By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and though Marcus Smart missed the game with a quadriceps injury, the Boston Celtics had no trouble jumping out to a sizeable first-half lead over the Milwaukee Bucks, leading by as many as 26 and never trailing during Tuesday’s Game 2 victory. Jaylen Brown was scorching hot during the first half, scoring 25 of his game-high 30 points before the break. Jayson Tatum took over during the second half, scoring 19 of his 29 points. The Celtics rolled with a seven-man rotation without Smart, and the decision proved masterful. After disappointingly dropping Game 1, the Celtics have even the series heading to Milwaukee for Saturday’s Game 3. Memphis followed suit in the late window, overcoming a Game 1 defeat at home to even things against the Golden State Warriors. Ja Morant took over the contest, scoring 47 points, tying his playoff career high. Efficiency remains an issue for Morant (15-of-31 shooting), but with his teammates struggling, the third-year pro stepped up big for his team. In support of Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. followed up his Game 1 gem with another dud before fouling out, and Desmond Bane struggled through a lower back injury. The Warriors were undone by brutal shooting from beyond the arc (7-of-38) and 18 turnovers. Golden State hosts Memphis on Saturday night. On Monday night, the 76ers took the court against the Miami Heat without Joel Embiid, and frankly, things went as expected. Heat big man Bam Adebayo feasted against Philadelphia’s undermanned frontcourt, posting a 24-point, 12-board double-double. Tyler Herro scored 25 points and handed out seven dimes, operating as the primary playmaker for Miami with Kyle Lowry sidelined and Jimmy Butler at less than full strength due to knee inflammation. For the 76ers, James Harden came up woefully short in his attempt to carry the team in Embiid’s absence. Harden has to play much, much better for Philadelphia to have any hopes of delivering a competitive performance against the Heat in Game 2 tonight. Dallas received an incredible performance from Luka Doncic, who scored 45 points, grabbed 12 boards, and handed out eight dimes during Game 1 against the Phoenix Suns. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, the effort came in a defeat. Though Doncic was at the top of his game, the Suns did an excellent job of making him work for every basket while turning Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie into complete non-factors. Brunson and Dinwiddie combined to shoot 9-of-24 from the field. For the Suns, Deandre Ayton’s playoff brilliance continued with a team-high 25 points. Game 2 of the series tips off tonight. Moving back to recap last week’s NFL Draft, another team that ranks along with the Ravens, Lions, and Chiefs as having an excellent haul is the New York Jets. First, the Jets added cornerback Ahmad Gardner and receiver Garrett Wilson with its two top-ten selections. Then, via a trade, the Jets managed to draft edge defender Jermaine Johnson at pick 26. New York further added to its riches in the second round, selecting running back Breece Hall while nabbing tackle Max Mitchell on the draft’s final day. Unlike the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars, the Jets committed to adding weapons for its second-year quarterback during the draft while simultaneously upgrading at the two most important defensive positions. New York’s division mates, the New England Patriots, are on the other side of things. The Patriots opened the draft with an absolute head-scratcher of a pick, taking guard Cole Strange in the first round. Whether or not Strange develops into a solid player, until a dominant showing at the combine, Strange was viewed as a day-three prospect. Then, in an even more confounding move, the Patriots selected receiver Tyquan Thornton with the 50th selection. Though Thornton boasts elite speed, he is a complete project at receiver, and by all accounts, was likely a sixth-to-seventh round pick. The rest of New England’s draft was fine, albeit unmemorable, but the two choices at the top were indefensible from a value standpoint. With Buffalo a potential juggernaut and the Dolphins and Jets improving immensely, New England will likely take a massive step back in the AFC East standings in 2022. Later.