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Middleton, Mitchell go off in Thursday’s playoffs

Khris Middleton

Khris Middleton

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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Bucks 86, Nets 83 – Nets lead 2-1, Game 4 in Milwaukee on Sunday

The Bucks found themselves in a do-or-die situation on Thursday night and Khris Middleton answered the call with 35 points, 15 rebounds, one assist and three 3-pointers on 12-of-25 shooting in 44 minutes as the Bucks fought back to life with a win. Giannis Antetokounmpo hit just 14-of-31 shots, 1-of-8 3-pointers and 4-of-9 free throws for 33 points and 14 boards, and Jrue Holiday hit just 4-of-14 shots for nine points, four rebounds, five assists, a steal and one 3-pointer as the Bucks somehow eked out a win against the Nets in an incredibly low-scoring game. Brook Lopez was 1-of-7 for three points and 11 boards, but also had six blocks and a 3-pointer as the Bucks took advantage of a Nets team who also couldn’t find the bucket last night. If you simply look at the Bucks’ box score, it doesn’t look great and it’s kind of hard to believe they won this game. But things were also a little shaky on the Brooklyn side of things and Middleton was simply the best player on the court tonight. And if you rolled with Middleton, who had hit just 13-of-43 shots and scored 17 and 13 points in his previous two games, you did well in DFS. Middleton is going to have to continue to be a beast going forward if the Bucks are going to hang in this series.

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For the Nets, Kevin Durant hit just 11-of-28 shots, Joe Harris was 1-of-11, Kyrie Irving was 9-of-22 and Bruce Brown did his best James Harden impression for 16 points, 11 boards and three assists on 8-of-17 shooting. However, Brown couldn’t close when he missed a driving layup late that allowed the Bucks to secure the win. The Nets hit just 36 percent of their shots in a low-scoring game and while the Bucks didn’t shoot it much better (38 percent), the two percent advantage ended up being the difference in the game. The Bucks won this game because of home court and they’ll need Middleton to do it again in Game 4, and will have to hope the Nets continue to struggle with their shooting. If you played Brown and Middleton in DFS tonight, you probably won some money. Game 4 is in Milwaukee on Sunday.[[ad:athena]]

Jazz 117, Clippers 111 – Jazz lead 2-0, Game 3 in L.A. on Saturday

The Jazz managed to blow a 21-point third-quarter lead and actually trailed in the fourth quarter, but bounced back for a somewhat decisive win to take a 2-0 lead in the series. Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell all hit huge 3-pointers as the Jazz tied a playoff franchise record with 20 3-pointers on the night. Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert played awesome defense down the stretch and Jordan Clarkson also hit a couple big 3-pointers, including a bank shot, to secure the win for Utah. Donovan Mitchell went down late and appeared to be banged up, which is concerning given that he missed a ton of games late in the season with a sprained right ankle. I think he was just trying to sell the call and that he’ll be fine, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. For the record, he said he was fine after the game and I think he was just trying to sell a call. Mitchell has scored at least 30 points in four straight playoff games and is clearly the leader of this team. He apparently took the barbs from the Inside the NBA crew to heart earlier this season and is showing out. The last, and only, Jazz player to score 30+ in four straight playoff games was Karl Malone. Rudy Gobert set a playoff career high with 20 rebounds and added 13 points, two steals and three blocks, and came through with a couple big offensive plays down the stretch in a tight game. Mitchell hit 15-of-29 shots and six triples for 37 points, three boards and four assists, Ingles, filling in for Mike Conley (hamstring), hit a huge triple and finished with 19 points, four rebounds, four assists, a steal and four 3-pointers, and Bogdanovic added 16 points, four rebounds and three 3-pointers in the win. Jordan Clarkson kept it going off the bench with 24 points and six 3-pointers on 9-of-15 shooting and the Jazz appear to be ready to put the Clippers away, as no team has come back to win after being down 2-0 in their first two playoff series (which is where the Clippers sit). And the fact the Jazz have done this without Mike Conley (hamstring) is simply impressive. Maybe Conley will be ready for Saturday’s Game 3, and maybe they won’t even need him. The Jazz are 35-6 at home this season (including the playoffs) and will now need to get it done on the road. The Jazz are also 8-0 all time in the playoffs when taking a 2-0 lead in a series, and the only game they’ve lost in this postseason was Game 1 against the Grizzlies, when Mitchell was out.

The Clippers were led by (wait for it) Reggie Jackson, who hit 11-of-19 shots and four 3-pointers for 29 points, three rebounds and two assists in 36 minutes. If a guy who was not really good enough to carry the Pistons is suddenly your savior against the Jazz, well, I don’t know what to tell you. But Jackson was awesome tonight and has played really well in this series, as well as for most of the season for the Clips. Paul George had 27 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two 3-pointers, but hit just 8-of-18 shots and hit a 3-pointer that didn’t matter after the game was already decided late. Kawhi Leonard hit 8-of-17 shots and two 3-pointers for 21 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals, but if I’m telling you Kawhi was the Clippers’ third-leading scorer, you probably see the problem. Kawhi should be option 1, 2 and 3 for the Clips, and the Jazz and their outstanding defense will happily let Jackson and George lead the way again in Game 3. Marcus Morris, who may be, along with Jackson, the difference maker for the Clippers, had eight points and 10 boards, but was 0-for-5 from downtown. Jackson was a monster tonight and was largely responsible for the Clippers making up a 21-point deficit tonight. But if you’re relying on Jackson to lead your team against a squad like the Jazz, you’re in trouble. Luke Kennard was taken one pick in front of Donovan Mitchell in the 2017 draft and you have to think Mitchell is having fun with this one. Kennard, who has made a little noise lately, had just three points in 10 minutes tonight.

Here’s a list of guys taken in front of Mitchell (No. 13) in the 2017 NBA Draft:

Markelle Fultz

Lonzo Ball

Josh Jackson

Lauri Markkanen

Frank Ntilikina

Dennis Smith Jr.

Zach Collins

Malik Monk

Luke Kennard

And Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox and Jonathan Isaac were also taken before Mitchell, but I’m not going to hate on any of those picks, at least yet. Bam Adebayo is in the same boat, as he was taken just after Mitchell at No. 14, but it’s hard to believe that NBA executives couldn’t figure out that Mitchell was going to be a bit of a monster back then.

Friday night should be a blast as the Hawks will host the Sixers in a 1-1 tie (with no De’Andre Hunter) and the Nuggets will host the Suns in an 0-2 hole. Can the Hawks make adjustments to Ben Simmons smothering Trae Young, and can the Nuggets utilize their MVP Nikola Jokic to stop the bleeding against a shockingly good Suns team? We’re about to find out. State Farm Arena will be rocking in Atlanta and the Nuggets get to test the Suns on their home court.

We’ve got a Roundball Stew Live Podcast on YouTube at noon today covering all of this, so please come check us out!