The Sixers — the one team in the bottom half of the East standings that can make a real series out of the first round — are not the same without Lou Williams off the bench.
He is the best one-on-one player that team has. Sorry Iggy. But if the game is on the line with 10 seconds left I want Williams to be the guy creating the shot. He creates matchup challenges against second units. He is also good at setting up teammates and rarely turns it over. He is 13.4 important points per game.
He tweaked his hamstring Saturday and now is going to sit out the rest of the regular season, and he “hopes” to be back for the playoffs, tweets Kate Fagen of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Sixers better hope he gets back, too.
Philly is currently the six seed in the East but just 1.5 games ahead of the Knicks (one in the loss column) for the seven spot. They will get Miami or Boston in the first round and can make that series miserable for one of them. But only if they have Williams coming off the bench.
After turning the ball over late in the fourth quarter, James Harden meandered near halfcourt as the Jazz pushed for a fastbreak layup. But that put him in perfect position to receive a long inbound pass after Utah scored. Harden caught the ball and whipped it ahead Kenneth Faried, who dunked to give Harden a triple-double-clinching assist.
You’ll have to forgive Harden for not hustling back on defense. He did most of his heavy lifting far earlier.
By late in the first quarter, Harden created 28 points (17 scored, 11 assisted) to the Jazz’s 13 total points. The Rockets never looked back.
Houston crushed Utah 118-98 in Game 2 Wednesday to take a 2-0 series lead. It seems the Jazz – who lost Game 1 by 32 points and a 4-1 second-round series in this matchup last year – have no answer for the Rockets, particularly Harden.
Harden finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He was a game-high +24.
Here are the best-of-seven series with the most-lopsided first two games. The 2-0-leading teams that won the series are in red. The 2-0-leading teams that lost the series are in blue. This Houston-Utah series is in silver. This Bucks-Pistons series is in cream.
Teams that outscored their opponents by at least 50 in the first two games have never lost a best-of-season series. The Rockets, +52, might have built an insurmountable advantage.
Especially the way the Jazz guard Harden. They’re trying to overplay him but wind up just giving him lanes into the paint. The talented guard is picking them apart.
Until Utah solves that, secondary matchups won’t matter. Houston is content winning through its superstar.
The Pistons fought harder. Luke Kennard moved into the starting lineup and provided a spark. Detroit defended more actively.
But the result was largely the same: A Bucks blowout.
Milwaukee routed Detroit 120-99 in Game 2 Wednesday. Following a 35-point Game 1 victory, the Bucks have outscored the Pistons by 56 points in the series. Every team to outscore its opponent by at least 50 in the first two games of a best-of-seven series has won it.
Here are the best-of-seven series with the most-lopsided first two games. The 2-0-leading teams that won the series are in green. The 2-0-leading teams that lost the series are in red. This Milwaukee-Detroit series is in cream.
The Pistons can’t stop Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists). With Kennard (Detroit-high 19 points) starting for defensive specialist Bruce Brown, the Pistons also couldn’t contain Eric Bledsoe (27 points). Khris Middleton (24 points) provided his usual steady production.
Meanwhile, without Blake Griffin, Detroit lacks a difference-making star. Andre Drummond (18 points and 16 rebounds) had nice individual moments but was -32 (another terrible plus-minus for him).
The Pistons are just overwhelmed by the superior Bucks, and it’s hard to see that changing.
In what had been a tight game, the Pacers built a four-point lead over the Celtics with four minutes left in the third quarter. From there:
Irving scored 37 points and dished seven assists, leading Boston to a 99-91 Game 2 win Wednesday. The Celtics now lead the first-round series 2-0. Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series 93% of the time.
The Pacers just can’t muster enough offense – not against this sound Boston defense. Indiana went nearly nine scoreless minutes in the fourth quarter. Even after ending that drought, the Pacers’ final five possessions: miss, miss, miss, turnover, turnover.
This is why the Celtics got Irving. His ability to create shots sets them apart in these slogging playoff games.
Jayson Tatum added 26 points. But Al Horford struggled while playing through illness. Marcus Morris shot 0-for-8. Jaylen Brown didn’t really get going.
This wasn’t the prettiest game for Boston, but because of Irving, it was a win.
LeBron James couldn’t even influence the Lakers into the playoffs.
But as a businessman and philanthropist, his reach is only growing.
LeBron remains the NBA’s biggest star. He’s still an elite player (when healthy), and his name resonates with casual fans and even non-fans. Add his off-court interests – more accessible to him in Los Angeles – and his importance can’t be denied.
That’s why LeBron made TIME’s 2019 list of 100 most-influential
Warren Buffett wrote about LeBron:
I’ve been impressed with his leadership skills, his sharp mind and his ability to stay grounded. People in LeBron’s position get tugged in different directions and have a lot of chances to make bad decisions. He’s kept his head, and that’s not easy.
There is so much on LeBron’s plate – production, acting, his school, even basketball. His ability to handle it all is incredible.
Having such varied interests might not lend itself to LeBron dominating on the court. But it makes him even more deserving of this list.