The top three favorites to win the 2021 NBA Championship are all in action tonight and our NBA picks let you know if all three will be winners tonight!
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Tonight’s three games see the Brooklyn Nets look to go up 2-0 in there series but the two LA teams, the Lakers and Clippers scrambling to avoid being in a 0-2 hole after being unable to get the job done over the weekend.
Boston Celtics @ Brooklyn Nets (Game 2) – 7:30pm EDT
While it didn’t happen in the manner that many thought it would, the Brooklyn Nets and their Big Three easily won game one over the Boston Celtics. A 16 point first quarter must have had alarm bells ringing for the title favorites, but their defense, especially in the second half, won the Nets the game.
Trailing by six at halftime, Brooklyn gave up just 40 points after the main break, running away 11 point winners. The 104 points they put up is well below what was expected for a team with this much offensive firepower, but restricting the Celtics, who had just scored 118 points, to just 93 is a true testament to how much these guys want to win.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden combined for 82 points between them, with Durant’s 32 and 12 rebounds leading the way for the home side. There wasn’t as much consistency for Boston’s offense though, with Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker combining for just 37 points on 11/36 (30.6%) shooting from the field.
NETS TAKE GAME 1 AND BEAT THE CELTICS 104-93 😤
KD: 32 PTS | 12 REB | 10/25 FG
Kyrie: 29 PTS | 6 REB | 11/20 FG
Harden: 21 PTS | 9 REB | 8 AST | 5/13 FG pic.twitter.com/lE8k24AM9n
— Overtime (@overtime) May 23, 2021
After the duo scored 79 between them against Washington, with Tatum having 50 of those, many thought that the Celtics might be able to go toe-for-toe with the Nets, who are still figuring out how to play together offensively. That wasn’t the case though as Boston shot just 36.9% from the field as a team and had their second worst offensive performance since the All Star break.
It was obvious that Brooklyn was focusing a bulk of their defensive effort into stopping Tatum getting comfortable, meaning that Walker needs to do better than 15 points on 5/16 shooting. If he can be more aggressive, it will not only relieve some of the pressure off Tatum but also make Irving work defensively and limit his ability to thrive at the other end.
With that being said, the Nets still managed to win by 11 points despite their Big Three looking awkward and disjointed when they were all on the court together. It is going to take time for them to learn how to play together, given Brooklyn has played just nine games with all three in the lineup. Luckily they have Boston, who are missing Jaylen Brown, on the road, where they were just 15-21 during the regular season, and have now won all four of the matchups between the two sides this season.
Los Angeles Lakers @ Phoenix Suns (Game 2) – 10pm EDT
The young, inexperienced Phoenix Suns thrived under the spotlight of playoff basketball, defeating the defending Champion Los Angeles Lakers in game one. In what was many of the Suns’ players’ first playoff appearances, the moment didn’t look too big for them at any stage throughout their 99-90 win.
With Chris Paul (seven points & eight assists) hampered by a shoulder injury for most of the game, Devin Booker stepped up big time. The two-time All Star and playoff rookie finished with 34 points, eight assists and seven boards in a clear man of the match performance. It wasn’t just Booker though, with Deandre Ayton outperforming both Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond, ending his first postseason game with 21 points and a game high 16 rebounds.
Davis has come out and said that his performance isn’t good enough, which is exactly how it was. Ayton had more offensive rebounds, eight, than Davis had total rebounds, seven. Not only that but Davis looked timid offensively, managing only 13 points on 5/16 (31.2%) shooting.
Free throws in the first half
17 — Lakers
0 — Suns pic.twitter.com/4xjmF8g8Za
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 23, 2021
However, the Lakers’ other superstar also had a disappointing game, with LeBron James putting up 18 points, 10 assists, seven boards and three steals, but playing reserved offensively and often settling rather than attacking. There is plenty of talk about how James treats game ones in playoff series, especially given the Lakers lost game one in their opening two series last postseason before winning the next four games in each, but this team is completely different and the Suns are a much better opponent as well.
We fully expect that the Lakers, James and Davis particularly, will come out with a lot more intent and purpose on the offensive end. The playoffs are a different type of basketball, often played more above the shoulders and after such an exciting win on Sunday, the Suns’ young players may be susceptible to a poor performance tonight. With Paul likely to play but still be impacted by his shoulder injury, this is the perfect opportunity for the Lakers to regain some control of the series and even things up.
Dallas Mavericks @ Los Angeles Clippers (Game 2) – 10:30pm EDT
The budding rivalry between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers continues tonight with the six-seed Mavs attempting to steal both games in LA. Dallas was in control for the entire game on Saturday afternoon, winning all four quarters and coming up clutch on their way to a 113-103 victory.
In just his seventh playoff game, all against the Clippers dating back to last season, Luka Doncic was the star yet again. He finished with a 31 point triple double, his third of his young postseason career and was clearly the best player on both sides. He did shrink late in the game though, managing just one point in the fourth, but his playmaking allowed others to shine.
Tim Hardaway Jr went 5/9 from three for his 21 points, Dorian Finney-Smith played incredible defense while shooting 4/5 from three for his 18, but the game ball went to Jalen Brunson. The backup point guard scored nine of his 15 points in the decisive fourth quarter and was the driving force behind Dallas’ 18-5 run to close out the game.
Mavericks beat the Clippers, 113-103 in Game 1 😤
Luka: 31 PTS, 10 REB, 11 AST pic.twitter.com/NqS4wImMsG
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 22, 2021
In an issue that dates back to last postseason, the Clippers struggled down the stretch yet again. Holding a three point lead with around six minutes remaining, LA proceeded to shoot 2/12 from the field, 0/7 from deep and 1/4 from the free throw line for the remainder of the game. After finishing the regular season as the best three point shooting time, and second best of all time, the Clippers shot just 27.5% from deep with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr combining for 3/20.
Leonard still finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals, but only shot 40% from the field and scored just three of his 26 in the fourth quarter. George managed 23 points, six rebounds and five assists but was inconsistent with his shot and wasn’t much better on the other end either.
The positive is that the Clippers couldn’t have played much worse, on either end of the floor, and enter a must win game on their home floor. While they have now lost four straight playoff games, including their collapse against the Nuggets last season, with Leonard and George leading the way, we expect a more disciplined and aggressive approach to guarding Doncic while the team has a better shooting night all around.
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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.
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