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While the Hawks and Nets took big steps towards ending their respective series, both Los Angeles-based teams find themselves in 2-2 deadlocks. But the feelings in the two “camps” couldn’t be more different, as the Clippers rebounded from a brutal start to the postseason to win two in Dallas. As for the Lakers, not only did they lose to the Suns on Sunday, but they also lost one of their most important players.
Hawks 113, Knicks 96: Atlanta rolls, takes 3-1 lead
With Julius Randle and RJ Barrett struggling for much of the first three games of this series, it was quite obvious that those two needed to turn things around if the Knicks were to even the series Sunday afternoon. While both put up what would be considered serviceable stat lines, neither Randle (23/10/7/2 with two 3-pointers) nor Barrett (21/6/4/2 with two 3-pointers) was as impactful as the Knicks needed them to be. Add in Derrick Rose (18/2/6 with two 3-pointers) not looking himself, even limping around a bit during the second half, and New York now finds itself heading home in a 3-1 hole.
Rose has played 33 minutes or more in each of the four games in this series, his longest such streak of the season. Given past injuries this has to be a concern, but where else can Tom Thibodeau turn at this point? Alec Burks (12/6/1/1 with two 3-pointers) was solid off the bench, but Immanuel Quickley (two rebounds, one assist) miss all three of his field goal attempts. Frank Ntilikina saw the majority of his minutes (three) when the outcome was no longer in doubt, and Elfrid Payton was a DNP-CD to the surprise of no one. And with Nerlens Noel (two rebounds in 15 minutes) laboring on an ankle that’s nowhere near full strength, New York finds itself outmanned by the Hawks.
Trae Young (27/1/9/1 with four 3-pointers) shot 9-of-21 from the field Sunday, but continues to get to his preferred spots without much trouble. Also of note for the Hawks was that John Collins (22/8/1 with two 3-pointers), who went scoreless in 15 foul-plagued minutes in Game 2, had his best game of the series. Shooting an efficient 6-of-10 from the field, he was also 8-of-8 from the foul line and did not commit a single turnover. If this Collins shows up for Game 5, the series may be over Wednesday night.
Danilo Gallinari (21/4/1/0/1 with one 3-pointer) also surpassed the 20-point mark, while Bogdan Bogdanovic (12/8/6/2 with four 3-pointers), Kevin Huerter (11/3/1 with three 3-pointers) and Clint Capela (10/15/2) all scored in double figures. Atlanta outscored New York by 18 points from beyond the arc Sunday, two nights from holding a 21-point edge in that category in Game 3. The margins were much closer in Games 1 (plus-6) and 2 (even), and the Knicks will need that to be the case in Game 5. Getting better shooting from Randle, Barrett and Reggie Bullock (scoreless in Game 4) would certainly help in that regard.
Suns 100, Lakers 92: Lakers lose Davis and series lead
The big story entering Game 4 was the health of Suns point guard Chris Paul, but by the end Anthony Davis was the focus of the injury-related chatter. While Paul (18/3/9/3) managed to play 32 minutes with his right shoulder contusion, looking far more effective than he did in Game 3 Thursday night, Davis (6/4/3/1/1) suffered a left groin injury during the second quarter and did not return. He’s considered to be day-to-day, and the bad news for the Lakers is that they’re scheduled to play every other day for the remainder of this series.
The combination of Davis’ injury and Andre Drummond (five points, 10 rebounds in 19 minutes) struggling defensively meant more minutes for Marc Gasol. He played 23 off the bench and was reasonably effective, recording a line of 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, three blocks and three 3-pointers. Just a hunch, but Gasol won’t lack for rotation minutes Tuesday night. The same can’t be said for Montrezl Harrell, who was targeted repeatedly by the Suns and played just five minutes as a result. If anything, not having Davis for Game 5 could mean smaller lineups for the Lakers.
LeBron James (25/12/6/1 with one 3-pointer) was the lone starter in double figures, as the Lakers were without the injured Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (knee). Wesley Matthews filled the resulting void, finishing with six points, two rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers in 25 minutes. Dennis Schroder (8/4/3 with two 3-pointers) shot 3-of-13 from the field, while Kyle Kuzma (11/4/2 with one 3-pointer) and Alex Caruso (10/3/1/0/1 with two 3-pointers) hit double figures off the bench. KCP’s absence also meant a return to the rotation for Ben McLemore, who played 16 minutes and hit two 3-pointers.
Balance was the name of the game for Phoenix, as all six double-digits scores tallied between 11 and 18 points. Devin Booker (17/7/5/1 with one 3-pointer) shot just 5-of-14 from the field, but there was more than enough production to ensure that this wasn’t much of an issue for the Suns. Jae Crowder (17/7/4/2/1 with three 3-pointers) put up a full stat line, while Deandre Ayton (14/17/0/2/1) posted his fourth double-double in as many games. He’s been very efficient on the offensive end of the floor, and the Lakers are still searching for an answer for him.
Cameron Payne (13/4/4/1/1 with one 3-pointer) continues to play well off the bench, while Mikal Bridges (11/4/2/1 with three 3-pointers) has done a little bit of everything in this series. So long as Paul has no setbacks with his shoulder ahead of Tuesday’s Game 5, the Suns appear to be in good shape. That being said, they still have to deal with LeBron, and that won’t be easy.
Nets 141, Celtics 126: “Big Three” dominant in Beantown
A game that ended in ugly fashion didn’t get off to the best start for Boston, as Kemba Walker (knee) and Robert Williams (ankle) were both ruled out. With Jaylen Brown (wrist) already sidelined, the Celtics entered what could be their final home game of the season without three key rotation players. Walker’s absence meant a rare start for Romeo Langford (9/1/1 with one 3-pointer), who wasn’t all that effective in his 26 minutes on the court. As for the impact of Williams not being available, Tristan Thompson’s minutes remained about the same, as he played 23 minutes and recorded a line of five points, six rebounds, one assist and two steals. Jabari Parker (10/6/1/0/1) and Grant Williams (5/2/2/0/1 with one 3-pointer) were the Celtics most impacted, as they played 17 and 21 minutes, respectively.
Going back to the impact that Walker’s absence had on the Celtics, this also meant that more would be required of Marcus Smart (16/6/9/2 with two 3-pointers) and Evan Fournier (16/0/2/1 with two 3-pointers). Neither had the most impactful outings Sunday night, as they combined to shoot 9-of-27 from the field. That’s not enough to supplement Jayson Tatum, especially when taking the opposition into consideration. Tatum shot 10-of-22 from the field and 17-of-17 from the foul line, accounting for 40 points, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal, two blocks and three 3-pointers.
Brooklyn can clearly devote even more of its defensive energy towards Tatum, but that hasn’t mattered. Those who are still playing DFS need to make sure Tatum is in their lineups Tuesday night, regardless of what the price tag may be. Rookies Payton Pritchard (12/3/3/1 with two 3-pointers) and Aaron Nesmith (11 points and two rebounds, with three 3-pointers) both managed to hit double figures, but there isn’t much value to be had with either player at this point in the season.
The Nets’ “big three” of Kevin Durant (42/4/5/1/2 with three 3-pointers), Kyrie Irving (39/11/2/2 with six 3-pointers) and James Harden (23/5/18/2/3 with two 3-pointers) was dominant, scoring 104 of the team’s 141 points. Durant and Harden both shot at least 66.7% from the field, while Irving knocked down six 3-pointers. At this point you know what you’re going to get from those three, even with the lack of on-court experience that the trio had together entering the postseason. The question for the Nets, with a second round series against the Bucks on the horizon, is how they account for the absence of Jeff Green (foot).
As expected Bruce Brown has figured more prominently in the rotation, and in 24 minutes on Sunday he posted a line of 14 points, seven rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot. Joe Harris (14/4/3 with four 3-pointers) also hit double figures, while backup center Nicolas Claxton played just eight minutes but blocked four shots. Green is due to be re-evaluated in about a week or so; hopefully he won’t have to miss much of second round if the Nets handle their business in Brooklyn Tuesday night.
Clippers 106, Mavericks 81: L.A. makes lineup change, evens series
After watching starting center Ivica Zubac struggle defensively for much of the first three games of this series, Tyronn Lue made a change to his starting lineup for Sunday’s Game 4. While Zubac (five points, seven rebounds in 18 minutes) didn’t fall completely out of the rotation he did drop from the starting lineup, with Nicolas Batum serving as the de facto center. Batum played 36 minutes in Sunday’s rout and was highly productive on the defensive end, finishing with 10 points, five rebounds, four steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers. Going to a smaller lineup affords the Clippers the luxury of switching on every ball-screen action, without getting into too much trouble.
This certainly had an impact on Luka Doncic, who’s still dealing with a neck issue. While he said after the game that he’s feeling better and simply played poorly, Doncic (19/6/6/1 with one 3-pointer) did appear to be favoring his left side at times Sunday night. And he shot 9-of-24 from the field and 0-of-5 from the foul line, with the latter stat being the far more concerning of the two. If there’s a positive for Doncic and the Mavericks to take from this one, it’s that Game 5 won’t be played until Wednesday night. That’s an extra day of rest for Doncic, who could certainly use it.
Kristaps Porzingis (18/5/0/0/1) put up a solid line, shooting 7-of-12 from the field, but his impact on the action was minimal. Tim Hardaway Jr. (4/1/1) was even worse, shooting 1-of-8 from the field and missing all four of his 3-point attempts. It goes without saying that Dallas will need more in the way of production from those two if they’re to win this series. Also worth noting was that the Clippers’ decision to go small resulted in Rick Carlisle calling on Boban Marjanovic, in an attempt to get Zubac back on the court. Boban had a good night, playing 15 minutes and finishing with 12 points and six rebounds. We’ll see if he gets any run Wednesday night, but Boban didn’t hurt his chances of getting another look with this effort.
Beyond the nerve issue in their star point guard’s neck, the Mavericks have another problem: they’ve got no answer for Kawhi Leonard. He shot 11-of-15 from the field and 5-of-6 from the line Sunday, going off for a full line of 29 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers in 35 minutes. Since shooting 9-of-22 in Game 1, Leonard has gone a combined 38-of-53 (71.7%) from the field while averaging 35.3 points per game. He clearly isn’t an easy player to defend, but Dallas will need to figure out something between now and Wednesday.
Paul George (20/9/3 with three 3-pointers) and Reggie Jackson (15/5/2 with three 3-pointers) also scored in double figures, while Marcus Morris (9/8/2 with one 3-pointer) and Rajon Rondo (7/5/4/1/1 with one 3-pointer) also gave the Clippers good minutes. With Terance Mann playing 15 minutes and Rondo 20 in Game 4, Patrick Beverley was pretty much out of the rotation. He played just five minutes Sunday night, and 11 in the two games in Dallas. By comparison, Beverley played a total of 40 minutes in the first two games of the series. Given how successful the rotation changes were in Dallas, expect to see more of the same for the remainder of this series.
Something to keep an eye on ahead of Game 5 is the status of Serge Ibaka (back). He didn’t travel to Dallas after playing a total of 19 minutes in Games 1 and 2. We’ll see if Ibaka is back in the rotation Wednesday night and, if so, that would likely push Zubac even further down in the pecking order for matchup reasons.