Kevin Durant’s lower right leg injury is the story of the night, topping the fact that both the Warriors and Bucks won on Wednesday night. The Warriors will take a 3-2 lead into Game 6 on Friday at Houston, and the Bucks closed out the Celtics last night in five games, and will await the winner of the Raptors-Sixers series.
Warriors 104, Rockets 99 – Warriors lead 3-2 with Game 6 @ Houston on Friday
The Warriors controlled this game in the first half, opening up a 31-17 lead after the first quarter, but the Rockets came through with a huge third quarter to make it an interesting game down the stretch. The Warriors only scored 15 points with six turnovers in the third quarter, but were able to overcome the letdown. Kevin Durant went down with a non-contact “strained right calf” in that same the third quarter, and Draymond Green fouled out with 1:14 left in a close game before the Warriors finally secured the five-point win in the final seconds to take a 3-2 lead heading into Friday’s Game 6 in Houston. The winner of Game 5 wins the series 82.4 percent of the time in the NBA Playoffs, but this Warriors team will likely be without both Durant and DeMarcus Cousins (quad).
As for Durant, Twitter basically broke after his scary, non-contact injury, as speculation about him rupturing his Achilles ran rampant, and then talk of a ‘cover up’ took over after the calf injury was announced. My Twitter followers ranged from disgusted (predictions of an Achilles injury were too much for some to handle), to ‘is this a cover up?,’ to “I’ve had the same calf injury, and he couldn’t walk if he ruptured his Achilles.” I agree that KD wouldn’t have walked off the court if he actually ruptured his Achilles, but he could have walked off under his own power if he injured it without rupturing it. The calf injury seems to hold a lot of water, but even that ‘good news’ would still leave his availability for the rest of these playoffs in jeopardy. A calf injury is a much better scenario than a ruptured Achilles, which would have sent the pending free agency season into a full tailspin. Either way, it’s terrible news for KD and the Warriors (and Knicks?), but we’ll know a lot more after KD’s MRI on Thursday. My guess is KD has likely played his last game of these playoffs, but that’s just a guess. And if the Rockets can win two games in a row, KD will have played his last game at Oracle Arena. He had 22 points, five boards, four assists, a steal and two 3-pointers in 32 minutes before leaving in the third quarter, and if he’s done, Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney both just got huge DFS boosts for the rest of the playoffs.
Green picked up his fourth technical foul of the playoffs tonight after a “dirty” play after getting tangled up with Chris Paul. Green popped CP3 in the head with his knee while Paul was on the floor, and I believe it was Shaquille O’Neal who used the words ‘dirty play’ on Inside the NBA. Seven technicals is good for a one-game suspension in the playoffs, so he’s still got two to play with. But at this point, the Warriors just have to be hoping they get by the Rockets in this series. Green finished with a solid eight points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal and two 3-pointers in the win.
Stephen Curry came through with 25 points, six rebounds, five assists and three 3-pointers on 9-of-23 shooting, and scored 20 of those points in the second half, many of them coming after Durant exited the contest. Klay Thompson was also clutch after struggling recently, hitting 11-of-20 shots and five 3-pointers for 27 points, four rebounds, one assist and three steals in the win. Curry, Klay and Dray are all going to have to play at a very high level if the Warriors are going to advance the Western Conference Finals, but the ball is still in their court, as they have a chance to win Game 7 at home on Sunday if they don’t win at Houston on Friday.
Iguodala started and had 11 points, four rebounds and five assists, and hit a clutch free throw to help seal the win, while Looney had five points, nine boards, a steal and a block in his 22 minutes. Every game in this series has been decided by six or fewer points, and it will be interesting to see if that trend continues if KD is out.
Lastly, TNT cut to the Steve Kerr press conference after the game, just in time for Kerr to drop a pair of F-bombs on national TV. I’m not sure of the cable rules, but I’m guessing he’s in the clear, if South Park can get away what they say on a nightly basis after 10 p.m. But it was a little weird seeing/hearing the F-bombs fly out of Kerr’s mouth. He wasn’t angry, but was instead talking about what a great freaking win it was for his banged up team.
The Rockets probably feel like they let one get away, but James Harden appeared to run out of gas, finishing with an efficient 31 points, four rebounds, eight assists, four steals, a block and three triples on 10-of-16 shooting in 45 minutes. Eric Gordon came through again with 19 points, three 3-pointers, a steal and a block, P.J. Tucker kept it rolling with 13 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers, while Chris Paul added 11 points, six boards, six assists and two steals, despite hitting just 3-of-14 shots and missing all six of his 3-point attempts. Clint Capela was a little better with six points and 14 boards, but didn’t have a block or a steal, and only hit 3-of-10 shots, while Iman Shumpert came through off the bench with 11 points, two boards and three 3-pointers in the loss. Austin Rivers played 24 minutes, but hit just 1-of-6 shots for two points. If you’re setting a DFS lineup when the Rockets are playing, Harden and Tucker are your must-start players, while I expect Rivers to bounce back.
Bucks 116, Celtics 91 – Bucks take series 4-1, await winner of Raptors-Sixers (3-2 Raps)
Celtics coach Brad Stevens says he did a “bad job” coaching Boston against the Bucks, but then again, his franchise player was Kyrie Irving, while Bucks’ coach Mike Budenholzer was blessed with Giannis Antetokounmpo as his go-to guy. Outside of a Celtics win in Game 1, this series wasn’t even close, and the Bucks seem nearly destined to reach the NBA Finals. Irving hit just 25-of-83 shots (30 percent) from the floor, and 5-of-27 from 3-point land over his last four games. While no one on TNT’s postgame show would actually say it, it was implied that Irving was a huge problem for the Celtics this season, especially in the locker room, and I wholeheartedly agree. You also have to wonder how much stuff went down with Irving’s antics that we didn’t even hear about publicly. There was enough public garbage throughout the season to make us think he’s played his last game as a Celtic, and it would simply be shocking if he were back in Boston next season. And along those same lines, Terry Rozier, who was playing for a contract, disappeared in these playoffs, and my guess is that Rozier’s struggles were also on Irving’s shoulders. Rozier was awesome at this time a year ago, but was nearly invisible in these playoffs, while Irving was throwing up brick after brick (or airball).
The Celtics were not good in this ugly loss. Irving led the way with his 15 points, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris (double-double) each scored 14, Jaylen Brown scored 12, Al Horford scored nine points, and Gordon Hayward hit just 3-of-9 shots for seven points. The Celtics are going fishing and are in for a really interesting offseason. And the fan base is pretty ticked off, as Stevens acknowledged when he said the team didn’t live up to “outside expectations.”
For the Bucks, Giannis led a balanced attack with 20 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks on 8-of-14 shooting in 31 minutes. He would have played more and done more, but the Bucks absolutely owned this game and outscored the Celtics in every quarter, meaning they didn’t need Giannis down the stretch. The Bucks reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001, and Giannis is the main reason why.
Having said that, coach Budenholzer outcoached Stevens in this series, and Giannis got solid support from Nikola Mirotic (10 & 11), Khris Middleton (19-8-5), Eric Bledsoe (18-6-2), George Hill (16, three 3-pointers), Ersan Ilyasova (10 points, 6 boards, two 3-pointers) and Malcolm Brogdon (10 points, 3 boards, 4 assists, one 3-pointer in 17 minutes) throughout the series. Brogdon is back from his foot injury, and should be a quality DFS play going forward, Mirotic and Ilyasova should continue to be value plays, and Middleton and Bledsoe should both be solid mid-dollar options throughout the playoffs. Brook Lopez was the odd man out in this one, missing all seven of his shots (all 3-pointers), failing to score in the game. I’ll be shocked if the Bucks don’t advance to the NBA Finals, as Giannis doesn’t look anywhere close to being satisfied yet.
Raptors @ Sixers at 8 p.m. on ESPN – Raptors lead 3-2
Nuggets @ Blazers at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN – Nuggets lead 3-2
Warriors @ Houston at 9 p.m. on ESPN – Warriors lead 3-2
Blazers @ Nuggets – If Necessary
Rockets @ Warriors at 3:30 p.m. on ABC – If Necessary
Sixers @ Raptors at 7:00 p.m. on TNT – If Necessary