Of the four games on the schedule Tuesday three were duds, with the Raptors and 76ers clinching their respective series with blowout wins and Denver whipping San Antonio to take a 3-2 lead. The other game, Portland hosting Oklahoma City in Game 5 of that series, proved to be a classic that those who watched it will remember for quite some time. Damian Lillard scored 34 first-half points -- finishing with 50 -- and his three-pointer from around 40 feet out as time expired ended the series. Below is a look at Tuesday’s action, with Toronto’s tandem of Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam, Joel Embiid and Jamal Murray among the other standouts.
Raptors 115, Magic 96
After winning both games in Orlando, Toronto jumped out to a big lead in Tuesday’s Game 5 and did not look back. The Raptors scored 31 of the first 38 points, with Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam once again leading the way offensively. Leonard shot 8-of-11 from the field and 6-of-6 from the foul line, finishing with 27 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and five 3-pointers (on five attempts). Kawhi entered Tuesday averaging 28.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.3 three-pointers per game in the series, with shooting splits of 53.2/42.9/86.4.
Siakam added 24 points (8-of-16 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs), six rebounds, four assists, one blocked shot and three 3-pointers, with this being his third game of 24 points or more in the series. The third-year forward, who averaged 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game during the regular season, accounted for 22.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per in the first four games of this series. Siakam and Leonard were two of the three Toronto starters that finished the game in double figures, with Kyle Lowry adding 14 points (6-of-10 FGs), nine assists, four rebounds and one steal in 27 minutes.
All five starters were done by the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter, with Leonard and Siakam (32 minutes each) being the only ones to surpass 30 minutes played. Lowry played 27 minutes, Danny Green (six points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers) 28 and Marc Gasol (nine points, nine rebounds, two assists, one three-pointer) 24. Norman Powell (11 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal and one three-pointer) and Pascal Siakam (ten points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) both scored in double figures, with fellow reserve Fred VanVleet dishing out a game-high ten assists while also accounting for seven points, one rebound and one three-pointer.
As for Orlando, in addition to the early offensive struggles the team also had to navigate early foul trouble. Nikola Vucevic was whistled for three fouls in the first quarter and Aaron Gordon two, and neither one could get going offensively as a result. Vucevic played just 17 minutes, scoring six points (3-of-10 FGs) with seven rebounds and one assist. That matches the six points he scored in Orlando’s Game 2 blowout loss, and in the final four games of the series the All-Star center averaged 11.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 blocks per outing while shooting 40.9% from the field, 20.0% from three and 70.0% from the foul line. In the four regular season meetings between the teams (Gasol played in the last two), Vucevic averaged 20.0 points. 15.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
Gordon, who would pick up his third foul early in the second quarter Tuesday night, played 25 minutes and finished with 11 points (4-of-13 FGs, 3-of-7 FTs), seven rebounds, one assist and one steal. While he did have two games in which he scored at least 20 points, Gordon scored either ten or eleven in the other three games of this series. D.J. Augustin, who shot 4-of-8 from three, scored a team-high 15 points while also dishing out four assists, and Wesley Iwundu and Terrence Ross scored 12 points apiece off the bench. Khem Birch, who shot 4-of-5 from the field and scored nine points, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds while also blocking four shots and tallying three assists.
Toronto moves on to face Philadelphia in the second round, with the Raptors having one three of the four regular season meetings between the two teams. All four games were played before the trade with the Clippers that sent Tobias Harris, Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic to Philadelphia, and Kawhi Leonard did not play in the game that Philadelphia won.
76ers 122, Nets 100
Both Eastern Conference games were essentially over by the end of the first quarter, and in this matchup Brooklyn did not score until 6:08 to go in the period. Philadelphia led by as much as 24 in the first (30-6), going on to end the series in five games with Joel Embiid leading the way. Embiid, who was once again a game-time decision due to his left knee, racked up 23 points (9-of-18 FGs, 3-of-3 FTs), 13 rebounds, two assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in just 20 minutes of action. The big man led six double-digit scorers, and due to the nature of this game no 76ers starter played more than 27 minutes (Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler).
Simmons shot 6-of-10 from the field, finishing with 13 points, six assists and five rebounds, with Tobias Harris (12 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and two 3-pointers) and JJ Redick (11 points, two assists, and three 3-pointers) also scoring in double figures. The aforementioned Butler shot 4-of-9 from the field, finishing with nine points, but he also accounted for five rebounds, five assists, three steals, one blocked shot and one three-pointer. Reserves James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons chipped in with 11 and ten points, respectively, with the former also tallying three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one three-pointer. Simmons, who scored a total of nine points in the first four games of the series, shot 2-of-4 from three and also grabbed two rebounds.
Those two, and Jonah Bolden, are worth keeping an eye on heading into the second round due to the injury suffered by Mike Scott. Scott, who averaged 24.0 minutes per game during the regular season after arriving in Philadelphia as part of the Tobias Harris trade, played just 13 minutes before leaving the game in the second quarter with a right heel contusion. While Ennis was part of the Philadelphia rotation with Scott in the fold, that wasn’t the case for Simmons. Also, Bolden played 13 minutes before being ejected late in the fourth quarter and shot 2-of-4 from three with one rebound and one blocked shot. The rookie forward, who played a total of 25 minutes in the first four games of the series, was one of four players ejected after he got into it with Brooklyn’s Rodions Kurucs.
Also ejected were Philadelphia’s Greg Monroe and Brooklyn’s Dzanan Musa, but the altercation did not appear serious enough for there to be a fear of either 76er being suspended for Game 1 of the next series.
Brooklyn stuck with the starting lineup it used in Game 4, with Caris LeVert and Jared Dudley replacing Kurucs and DeMarre Carroll. LeVert was the only starter who could get anything going offensively, as he finished with 18 points (6-of-12 FGs, 5-of-8 FTs, 5-of-8 FTs), four assists, three rebounds, one steal and one three-pointer in 31 minutes. Joe Harris, who struggled mightily with his shot throughout the series, scored nine points on 4-of-11 shooting (1-of-5 3-pointers) with seven rebounds and one steal, with Jarrett Allen adding eight points (4-of-8 FGs), nine rebounds and one blocked shot.
The fifth starter, D’Angelo Russell, had his worst game of the series Tuesday night. Shooting 3-of-16 from the field, Russell scored eight points with three assists, two rebounds, two steals and one three-pointer. In the first four games he averaged 22.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per, but shot just 39.1% from the field, 35.5% from three and 90.9% from the foul line. Add in Spencer Dinwiddie’s 1-of-7 night, and Brooklyn’s top two point guards combined to score 11 points on 4-of-23 shooting from the field. Kurucs (14 points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and two 3-pointers), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (21 points, two rebounds, two blocks, one assist and one three-pointer) and Shabazz Napier (11 points, ten assists, four rebounds, one steal and one three-pointer) all scored in double figures, but a lot of their damage was done after the result was no longer in doubt.
As noted above Philadelphia will face Toronto in the second round, and this will be the first postseason meeting between the two franchises since 2001.
Nuggets 108, Spurs 90
For the second straight game Mike Malone went with Torrey Craig instead of Will Barton in the Nuggets starting lineup, and after scoring 12 points in Denver’s Game 4 victory Denver’s newest reserve was better Tuesday night. Barton matched a playoff career-high with 17 points, shooting 7-of-11 from the field, while also accounting for five rebounds, three assists and one three-pointer in 28 minutes. He was one of seven Nuggets to score in double figures, and as a result Denver is now one win away from its first postseason series victory since 2009. Barton came off the bench in just five of the 43 regular season games he played in this season, averaging 10.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per, so this has been a bit of an adjustment for him. But after shooting 3-of-10 from the field in Game 4, he put forth his best shooting effort of the series thus far in Game 5.
Jamal Murray, who scored 24 points in Game 4, followed that performance up with a 23-point (9-of-16 FGs) outing Tuesday night. In addition to the points he accounted for seven assists, four rebounds, two steals, one blocked shot and four 3-pointers, and this was with a sore right shoulder. Murray said after the game that while the shoulder is hurting a bit he is okay. Fellow starters Nikola Jokic (16 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, one block and two 3-pointers), Gary Harris (15 points, two rebounds, one assist, one block and three 3-pointers) and Paul Millsap (14 points, six rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers) also finished the game in double figures. Monte Morris and Malik Beasley also had solid nights, with Morris tallying ten points, four rebounds, four assists and one block and Beasley adding 11 points, two rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers.
Four Spurs reached double figures, with DeMar DeRozan (four rebounds, one assist and one steal) and LaMarcus Aldridge (ten rebounds, two steals, one block and one three-pointer) scoring 17 apiece and Jakob Poeltl (seven rebounds and four assists) and Derrick White (two rebounds, two assists, one steal and one three-pointer) adding 12 points each. But as a team the Spurs, who led the NBA in three-point percentage during the regular season, shot just 7-of-24 from distance Tuesday night. By comparison the Nuggets were 14-of-33, with the 14 triples being one off the franchise record for a playoff game.
Bryn Forbes shot 1-of-4 from three, finishing with four points and one assist, with Davis Bertans (1-of-4 3-pointers), Patty Mills (1-of-5) and Marco Belinelli (1-of-3) also struggling with their perimeter shots. No San Antonio player managed to make multiple three-pointers, while five Nuggets (Murray, Harris, Beasley, Jokic and Millsap) were able to do so.
Game 6 is scheduled for Thursday night in San Antonio, with the teams having split games 3 and 4 on the Spurs’ home court.
Trail Blazers 118, Thunder 115
For the second time in his NBA career Damian Lillard has hit a series-clinching shot as time expired, with the first coming in Portland’s win over Houston in 2009. Only one other player in league history can make that claim: Michael Jordan, who accomplished that feat in 1989 and 1993 (both against Cleveland). Lillard’s shot Tuesday night capped a sensational night for the All-Star guard, who finished with a franchise playoff record 50 points (17-of-33 FGs, 6-of-8 FTs), seven rebounds, six assists, three steals, one blocked shot and ten 3-pointers in 45 minutes played. Of the 18 three-pointers Lillard attempted six were from at least 30 feet away from the basket, and he made four of them.
Portland needed every one of those 50 points, as CJ McCollum picked up three early fouls and really didn’t get into a groove offensively. McCollum shot 8-of-19 from the field (1-of-7 3-pointers), scoring 17 points, with two rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots in 32 minutes. Fellow starters Moe Harkless and Enes Kanter both shot 6-of-9 from the field, with Harkless posting a line of 17 points, seven rebounds, one assist and one steal and Kanter adding 13 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and one block. Kanter appeared to injure his left shoulder in the first quarter, but after heading to the locker room a couple seconds before his teammates at the intermission he was good to go for the second half.
Kanter played 32 minutes, with backups Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard playing ten and five minutes, respectively. Of the Portland reserves Seth Curry (seven points, three rebounds, two steals, one assist, one block and one three-pointer) played the most (27 minutes), with Evan Turner and Rodney Hood playing 16 and 13 minutes, respectively. Due to McCollum’s quiet (by his standards) night and the bench producing a total of 12 points, Terry Stotts played Lillard for as long as he could before finally giving his point guard a break at the start of the fourth quarter. That’s the point when Oklahoma City made its run, with the Thunder eventually leading by 15 with 7:45 remaining. Harkless and McCollum would score eight points apiece during the Trail Blazer rally, with Lillard scoring the final five to clinch the series.
Paul George was Oklahoma City’s high scorer, as he shot 14-of-20 from the field and finished with 36 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers, but he also turned the ball over five times. Russell Westbrook produced a solid stat line, tallying 29 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds, four steals, two blocks and four 3-pointers, but he shot 11-of-31 from the field and also committed five turnovers. Jerami Grant (16 points, eight rebounds, one assist, three blocks and two 3-pointer) and Steven Adams (ten points, four rebounds, two assists, three blocks) also scored in double figures, with Dennis Schroder adding 17 points, three assists, two rebounds and two 3-pointers off the bench.
Schroder played 33 minutes, with the other three reserves used (Nerlens Noel, Markieff Morris and Raymond Felton) combining to play 15. Billy Donovan relied on his starters for as long as he could, with Westbrook (45 minutes) Grant (44) and George (42) rarely leaving the floor in this elimination game. Adding consistent shooting and bench production will be keys for the Thunder this offseason.
As for Portland, next up for the Trail Blazers is a matchup with either Denver or San Antonio. The earliest that series can end is Thursday, so Kanter will have a couple days to get his left (non-shooting) shoulder back to full strength if there are any issues that carry over from Tuesday night.
Wednesday’s Schedule (all times Eastern)
Jazz @ Rockets, 8 PM (TNT)
Clippers @ Warriors, 10:30 PM (TNT)