NBA Playoffs – Day Three
Two games. Two records. One major injury scare. Two amazing outcomes. All of this happened on day three of the NBA playoffs, in games between the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, with the Nets entering the game with a 1-0 series lead, followed by the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors, with Golden State holding a 1-0 series lead.
Brooklyn v. Philadelphia
Brooklyn stunned Philadelphia on day one of the NBA playoffs by winning game one and stealing the homecourt advantage with a 111-102 victory. 76ers center Joel Embiid was doubtful to play due to knee tendinitis until a few minutes before tipoff. In a limited capacity, Embiid scored 22 points and pulled down 15 rebounds to go along with 5 blocked shots and 4 assists in only 24 minutes.
76ers guard Jimmy Butler contributed 36 points. Unfortunately for Philadelphia however, their trio of remaining starters, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, and Tobias Harris would score only 17 points combined.
While Embiid set a record for posting a 20/15/5 game in under 25 minutes, D’Angelo Russell of the Nets continued his outstanding year by scoring 26 points, etching his name in the record books for the most points scored by a Nets player in his playoff debut. Russell’s 26 points were complemented by 23 points scored off the Nets’ bench by guard Caris LeVert, in addition to the 12 points and 16 rebounds provided by veteran forward Ed Davis.
No team wants to be down 0-2 in a series. While not an insurmountable deficit, being down two games is definitely not an ideal situation. To that end, it was important for Philadelphia to win game two. Both D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert cooled off a bit from their game one 20+ scoring outputs, scoring 16 and 13 points respectively. Ed Davis, after providing a double-double in game one, scored only two points while pulling down only one rebound in just six minutes of action.
Meanwhile, Joel Embiid again slowed by injury, posted 23 points and 10 rebounds in just 21 minutes of action. Jimmy Butler was unable to follow up his scoring output provided in game one, he finished with only 7 points, however, Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick would redeem themselves from their game one performances by combining for 36 points in game two.
All that Ben Simmons did was post a triple double with 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Additionally, Philadelphia scored 51 points in the third quarter, tying a record for points scored in a single quarter of a playoff game, with the record being previously established by the Los Angeles Lakers in March 1962, while playing the Detroit Pistons.
Game two was won by Philadelphia, with the final score being Philadelphia – 145, Brooklyn – 123. Now tied at one game apiece, the series will move to the Barclays Center for games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Saturday.
Golden State Warriors v. Los Angeles Clippers
The Golden State Warriors are the reigning two-time NBA champion, having won three of the past four championships. Were it not for a heroic comeback by the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, the Warriors would be a four-time champion, looking to claim a fifth consecutive title.
As it stands, they have won three of the last four, which in and of itself is quite an accomplishment. The top seed Warriors are facing the eight seed/little engine that could, Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors boast an All-Star starting five, with two former MVP’s in Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.
The Los Angeles Clippers are led by head coach Doc Rivers, whose team either traded top-tier talent (Chris Paul and Blake Griffin) or allowed them to sign elsewhere. (DeAndre Jordan). In spite of this talent exodus, the Clippers won 48 regular season games and qualified for the postseason. Their reward? Facing the Golden State Warriors in round one.
Not surprisingly, Golden State won game one by a final score of 121-104. Curry led Golden State’s winning effort by scoring 38 points (no surprise), pulling down 15 rebounds (BIG surprise) and dishing out 7 assists. Game one also saw Curry surpass Hall of Famer Ray Allen for all time playoff three-pointers made.
During Allen’s prolific career, he made 385 three-point shots in 191 games. Curry eclipsed Allen’s playoff total, by draining eight three-pointers to finish game one with 386 total playoff three-pointers made – in only 91 games played. The remaining games in this series seemed to be a formality before seeing Golden State head to the second round and await their next opponent. Alas, Los Angeles has other ideas in mind.
Game two took the expected direction – that being headed towards a Warriors victory and subsequent two-game series lead before heading to the Staples Center for game three. Despite losing center DeMarcus Cousins in the first quarter due to injury (with said injury a season-ending quad tear confirmed by MRI), the Warriors looked to be on their way to victory. With 7:30 remaining in the third quarter, the Warriors lead climbed to 31 points. As only a little more than one and a half quarters remained, this looked to be a Warriors blowout.
Instead of coasting to victory, the Warriors found themselves in a dog fight. The little engine that could faced a high mountain to climb. Trailing by 31 points, with 19:30 of game time remaining, against the defending two-time NBA champions, on the road, would qualify as having to climb a high mountain. The Los Angeles Clippers faced said mountain and did just that. They climbed it.
By outscoring the Warriors 72-37 over that 19:30 span, the Clippers climbed the mountain, defeating Golden State by a final score of 135-131. This 31-point comeback would set a record for the largest playoff deficit overcome. Lest we not forget, large comebacks are in the Clippers DNA, as earlier this season they overcame a 28-point deficit, also on the road, to defeat the Boston Celtics. Borrowing the University of Michigan Fight Song, “Hail to the Victors.”
Two games. Two records. One major injury scare. Two amazing outcomes. Not surprisingly, Philadelphia evened their series with Brooklyn at one game apiece. In much more surprising fashion, not only did the Los Angeles Clippers even their series with Golden State at one game apiece, they did so in record-setting fashion, after being down 31 points. They continued to fight and were able to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to earn a hard-fought victory. The Warriors/Clippers series moves to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for games three and four.
Hopefully, the exceptional play will continue as we move into day four of the playoffs. As the three previous days have provided exhilarating drama, fans hope to continue to be treated with outstanding play, entertaining games and amazing feats displayed. NBA action is fantastic!