By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and the Milwaukee Bucks’ disappointing playoff run came to an abrupt end last night as the top-seed in the East fell to the Miami Heat. The Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle), but even with the reigning MVP, Milwaukee was overmatched against a Heat team proving to be a force in the NBA bubble. The Bucks put up a valiant fight, but the depth and superior outside shooting of the Heat proved too much for Milwaukee to overcome. The Heat move on to the Eastern Conference Finals. At the same time, the Bucks head into an off-season that will be littered with questions surrounding the future of Antetokounmpo, who is eligible for a supermax extension.
LeBron James was in rare form on Tuesday night. James erupted for 29 points during the first half, and he finished Los Angeles’s Game 3 win over the Rockets with 36 points, seven boards, five dimes, and four blocks. The Lakers even managed to put up a solid effort at the free-throw line, which oddly has been the team’s most significant concern during the playoffs. The Lakers win also propelled LeBron James to the top of the leaderboard for all-time playoff wins with an incredible 162. It is a sum that will continue to rise for James, and it is a record that will be tough for anyone to take down. The Lakers head into Thursday’s Game 4 with a 2-1 advantage over Houston.
Despite a solid effort by the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Clippers managed to secure Game 3 on Monday night to take a 2-1 series lead. Kawhi Leonard finished the game with 23 points, 14 rebounds, and a momentum-swinging block for the highlight reel. Paul George had his best showing of the postseason, scoring 32 points to lead the team. For Denver, though his team came up short in Game 3, Nikola Jokic is proving himself to be the best player in the series.
Jokic finished Game 3’s loss with 32 points, 12 boards, and eight dimes. For long stretches, his teammates were non-factors, but Jokic’s brilliance kept the Nuggets in the game. Jamal Murray—who was brilliant in the first round—continues to struggle, finishing the defeat with an ugly 5-of-17 shooting performance. Denver needs the supporting cast surrounding Jokic to step up their production to have any hope of sending the Clippers back to Los Angeles. Game 4 is tonight.
Boston rebounded from consecutive losses to seize a 3-2 advantage over the defending champion Toronto Raptors. Behind a masterful defensive showing, the Celtics jumped to an early lead that would ultimately prove insurmountable. Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis continue to be defensive forces, but the defensive effort of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum has been impressive. Brown recovered from a rough Game 4 to deliver a superstar performance, leading Boston with 27 points, playing tough D, and contributing arguably the playoffs’ best dunk.
For the Raptors, points will continue to be at a premium. However, Toronto has to continue to work at getting more scoring opportunities for Pascal Siakam. Siakam has struggled since the NBA’s restart, and even in Toronto’s wins in Games 3 and 4, he was far from efficient as a scorer. The Raptors are heading into tonight’s Game 6 as obvious underdogs, but Siakam rediscovering his All-Star form would be a massive boon to Toronto’s bid to avoid elimination.
In a bit of a shock, the NFL season kicks off tomorrow night with a showdown between the Houston Texans and defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. In a rematch of last year’s epic playoff game, the Texans will be looking to erase the memory of its historic collapse. Houston held a 24-0 lead in the second quarter only to end up losing the game 51-31 in a rout. Another shootout is likely as two of the game’s best quarterbacks match-up, though Houston’s offense will look radically different with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins no longer around for quarterback Deshaun Watson. However, keeping pace with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense will not be an easy task for any team in 2020. The season begins tomorrow night, leading into Sunday’s full slate.