Monday’s NBA Playoff slate delivered virtuoso performances from Jimmy Butler and Chris Paul, with the latter helping his team force a decisive seventh game. While the Rockets and Thunder now have business to attend to Wednesday night, this also gives the Lakers two additional days of rest before its second round series. And that could be big when it comes to the availability of Rajon Rondo, who has yet to play a game in the bubble due to thumb and back injuries. Below is a look at Monday’s games and a couple notes from Orlando’s end-of-season press conference.
Heat 115, Bucks 104 (Miami leads, 1-0)
Jimmy Butler was dominant in the second half of Monday’s Game 1, and that ultimately proved to be the biggest reason for Miami drawing first blood in the series. Butler scored 27 points in the second stanza, finishing with a line of 40 points (13-of-20 FGs, 12-of-13 FTs), four rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block and two 3-pointers in 36 minutes. He said before the series that the left shoulder that bothered him in Game 4 of the Pacers series was no longer an issues, and Butler looked fine throughout Monday’s game.
Goran Dragic (27/6/5/1 with two 3-pointers), Bam Adebayo (12/17/6/2) and Tyler Herro (11/3/1 with three 3-pointers) were the only other double-digit scorers for Erik Spoelstra, who used an eight-man rotation with the ninth player (Kelly Olynyk) playing just eight minutes. Kendrick Nunn, who appeared in just one game in the first round due to a second departure from the bubble and the need to get back into playing condition, played 16 minutes off the bench and finished with six points, two assists and one steal. We’ll see if Nunn’s production improves as the series progresses, but for those debating which Heat reserve to roll the dice on in DFS just go with Herro.
Included in Miami’s rotation were three players capable of guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo: Butler, Jae Crowder (nine points, nine rebounds and three 3-pointers) and Andre Iguodala (2/4/1 steal/1 block). Iguodala played 19 minutes off the bench, nearly eight fewer than his average in the first round (26.8 mpg). Milwaukee was able to take away Duncan Robinson, who finished with four points, one rebound, three assists and one 3-pointers, and that combined with Herro’s play is why the rookie played three more minutes (29 to 26) than Miami’s starting two guard.
Shifting gears back to Giannis, while he did fall one assist shy of a triple-double this was not a particularly good game by his lofty standards. In 37 minutes he tallied 18 points (6-of-12 FGs, 4-of-12 FTs), 10 rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers, with the foul shooting and the turnover count (six) being problematic. Antetokounmpo has been too good all season long to give up on after one tough outing, but the Heat have defensive answers that Orlando lacked in the first round.
Milwaukee also experienced a lineup change, as George Hill started for the injured Eric Bledsoe (hamstring). Hill played 36 minutes, putting up eight points, one rebound, four assists and one 3-pointer while also racking up four turnovers. On most occasions during the regular season when Bledsoe was out Donte DiVincenzo would be the choice to fill the void, but Mike Budenholzer went with the more experienced hand instead. And DiVincenzo didn’t have the best night either, scoring one point with four rebounds and two assists in 14 minutes.
If Bledsoe misses Game 2 whichever player (Hill or DiVincenzo) would be the better DFS play, but you may be better off just finding someone else based upon what happened in Game 1.
Khris Middleton (28/6/5/2 with four 3-pointers) put up a game-high 24 shots from the field, making 12, so that’s a positive given how he struggled with his shot for much of the first round. But he didn’t attempt a free throw, and he also committed four turnovers in his 37 minutes on the floor. Brook Lopez (24/1/1 steal/2 blocks with four 3-pointers) shot 8-of-10 from the field, and this sets up to be a good series from a points/3-pointers standpoint. That being said, matching up with Adebayo could be a nightmare with regard to rebounding. Brook hasn’t been a dominant rebounder this season, averaging just 4.6 per game, but Adebayo was responsible for 10.2 per night in the regular season and as noted above corralled 17 Monday night. Lopez's value in this series may only come as a points/3-pointers/blocks option as a result.
Milwaukee went nine deep with Frank Mason playing two first-quarter minutes, only to not be heard from again (meaning playing in the game to be clear; he’s OK otherwise). Kyle Korver, who reached double figures just once in the first round, contributed 11 points, three rebounds, one blocked shot and three 3-pointers in 16 minutes off the bench. Pat Connaughton played 25 minutes and Marvin Williams 21, but outside of the former’s six rebounds neither had much of an impact fantasy-wise. They both can be left alone for Game 2, as there will be better bench options available in the Thunder/Rockets Game 7 that will also be on the slate.
Thunder 104, Rockets 100 (series tied, 3-3)
We’ve got ourselves another Game 7 in the West, and Chris Paul is the biggest reason why. In 40 minutes he put up a stat line of 28 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals, three 3-pointers and no turnovers, shooting 10-of-20 from the field and 5-of-5 from the foul line. Interestingly enough the point guard that he was traded for last offseason, Russell Westbrook, struggled mightily down the stretch.
Westbrook was on a restriction of 25-30 minutes and he played 27, with Mike D’Antoni timing things so that he would be available in crunch time. But missed shots and turnovers sullied what appeared to be a solid night, as Westbrook finished with 17 points (8-of-15 FGs), four rebounds, three assists, one steal, one 3-pointer and seven turnovers. He said after the game that he'll be on a minutes restriction for Game 7 as well. James Harden (32/8/7 with three 3-pointers and five turnovers) was conspicuously absent late outside of a hustle play in which he saved the ball off of Danilo Gallinari. Houston is clearly comfortable with Westbrook initiating things but so are the Thunder, who chose not to switch the Westbrook/Harden pick-and-roll so as to keep the latter from receiving the ball. And the move paid off.
Robert Covington (18/5/5 steals/3 blocks and four 3-pointers) and P.J. Tucker (9/11/2/2/1 with three 3-pointers) both played 38 minutes, and Danuel House chipped in with 12 points, two rebounds, one assist, three steals and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes off the bench. Eric Gordon, who scored 20 in Game 5, scored just nine while shooting 3-of-12 from the field. He did account for four rebounds, six assists, two steals, one blocked shot and one 3-pointer, providing some value, but the poor shooting really limited Gordon’s fantasy output. He’s still worth using as a low-cost option Wednesday night, but no one that refuses to do so can be blamed.
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Oklahoma City, like Houston, went eight deep with their ninth player only getting a handful of minutes. Gallinari (25/5/1/2 with four 3-pointers) rebounded from a rough Game 5 and so did Luguentz Dort, who shot a respectable 5-of-9 from the field and finished with 13 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers in 20 minutes. Due to the lack of consistency on the offensive end Dort’s minutes and fantasy value are capped, but he was an asset Monday night. Oklahoma City will need more from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander however, as he tallied 10 points, two rebounds, six assists, one block, two 3-pointers and four turnovers on 4-of-11 shooting.
After scoring 18 points or more in Games 2, 3 and 4, he’s accounted for a total of 14 points in Games 5 and 6. Gilgeous-Alexander is still worth using in DFS due to his importance to the Thunder rotation, but there’s no denying the fact that he’s in a slump right now. Dennis Schroder added 12 points, eight rebounds, two assists and one steal in 37 minutes off the bench but shot 5-of-16 from the field, and Darius Bazley (8/9/3 with one 3-pointer) had a good game off the bench. I really like him as a late-round option next season based upon his play in the bubble.
— Jonathan Isaac not expected to play next season
Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and head coach Steve Clifford held their end-of-season press conferences on Monday, offering updates on players such as Isaac, Mo Bamba, and Chuma Okeke.
Isaac, who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee (the same knee that he injured in January) during the seeding games, is not expected to play next season. “Obviously, we will not have Jonathan Isaac for next season, so that has to account into our thinking,” Weltman said. The talented forward underwent surgery to repair the torn ACL and torn meniscus cartilage in his knee on August 7, so it was obvious that Isaac was going to miss a considerable amount of time. With Weltman ruling Isaac out now, even with the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, the question now is who will fill the resulting void at small forward.
James Ennis started in Isaac’s place, and he has a player option for the 2020-21 campaign so there’s no guarantee that he’ll be back. Add in the fact that Wesley Iwundu and Gary Clark will both be restricted free agents, and there could be multiple holes to fill beyond Isaac. Al-Farouq Aminu’s return will help, and this year’s first-round pick (Okeke) is expected to be available as well. Okeke tore his ACL during the 2019 NCAA tournament, and the change to this season’s schedule ultimately got him more time to get back to full strength. The bad news is that there was only so much work that Okeke was able to get in at the practice facility from March on due to the league’s coronavirus protocols. He should be in the rotation next season, but temper those expectations when projecting Okeke’s fantasy value.
— Mo Bamba (COVID-19) will have a full recovery
Bamba contracted COVID-19 back in June, and once in the bubble his minutes were limited due to conditioning issues that arose due to the virus. Obviously he was eventually sent home due to further complications, and on Monday Weltman said that it could be some time before Bamba fully recovers. “The doctors have ruled out anything that’s serious, but it will take some time to clear his system, and that’ll probably be measured in months, not weeks. That’s really something that is not going to be a long-term issue,” said Weltman.
Bamba hasn’t been much of a factor fantasy-wise in his first two seasons, and it’s hard to project him as a worthwhile late-round pick in any format given this recent health issue. Hopefully he’s good to go whenever next season begins, but based upon Weltman’s comments that may not be the case.