• Day two was as action packed as day one. Let’s run through some big injury notes and then dive into the first impressions of all of the Game 1s that were played today.

    Injuries

    Gordon Hayward suffered a right ankle sprain in Monday’s win over the Sixers and is scheduled to miss at least 3-4 weeks.

    C.J. McCollum played through a vertebral fracture and looked good against the Lakers. He lacks some fluidity and explosion, but being out there on the court is enough for the Blazers.

    Aaron Gordon is hopeful to play in Game 2 against the Bucks on Thursday, but Gary Clark more than held his own against Giannis Antetokounmpo today.

    Rajon Rondo sat out Game 1 against the Blazers tonight but the hope is that he’ll be available sometime during this series.

    Derrick Jones Jr. played in Game 1 today after suffering a neck strain in the bubble finale.

    Gary Harris (right hip) and Will Barton (left knee soreness) are both out for Wednesday’s Game 2.

    Jaylen Brown (right thigh contusion) is probably for Game 2 on Wednesday which means you can expect him to play.

    Trey Burke (left ankle sprain) is expected to play in Game 2 on Wednesday.

    Kristaps Porzingis (right knee soreness) is questionable for Game 2 on Wednesday.

    Rundown

    ORL 122 @ MIL 110

    It’s the second year in a row that the Magic have stolen Game 1 from a championship favorite team and this time it was on the back of Nikola Vucevic (35 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, a steal and five triples) while also getting contributions from Gary Clark (15 points, six boards, a steal and four triple) who started in his first playoff game. The Magic are missing their best perimeter defender and their second leading scorer, but Coach Clifford came up with a game plan and his guys executed. Every time Giannis Antetokounmpo (31 points, 17 boards, seven dimes, a steal and three triples) got anywhere near the paint, he was met with at least three Magic defenders.

    The Bucks got little help from their perimeter guys, as the team outside of Antetokounmpo went 11-for-35 from deep. Antetokounmpo has clear, exploitable flaws, but you can’t really pin this game on him. He needs the role players, especially Khris Middleton (14 points 4-for-12 FG, six boards, four assists, a steal, a block and two triples) to step up. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Bucks will step up and win this series as the Magic are just undermanned and outgunned in every aspect, but they’ve at least made things interesting. They’ve proven that even a 33-40 team can utilize the blueprint Coach Nick Nurse drew up in last year’s playoffs and give Milwaukee fits. Coach Budenholzer is also notorious for not making playoff adjustments, as the Bucks were trailing throughout the entire game and he continued to sub out Antetokounmpo as if it were another November regular season game. You absolutely have to play a tighter rotation in the playoffs, as every minute is magnified with less possessions and stingier defenses. There’s no reason that the league’s MVP should play less (34) minutes than Evan Fournier (36).

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    MIA 113 @ IND 101

    The Heat are built for this. I’ve gone on record several times saying this, they have the personnel, the coaching and the culture well suited for the playoffs. Duncan Robinson went a paltry 2-for-8 from deep, but they got big bench minutes from Tyler Herro (15 points, three boards, four assists, a steal and a triple) and Kelly Olynyk (Hoop Ball favorite with five points, two boards, two dimes and a steal). Andre Iguodala (four points, one rebound and two blocks) didn’t do much on the stat sheet, but he gave 25 minutes off the bench and kept the boat afloat which is all you need from your bench unit in the playoffs. Goran Dragic (24 points, six rebounds, five dimes, a steal and four triples) made up for lost ground from Robinson, but the story as always, was Bam Adebayo (17-10-6-0-3) and Jimmy Butler (28-3-4-4-2 2 3PTM). It was Butler’s first 3-point make since March 2nd and he let T.J. Warren (22 points, eight boards, three assists, four steals and four triples) know all about it. Indiana has some dogs and they’re going to make the Heat grind it out, but the Heat are just better in all facets and love to grind it out. Adebayo is without a doubt an All-NBA level player and when the Heat start giving the Celtics or Raptors trouble, the rest of the world will catch on as to why.

    OKC 108 @ HOU 123

    With all the storylines heading into this game, it had the makings of being the best game on the slate, but it was quite the opposite and we can thank James Harden (37 points 12-for-22 FG, 11 rebounds, three assists, six triples) for that. The Thunder didn’t double cover Harden for almost the entire game, opting to allow Dennis Schroder (six points 3-for-12 FG and four assists) handle The Beard one-on-one. It worked out as well as you could have hoped. Houston is more than comfortable with playing small and letting you post up their stocky wings and the Thunder didn’t punish them enough for it. Chris Paul (20 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and three triples) had an atrocious start, but recovered his stat line with garbage time. He’ll be much better in the next game and as the series drags on, you can expect the Thunder to get better as they have one of the best basketball minds on their side. This series shouldn’t end quick, but if it does, it’ll be a battle. Steven Adams (17 points, 12 rebounds and two assists) and Danilo Gallinari (29 points, three rebounds, three assists, a block and two triples) both played well enough on offense to stay on the floor, but they were constantly being attacked by the Rockets’ microball matchups. Ben McLemore (14 points, one rebound, one steal and four triples) was huge for the Rockets, but Jeff Green (22 points, six boards, four dimes, a steal and three triples) played lights out. Coach D’Antoni added a wrinkle to the offense by letting Jeff Green be the primary ball handler with James Harden setting the high screen. This would lead to either Gallinari, Shroder or Adams having to guard in space while also having to pay attention to Harden as the fade/roll man. Green is more than capable of taking the Thunder bigs off the dribble and he did exactly that. When they collapsed, it meant Harden would get the ball in a 4-on-3 situation and he cooked. I expect the Thunder to adjust to this fairly quickly by sending a blitz on Green or deploying their smaller lineups to have more defenders in space. Seeing what D’Antoni will do next will be fascinating as there’s a clear mismatch here and the Rockets have the best player on the floor to take advantage of it.

    POR 100 @ LAL 93

    I thought the Lakers would make quick work of the Blazers as we’ve seen playoff LeBron James (23-17-16-1 1 3PTM) do major damage. He was amazing again tonight, minus the two clutch missed free throws, but they absolutely need more out of Anthony Davis (28 points, 8-for-24 FG, 11 rebounds, one assist, two steals and two blocks). The easy solution is to start him at center and get rid of the JaVale McGee (13 minutes, six points, eight rebounds and a block) and Dwight Howard (15 minutes, four points, five boards, one assist, one steal and five fouls) minutes. Those are lost minutes. When you play bigs, you allow the Blazers to get away with Carmelo Anthony (11 points, 10 rebounds, five dimes, a steal, a block and two triples) and Hassan Whiteside (seven points, eight rebounds and five blocks) on defense. Yes, these players are solid for the Blazers, but the issue at hand is that the Blazers have to play them as they can’t dig deeper in their rotation. Both guys have their spurts of strong play, but if a team is going to deploy them for 38 and 26 minutes, you need to make them pay for it in some fashion. This means playing five out with Davis at center and having one of your stars hunt the mismatch. The Lakers went 5-for-32 from deep because their No.3-10 options are all unreliable. We knew this from day one, so if you’re going to place blame on them, then you’ve already admitted defeat since the beginning of the season. Damian Lillard (34 points, five rebounds, five assists, a block and six triples) and C.J. McCollum (21 points, five rebounds, one steal and three triples) ate up the Lakers guards, but that’s expected. The Lakers defense held Jusuf Nurkic (16 points, 4-for-11, 15 boards, three dimes and a triple), Gary Trent Jr. (five points, 2-for-8 FG, two rebounds and a triple) and Melo in check, they just can’t win many games when only scoring 93 points. Also, let’s just stop with the drop coverage on Lillard. Don’t even give him breathing room. I’m glad the Blazers showed up and balled out to make the first round interesting, I didn’t think they had it in them, but the Lakers have some easy fixes here to still make this a short series.

     

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