By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and in an instant, Phoenix’s championship hopes took a massive hit. On Tuesday night, the Suns lost Game 2 to the New Orleans Pelicans, squandering home-court advantage in the series in the process. However, that was not the most significant loss for the Suns. Instead, that honor goes to Phoenix for losing Devin Booker to a hamstring injury. Booker was white-hot during the first half, scoring an incredible 31 points. However, his early exit combined with Brandon Ingram’s superstar showing (37 points, 11 boards, nine dimes) gave New Orleans the unexpected victory. The Pelicans continue to exceed expectations, and depending on Booker’s status for Game 3, Phoenix may be in trouble.
Memphis made a statement win on Tuesday, recovering from the unexpected Game 1 loss to the Timberwolves to record the largest margin of victory in a playoff game in franchise history. It was an ugly game early, marred by foul calls and replay reviews, but as the game progressed, the Grizzlies founds their groove. Ja Morant led the way for Memphis with 23 points, nine boards, and ten dimes. For the Timberwolves, Anthony Edwards had a less efficient night than in Game 1, and Minnesota continues to struggle to involve Karl-Anthony Towns in the offense. Despite offering one of the most unique skillsets in the NBA, Towns was limited to only seven shots during his 15-point, 11-board double-double. The Wolves have to figure out a way to seize the advantage of Towns’ brilliance heading into Thursday’s Game 3.
Atlanta fared better in Game 2 against Miami than during Game 1, but that was a low bar to clear as the Hawks still lost by double-digits to the top-seed Heat. On Tuesday night, Jimmy Butler was an unstoppable force for Miami, scoring a playoff career-high 45 points, including hitting four three-pointers. The Heat defense destroys Atlanta’s timing on the offensive end, with Miami’s gameplan turning Gabe Vincent and Dwayne Dedmon into defensive forces against an overmatched Hawks offense. Atlanta needs to overhaul its approach to this series, or the Hawks won’t be playing beyond the weekend.
No Luka Doncic proved to be no problem on Monday night as the Dallas Mavericks evened its series against the Utah Jazz behind a superstar-level showing from guard Jalen Brunson. Operating against Utah’s defense—which can best be described as Rudy Gobert attempting to do everything while his teammates watch—Brunson erupted for 41 points on 25 shots. Equally impressive, Brunson operated as the team’s primary ball-handler yet finished the game without committing a turnover. For all his numbers, Donovan Mitchell deserves scrutiny for his struggles on the defensive end, along with his continued shrinking in late-game situations. The series will shift to Utah for Game 3 tomorrow night.
Philadelphia took a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Toronto Raptors behind another big game from Joel Embiid (31 points and 11 boards). Embiid practically lived at the free-throw line during the first quarter, providing Philadelphia with an early advantage while ensuring Toronto’s depleted frontcourt spent the game’s duration in foul trouble. Toronto’s lack of size ensures slowing Embiid is an impossible ask. Instead, for the Raptors to salvage the series and challenge Philadelphia, Toronto needs Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam to play like All-Stars. Through two games, the duo has struggled for consistency. Game 3 is tonight in Toronto.
Steph Curry continued to come off the bench for Golden State in the team’s emphatic Game 2 win over the Denver Nuggets, and though it is an unorthodox move, it’s difficult to argue with the results. Curry played a scant 23 minutes but finished with a whopping 34 points. Curry combined with Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole to score 84 points on only 52 shots. With anything close to that efficiency going forward, the Denver Nuggets aren’t the only team in trouble. The Nuggets will look to avoid a disastrous end to the season tomorrow night at home.