Huff: What series openers taught us about second round of NBA Playoffs - bdsthanhhoavn.com

Huff: What series openers taught us about second round of NBA Playoffs

Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs is underway, and we’ve got four separate Game 1s to unpack. This week we’ll take a look at each series, break down what’s transpired and what it means going forward.

Bucks vs. Celtics

The Milwaukee Bucks are not the Brooklyn Nets — the Boston Celtics understand that better than most after catching a beating in Beantown on Sunday afternoon. And the term “beating” is a particular one selected here to vividly illustrate how, from the opening tip, the Bucks bullied and hounded the C’s on their home court. And that part of the game plan isn’t going to change for Milwaukee. Jrue Holiday will hound every ball-handler. Wes Matthews will be active with his hands on defense. Giannis will bring an outrageous amount of physicality on both ends, and Brook Lopez will look to completely wipe away the paint. It’s how the Bucks limited Boston to just 20 points in the paint and ended up scoring 28 points off of the Celtics’ 18 turnovers. Such defensive dominance by Milwaukee would open the door for another win on Tuesday.

Conversely, the C’s can’t afford to taste their own medicine again during Game 2. Such occurrences are rare and unusual for this Boston team, which even before sweeping the Brooklyn Nets in the first round had become one of the NBA’s biggest bullies as soon the calendar flipped from 2021 to 2022. The C’s turned in the league’s best defensive rating (105.2), second-best offense (117.9) and third-best record (34-12) over that period. So, setting the tone early from a physicality standpoint will serve Boston well in recapturing what made its post-2021 run so dominant.

But the physical challenge is only one area for improvement. Boston must also execute. Attempting 50 threes isn’t ordinary proceedings for the Celtics, but should Milwaukee’s anti-interior-scoring defensive schemes continue, Boston must use it to its advantage. One of the ways to open up the paint and draw Brook Lopez out is to keep taking (and making) threes. It sounds obvious, but sometimes it can be that straightforward.

Payton Pritchard (2-for-8), Robert Williams (0-1, on a full-court heave) and Marcus Smart (1-6) were the only Celtics to shoot poorly from beyond the arc. If the volume continues to exist, enough makes could swing the outcome of the upcoming games.

Warriors vs. Grizzlies

“Styles make fights” is a famous phrase in professional boxing that is undoubtedly relevant in other sports such as basketball. Golden State and Memphis present styles that make for a heck of a matchup, and we had already seen as much over the past 12 months. The two squads gave viewers an epic Play-In Tournament game last May, with the young Grizzlies edging out the Warriors in overtime to secure the West’s final spot. And during this past regular season, Memphis took three of four from Golden State, including another overtime thriller.

Sunday’s Game 1 was another hit, but the outcome was different. What was new in the Warriors’ series-opening win? They managed to beat Memphis without Draymond Green’s services in the second half. But also, the Dubs “out-Grizzlied” Memphis at their own game.

First, Golden State’s paint attack was heavy. Including this postseason, the Warriors’ 56 points in the paint on Sunday marked just the 10th time they’ve reached that number this season and was the eighth time it led them to a win. Conversely, it was Memphis’ 18th time this season that it allowed at least that amount of paint points in a game, giving them their 11th loss over those 18. The Warriors found scoring at the rim in various ways — via off-ball movement and cuts to the rim, transition points by way of turnovers, and second-chance points from offensive rebounds. There was rarely ever a rim-protecting Grizzly in sight, and the Warriors took advantage of it.

Additionally, Sunday’s 26 second-chance points by the Warriors were the second-most this season, and that number doesn’t even factor in Klay Thompson’s go-ahead 3-pointer that came on the third shot attempt on that offensive trip down the court.

With or without Steven Adams, giving up 16 offensive rebounds is less than ideal if the Grizzlies have intentions of making this a series — they have to be the better team on the glass. They also need better production from Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks, who scored nine and eight points in Game 1. Those scoring numbers figure more likely to be anomalies than normalities as the series moves forward, but so do Ja Morant’s and Jaren Jackson Jr.’s combined 10 threes.

However you decide to tell the story of Game 1, it feels like a massive missed opportunity for Memphis. But the series is far from over.

76ers vs. Heat

“Play fast” is what one would imagine Doc Rivers is telling his team as they prep for Game 2. When you think of Philadelphia’s makeup — Danny Green, James Harden, Tobias Harris, Georges Niang, etc., such a play style seems unfavorable.

And you would be right. The Sixers were a bottom-five team in the league this season when it came to pace (96.71). However, their successful, slow-paced offense resulted from having arguably the most dominant player on the court each game, who excels in the post. Philly doesn’t currently have that luxury of dropping the ball into Joel Embiid on the block and watching him eat, and James Harden isolations don’t pack the same punch as they used to.

So, a little tempo certainly didn’t hurt on Monday night. Tyrese Maxey and Harris flourished in the open court, pushing the ball off misses and turnovers to convert easy offensive opportunities. Additionally, Miami did Philly a favor by implementing a full-court press to begin the game, which eventually sped them up and gave multiple Sixers running starts at the rim, where layups, floaters, and lobs were plentiful. But aside from the gift-wrapped opportunities in transition and a fair number of Harris iso-ball buckets, Philly’s threes will need to go in at some point to crack Miami’s stout half-court defense. Shooting 6-34 from deep won’t cut it.

Speaking of the Heat, they were…impressive? I’m not sure if that’s the word I would have used through two and a half quarters, but what better word is there for a team that ultimately allows only 92 points on 43.6 percent shooting and forces 14 turnovers? There isn’t one. Still, you point out the little bit of meat that Miami left on the bone in their Game 1 win. The main thing was Miami’s 3-point shooting, which was uncharacteristically bad (25.0 percent). A simple fix is simply making them, which shouldn’t be an issue for a team that finished the regular season first in percentage (37.9) and sixth in makes per game (13.6). But perhaps something more strategic could be in store, such as Erik Spoelstra opting for Duncan Robinson over Victor Oladipo the next time Philly spends time in their zone defense. But that’s just nitpicking.

Nevertheless, it feels as if the Sixers need to make up a ton of ground when (if) Embiid comes back..

Eastern Conference odds

Team Odds

+175

+175

+240

+1200

Suns vs. Mavericks

When the Mavericks’ role players don’t perform well on offense, playoff wins have been harder to come by in recent years. When the Suns’ secondary scorers struggle, they are less resemblant of a championship favorite. So, when you learn that Luka Doncic scored 39.4 percent of his team’s points and Jalen Brunson, Reggie Bullock and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 28 points on 11 of 31 shots while six Suns players scored in double figures, you should have an idea of how Game 1 concluded.

But even with many individuals’ offensive letdowns for Dallas on Monday, the Mavs managed to net 114 points, albeit in some late Phoenix foot-off-the-gas-pedal minutes that saw their once 21-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate. Dallas’ offense was solid. Yet, its defense left a lot to be desired, which may be the most significant takeaway from Game 1.

“This isn’t (Rudy) Gobert or (Hassan) Whiteside. These guys can put the ball in the basket,” Jason Kidd told the media in the lead-up to Suns-Mavericks Game 1.

Clearly, he had an understanding that his team was getting ready to deal with a different beast in Round 2. And if Kidd knew it, so did his team. But whether it was Deandre Ayton shooting up and over the smaller Maverick defenders or Devin Booker continuously picking apart Dallas’ double teams and poor rotations on the backside, the Mavs’ third-stingiest regular-season defense (102.1 points per game) appeared clueless in Game 1.

Dallas will surely need to tighten some of its defensive screws going forward, but this game felt more like a reminder of what a healthy Suns roster without minutes restrictions could look like.

Western Conference odds

(Photo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez: Adam Glanzman / Getty Images)

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