After Monday’s NBA playoff schedule produced two competitive games, that was not the case on Tuesday. Toronto and Denver took 3-2 series leads in their respective matchups, with both teams winning at home. Kawhi Leonard’s run of 30-point games may have come to an end, but all five Raptors starters scored in double figures with Pascal Siakam (25 points) leading the way in a 36-point win over Philadelphia. And in the nightcap Portland had no answer for Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap, who led the Nuggets to a blowout win in Denver.
Here’s a look at Tuesday’s games, followed by some early injury notes for Wednesday’s doubleheader.
Raptors 125, 76ers 89
The suspense was gone from this one by halftime, as Toronto outscored Philadelphia by a 37-17 margin in the second quarter. It would only get worse from that point on for the visitors, who cleared their bench with about nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Toronto followed suit a couple minutes later, giving a host of seldom-used reserves some playing time. Kawhi Leonard’s streak of 30-point games came to an end, as he scored 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 from the foul line, with the All-Star forward also accounting for 13 rebounds, four assists and two steals in 36 minutes. Leonard’s 36 minutes were the most that any Toronto starter would play Tuesday night, and all five finished the game in double figures.
Pascal Siakam, who has been dealing with left hamstring soreness in addition to the right calf contusion he suffered during Game 3, was both more aggressive and more effective in Game 5 than he was in Sunday’s Game 4. In 34 minutes he shot 7-of-19 from the field and 9-of-10 from the foul line, scoring a game-high 25 points with eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block and two 3-pointers. Siakam turned the ball over just once, and his plus/minus of +35 was the best on the team. Kyle Lowry added 19 points (5-of-9 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs), six rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers, Danny Green 17 (5-of-8 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) with five rebounds, three steals and five 3-pointers. The fifth starter, Marc Gasol, posted a line of 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers.
The sixth Raptor to score in double figures was Serge Ibaka, who accounted for ten points (4-of-7 FGs, 2-of-3 FTs) and two rebounds in 22 minutes played. Ibaka had to leave the game during the first quarter after an inadvertent elbow from Leonard opened up a cut on his forehead, with stitches being required to seal the cut. Also reaching double digits in minutes among the reserves were Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell, who played 16 and ten minutes, respectively. VanVleet finished with five points, one assist, one steal and one three-pointer, just one game after he was limited to just seven minutes. Powell shot 3-of-6 from the field, scoring seven points with three assists, two rebounds and one three-pointer.
The minutes increases for VanVleet and Powell was the biggest change from Game 4 to Game 5, as Ibaka (32 minutes) was the lone reserve to reach double digits on Sunday. VanVleet seeing the ball go through the basket on his first shot attempt was a good sign for Toronto given his struggles during the postseason, and the hope is that he’ll be able to get back on track. While the nature of this game did afford Nick Nurse the opportunity to get his main options some extra rest, in the case of VanVleet and Powell they saw action even when the outcome was still in doubt.
Toronto certainly deserves credit for its play, but Philadelphia put forth one of its worst performances of the season and is now on the brink of elimination. Jimmy Butler scored a team-high 22 points, shooting 6-of-16 from the field and 10-of-11 from the foul line, to go along with seven assists, five rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot. A lot of his looks were challenged, and Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both struggling to take care of the basketball didn’t help matters, either. Embiid (13 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers) turned the ball over eight times and Simmons (seven points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block) had five of his own, combining for 13 of Philadelphia’s 19 turnovers. No other 76er turned the ball over multiple times.
Simmons only attempted five shots on the night, making three, and as Butler’s opportunities on the ball have increased the second-year point guard has seen his influence on the offense decrease. Simmons had a usage percentage of 18.8% Tuesday, which is actually higher than the figure he produced in the first four games of the series (13.2%). Entering Game 5 he was averaging 10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.5 steals per while shooting 54.1% from the field in the first four games of the series, and he attempted a total of three free throws (all misses). Simmons averaged 4.8 free throws per game in the first round, 0.6 free throws per game fewer than his average during the regular season.
Embiid certainly needs to get going if Philadelphia is to have any shot at sending the series back to Toronto for a seventh game, but the 76ers also need to get Simmons out of his funk.
Speaking of funks JJ Redick also struggled, as he shot 1-of-6 from the field and finished with just three points, four assists and one three-pointer in 31 minutes played. Tobias Harris was the third starter to score in double figures, a he shot 6-of-12 from the field and finished with 15 points, six rebounds, two blocks and one three-pointer. And Harris’ plus/minus of minus-34 was the worst on the team, with James Ennis (minus-30) being the only 76ers to come close to that figure. Ennis played 23 minutes, missing all four of his field goal attempts and finishing with one point, one rebound and one assist. Mike Scott was the most effective reserve, scoring ten points (4-of-5 FGs) with four rebounds and two 3-pointers.
Greg Monroe, who had his moments during Philadelphia’s wins in Games 2 and 3, has not been a factor in either of the last two games. He played just five minutes Tuesday, shooting 1-of-3 from the field and tallying two points and one rebound. Brett Brown’s decision to clear the bench got some seldom-used reserves some action, with Boban Marjanovic scoring six points and grabbing two rebounds in seven minutes. Jonathon Simmons went into “feels like leather” mode, putting up eight shots and accounting for four points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal. Amir Johnson, who also didn’t play in Game 4, made both of his field goal attempts and put up four points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Nuggets 124, Trail Blazers 98
Denver broke the series deadlock with a comfortable 26-point victory, with the front court tandem of Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap leading the way. Jokic shot 10-of-18 from the field and 5-of-6 from the foul line, scoring a game-high 25 points with 19 rebounds and six assists. The All-Star center was unable to extend his triple-double streak to three, but he’s now posted a double-double in four straight games. And in Game 1, the only game in this series in which he didn’t post a double-double, Jokic accounted for 37 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocked shots. This was Jokic’s third 20/10/5 game of this postseason, which is tied for the most in a postseason over the last ten years with LeBron James (2012 and 2015) according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Portland has struggled to find an answer for either he or Millsap, and that’s been the biggest reason why the Trail Blazers head back home one loss away from elimination.
Millsap shot 9-of-17 from the field and 4-of-6 from the charity stripe, finishing with 24 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks, one steal and two 3-pointers. His streak of double-doubles ended at three, but defending him has also proven to be problematic for Portland. Al-Farouq Aminu struggled with Millsap’s ability to score on the block and in the face-up game, and when Terry Stotts went to his bench for a defensive answer he was unable to find one. Millsap and Jokic were two of the four Denver starters that scored in double figures, with Jamal Murray (nine assists, five rebounds, one block and one three-pointer) scoring 18 points and Gary Harris (six rebounds, two assists and two steals) 16.
Torrey Craig is of far greater value to Denver defensively, but Game 5 was his best from a scoring standpoint. In 24 minutes the wing shot 3-of-6 from the field, scoring eight points with eight rebounds, one assist, one steal and one three-pointer. The Nuggets received solid bench contributions from Will Barton (26 minutes) and Malik Beasley (14 minutes), who scored ten points apiece, which was more than enough to supplement the efforts of the starters given how well Denver defended Portland. Monte Morris (14 minutes) accounted for six points and one rebound, and Mason Plumlee accounted for four points, nine rebounds, four assists and one blocked shot in 18 minutes.
Denver’s bench production has been an area worth tracking in the series, as the Nuggets have struggled for much of the series when Jokic has been on the floor. After he picked up his second foul with 1:12 remaining in the first quarter Jokic left the game with Denver leading by seven. But unlike many other instances in this series when Portland was able to cut into (or erase) a deficit when not having to deal with Jokic, the Nuggets added three points to their lead by the time Jokic returned with 7:46 remaining in the second quarter. During that stretch Barton hit two three-pointers, Morris a couple free throws and Millsap scored three points (he replaced Jokic in the lineup) as well.
As noted, Denver’s improved defense was also key. Damian Lillard led Portland with 22 points, but he needed 21 shot attempts in order to do so. In addition to going 9-of-21 from the field Lillard also shot 2-of-5 from the charity stripe, with his overall stat line including six rebounds, four assists, one steal, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers (on nine attempts). His numbers were underwhelming, but they were still better than those produced by his fellow starters. CJ McCollum shot 5-of-16 from the field and did not attempt a free throw, scoring 12 points with four rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot. This is the second game in the series in which McCollum failed to make a free throw (Game 1), and the first in which he hasn’t attempted a free throw since Portland’s series-clinching win over Oklahoma City.
Portland’s front court was brutal Tuesday night, with the three starters combining to score 15 points on 5-of-20 shooting from the field. Enes Kanter played 26 minutes, scoring seven points with eight rebounds and three assists, with Moe Harkless (13 minutes) adding five points and one rebound and the aforementioned Aminu (24 minutes) posting a line of three pointe, four rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks and one three-pointer. Outside of Game 2 Kanter, never known as a defensive starter, has struggled on that end of the floor and that issue becomes more pronounced when he struggles offensively as he has in the last two games (12 points total).
With Portland's season on the line it's safe to assume that Lillard and McCollum are going to come out firing Thursday night. But even if those two go off, the Trail Blazers are going to need more production from their front court in order to force a Game 7.
Rodney Hood and Seth Curry absorbed the majority of the available minutes on the perimeter, playing 26 apiece with the former scoring 14 points with four rebounds and one assist and the latter adding seven points, four rebounds, two assists and one three-pointer. Evan Turner played 11 minutes, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out two assists. In the post Zach Collins played 21 minutes and Meyers Leonard 16, with Collins tallying 14 points, three rebounds, two blocks, one assist, one steal and one three-pointer. Leonard, who had not played since Game 1, shot 3-of-6 from three and accounted for nine points, five rebounds and one assist.
Wednesday’s Schedule (all times Eastern)
Celtics @ Bucks, 8 PM (TNT)
Milwaukee will look to close out this series with a win at home, and Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fasciitis, right foot) is considered to be probable (as of Wednesday morning) after being listed as out on Tuesday's final injury report. There's an argument to be made on both sides here. While the Bucks have played well without Brogdon and stand to close out the series, it's also an opportunity to get him some minutes in order to shake off the rust. He'll be on a minutes restriction, and his return will likely impact the minutes of George Hill and Pat Connaughton, who have both played well off the bench.
D.J. Wilson (sprained left ankle) is listed as questionable, with Donte DiVincenzo (bilateral heel bursitis) and Pau Gasol (left foot soreness) both listed as out. In the case of DiVincenzo he’s already been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Boston had no players listed on Tuesday’s final injury report, with Marcus Smart (oblique) having made his return during Monday’s Game 4.
Rockets @ Warriors, 10:30 PM (TNT)
DeMarcus Cousins (left quadriceps tear) and Damian Jones (left pectoral surgery) are both listed as out for the Warriors, with Shaun Livingston (left hip soreness) listed as questionable after playing 14 minutes off the bench in Game 4. The lone Rockets player on the injury report was Danuel House Jr. (right toe inflammation), who’s considered to be questionable for Game 5. After playing 21 minutes in Game 1, he played just five in Game 2 and hasn’t played since.