In tonight’s NBA Playoff action, we saw the continuation of the second round series between the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors (Boston led the series 1-0 prior to this matchup) and a win or go home game 7 between the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets. With that being said, let us get to the breakdowns of each game.
Celtics vs Raptors
For a game that was mostly headed in Toronto’s favor entering the fourth quarter, Boston honestly stole this game which Toronto had to win thanks to a sensational performance from their best player, Jayson Tatum. Tatum led the way for the Celtics throughout the entire game scoring 34 points on 73.4% true shooting. Nick Nurse had some complaints about the refs unfairly being biased towards Tatum, as he had more free throws than the entire Raptors team in the first half and 5 less than the whole team for the total game.
Yes, Tatum did receive some calls that shouldn’t have been called fouls, but at the same time he was getting hacked left and right and the refs helping him is far from the truth, as they gave him a technical foul in a close game with under two minutes left.
Marcus Smart also came up big for the C’s by hitting 5 straight three pointers in the fourth and replicating the scoring load that was lost when Gordon Hayward got hurt. Kemba Walker struggled in the first half as he was unable to find any offensive rhythm but he hit timely shots down the stretch including a mid range step back that ultimately gave Boston momentum to go on a late run.
For Toronto, Pascal Siakam is continuing to prove my opinion right about him, which is that he can’t be the focal point of a playoff team that has hope of being a contender and that he is the player with the least offensive versatility among stars in the league.
Following his awful game 1 performance, Pascal wasn’t much better tonight. He had 17 points on 6/16 shooting and had a costly turnover down the stretch that ultimately cost Toronto a chance to take this game. Toronto is facing an 0-2 hole and things aren’t looking much better moving forward.
Nuggets vs Jazz
What a game 7. It was the true definition of playoff basketball. The game was slowed down and both teams were playing absolutely stellar defense with guys locking down their matchup on each possession. In a game many anticipated to be another guard duel between Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray, it actually ended up being a duel between each team’s best player and star centers, Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic.
Mitchell and Murray getting most of the defense’s attention allowed for the big men to score at will going at it back and forth. Ultimately, Nikola Jokic, the best center in the NBA, outplayed Rudy Gobert and hit multiple clutch shots including the game sealing hook shot over Gobert that led to Denver winning this game. The Jazz had two opportunities to win on their final two possessions, but a costly turnover from Donovan Mitchell and a potential game-winner from Mike Conley bounced out, which sent the Jazz packing their bags.
Statistically, Nikola Jokic led all scorers with 30 points on 60.6% true-shooting as well as grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out 4 assists. Jamal Murray didn’t have an outburst performance we have grown accustomed to seeing from him, scoring only 17 points on an extremely inefficient 38.9% true-shooting. This was primarily due to the fact that he had to face much more defensive attention.
For Utah, Rudy Gobert was phenomenal scoring 19 points on an extremely efficient 8/13 shooting from the field while having an absurd rebounding total of 18 and recording 2 blocks on the defensive side. Donovan Mitchell had only 22 points as well on 9/22 shooting and he suffered with the same problem Jamal Murray had to deal with. He was getting all the defensive attention.
Moving forward, the Denver Nuggets will take on the LA Clippers in the second round (prediction will come soon for that series). Nonetheless, this first round series will be one most basketball fans will remember for a long time.