on both ends of the court down the stretch. Mike Conley was disappointing with eight points, four boards, seven assists, three steals and one 3-pointer on 2-of-13 shooting, Joe Ingles hit just 3-of-10 shots and Jordan Clarkson was 4-of-9 for 10 points. The Jazz are going fishing, but as long as they keep the gang together, the future is bright. Their learning experience within the bubble should make them all better next season.
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Heat-Bucks – Heat lead East Semis 1-0
Eric Bledsoe (right hamstring) is questionable for the Bucks after sitting out Game 1 and I wouldn’t mess with him in DFS tonight. George Hill should be in line for another start and a heavy workload and will have to be better than he was in Game 1, when he hit just 2-of-5 shots for eight points, four assists and four turnovers in 36 minutes. My guess is he bounces back tonight. The Heat focused on shutting down Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 1 and it worked. He hit just 6-of-12 shots and 4-of-12 free throws for 18 points, but still nearly triple-doubled with 10 rebounds and nine assists, but also committed six turnovers. The Bucks were down 0-1 in Round 1 against the Magic and came back to win four straight and you have to think they’ll put up more of a fight in Game 2 against the Heat.
For the Heat, Jimmy Butler will try to duplicate his career-best 40-point performance in Game 1, while Goran Dragic (27 points and a full stat line) and Bam Adebayo (12 points, 17 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals) will also have to play well again for the Heat tonight.
Thunder-Rockets – Game 7
Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari were great in Game 6, Steven Adams had 14 rebounds and Luguentz Dort scored 13 points in the win to force Game 7. Dennis Schroder hit just 5-of-16 shots and was 0-for-5 from downtown in that one and he’ll have to be better tonight. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also struggled, hitting 4-of-11 shots for 10 points and six dimes, and the Thunder would like to see him bounce back, as well. But the Thunder will need to find a way to get Adams more touches against a centerless Houston team and CP3 and Gallinari will need to keep it going if the Thunder are going to shock the world. Additionally, Darius Bazley will have to contribute off the bench like he did in Game 6, when he had eight points, nine boards, three assists and a 3-pointer in his 22 minutes.
Russell Westbrook didn’t look quite right on Monday when he shot an airball, committed seven turnovers and basically had a fourth-quarter meltdown in the Game 6 loss. He’s on a minutes count due to a right quad injury, but my guess is the ball will be in the hands of James Harden down the stretch in Game 7, assuming it’s a tight game. Westbrook had the ball far too much for my liking in Game 6.
Harden had 32 points, eight boards, seven assists and three 3-pointers on 11-of-22 shooting in Game 6, but mysteriously wasn’t handling the ball a lot with the game on the line. Mike D’Antoni won’t make the same mistake twice and Harden is a must-play tonight. And if you want to play Westbrook in hopes of a bounce-back performance, it makes a lot of sense.
P.J. Tucker was awesome on Monday with nine points, 11 boards, two assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers, and Robert Covington came through in a big way with 18 points, five rebounds, five steals, three blocks and four 3-pointers on 7-of-11 shooting. I’m probably rolling with Tucker and Covington tonight, in hopes that they can keep it going. Eric Gordon was off in Game 6, hitting just 3-of-12 shots and 1-of-6 3-pointers for nine points, four boards, six dimes, two steals and a block. He’s due to bounce back, but I’m probably going elsewhere in DFS. Jeff Green was invisible in Game 6 with three points and seven boards on 1-of-5 shooting in just 18 minutes. He’s been a fun DFS play in the bubble but has really tailed off in his last three games, averaging just 7.3 points and 7.3 boards over that stretch. I’m probably going to fade him. And lastly, Danuel House played 30 minutes off the bench in Game 6 but had just 12 points, two rebounds, one assist, three steals and two 3-pointers. I love the minutes and his potential, but he’s a little shaky right now, as well.
Good luck and enjoy the games on Wednesday night! If you enjoyed this follow me on Twitter right here!