By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and after a long layoff for the respective series, Saturday was home to an instant classic Game 3 showdown between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics. Milwaukee mounted a seemingly insurmountable lead during the second half, but Boston made things interesting until the final buzzer, narrowly missing out on a game-tying basket a few tenths of a second too late. Giannis Antetokounmpo was a force for the Bucks, finishing the game with 42 points, a dozen rebounds, eight dimes, two steals, and two blocks. It was a herculean effort for Antetokounmpo as he led Milwaukee to a 2-1 series advantage.
For Boston, subpar transition defense hurt the team, though it was the team’s game-long struggles shooting from beyond the arc that doomed the Celtics. Boston finished the game 9-for-33 from deep, an inexcusable effort that highlights the team’s streakiness from outside. Despite the struggles, the Celtics were vying for the victory in the closing seconds when the officiating took over as the game’s story. Marcus Smart’s game-tying attempt from three was deemed a non-shooting foul in a controversial call, giving Boston two free throws instead of three. While it was a judgment call, given the game’s circumstances, it seems indefensible to argue Smart was doing anything other than attempting a shot. Boston will look to even the series tonight in Game 4.
Saturday night, the Golden State Warriors rolled to a 30-point blowout win, taking a 2-1 advantage over the Memphis Grizzlies. To add injury to insult for Memphis, Ja Morant was forced from the action with a knee injury that is expected to keep him sidelined for tonight’s pivotal Game 4. Nevertheless, the game ended up with a massive margin of victory, and frankly, it could have been even worse for the Grizzlies had Golden State not struggled to avoid turnovers during the first half. Memphis boasted an early 21-to-8 lead, a span during which the Grizzlies hit five three-pointers while the Warriors had five turnovers. However, Golden State cruised, outscoring the Grizzlies by 43 points from that point on. Morant’s status for tonight’s game is important, but it is worth noting that Memphis excelled without Morant for 25 games during the regular season.
Sunday afternoon saw the Dallas Mavericks start the game white-hot from deep, building an early lead that proved impossible to overcome for the Phoenix Suns. Though Luka Doncic led the team with 26 points, his success came inside the arc as he went a miserable 1-of-10 from deep. However, the rest of the Mavericks combined to go 19-of-34, including Dorian Finney-Smith lighting it up with eight made threes. In the loss, Chris Paul had a second consecutive disaster of a performance, finishing with five points before fouling out. There’s an argument that his fifth and sixth fouls weren’t precisely great calls, but Paul has too much experience to be in a position to warrant a whistle. Through two games, Phoenix appeared to be on the way to an easy series. Now, after back-to-back wins for Dallas, the Suns are suddenly facing a best-of-three series. The Suns will look to get back on track and avoid catastrophe tomorrow night with the series heading back to Phoenix.
Closing out Sunday’s action, the Philadelphia 76ers evened its series against the Miami Heat behind a solid performance from a less-than-full-strength Joel Embiid (24 points, 11 boards) and a resurgent showing from James Harden, who led the team with 31 points while also adding seven boards and nine dimes to the box score. Philadelphia’s back-to-back wins in the series have been massive surprises given the way the 76ers struggled during the first two games, but now the series shifts back to Miami for a pivotal Game 5. Given Philadelphia’s success at home, the Heat are suddenly in desperate need of a win. Game 5 tips off tomorrow night.