Day 6 of the NBA Playoffs saw the action move to the home courts of the lower seeded teams. Co-incidentally, all the teams in action were tied 1-1 in their series. Two games were held in the Western Conference and one in the Eastern Conference.
Kicking off the day’s action was the Eastern Conference Matchup between the 3rd seed Philadelphia 76ers and the 6th seed Brooklyn Nets. The 76ers were without their star big man Joel Embiid but the Nets failed to capitalize on the opportunity and were blown out 115-131.
The action shifted to the Western Conference as the 7th seed San Antonio Spurs hosted the 2nd seed Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets kept the game close but the Spurs put forth a clinical fourth quarter and pulled away to a 118-108 victory.
Concluding the day’s action was the 1st seed Golden State Warriors versus the 8th seed Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Warriors stamped their authority over the game and cruised to a dominant 132-105 victory.
Here’s more from what went down during all the games held on April 18th:
76ers blow by Nets (Box Score)
Much was talked about since the last game between these two teams. The talk was mainly focused on 76ers center Joel Embiid dangerously elbowing Nets center Jarrett Allen and then laughing about it in the post game news conference. Fans and analysts were talking about a possible retaliation against Embiid by the Nets players. However, the chances of that were quickly diminished as Embiid was ruled out of the game with soreness in his left knee.
Embiid’s absence might have vanquished the chances of any plays of retribution from the Nets, but it had definitely increased the chances of a Nets victory. However, the Nets put forth an uninspired performance and the 76ers rolled them over.
With Embiid out, 76ers point guard Ben Simmons took it upon himself to lead his team to a dominant victory. He was probably fuelled by the comments of Nets veteran Jared Dudley who called Simmons ‘just average in the halfcourt’. He scored a career playoff high 31 points in the game and led all scorers. He scored with an absurdly efficient rate and made 11 of his 13 shots. He also added 9 assists during the game. Tobias Harris, after a mediocre performance in the series so far, also came to play and scored 29 points while grabbing 16 rebounds. J.J. Redick made 7 of 9 three point shots and scored 26 points. Jimmy Butler scored 16 points and Boban Marjanovic added 14 points off the bench. The 76ers also dominated the boards and outrebounded the Nets by 11 rebounds for the game. This was worsened by the fact that the Nets were thoroughly beaten on the glass despite the absence of Embiid.
For the Nets, D’Angelo Russell scored 26 points, the highest among the starters, while Caris LaVert added 26 points off the bench. The Nets also shot a dreadful 20.5 percent from the three point line as a team. Joe Harris, who led the league in three point shooting percentage for the season, missed all four of his three point attempts.
The Nets struggles have not been limited to the offensive end alone and they have struggled defensively as well. After holding the 76ers to just 105 points in Game 1, the Nets have been downright dreadful on defence as the Sixers have averaged 138 points over the last two games. Game 4 at the Barclays Center is a must win for the Nets now because if they fall down 1-3 in the series, their season will be over much faster than expected.
Spurs rattle Nuggets (Box Score)
The San Antonio Spurs returned home after stealing the home court advantage from the Denver Nuggets by winning Game 1 of the series. They also had a formidable 19 point third quarter lead in Game 2 but the Nuggets, led by Jamal Murray’s 21 fourth quarter points made a heroic comeback and tied the series 1-1. The Spurs might have been happy after getting a split but they were bound to be slightly disappointed by the fact that they had missed a golden opportunity to go up 2-0 in the series.
Prior to this game, the Nuggets had lost 13 straight games in San Antonio and were hoping to end that streak. However, Derrick White had some other ideas. The young point guard scored a career-high 36 points and led the Spurs to a dominant fourth quarter as they overcame a second quarter collapse and pulled away to a 118-108 victory. Talking about his career night, White said, “I just had a chip on my shoulder. This is the way I’ve played since I was young. Just try to go out there, compete and have fun.”
Nuggets coach Michael Malone was also highly impressed by White’s performance. He praised the young Spurs guard in the post game news conference: “There is no doubt in my mind that Derrick White, the last couple of days, has been reminded about Jamal Murray’s fourth-quarter performance. Derrick White came out like he hadn’t eaten in two days. He came out hungry, he came out (ticked) off and he sent a very loud and clear message. I’m anxious to see our guys, how do we respond to that.”
After a magical fourth quarter in Game 2, Jamal Murray only scored six points during Game 3. White constantly attacked him from the start and Murray probably grew tired because of that.
DeMar DeRozan scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half and helped the Spurs close the game out. Game 4 is also at the AT&T Center in San Antonio and the Nuggets haven’t won there in over 2000 days. Things are looking a little ominous for the Nuggets and they will have to fight tooth and nail in Game 4 to save their season.
Warriors dismember Clippers (Box Score)
The Golden State Warriors had just suffered a record setting and shocking defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers. They had surrendered a 31 point fourth quarter lead to the Clippers in an embarrassing fashion. Warriors superstar Kevin Durant had been ejected in Game 1 and fouled out in Game 2. In Game 2, he had more turnovers than shot attempts. Prior to Game 3, Warriors coach Steve Kerr had called Durant the most skilled player in the NBA and said that he expected him to attempt way more than eight shots in the game. When his coach’s comments were relayed to him, Durant said, “I don’t play like that. I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am.”
However, Durant attempted 23 shots and made 14 of them on the way to a dominant 38 points in just 29 minutes of action. Teammate Draymond Green spoke about Durant’s dominant performance: “He came out super-aggressive, in kill mode. That was all the difference for us. We took control of the game right there in the first quarter and never lost control of it.”
Steph Curry was in foul trouble throughout the game but he still managed to score 21 points in 20 minutes of action. Both Curry and Durant picked up 2 fouls in the first quarter but the Warriors still built a 19 point lead. Curry talked about the Warriors’ dominant performance: “As much momentum as we lost in the final 16 minutes of Game 2, we got it all back early. Everybody was aggressive, decisive, getting good shots on every possession. The way we went about our business was the sign of a resilient team.”
The only Clippers starter to reach double figures was rookie Ivika Zubac. The star of Game 2’s historic comeback, Lou Williams scored only 16 points. Patrick Beverley, who received a lot of credit for guarding Durant in the first two games, was limited to six points and four fouls in 18 minutes of action.