The first round series between Philadelphia and Brooklyn hasn’t lacked for entertainment, with things getting especially interesting after Game 2. There was Joel Embiid’s initial reaction to the elbow he landed on Jarrett Allen, which ruffled some feathers in the Nets locker room, and there was also the exchange between Jared Dudley and Ben Simmons. While Dudley gave Simmons credit for his ability in the open floor, he said the All-Star point guard was just “average” in the half-court. Well, Simmons was well above that Thursday night as the 76ers took a 2-1 lead in the series.
That’s where the recap of Thursday’s three playoff games will begin, with Tobias Harris and JJ Redick also being impact contributors for the 76ers. San Antonio’s Derrick White was unstoppable in the Spurs’ win over Denver, and Kevin Durant went off for 38 points after scoring 44 total in the first two games of the Warriors' series with the Clippers.
76ers 131, Nets 115
Philadelphia played without Joel Embiid, who was sidelined by a sore left knee. The All-Star center, who received extra treatment on the knee during the first quarter, was replaced in the starting lineup by Greg Monroe. Monroe played 24 minutes, shooting 4-of-13 from the field and scoring nine points with 13 rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot. While the rebound total was high Philadelphia was a bit “off” with him on the floor, and once Boban Marjanovic (14 points, eight rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block) fouled out instead of going back to Monroe the 76ers went small. And that when the 76ers pulled away, with Simmons being the biggest player on the court.
In addition to setting up the offense, that lineup also led to Simmons being used as the “roll man” in ball screens. With Harris and Redick both shooting the ball well, Brooklyn really didn’t have an answer for the 76ers offense. Simmons finished the game with a playoff career-high 31 points, shooting 11-of-13 from the field and 9-of-11 from the foul line, while also accounting for nine assists, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals in 38 minutes. Harris, who shot 6-of-6 from three, also established a new playoff career-highs in points and rebounds with 29 points (11-of-19 FGs, 1-of-1 FTs), 16 rebounds, three assists and one steal. Redick was the third starter to score at least 26 points (7-of-17 FGs, 7-of-9 FTs), as he shot 5-of-9 from three and also dished out two assists in his 34 minutes on the floor.
Jimmy Butler added 16 points, seven assists, two rebounds and two steals in 38 minutes. Philadelphia went with an eight-man rotation, with Marjanovic being the most effective of the reserves. Boban played 18 minutes, with Mike Scott (no points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal) playing 24 and James Ennis (four points, six rebounds, one steal) 19.
Brooklyn was the first team to go small, switching to a lineup that included Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at the four and the aforementioned Dudley at the five. Part of the reasoning for the move was the need to get back into the game, but the Nets also had to account for the loss of Ed Davis due to a sore right ankle. Davis played ten minutes in the first half, scoring two points with two rebounds and one blocked shot. The initial spark that the lineup adjustment provided Brooklyn faded away once Philadelphia had to match it, with the Nets not only failing to get stops but also struggling to find quality looks on the other end.
D’Angelo Russell scored 26 points but did so on 26 shot attempts, and he also accounted for four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes. Jarrett Allen, who played 21 minutes, was the only other starter to score in double figures as he tallied 15 points (4-of-5 FGs, 7-of-9 FTs) with six rebounds, two assists and one steal. Joe Harris, who’s struggled with his shot in the first three games of this series, scored eight points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field (0-of-4 3-pointers) to go along with four rebounds and one assist. DeMarre Carroll (six points, three rebounds and two 3-pointers) and Rodions Kurucs (three points, five rebounds and one assist) combined to shoot 3-of-13 form the field and 2-of-9 from beyond the arc.
Caris LeVert was Brooklyn’s most effective reserve, as he scored 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals, one blocked shot and three 3-pointers in 28 minutes. Hollis-Jefferson added 14 points (2-of-7 FGs, 10-of-13 FTs), four rebounds, three assists and one steal, and Spencer Dinwiddie tallied 15 points (5-of-13 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), four rebounds and one three-pointer in 26 minutes. Embiid’s status is the biggest storyline heading into Saturday’s Game 4, but even if he can play the 76ers’ effectiveness with Simmons being used as the roll man has to be something that Brett Brown and his staff looks to exploit moving forward.
Spurs 118, Nuggets 108
After averaging 16.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in the first two games of the series, Spurs guard Derrick White went off Thursday night. White scored 26 first half points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field, and he would go on to finish with 36 points (15-of-21 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs), five rebounds, five assists, three steals, one blocked shot and one three-pointer as San Antonio took a 2-1 series lead. Of White’s 15 made field goals 12 were made in the paint, as Denver could not find an answer for him on the defensive end of the floor. The second-year guard is just the third Spur in the Gregg Popovich era to tally at least 35 points, five rebounds and five assists in a playoff game, with the others being Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
DeMar DeRozan scored 19 points during the third quarter on 7-of-9 shooting, and he would finish with 25 points (9-of-18 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs). All five Spurs starters scored in double figures, with LaMarcus Aldridge scoring 18 points with 11 rebounds, five assists and one blocked shot, and Jakob Poeltl (seven rebounds, three assists and one steal) and Bryn Forbes (three rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers) adding ten points apiece. Rudy Gay played 24 minutes off the bench and shot 2-of-9 from the field, but he finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one three-pointer. Gay scored 11 of the Spurs’ 19 bench points, with Marco Belinelli shooting 2-of-3 from three to score six points in 17 minutes.
White’s impact on this game wasn’t only on the offensive end of the floor either. He was the primary defender assigned to Jamal Murray for much of the night, and after going off in the fourth quarter of Game 2 Murray was held in check. In 31 minutes he scored just six points, shooting 2-of-6 from the field and accounting for two assists, one rebound, one steal and two 3-pointers. Of the 47 points Murray has scored in this series, 21 were tallied in one quarter. If Denver is to steal a game in San Antonio they’ll need their star guard to be better, and the Nuggets will need more from Will Barton as well.
Barton accounted for four points (2-of-6 FGs), two rebounds and one blocked shot in 20 minutes, with reserves Monte Morris (ten points, seven assists and two rebounds) and Malik Beasley (20 points, nine rebounds, two assists and five 3-pointers) playing 25 and 28 minutes, respectively. After the game coach Mike Malone said that he would lean towards adjusting players’ minutes instead of changing the starting lineup in Game 4. Through the first three games Barton is averaging 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per while shooting just 9-of-31 from the field and 1-of-13 from three.
Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets offensively with 22 points (8-of-14 FGs, 3-of-4 FTs) to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists and three 3-pointers, and Paul Millsap added 14 points, one rebound and one three-pointer. The last time Millsap grabbed one rebound or less in a game: February 1 in a win over the Rockets. Gary Harris posted a stat line of 12 points, seven assists, four rebounds, one steal and two 3-pointers, but he shot 4-of-13 from the field, and Torrey Craig added 12 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal and two 3-pointers in 14 minutes off the bench. Mason Plumlee scored eight points with three rebounds and three assists.
Warriors 132, Clippers 105
For the second consecutive game Golden State led the LA Clippers by 31 points during the third quarter. Unlike Game 2, which the Warriors ended up losing, Steve Kerr’s team did not take its foot off of the gas and went on to win by a comfortable margin to take a 2-1 series lead. Kevin Durant shot 14-of-23 from the field and 7-of-8 from the foul line, scoring 38 points with seven assists, four rebounds, one steal, one blocked shot and three 3-pointers in 30 minutes. If there was a negative for Durant it was that he picked up his third technical foul of the postseason, with he and JaMychal Green being hit with double technicals during the third quarter. The exchange looked harmless, with both players having smiles on their faces during the conversation, so maybe the technicals will be overturned.
Reaching seven technicals during the postseason triggers an automatic one-game suspension, so for KD to be this far along is a bit of a concern given the fact that the Warriors are still in the first round.
Durant led five double-digit scorers, with Stephen Curry adding 21 points (7-of-11 FGs, 3-of-3 FTs), five rebounds, one assist and four 3-pointers, and Klay Thompson scoring 12 (5-of-11 FGs) with two rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two 3-pointers. Curry played just 20 minutes, due to a combination of foul trouble and the Warriors having removed any double by the end of the third quarter. Draymond Green dished out a team-high ten assists to go along with eight points, six rebounds, two blocks and one steal, and Andrew Bogut chipped in with eight points, 14 rebounds, five assists, one steal and one blocked shot.
This was Bogut’s first double-digit rebound effort in a postseason game since May 26, 2016 against Oklahoma City. Of course it's worth noting that he has played a total of 62 regular season games in the NBA since, with the Warriors signing the veteran big last month after he finished up the ABL season with the Sydney Kings.
Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney scored 15 and ten points off the bench, respectively, with the former making three 3-pointers in a game for the first time since February 12. Iguodala was also a factor defensively, as he helped keep Lou Williams in check after he went off for 36 points in Game 2.
Williams shot 4-of-11 from the field and 7-of-8 from the foul line, scoring 16 points with six assists, two rebounds and one three-pointer in 21 minutes. Two Clippers scored 15 points apiece, JaMychal Green and Montrezl Harrell, and Ivica Zubac tallied 18 points, 15 rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot. Zubac, who grabbed nine offensive boards, did a lot of his damage in the fourth quarter when all that was left to be decided was the final score. But that was a nice boost for DFS players who may have gone with the young center in order to save money for other positions.
Zubac was the only starter to score in double figures, with Danilo Gallinari scoring nine points on 2-of-13 shooting from the field (0-of-5 3-pointers). Beverley was nowhere near as impactful as he was in Oakland, playing 18 minutes and accounting for six points, one rebound, one steal and four fouls (and a technical). Landry Shamet, who scored 12 points and hit the game-winning three in Game 2, scored six points on 1-of-5 shooting.
Friday’s Schedule (all times Eastern)
Raptors @ Magic, 7 PM (ESPN)
Patrick McCaw, who’s been out of the lineup since March 28 due to a right thumb injury, is listed as questionable. With OG Anunoby (appendectomy) out indefinitely Toronto can certainly use an additional body on the bench. That’s the only change for either team at this point as of Thursday’s final official injury report.
Celtics @ Pacers, 8:30 PM (ABC)
Trail Blazers @ Thunder, 9:30 PM (ESPN)
The same can be said for this matchup, with Hamidou Diallo (right elbow) and Andre Roberson (left patellar tendon) out for the Thunder and Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) out for the Trail Blazers with season-ending injuries.