The Sixers bounced back on Monday to tie their series with Toronto at 1-1, despite off nights from both Joel Embiid (flu) and Ben Simmons, and the Nuggets took care of the Blazers behind a huge night from Nikola Jokic to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Sixers 94, Raptors 89 – Series tied 1-1
Joel Embiid played through an illness on Monday, but struggled, finishing with just 12 points, six boards, five assists, a block and an uncharacteristic six turnovers on just 2-of-7 shooting in the win. At least Embiid powered through the illness and should have time to get ready for Game 3 on Thursday night, but he burnt owners who rolled with him on Monday. This was Philly’s first win in Toronto since 2012. While Embiid was struggling to get it going, Jimmy Butler went off for 30 points (12 in the fourth quarter), 11 rebounds, five assists, a block and four 3-pointers on 9-of-22 shooting in 43 minutes. Butler was on fire tonight and helped offset another big game from Kawhi Leonard, leading the Sixers to a tough road win. Butler scored more in the fourth quarter in Game 2 than he scored in Game 1, when he had just 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Sixers coach Brett Brown said after the game that "This was James Butler," to which Butler replied in corrective fashion, "My name isn't James...It's literally Jimmy." Tobias Harris had nine points and 11 rebounds after hitting just 3-of-11 shots, and Ben Simmons was way too quiet, hitting 3-of-6 shots for six points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. J.J. Redick was also quiet with 11 points and two 3-pointers, while James Ennis ended up being one of the fantasy plays of the night, hitting 4-of-10 shots and two 3-pointers to finish with 13 points, six rebounds, two assists and a block in 24 minutes. This series looks like it’s going to be a war and the Sixers will be hoping for a healthy Embiid for Game 3 on Thursday night. Backup center Greg Monroe left Monday’s game with a sprained left ankle and didn’t return, so the Sixers will especially need for Embiid to stay healthy and available for as long as Monroe’s out.
For the Raptors, Leonard did it again, hitting 13-of-24 shots, three 3-pointers and 6-of-7 free throws for 35 points, seven rebounds, six assists, a steal and one turnover in the loss. That followed up his 45-point, magnificent performance in Game 1, and Leonard might be the hottest player in these playoffs. Pascal Siakam racked up 21 points, seven rebounds, three assists, four steals, a block and two 3-pointers, and Kyle Lowry came through with 20 points, five boards, five assists, a steal and two 3-pointers in his 42 minutes. Siakam bounced back after missing eight of his first 10 shots to finish 9-of-25 from the floor, but Danny Green and Serge Ibaka disappeared in this one, and they’ll need to be more effective on Thursday if the Raptors are going to regain control of home court with a win at Philly in Games 3 or 4. Green continues to be as hit-or-miss as they come, and hit just 1-of-8 shots (a 3-pointer) for three points, four rebounds, two steals and a block on Monday. Ibaka played just 13 minutes and hit 1-of-5 shots, and was rendered useless off the bench, while starter Marc Gasol hit just 1-of-6 shots (also a 3-pointer) for five points, seven boards, five assists and a block in the loss. I’d be hesitant to use Ibaka in Game 3 after tonight’s disaster, but he’s also due to bounce back.
Nuggets 121, Blazers 113 – Nuggets lead series 1-0
Nikola Jokic went off for 37 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers, hitting 11-of-18 shots and 12-of-12 free throws as the Nuggets got the home win in Game 1 to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Jokic was amazing, and the Nuggets also got 23 points, eight dimes, two steals, three 3-pointers and just one turnover from Jamal Murray, and Paul Millsap came through with 19 points, six rebounds, three assists, a block on 7-of-12 shooting. Gary Harris was solid with 11 points, five boards, two assists, a steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers in 35 minutes, and had a huge block against Lillard, while Malik Beasley and Will Barton each had nine points off the bench, and Mason Plumlee added six points, six rebounds, five steals and a block in his 24 minutes. Starter Torrey Craig played just 19 minutes for three points, and was saddled by foul trouble, but I’m not sure he’s going to be capable of really coming through with the Nuggets having such a solid bench. But he’s been better than Barton, and is still probably worth a fantasy gamble as long as he sticks in the starting unit. If you played Plumlee last night, the steals, block and rebounds were enough to give you good value based on his price.
The Blazers got 39 points, three rebounds, six assists, a steal and four 3-pointers from Damian Lillard, who hit 12-of-21 shots and 11-of-13 free throws in the loss. Enes Kanter, who is surprisingly playing despite a separated left shoulder, was great with 26 points and seven rebounds on 11-of-14 shooting, and C.J. McCollum was serviceable with his 16 points, four rebounds, three assists, a block and two 3-pointers. Kanter says he’s going to play through his injury, but he’ll still be day-to-day for the remainder of this series, and possibly thereafter, but so far, so good. Starters Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless both really struggled in this one, hitting a combined 2-of-7 shots for four points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Harkless fouled out before it was over. Rodney Hood scored 17 points with three 3-pointers off the bench, but the rest of Portland’s bench crew was disappointing. I think Aminu and Harkless will have to get it together if the Blazers are going to win this series.
Celtics @ Bucks at 8 p.m. on TNT – Celtics lead 1-0 (I look for Bucks to win big).
Rockets @ Warriors at 10:30 p.m. on TNT – Warriors lead 1-0 (Referee-gate continues).