The Wizards, Knicks and Jazz are all looking to avoid a dreaded 2-0 deficit on this busy Wednesday of NBA Playoff action, while the 76ers, Hawks and Jazz are on the hunt for a dominant 2-0 start to the 2021 postseason.
Washington Wizards @ Philadelphia 76ers (Game 2) – 7pm EDT
The No. 1 seed Philadelphia 76ers will look to take a 2-0 series lead at home when they host the eighth seeded Washington Wizards for Game 2 of this first round playoff matchup at the Wells Fargo Center.
Although many believe that the performances of Philadelphia’s MVP finalist Joel Embiid and Defensive Player of the Year finalist Ben Simmons are the keys to the teams success, Tobias Harris’ offensive contributions often go unnoticed.
Harris was a consistent performer in both Simmons and Embiid’s absences during the regular season, averaging 19.5 points through his 62 regular season games. The power forward was incredible on Sunday, scoring a game high 37 points on 51.7% shooting from the field.
The 76ers All-Star duo also had solid performances, as Embiid scored 30 points on 56.2% shooting from the field, while Simmons had six points to go along with 15 rebounds and 15 assists in Philadelphia’s 125-118 victory.
Sixers take Game 1 ✅
What a game from Tobias Harris:
6 REB pic.twitter.com/FwL2OVQuHf
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 23, 2021
Bradley Beal had a night out for Washington, scoring a team high 33 points on 56.5% shooting from the field to go along with 10 rebounds, but his effort went in vain as the Wizards were simply unable to match the 76ers intensity in the second half.
Although the Wizards defense let them down once again, the seven point margin actually made Washington’s Game 1 performance look better, as this looked more like a double digit deficit based on how the two teams played.
In Game 1, Philadelphia were out-rebounded and shot at a lesser three point percentage (31.2%). As the series progresses and players get accustomed to the playoff intensity, the 76ers shooting and their defense will undoubtedly improve. Philadelphia ranked second in the regular season in terms of defensive rating.
Seeing as Philly cruised to a comfortable victory even with an effective and efficient performance from Bradley Beal, we like the 76ers to take a 2-0 lead over the Wizards in Game 2 on Wednesday. Especially when considering that the game is in Philadelphia, where the 76ers boast the second best home record in the league, 29-7.
Atlanta Hawks @ New York Knicks (Game 2) – 7:30pm EDT
After stealing Game 1 in New York, the Atlanta Hawks are headed back to Madison Square Garden to take on the Knicks in this first round playoff matchup.
The Hawks emerged victorious in Game 1, 107-105, after a successful Trae Young floater gave Atlanta the lead with just 0.9 seconds remaining on the clock. Young was nothing shy of incredible in his NBA playoff debut, scoring a game high 32 points, while also collecting 10 assists.
Although Young was undeniably the best player on the floor, Atlanta’s performance was far from dominant. The Hawks shot just 35.3% from behind the arc and were out-rebounded by seven boards. Seeing as the Knicks are still without starting center Mitchell Robinson, John Collins and Clint Capella should be having a greater impact on this series.
As for the New York, their two point loss does not look so bad when considering that the recently crowned Most Improved Player of 2021, Julius Randle, had his worst game of the season. Randle scored 15 points at 26.1% from the field to go along with 12 rebounds.
On a positive note for the Knicks, Alec Burks contributed a team high 27 points at 69.2% shooting from the field. Although Burks and Derrick Rose combined for 44 points off the bench, New York cannot afford to be so heavily reliant on their bench scoring in Game 2 and beyond.
The New York Knicks are two point favorites to win this matchup and tie the series at 1-1. However, in such a tightly contested playoff series the best player on the floor often leads their team to victory.
As Trae Young took control of the game during his playoff debut while Julius Randle was a passenger on his own team, we like Young to give the Hawks to a 2-0 lead on the road. Atlanta still has plenty of room to improve offensively and the Knicks weren’t as solid defensively as they have been in the regular season. New York also cannot rely on another 27 point performance off the bench from Alec Burks to keep them in the game.
Memphis Grizzlies @ Utah Jazz (Game 2) – 10pm EDT
The Memphis Grizzlies are on the hunt for one of the unlikeliest 2-0 leads in playoff history, as the Jazz are looking to tie things up at 1-1 in Game 2 in Utah on Wednesday.
Although Memphis finished the 2020-21 regular season with the ninth best record in the Western Conference, that did not stop them from upsetting the No. 1 seeded Utah Jazz at home with a 112-109 victory.
Dillon Brooks (31), Ja Morant (26), Jonas Valanciunas (15) and Kyle Anderson (14) combined for 86 of the Grizzlies 112 points on Sunday, as the four starters shot at a collective 50.6% field goal percentage.
Memphis shot 10% better than Utah from behind the arc and outscored the Jazz by +20 points in the paint.
Although they were a great ‘three and d’ team throughout the regular season, Utah’s three point mantra proved to be their undoing in Game 1 of this series, as the Jazz shot a mere 25.5% from behind the three point line.
Donovan Mitchell will play in Game 2 on Wednesday night pic.twitter.com/zhc7PO4nlp
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 24, 2021
Memphis’ plans for Utah’s Defensive Player of the Year finalist certainly paid off, as Rudy Gobert fouled out of the game in just 25 minutes. With Gobert out of the game, Utah felt Donovan Mitchell’s absence even more.
Having averaged 26.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and one steal per game this season while shooting on 43.8/38.6/84.5 shooting splits, Mitchell missed the final 16 games of the regular season due to a sprained right ankle. However, the Jazz’s leading scorer is available to play in Game 2
As Mitchell will be returning to the lineup after nearly a month without playing, it would be unlikely that the All-Star guard immediately returns to his best form. However, seeing as Game 2 is also in Utah, where the Jazz have a league best 31-5 record at home, we feel like Mitchell’s inclusion will give the offense enough of a spark to see the Jazz shoot better from behind the arc and win Game 2 on their home floor.
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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.
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