By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and in a thrilling conclusion to an epic first-round series, the Denver Nuggets defeated the Utah Jazz in Game 7 on Tuesday night. In a series that had been a battle of two superstar guards—Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell—it was the All-Star big men that reigned supreme on Tuesday night. Despite Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert put on a showcase. Gobert finished the contest with 19 points and 18 boards, while Jokic had 30 and 14, with his final two points coming on the game-winning basket. It was a crushing end to the Jazz season, as the team squandered a 3-1 advantage in the series with three straight losses. Denver moves on to face the Los Angeles Clippers. Game 1 of the match-up tips off on Thursday night.
The Miami Heat sent a message in Game 1 of its second-round match-up with the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. Jimmy Butler put on a show during the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points to propel Miami. Butler finished the game with 40 points, while veteran Goran Dragic’s exceptional postseason continued with a complementary 27 points. For the Bucks, a change on the defensive end is likely in order as the Heat are built perfectly to capitalize against Milwaukee’s system. Another area to address is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s struggles at the free-throw line. The reigning MVP hit only 4-of-12 attempts from the charity stripe. Milwaukee will look to even the series with tonight’s pivotal Game 2.
Boston has the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors on the ropes following a Game 2 win on Tuesday. The Celtics are now up 2-0 in the series thanks to continued excellence from Jayson Tatum (34 points, eight boards, six dimes) and a monstrous fourth-quarter shooting display from defensive superstar Marcus Smart. Smart knocked down five three-pointers during the fourth quarter, propelling the Celtics to a lead that would hold through the final buzzer. For the Raptors, Pascal Siakam continues to struggle against Boston’s defensive game-plan, failing to be a go-to option on offense while being bullied on the defensive end. Meanwhile, guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet had their collective shooting woes continue. Lowry and VanVleet are now a combined 6-of-35 from beyond the arc in the series. Toronto’s season will be on the line in tomorrow’s Game 3 showdown.
Clutch play from Chris Paul helped lift the Oklahoma City Thunder to victory in Game 6 against the Rockets on Monday night. The Thunder’s win evened the series at 3-3 and forces a decisive, must-watch Game 7 tonight. The Rockets were undone by continued rust from Russell Westbrook, who committed seven costly turnovers, and James Harden, who scored an inefficient 32 points. For the Thunder, Paul finished with 28 points. Danilo Gallinari had 25, and the much-maligned Luguentz Dort scored 13 points on nine shots while playing solid defense on Harden. The winner of tonight’s game will face the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round.
On Monday afternoon, baseball’s trade deadline saw a flurry of deals, with no team making a bigger splash than the San Diego Padres. In the days leading up to the deadline, the Padres added to its bullpen (Trevor Rosenthal), revamped its backstop combination (Jason Castro, Austin Nola), and upgraded at DH (Mitch Moreland). However, it was the move to acquire right-handed pitcher Mike Clevinger that was the blockbuster. Clevinger gives the Padres a legitimate top-of-the-rotation arm. Since 2017, Clevinger boasts a 2.97 ERA. Making the acquisition even more advantageous for the Padres is that Clevinger is signed through the 2022 season. San Diego is building something impressive for the short-term and the long-term.
In other moves, the Marlins dealt infielder Jonathan Villar to the Blue Jays as Toronto’s playoff push continued. Toronto also added left-hander Robbie Ray and right-hander Ross Stripling to bolster its rotation. Miami sold Villar, but the Marlins didn’t commit to a rebuild. Instead, the Marlins also added a piece, acquiring arguably the best hitter dealt on deadline day, veteran outfielder Cincinnati added reliever Archie Bradley from Arizona to improve its bullpen, while the Rockies did the same by adding Mychal Givens in a deal with Baltimore. The expanded playoff field for 2020 made for an exciting trade deadline as almost every franchise in MLB is gearing up for a postseason push.