Wednesday brought us more exciting NBA playoff action with two close games and one Game 7. The Heat took a huge Game 2 to extend their series lead to 2-0, while the Rockets prevailed in a nail biter that came down to the final play. As always, here’s each game’s recap.
Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Final Score: 116-114 MIA
Line: MIA +5.5
O/U: O 223
After an underdog victory on Monday, the Miami Heat came into Game 2 looking to apply the pressure on the Milwaukee Bucks. They did just that with a huge win to go up 2-0 in the series. This game was close throughout, especially late as the Bucks managed to erase a seven point deficit with 1:20 to go. Three Khris Middleton free throws evened the score with 4.3 seconds remaining. Then, as time expired, Jimmy Butler went to the line after being fouled by Giannis Antetokounmpo and iced the game with two free throws. Giannis had a game-high 29 points and 14 rebounds, while Goran Dragic led Miami with 23 points.
The officiating drew lots of criticism for both of the fouls on the Middleton and Butler plays, but the way I see it is two borderline calls cancel each other out, especially with the way it unfolded tonight. It is what it is, and the Bucks need to do some soul searching before Game 3 on Friday. Teams that go up 2-0 are 394-27, or 93.6%, so history is not on Milwaukee’s side. If Antetokounmpo truly is the MVP he’ll need to lead his team back in this series. Otherwise, it’ll be another disappointing playoff exit for the Bucks, who have only seen the Eastern Conference Finals once in the Giannis era.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets
Final Score: 104-102 HOU
Line: OKC +5.0
O/U: U 217
The two best words in sports are “Game 7” and this one certainly lived up to the hype, as the Rockets squeaked out narrow two point victory. This game was also tight, as neither team held a double digit lead. Lu Dort had a career game with 30 points and six three pointers and Chris Paul had a triple double, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Houston. James Harden struggled offensively with just 17 points on 4-15 shooting, but he made the play of the game when he blocked Dort’s three point attempt to take the lead with under five seconds on the clock. After playing phenomenal defense on the final possession, Houston prevailed and they will take on the Lakers in the second round starting on Friday.
Although I do give credit to the Rockets for clamping up towards the end, I’m left wondering what the hell the Thunder were doing on the final inbound with 1.1 seconds remaining. Dort wasn’t even on the floor despite his 30 points and the pass went to Steven Adams who was behind the three point line. They should’ve found a way to get the ball to Paul for the final shot, but even if he wasn’t available, Adams should’ve been in the paint to try and get an easy two or draw a foul. Giving him the ball behind the arc made no sense to me. Nevertheless, the inbound pass was tipped and the Rockets held on to advance to the second round.
Overall, this was a great series with countless storylines. The Thunder were never even supposed to be in this position after trading Russell Westbrook and Paul George last offseason, but the brilliance of Chris Paul and Billy Donovan got them this far and that should deserve everyone’s respect. Mike D’Antoni’s job is safe for now, but Houston has a tall task in the Lakers next round. I will say that Steven Adam’s performance this series was underwhelming given his size advantage, but that shouldn’t be a problem for Anthony Davis and co. I’ll take the Lakers in six.