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The showdown between the Nets and Bucks that many of us expected to see has yet to materialize, with Brooklyn now holding a 2-0 series lead with both wins being blowouts. The good news for Milwaukee is that the scene will shift ahead of Thursday’s Game 3, and the extra day off couldn’t come at a better time. Out west, the series between the Nuggets and Suns began on Monday, with the home team pulling away in the second half to take a 1-0 lead. Let’s get into the Dose.
Nets 125, Bucks 86: Brooklyn dominates from start to finish
Brooklyn never trailed Monday night, leading by as many as 49 points, as they took a 2-0 series lead. Milwaukee can take solace in the fact that the Nets simply held serve, but that’s the only positive for Mike Budenholzer’s team. They had no answer for Kevin Durant (32/4/6/1/1 with four 3-pointers) or Kyrie Irving (22/5/6/1 with four 3-pointers), and the Nets also received solid contributions from Joe Harris (13/1/0/1 with three 3-pointers) and Bruce Brown (13/6/4 with one 3-pointer). Brown was in the starting lineup for the injured James Harden (sore right hamstring), playing 26 minutes, while Irving shifted into the point guard role.
Harden’s absence also means increased playing time for Mike James, who in 24 minutes off the bench accounted for 10 points (4-of-12 FGs), three rebounds, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers). He and Landry Shamet (9/3/2/1 with three 3-pointers in 16 minutes) outplayed many of the Bucks’ reserves, which only made things worse for the visitors, given how poor their starters were.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (18/11/4/0/1) finished with a double-double and shout 8-of-15 from the field, but he was also 2-of-7 from the foul line and missed all three of his 3-point attempts. Given how productive he was in Game 1, Giannis is the least of Milwaukee’s concerns as they begin preparations for Thursday’s Game 3. That “honor” goes to Khris Middleton, who shot 7-of-20 from the field and finished with 17 points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal, three 3-pointers and five turnovers in 34 minutes. And this line qualifies as an improvement for Middleton, who shot 6-of-23 in Game 1. This will be a short series if he can’t get things turned around in a hurry.
Jrue Holiday (13/4/3 with one 3-pointers) and Brook Lopez (10/6/2/0/1 with two 3-pointers) failed to have much of an impact, while Bryn Forbes (10/2/2 with two 3-pointers) had a good night shooting the ball (4-of-6 FGs). Ranked fifth in the NBA in 3-point percentage during the regular season, the Bucks went 14-of-57 from deep in the first two games of this series. By comparison the Nets, who were 21-of-42 Monday night, are 36-of-71. That’s how you get blown out.
Suns 122, Nuggets 105: Phoenix rules the 3rd, draws first blood
Monday’s second game was more competitive, but Phoenix was able to pull away in the second half and take a 1-0 series lead. Mikal Bridges (23/5/5/2/1 with four 3-pointers) scored 13 points in the third quarter, and the Suns turned a one-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead heading into the fourth. From there things only got worse for the Nuggets, who got an ordinary (by his lofty standards) game from Nikola Jokic (22/9/3/2/3 with two 3-pointers) and pedestrian efforts from many of his teammates. Aaron Gordon (18/4/2/3) and Facundo Campazzo (14/4/6/2 with three 3-pointers) shot a combined 13-of-23 from the field, but Michael Porter Jr. (15/7/2 with three 3-pointers) shot 6-of-13.
The bigger issue for Denver than their scoring was their lack of aggression on both ends of the floor. The Nuggets attempted just six free throws and, according to coach Michael Malone, they conceded eight and-ones on the other end. That isn’t going to cut it if the Nuggets are to have a shot at winning the series. JaMychal Green (10/11/1 with two 3-pointers) played well in his 23 minutes off the bench, while Monte Morris (2/1/6/2) shot a putrid 1-of-10 from the field.
The aforementioned Bridges was one of four Suns to score at least 20 points on the night. Chris Paul (21/6/11/1 with two 3-pointers), Devin Booker (21/4/8/1 with one 3-pointer) and Deandre Ayton (20/10/0/1) were the others, while Jae Crowder chipped in with 14 points, five rebounds, one assist and three 3-pointers. Ayton more than held his own in the matchup with Jokic, and just as important as the numbers noted, he was whistled for just one foul in the 36 minutes that he played. Ayton averaged 2.8 fouls per game during the regular season, fouling out just twice, and the Suns will need similar numbers in this series.
Also worth noting is the fact that Torrey Craig, who had to wait until Game 3 of the first round to crack the Suns’ playoff rotation, played another 17 minutes Tuesday night. And he was solid against his former team, shooting 3-of-7 from the field and recording a line of nine points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two 3-pointers. He should continue to get at least 15 minutes per night, and is more than capable of putting up lines of this caliber on a consistent basis. And that would give Monty Williams the ability to use a smaller rotation, with Dario Saric (five points, two rebounds and one steal in nine minutes) and Frank Kaminsky (DNP-CD) being the odd men out.
76ers’ Embiid, Hawks’ Hunter questionable for Game 2
Three of the five players listed on the injury report ahead of Tuesday’s game between Atlanta and Philadelphia will not be available. Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness), who is making progress in his recovery, remains sidelined as do teammates Kris Dunn (non-COVID illness) and Brandon Goodwin (respiratory condition). But there were also two starters on the report, with De’Andre Hunter (sore right knee) and Joel Embiid (small tear, right meniscus) both being listed as questionable.
Hunter, who did not play in Game 1, is considered to be a game-time decision. If he has to sit for the second straight game Solomon Hill would once again slot into the Hawks’ starting lineup, while the versatile Kevin Huerter should once again see an increase in playing time (and opportunities to serve as a secondary creator). As for Embiid, he was able to play 38 minutes Sunday afternoon. Should there be any issues with the knee Dwight Howard and Mike Scott would be in line for an increase in playing time, with the former likely starting in order to match up with Clint Capela.
Utah’s Conley (hamstring) also questionable
Utah and the Clippers open their series Tuesday night, and it’s possible that the Jazz will be without their starting point guard. Mike Conley (right hamstring, mild strain) is listed as questionable for Game 1, after suffering the injury early in the team’s series-clinching win over the Grizzlies. Utah has been in this situation before, with veteran Joe Ingles being moved into the starting lineup. Expect the same should Conley not be cleared to play. Hamstring injuries can be difficult when it comes to the recovery process, and it doesn’t help matters that there are no extra days off in this series (the teams will play every other day).
As for the Clippers, Serge Ibaka (back spasms) is listed as doubtful. He played a total of 19 minutes in Games 1 and 2 of the first round series against Dallas, but has not appeared in a game since. While the Clippers were able to go small in the first round, using Nicolas Batum at the five as opposed to the ineffective Ivica Zubac, this is a matchup in which they’ll need their size. Zubac should be back in the starting lineup for Game 1 opposite Rudy Gobert, and Ibaka remaining sidelined could also open the door for the seldom-used DeMarcus Cousins to make an appearance.
Knicks’ Thibodeau wins Coach of the Year
The NBA announced on Monday that Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau was the winner of the league’s Coach of the Year award, as voted on by selected members of the media. Thibodeau, who received 43 first-place votes (351 points), led the Knicks to 41 wins (an improvement of 20) and the franchise’s first playoff berth in eight seasons. He beat out Phoenix’s Monty Williams in what was the closest vote in league history, as Williams (340 points) received 45 first-place votes. Utah’s Quin Snyder (10 first-place votes, 161 total points) finished third, with Doc Rivers (Philadelphia), Nate McMillan (Atlanta), Steve Nash (Brooklyn) and Michael Malone (Denver) rounding out the list.