Sunday’s NBA action saw a little bit of everything. The start of a new playoff series, the closing of another one, and a force of a Game 7. Jamal Murray was the star of the night, as he went off for 50 points in a Nuggets win. Without further adieu, here are my takeaways from each playoff game on Sunday.
Celtics vs. Raptors
Final score: 112-94 BOS
Line: BOS +1.0
Over/Under: U 216
The Celtics and Raptors kicked off Sunday’s slate with Game 1 of their second round playoff series, and this one was pretty one-sided. For the second time in the bubble, the Celtics proved why they’re the better team, as they now have won both games against the Raptors in Orlando by a combined 40 points. Boston saw scoring from everybody today, with Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart contributing 21 points each, while Kemba Walker had 18 and Jaylen Brown had 17. Daniel Theis even poured in 13 points to go along with 15 rebounds. The Celtics seem committed to giving Robert Williams more minutes so far in the bubble, as he played 19 minutes off the bench while scoring 10 points and grabbing five boards. The C’s avoided having to rely on their lackluster bench since their starters carried pretty much all of the weight. They have now won nine of their last 10 games and are absolutely on fire.
It’s safe to say, this was not Toronto’s best day. They shot just 36.9% from the field and an abysmal 25% from beyond the arc. Sunday’s loss puts them at 1-4 against Boston this season, and if they want to turn it around, Pascal Siakam will have to step up and take over at least a couple games. He struggled in this one, shooting just 5-16 and only scoring 13 points. He got into foul trouble early and it was overall just an uninspired game for him. He’s now scored just 24 points in his last two games against Boston.
As Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the victory, “[they] won one game,” so the series is far from over.
Boston is notoriously a phenomenal Game 1 team, winning the first game in their last seven playoff series. Conversely, the Raptors have dropped 14 of their last 18 Game 1’s, so perhaps the C’s were scripted to win this one. And while I think the Celtics are clearly the better team, especially when they’re firing on all cylinders, the defending champs are far from done. I expect them to come out angry and ready to roll on Tuesday.
Clippers vs. Mavericks
Final score: 111-97 LAC
Line: LAC -10.5
Over/Under: U 238.5
One of the more entertaining series in the first round is now complete, as the Clippers punched their ticket to the second round with a Game 6 victory over the Mavericks. Kawhi Leonard was brilliant again, posting a 33-14-7 line on 14-23 shooting while also earning five steals. He’s now gone over 30 points in five straight games. Paul George was solid all around with nine rebounds and seven assists, but his shooting woes this postseason continued as he went just 6-19 in Game 6. It didn’t matter though, with Leonard leading the charge.
As for the Mavericks, you have to give them credit for how they fought this series. Luka Doncic kept Dallas in it with a 38-8-9 gem, but without Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavs realistically had no shot at coming back against Los Angeles. In his first taste of playoff action, Doncic averaged 31-10-9 in the series with a Game 4 buzzer beater to boot. I get the feeling that in 15 years we’ll look back at that Game 4 along with the rest of this series as the first of many legendary moments in Doncic’s career. I’m sure we’ll see him in many more postseasons in the years to come, as he’s truly cemented himself as one of the best few players in the game.
After Marcus Morris stirred controversy for stepping on Doncic’s already injured ankle in Game 5, the spotlight was on him yet again after drawing a flagrant 2 foul and an ejection for forcefully hitting Doncic on the head while he was driving to the basket in Game 6. At first I gave Morris the benefit of the doubt for stepping on Doncic’s ankle as he claimed it was unintentional, but after what transpired on Sunday I have to think that there was some intent on both plays.
Doncic expressed his displeasure after the game, calling it a “terrible foul.” He added that he doesn’t “want to deal with that kind of player.”
Alas, it was a difficult way to end a terrific season for the Mavericks, but their future is extremely bright. The well oiled machine that is the Los Angeles Clippers will play the winner of the Jazz and Nuggets on Thursday.
Nuggets vs. Jazz
Final score: 119-107 DEN
Line: DEN +2.5
Over/Under: O 218.5
Speaking of the Jazz and Nuggets, this one was a thriller. Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell duked it out again, but Murray shined brighter with 50 points to Mitchell’s 44. This was the second time Murray dropped 50 this series, and he’s now averaging over 47 PPG over the last three games. Nikola Jokic was superb as always, with 22 points and nine assists. Denver got Gary Harris back from injury, but he contributed just four points in 21 minutes off the bench.
As for Utah, this was a frustrating loss that saw Rudy Gobert smashing chairs on the sideline and Mitchell storming off following the defeat. Hey, I’d be upset too if I was trying to close out a series by dropping 44 points but still taking the L.
Murray’s torrid run has lifted Denver out of a 3-1 hole to force a Game 7 on Tuesday. The winner will take on the Clippers two days later. No team has come back from being down 3-1 since the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals.