After Toronto began its second round with a comfortable win over Philadelphia Saturday night, two more series got underway Sunday afternoon. While the Western Conference semifinal between Houston and Golden State was competitive throughout, the same cannot be said for Boston’s win over Milwaukee in the East.
Brad Stevens went small with his starting lineup, and the move paid off on both ends of the floor. Milwaukee was able to close the gap in the second quarter, pulling to within two points by the intermission, but Boston dominated the third quarter on its way to a 22-point victory. In the West, Golden State held off Houston at home to take a 1-0 series lead.
Below is a look at both of Sunday’s games, followed by some early injury notes on Monday’s slate.
Celtics 112, Bucks 90
As noted above Boston’s starting lineup had a different look from the group Brad Stevens went with in the first round, with Marcus Morris replacing Aron Baynes. As a result Al Horford shifted down to the five, and he was excellent on both ends of the floor as Boston took a 1-0 series lead. Horford shot 8-of-16 from the field, finishing with 20 points while also tallying 11 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, one steal and three 3-pointers in 32 minutes. And after the tandem of Horford and Baynes shared the court for an average of 10.7 minutes per game in Boston’s sweep of Indiana, they were not on the court together at all Sunday afternoon.
Going small helped Boston with its spacing offensively, putting five capable perimeter shooters on the floor, and on the other end it helped account for Milwaukee’s ability to play fast and spread teams out with Brook Lopez at the center position. Morris played 30 minutes, scoring nine points with seven rebounds, three blocked shots, one assist and one three-pointer. The three blocks are the most Morris, who did not block a single shot in the first round, has amassed in a game this season. The last time he blocked multiple shots in a game: March 16, when he had two in a win over the Hawks.
Baynes played just nine minutes off the bench, finishing with four points, one steal and one three-pointer. Baynes sprained his left ankle with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter and did not return. Daniel Theis would check in at that point, with Horford returning to the lineup to begin the fourth quarter.
Following the game Stevens said that he also went with Morris as the starting four in order to keep Gordon Hayward with the second unit, and he still saw an ample amount of playing time. Hayward was one of two reserves to reach double figures in minutes (Terry Rozier, who tallied 11 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers in 20 minutes), as he played 30 and finished with 13 points (5-of-8 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), four rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and one three-pointer. Hayward has scored in double figures in four of Boston’s five postseason games.
Kyrie Irving led Boston offensively, scoring 26 points (12-of-21 FGs) with 11 assists, seven rebounds and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes played. The spacing opened up driving lanes for the All-Star point guard, with Milwaukee unable to clog the paint as they can do in most matchups. Jaylen Brown added 19 points (8-of-14 FGs), four rebounds and three 3-pointers, and Jayson Tatum finished with four points (2-of-7 FGs), six rebounds, three blocks, one assist and one steal.
As a team the Celtics shot 13-of-31 from three, and something to keep an eye on in this series is where those shots come from. Milwaukee is one of the best teams in the NBA with regards to defending the corner three, but during the regular season they allowed 10.5 made threes above the break. Of Boston’s 13 made threes only two were made in the corner, with the other 11 coming from above the break.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for Milwaukee with 22 points (7-of-21 FGs, 5-of-10 FTs), but Boston’s lineup change led to his having to work much harder for his looks than he did in the first round. Antetokounmpo, who also tallied eight rebounds, two assists, one blocked shot and three 3-pointers (on five attempts), was defended by both Morris and Horford at various points in the game. There were also a few occasions when Baynes was given the matchup, as Horford needed a rest, and that’s when Giannis was at his most effective offensively. Khris Middleton added 16 points, ten rebounds, six assists and three 3-pointers, shooting 5-of-12 from the field and 3-of-3 from the foul line.
No other Bucks starter reached double figures, with Sterling Brown being kept in the starting five. Brown, who played 22 minutes, finished with three points (1-of-7 FGs), three rebounds and one three-pointer before ultimately being ruled out due to back spasms. He, Lopez and Eric Bledsoe combined to shoot 3-of-17 from the field (2-of-11 3-pointers), with Lopez posting a line of three points, three rebounds, one block and one three-pointer and Bledsoe tallying six points (4-of-6 FTs), four assists, two rebounds and two steals.
Nikola Mirotic, George Hill and Ersan Ilyasova were Milwaukee’s most effective reserves, with Mirotic scoring 13 points with four rebounds and three 3-pointers in 21 minutes played. Hill and Ilyasova added nine points apiece, with the latter missing all five of his three-point attempts while also accounting for six rebounds and one steal. Hill shot 4-of-8 from the field, and he accounted for three assists, two rebounds and one three-pointer in 24 minutes. Pat Connaughton, who played 24 minutes, struggled mightily as he shot 2-of-10 from the field (1-of-7 3-pointers) and finished with five points, five rebounds and two steals.
Malcolm Brogdon has already been ruled out for Game 2 and his absence is felt in this particular matchup, especially when Bledsoe and Brown are as ineffective as they were Sunday.
Warriors 104, Rockets 100
With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both cleared to play after suffering right ankle sprains in Golden State’s Game 6 victory over the Clippers, Steve Kerr was able to shake up his starting lineup. After Andrew Bogut moved into the starting lineup in the aftermath of DeMarcus Cousins’ quadriceps injury suffered in Game 2 of the last series, he was replaced by Andre Iguodala for Sunday’s series opener. The “Hamptons 5” spent 25 minutes on the court together Sunday, finishing the game with a net rating of plus-5.8. Get used to seeing this lineup on the court, as according to Tim Kawakami of The Athletic Kerr said that he’s going to use the “Hamptons 5” due to his desire to match Iguodala’s minutes with those of Chris Paul and James Harden as best as he can.
While solid defensively Iguodala also contributed on the offensive end, shooting 6-of-7 from the field and finishing with 14 points, four rebounds, two assists, one blocked shot and one three-pointer in 34 minutes. All five Warriors starters scored in double figures, with Kevin Durant scoring 35 (11-of-25 FGs, 12-of-15 FTs) with five rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block, one three-pointer and six turnovers in a team-high 43 minutes. He’s now scored 30 points or more in five straight games, and during this run (which began after he reminded the assembled media of who he was) he’s averaging 40.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks and 3.6 three-pointers per with shooting splits of 54.5/40.0/91.1.
By comparison Houston was able to keep Curry and Thompson in check, as they combined to score 31 points. Curry, who finished with 18, shot 5-of-12 from the field (3-of-10 3-pointers) and 5-of-5 from the foul line while also tallying seven rebounds, four assists and one steal in 37 minutes. As for Thompson, he finished with 13 points (5-of-13 FGs, 1-of-1 FTs), four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 41 minutes. Due to his ability to defend multiple positions Thompson is an important player on that end of the court in this series as well, with the Warriors using him on both Harden and Paul at various points in Sunday’s game.
Draymond Green filled the stat sheet in his 40 minutes, scoring 14 on 7-of-9 shooting with nine rebounds, nine assists, one steal and one blocked shot. The only reserves to reach double figures in minutes were Kevon Looney (six points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 16 minutes) and Shaun Livingston (two points, two assists and one steal in 14 minutes), with Alfonzo McKinnie grabbing three rebounds in nine minutes and Andrew Bogut tallying two points and three rebounds in five.
Sunday was frustrating for Harden, as he struggled with his shot and also had a bone to pick with the officials regarding his landing on a few shot attempts. The reigning MVP scored a team-best 35 points, but he shot just 9-of-28 from the field overall and 4-of-16 from beyond the arc. A 13-of-14 afternoon from the foul line boosted the point total, and Harden also accounted for six assists, four rebounds, three steals and three turnovers. Following the game he said that he simply wanted “a fair chance” with regards to the officiating, as there were multiple instances where some believed that he was not given the proper space shooters are supposed to get when landing after attempting a jump shot.
With Chris Paul, who was ejected with 4.4 seconds remaining after picking up his second technical foul, and Mike D’Antoni (who was also given a technical in the third quarter) also voicing their displeasure it will be interesting to see how Game 2 is officiated.
Paul played 36 minutes, scoring 17 points (5-of-9 FGs, 4-of-7 FTs) with four assists, three rebounds, three steals, three 3-pointers and five turnovers. A player whose contributions should not be overlooked is Eric Gordon, who scored 27 on 10-of-19 shooting from the field with four rebounds, two blocks and four 3-pointers in 37 minutes. Those three shouldered much of the scoring load, as Houston was without Austin Rivers due to illness. In addition to what he can provide as a bench scorer Rivers’ absence was also felt on the defensive end, as he was one of Houston’s better defenders when it came to guarding Curry (11-of-31 FGs when defended by Rivers) during the regular season.
Danuel House Jr. and Iman Shumpert, who played a total of 17 minutes in the first round, played 21 minutes each and accounted for a total of six points, four rebounds, two 3-pointers and one steal. Houston’s best reserve from a performance standpoint was Nene, who made all three of his field goal attempts and racked up eight points, three steals, two rebounds and one assist in 14 minutes. Kenneth Faried, who averaged 23 minutes per in the two games he played against Golden State after being signed by the Rockets (including a 20-point, 10-rebound, two-assist effort in Houston’s February 23 win), was a DNP-CD on Sunday.
How D’Antoni handles the center position moving forward in the series will be an interesting subplot, given Clint Capela’s struggles in Game 1. Houston’s starting center was limited to 27 minutes, scoring four points (1-of-2 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) with six rebounds and two assists. But instead of the more athletic Faried being called upon once it became apparent that Capela could not be effective against the “Hamptons 5,” D’Antoni went with the more experienced Nene. Nene certainly put up a solid stat line, but Golden State hunted him in switches defensively with the most notable possession being the one that ended with a Curry three-pointer with 25.9 seconds remaining, giving the Warriors a 103-98 lead at the time. P.J. Tucker could be another option as a smaller five, especially if Rivers is available for Game 2. But on Sunday he did not have his best game, missing all four of his shot attempts and going scoreless with four steals, three rebounds and one assist in 39 minutes played.
Tuesday’s Schedule (all times Eastern)
76ers @ Raptors, 8 PM (TNT)
No changes for either team, as Raptors forward OG Anunoby (appendectomy) and 76ers forward Mike Scott (heel contusion/plantar fasciitis, right foot) are both listed as out. Joel Embiid, who missed Game 3 of Philadelphia’s first round series due to knee soreness, was not listed on Sunday’s final injury report.
Trail Blazers @ Nuggets, 10:30 PM (TNT)
The biggest news for Game 1 of this series is the status of Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, who’s listed as questionable due to the left shoulder separation that he suffered during Game 5 of Portland’s first round series with Oklahoma City. During media availability he said that the shoulder “hurts pretty bad,” and he’s having a tough time doing things such as changing his shirt and eating food.
Kanter’s a right-handed player, but this could be a situation in which he’s a game-time decision. Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard become more important players within the Blazers rotation if Kanter is either limited or unable to play. The other two players listed on the injury report were Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. (lower back surgery) and Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic (leg), with both having already been ruled out for the remainder of the season.