Day 8 of the NBA Playoffs had some exciting action to offer for basketball fans across the globe.
Bang in the middle of the Easter weekend, the day’s action was kicked off by the 3rd seed Philadelphia 76ers taking on the 6th seed Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference. The Nets were desperate to tie the series and avoid going down 1-3. They put forth a spirited performance but the 76ers managed to come back to a thrilling 112-108 victory in a strife riddled matchup which saw two player ejections.
The action shifted to the Western Conference for the second game of the night as the 7th seed San Antonio Spurs hosted the 2nd seed Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets were looking to tie the series at two games apiece. They came out aggressively and accomplished that task by putting forth a dominant performance and coming away with a 117-103 victory.
The action shifted back to the Eastern Conference as the 1st seed Milwaukee Bucks faced off against the 8th seed Detroit Pistons. It was yet another blow out as the Bucks roared to a 119-103 victory and a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
The day’s action concluded in the Western Conference as the 5th seed Utah Jazz hosted the 4th seed Houston Rockets. The Jazz were looking to avoid going down a 0-3 hole and were aided by a horrible shooting night from Rockets star James Harden. However, the Jazz couldn’t capitalize on it and ended up losing a close game 101-104 and falling down a virtually insurmountable 0-3 hole.
Here’s more from what went down during all the games held on April 20th:
76ers outlast Nets (Box Score)
Since their victory in Game 1 of the series, the Brooklyn Nets had been thoroughly outplayed by the Philadelphia 76ers during their first round match up. The Nets had allowed the 76ers to score over 138 points per game and came into this game after being blown out of Game 3 by a 76ers team that was without its best player, Joel Embiid. Trailing 2-1 in the series, the Nets desperately needed to win this game to avoid falling down a 1-3 hole.
Joel Embiid, who was a game time decision for the 76ers and only played 10 minutes of the first half, really put his stamp on the game in every facet in the second half. He finished with 31 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 blocks to lead the 76ers team to a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
76ers coach Brett Brown spoke about Embiid’s performance: “Just look at the magnitude of what the numbers say, the influence that the numbers say that he must have had on the game. To have 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, six blocked shots and you win, well it’s hard to sort of say it any better than that. He was dominant.”
Buoyed by another solid Caris Lavert outing where he scored 25 points, the Nets actually played well and had the lead for a major chunk of the game but couldn’t hold on to it at the end. Mike Scott hit the go ahead 3 pointer for the 76ers and they held on to win the game.
Tempers flared during the second quarter when Jimmy Butler of the 76ers was ejected along with Jared Dudley of the Nets for some pushing and shoving. The incident was a result of Dudley shoving Embiid after he committed a hard foul on Nets center Jarrett Allen.
“When you have a guy giving flagrant fouls, I mean Joel Embiid is second in the league in flagrant fouls,” Dudley responded after being asked about the incident. “So for that elbow he had before just to have a flagrant 1, no fine, no nothing, laughing in the media, if you think that a team that I play on is going to have (to accept) that, that’s another thing coming, especially on this young team.”
The Nets will travel to Philadelphia and try to avoid elimination in Game 5.
Nuggets defeat Spurs (Box Score)
Prior to the start of Game 4, Nuggets coach Mike Malone had asked for more ‘passion, fire and emotion’ from his young squad. And his squad answered in spades. Led by their man in the middle, Nikola Jokic, who scored 29 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out 8 assists, the Nuggets overcame a bad first quarter and outscored the Spurs 69-45 over the next two quarters.
After a bad Game 3, Jamal Murray bounced back with 24 points as the Nuggets won for the first time in San Antonio since 2012, and their first playoff win in San Antonio since 2007. This also broke Denver’s 13 game road losing streak against the Spurs.
“It’s an unbelievable win,” said Paul Millsap, one of the few Nuggets who have any playoff experience. “I can’t put into words the magnitude of this win.”
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 24 points for the Spurs and DeMar DeRozan added 19 points before being thrown out of the game for throwing the ball at the referee.
Tied at 2-2, this now becomes a best of three series with the next two out of three games at Denver.
Bucks destroy Pistons (Box Score)
All those people who thought that the Milwaukee Bucks are a one man show, were in for a rude awakening in Game 3. With superstar and MVP candidate Giannis Antentokounmpo in foul trouble throughout the game, the rest of the team stepped up to the challenge and promptly dispatched the Detroit Pistons to give their team a 3-0 lead in the series. Seven Bucks players scored in double figures during the game.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer spoke about his team’s splendid effort despite his star’s lack of contribution: “That’s something we’ve been working on all year. We play together and take what the opponent gives us. It isn’t all about Giannis, as great and amazing as he is. We have a lot of guys who can make plays and Giannis knows when to step back and let them carry the load.”
Antentokounmpo, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, was also extremely pleased with his teammates’ performance. He said: “I thought they guys were amazing, especially after I got my fourth foul. Khris did a great job of guiding the team and making the right plays. It’s good to see us winning a playoff game on the road when I’m not having my best game.”
Pistons star Blake Griffin, who had missed the first two games with a knee injury, made a valiant return to score 27 points, grab 7 rebounds and dish out 6 assists in the game.
When asked about Griffin’s gutsy performance in the loss, Pistons coach Dwane Casey said: “That young man is giving us everything his body will give, and we need every bit of it. He has a presence that no one else on our team can provide.”
Game 4 of the series is also in Detroit and the Pistons will hope to win that game in order to avoid the humiliation of a sweep.
Rockets survive Jazz (Box Score)
It’s almost incredible to think that around halfway through the fourth quarter, James Harden was 0 of 15 from the field and the Rockets still had a small lead. However, the NBA’s leading scorer came to life during the remainder of the game and scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Rockets to victory over the Utah Jazz and a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
When asked about his poor shooting after the game, Harden said he wasn’t aware of the fact that he was 0 of 15 at one point of time and his mindset didn’t really change. “Keep shooting. Keep being aggressive,” Harden talked about his inner thoughts. “My job is to go out there and produce. Be aggressive and in attack mode. Nothing changes.”
The Jazz failed to capitalize on this golden opportunity and missed countless chances to seal the game by bricking open shots in the fourth quarter. Donovan Mitchell, the young star of the Jazz scored 34 points but only made 9 of his 27 shots, including a stretch where he missed 10 shots in a row. He also missed a wide open three pointer to tie the game with a few seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
The game was extremely physical and both the teams shot a total of 72 free throws for the game and atleast one player fell on the ground during every foul.
Game 4 will also be in Salt Lake City and the Jazz can be expected to fight tooth and nail in order to avoid a sweep by the Rockets.