Image via House of Highlights on YouTube
August 25, 2020 – The first set of NBA playoff games have reached the mid-way point, and two teams have swept their opponents: the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors.
The reigning champions Toronto Raptors took on the seventh seed Brooklyn Nets in the East, and it was kind of a given the Raptors would win this series. They are fighting for back to back titles and to prove they do not need Kawhi Leonard to win a championship. They also have a stacked roster who can play cohesively and maintain a hefty lead against the Nets. Kyle Lowry left the floor during the first quarter on Sunday afternoon with an ankle sprain and the Raptors still won 150-122 thanks to help from the bench.
The Celtics swept the 76ers in the first round – Sixers haven’t been swept since 1999. The Sixers were without Ben Simmons due to a dislocated knee cap, which required season ending surgery. Although Joel Embiid averaged 30 points and 12 rebounds for the series it was not enough to pull through a win. The Celtics had a deeper bench which was apparent throughout the series, while the Sixers on the other hand need some key bench players to change the momentum of the game.
The Sixers fired coach Brett Brown yesterday afternoon after seven seasons with the team due to falling short yet again in the postseason. Rumors suggest Ty Lue as a possible replacement?
The Celtics were also playing without one of their stars, Gordon Hayward. He injured his ankle during Game 1 of the series and has recently returned to Boston to rehab. Hayward’s wife is also expecting to have their fourth child (aw!) in September, so the two overlapping situations could keep him from participating in the postseason a little longer. Yet the Celtics continued to dominate on the perimeter thanks to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker in Game 4.
Raptors and Celtics will start their series on Aug. 27, which will be an even matchup. Both teams have a deep bench and a strong starting core who lead in scoring. I personally believe the Celtics can win if they cover well on defense and put pressure on the perimeter, As previously mentioned Lowry sprained his ankle against the Nets and his return is unknown. Rooting for the Celtics but I also believe Raptors can win in six.
As for the Jazz v Nuggets (3-1 Jazz) and Mavericks v Clippers (2-2), each team has fought hard until the last second.
After a loss in overtime during Game 1 the Jazz returned with better offensive playmaking and and two stellar 50 point performances from Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell was in a shooting rhythm early on thanks to some poor defensive adjustments made by the Nuggets. Nikola Jokić remained closer to the rim as often as possible and because of that Mitchell was left open for some easy fade away shots and mid-range jumpers (Eric Spyropoulos, NBA.com).
Jamal Murray also had a 50 point night in game during Game 4 – it was the first time in NBA playoff history two players had a 50 point night. But it was not enough to carry the team to another win. In Game 5 it will take more than another outstanding performance from Murray to fight elimination, since he dear bear a 43-minute load in Game 4. The Nuggets handled the ball well in the previous matchup and had a good number of second chance shots thanks to their offensive rebounding. Game 5 will all come down to the defensive setup by the Nuggets and stopping Mitchell from getting hot early.
The Mavericks vs Clippers matchup has been far from predictable (I know my tweets say otherwise don’t come for me). Especially when Luka Doncic hit a game winning three point buzzer beater from deep to tie the series in OT. Let’s not forget, Doncic had a playoff performance on an sprained ankle from the previous game.
The Mavericks have been without Kristaps Porzingis due to right-knee soreness he’s experienced since Game 2 – but they have still remained successful.
The Clippers Lou Williams and Kawhi Leonard carried the team with 88 points combined, but the Clippers will need additional help on offense (cough cough Paul George) in order to pull through for Game 5. George had nine points and shot 3-of-14 from the floor. Although he was still performing well defensively, the additional points on the other end will help the Clippers maintain a lead.
Since I’m not rooting for the Clippers, I am rooting for ‘Playoff P’ to stay in this shooting rut. We can expect Doncic to be heavily double-teamed tonight and probably a higher scoring night from Leonard. Mavericks must be smart with the ball offensively and work for every rebound to pull through a win tonight.
Ending this recap with a Happy Birthday and Kobe Day note to the late Kobe Bryant. There were so many beautiful tributes and stories which were posted in his honor . Kobe was a star athlete but also a star father, friend and activist.