NBA Playoffs second round game restores historic rivalries
With the second round of the playoffs underway, some of the brightest stars in the league put in brilliant performances. The first round had a handful of upsets, including two of the NBA play-in teams that advanced to the second round (Los Angeles Lakers, Miami). The Miami Heat defeated the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks 4-1, and the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the No. 2-seeded Memphis Grizzlies 4-2. These are some of the performances that circulated in the media world during the second round.
Harden’s epic performances bring Sixers to life, 76ers one win away from ECF
After a couple of atrocious performances, James Harden delivered another masterful performance as the Sixers escaped a 116-115 overtime thriller in South Philadelphia. The Sixers have evened the series 2-2 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals after losing their last two games. In the fourth game, Harden wasted no time and scored 21 points in the first half. But most importantly, Harden made winning plays and delivered when he was in the crunch. Harden made the game-tying cube to send the game into overtime and scored the game-winning three in overtime. The final play captivated another landmark performance from a future hall of famer. Harden finished the game with 42 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds, along with four steals. In both of the Sixers’ victories, coach Doc Rivers credited Harden’s assertiveness and toughness. All year, Rivers has been insisting that his main shooting guard be “Be James Harden.”
“For a day and a half, James had to recover. Nobody did that except James. The movie is great, we talked, and probably 15,000 other people probably talked to him… James Harden was James Harden tonight.”
After a much-needed Game 4 win at home, the Sixers entered an electric TD Garden to steal Game 5. MVP Joel Embiid scored 33 points as the Sixers cruised to a 115-103 victory over the Celtics. The Celtics have struggled throughout the series protecting league MVP Embiid, who posted three 30-point performances in this series. Tyrese Maxey outshone with a 30-point explosion, while Harris added 16 points, 11 rebounds on 70% shooting from the field. James Harden was assertive from the start, perfecting the pick-and-roll with Embiid. Harden contributed 17 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists. The Sixers executed offensively on 50% shooting from the field, 40% from three while outscoring Boston on fast-break points 15-5. The Sixers recorded their second road win of the series, while the Celtics received their first consecutive postseason loss. The Sixers return to Philadelphia with a 3-2 lead over the defending Eastern Conference champions. Doc Rivers and the Sixers are one win away from advancing to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2001 (led by Allen Iverson). Philadelphia will host the Celtics live from the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Curry vs LeBron: the generational duel we were waiting for
A Battle of the Ages: Stephen Curry will face LeBron James in a Western Conference semifinal matchup between the Golden States Warriors. Only one to advance to the Western Conference final round, Curry led the Warriors to a 127-100 blowout victory in Game 2 following a Game 1 loss at Chase Center. The Curry-Bron era dates back to historic NBA Finals battles, including the epic 2016 3-1 comeback completed by the Cavs. Curry and LeBron have transcended sports culture in their own right, but even so, the constant conversation of who’s the goat still lingers. Both players are 4-time NBA champions, but would the separator be a fifth? The NBA’s generational matchups occurred in defining time periods dating back to the iconic battles between the great Bill Russell and Wilt the Stilt in the ’60s, Magic-Bird in the ’80s, and MJ-Isaiah in the ’90s. Bron Match-up has reinvigorated modern sports rivalry.
The Los Angeles Lakers take a commanding 3-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors who lost two straight games in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Lakers’ LeBron James had 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while Stephen Curry posted his third playoff triple-double with 31 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds and three steals in a 104-101 loss. Despite the star pairings, it was Lakers fourth-quarter spark Lonnie Walker IV that survived the Warriors rally. Walker IV had a playoff career-high 15 points, all coming in the fourth quarter on 6-for-9 shooting. The Lakers’ home court dominance has served as an advantage throughout this postseason, winning all six of their postseason matchups at Crypto Arena. The Lakers are one win away from advancing to the Western Conference finals after harsh criticism all year. The Warriors find themselves in a do-or-die situation with their dynasty on the brink of dismantling. The defending champions will host the Lakers on Wednesday night at 10 pm ET.
Nikola Jokic’s Nuggets one win away from Western Conference Finals
After a historic Game 4 performance from Denver’s Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets took care of business in Game 5. Jokic added another triple-double performance to his playoff resume, dishing out 29 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists to help Denver to beat the Suns. in a 118-102 victory. The Nuggets now lead the series 3-2 with the Suns on the brink of elimination heading into Game 6 on Thursday. Jokic passed Wilt Chamberlain for most career triple-doubles in the playoffs as a Center (10), Jokic currently ranks fifth all-time (tied with Draymond Green, Rajon Rondo and Jason Kidd). Jokic posted his second triple-double of the season, despite losing game 4 in Phoenix after a 53-point performance. Throughout this series, the headlines have revolved around Suns superstar Devin Booker. Booker has raised his game since Paul’s absence, averaging 35.9 points, 7.1 assists and 60.1% shooting from the field. The Jokic-Booker matchup has been the most exciting matchup of the postseason thus far. The Suns look to even the series at home, while the Nuggets look to advance back to the Western Conference Finals in hopes of reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. The Suns will host the Nuggets in a Game 6 battle Thursday night live from the Footprint Center.