76rs vs Raptors

76rs vs Raptors: In the first half of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday night, the Philadelphia 76ers were absolutely nails while the Toronto Raptors, who dominated absolutely every facet of Game 1, could not get anything going.

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76ers answer Raptors with Game 2 win: Takeaways
Even with a Joel Embiid who looked like how he felt — struggling with the stomach flu — the Sixers outrebounded the Raptors by 20 in that first half. They held the Raptors to 32 percent shooting, including only 3-of-15 from 3, while seeming to make every 3 of their own. Their bench, considered one of this team’s greatest weaknesses, was destroying the Raptors’ bench via excellent play from Greg Monroe and James Ennis. Jimmy Butler, who was a non-entity in Game 1, was aggressive on both ends, scoring 13 points in the first half and playing the high-level defense the Sixers need from him in order to upset the Raptors in this series. This may not have been the best version of the Sixers — the best version of the Sixers has an Embiid who dominates, and who doesn’t look like he’s ready to vomit — but this was a very, very good version of a Sixers team that has an incredibly high ceiling.

And yet, because of 13 Sixers turnovers, Philly led by only 13 at half. It could have been up by 20, or even 25. This game could have been on its way to a blowout. Instead, the game was still within reach for the Raptors.

A confession: At halftime, I thought the Raptors had the Sixers exactly where they wanted them. I thought that, after the Sixers were unable to pull away in that dominant first half, the Raptors were going to win it. You never want to be down 13 at half, but if there’s a good scenario in which to be down 13 at half, it was this: With the other team’s star ailing, with the other team playing some sloppy basketball, and with your open shots not falling — yet.

Enter Jimmy Butler.

It is difficult to overstate the pressure that was on the Sixers to win Game 2. In the history of the NBA, there have been 282 teams that have gone down 2-0 in a seven-game series. Only 20 of those teams have gone on to win the series. That’s seven percent.

And if the Sixers were to go on and lose this second-round series, that could mark a huge setback for the years-long Process that brought so much pain to Philadelphia 76ers fans, followed by so much promise. If they were to lose this series in resounding fashion, who knows what that could mean for the franchise’s future? Would Butler want to run it back as a Sixer? Would Tobias Harris? Would this season’s trades that so accelerated the Process look like foolish, impatient, NBA-altering moves?

The reasons the Sixers took a chance on the combustible Butler less than a year before he enters unrestricted free agency were on full display Monday night. Two nights after Butler was dominated on defense and was a non-entity on offense, he took all that pressure and willingly put them on his shoulders. He was the player the Sixers traded for. He came out with poise and aggression, setting the tone for the Sixers in that dominating first hTORONTO — Is it possible for a team to make a defiant, bold statement without scoring in the N.B.A.? In 2019? The Philadelphia 76ers, a team that seemed vastly outgunned against the Toronto Raptors in the first game of their Eastern Conference semifinals, would like a word, and possibly a time machine, to consult the basketball gods of yesterday. And that word they would like might be “outlast.”

The Sixers gutted out a series-tying win on Monday night at Scotiabank Arena, 94-89, and did so with only one of their stars playing well in an arena in which Philadelphia had not won since 2012. Neither team cracked 100 points, a rarity in today’s high-pace, no-conscience 3-point-heavy style of play. In the first round of the N.B.A. playoffs, both teams scored fewer than 100 only twice in 36 games. During the regular season, the worst offensive team in the league, the Memphis Grizzlies, averaged more than 103.

“When you shrink your rotations, it’s naïve for us to think you’re going to play a game like a track meet when it’s a fistfight. It’s a grind the whole game,” Brett Brown, the coach of the Sixers, said after the game.

Grind? Sure. Fistfight? Bring it on. But this one was a slog. The Sixers played as if they were clinging to their basketball life. Game 2 might have satisfied fans nostalgic for the N.B.A. of the 2000s, when the tortoise was favored over the hare and “SportsCenter” highlights were full of 18-foot bank shots from Tim Duncan. Philadelphia won despite shooting less than 40 percent from the field, but this style of play also might be how it advances to the next round: pure survival. The Raptors are, on paper, a deeper, more talented team. For the Sixers, slow and steady win the race.alf. He took the mantle of the team’s alpha dog on a night when none of Embiid, Harris or Ben Simmons was particularly good on the offensive end. He and Simmons played good enough defense on a Kawhi Leonard who suddenly looks like MVP-level Kawhi again — Leonard still scored 35 points, but Simmons and Butler were pests to him all night.

Butler finished with 30 points, including making all eight free throws and four of his 10 3s. He went all out on the glass and grabbed 11 rebounds. Most importantly, Butler was the end-of-game killer the Sixers needed him to be. With just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter and the shot clock running down, the Raptors doubled Embiid in the post. This was a problem for the Sixers: The Raptors had mounted a furious comeback and were now only down by four. Embiid somehow found an open Butler on the wing with a pass that looked more like a hook shot. Butler, legs splayed, launched the 3, and it found nothing but the bottom of the net. The Raptors still had a fighting chance, and Kyle Lowry still had a couple of 3s left in him to make it a nail-biter, but that Jimmy Butler 3 was ultimately the play that broke the Raptors.

Nuggets vs Blazers

Nuggets vs Blazers: The semifinals series matchup between the No. 2-seeded Denver Nuggets and the No. 3-seeded Portland Trail Blazers opened up with a bang as the Nuggets defeated the Blazers, 121-113, in Game 1 on Monday night.

The Nuggets took a 58-55 lead heading into halftime and the game was relatively close throughout, but Denver kept the lead and controlled the tempo for most of the night. Nikola Jokic continued his stellar postseason debut by leading the way with 37 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals. He was complimented by Jamal Murray’s 23-point and eight assist performance and Paul Millsap’s 17-point outburst in the first half.

Damian Lillard put on a superhuman performance with 39 points, but it wasn’t enough to offset the Nuggets’ trio in the opening game of this series.
After defeating the San Antonio Spurs 4-3 in the first round, the Denver Nuggets have setup a second-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. The two teams are more than familiar with one another, as a division rivalry has been brewing for several seasons, further intensifying this series.

Season series: 3-1 Nuggets

Although most of the games have been close, Denver has had plenty of success against Portland over the past two seasons. The Nuggets have won six of the past seven games, with the one Portland victory coming in a game in which Denver rested Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap.

The games were high-scoring and offense-oriented. After posting an offensive rating of 112.1 throughout the course of the regular season, the Nuggets dropped a 117.2 offensive rating in the four games against Portland. The strong offensive performance was mainly a result of hot shooting, as Denver connected on 49 percent of shots from the field and 38.4 percent from three.

Despite losing Jusuf Nurkic to a season-ending leg injury towards the end of the regular season, Portland has continued to thrive, having just knocked out the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. The series win was Portland’s first since 2016 and third since Damian Lillard was drafted back in 2012.

Let’s take a look at the key matchups, storylines and statistics that could decide this second-round series.

Key Matchups

1) Enes Kanter vs. Jokić

The Nuggets faced two different Trail Blazers teams during the regular season. After facing a healthy Portland team in the first two matchups, the last two games between the teams occurred after Nurkic was lost for the season. Therefore, there is only a two-game sample in which Denver faced a Portland team with Kanter starting at center.
Next up for Nikola Jokic and company is a date with the No. 3 seed Portland Trail Blazers, who are coming off an impressive 4-1 series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The series was sealed on a wild 37-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer of Game 5 by Damian Lillard, and his play will surely be a talking point moving forward in the playoffs.

We’re going to preview the series between the Blazers and Nuggets while offering a prediction on which team will advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Warriors vs Rockets

Warriors vs Rockets: The first game of the Rockets’ playoff rematch with the Warriors ended with no shortage of controversy. There were numerous occasions in which James Harden and Paul appeared to be fouled on 3-point attempts, only for no foul calls to actually be made.

None was bigger than Harden’s 3-point attempt with a little over nine seconds remaining in the game and the Rockets trailing 103-100. Draymond Green clearly made contact on the close-out on Harden’s attempt — except the league made it clear that was the correct non-call in their Last Two Minute Report.

What ensued prior to the ejection was a scramble for a loose ball on an offensive rebound attempt by Paul. After the referee ruled that the ball went out of bounds off of the Rockets, the veteran point guard made an aggressive run towards the aforementioned referee — and made physical contact with him in the process.

Paul was then assessed his second technical of the game and ejected.

Making things even harder to swallow for the Rockets is the fact that the NBA announced today that Stephen Curry should have fouled out with 1:10 remaining in the game after making contact with Harden on the latter player’s ruled turnover. Curry would, of course, go on to hit the biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer with roughly 21 seconds remaining that gave the Warriors a commanding 103-98 lead.

While Paul’s checkbook will take a hit, the Rockets thankfully won’t be missing their starting point guard for Game 2 on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. Although the Rockets have yet to play a home game, they absolutely cannot afford to fall in a 2-0 hole against the defending NBA champions.

One thing is for certain — the Rockets will be hoping for a difference in officiating this time around.
After having issues with the officiating in Game 1 of their second-round series against the Warriors, the Rockets are likely displeased to see who is working Game 2 Tuesday.

The league announced Scott Foster, a 25-year veteran official, will be part of the four-official crew, which also features an alternate.
Foster has not worked a Houston game since Feb. 21, when James Harden fouled out in a 111-106 loss to the Lakers. After the contest, Harden called Foster, “just rude and arrogant” and said he shouldn’t officiate any more Rockets games because his treatment of the team is “personal.” He was fined for his comments.

After Sunday’s Game 1 loss, Harden said he wants a “fair chance” from the officials after some issues concerning potentially missed fouls against Golden State on Harden jump shots. Draymond Green said Harden has fouled defenders like himself on his jump shots.

Chris Paul was also fined for “reckless” contact with an official during the Game 1 loss. He was ejected late in the game after a controversial call.

In addition to all of this, it was reported on Monday that the Rockets talked with the league about 81 potentially missed calls from Game 7 of their 2018 Western conference finals series against the Warriors. The team claimed the missed calls prevented them from winning the title even though they also missed 27 consecutive threes in that same game.

Bucks vs Celtics

Bucks vs Celtics: Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks host Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics Tuesday, with tipoff from the Fiserv Forum set for 8 p.m. ET. Boston surprised many by taking Game 1 on the road in commanding fashion.

The Celtics went into Milwaukee and won by 22, despite being an eight-point underdog. Both teams will be without the service of one of their key players, as Boston will be missing Marcus Smart (oblique) and Milwaukee won’t have Malcolm Brogdon (foot). Milwaukee is listed as a 7.5-point home favorite, while the over-under for total points is 219.5 in the latest Celtics vs Bucks odds. Before you make any Celtics vs. Bucks picks or NBA Playoffs 2019 predictions, you’ll want to see what SportsLine’s advanced computer model has to say.

The model, which simulates every game 10,000 times, is crushing its NBA picks. It entered Week 28 of the 2018-19 NBA season with a sterling record on its top-rated picks, returning more than $3,100 in profit to anybody following them. And it has been particularly red-hot on its A-rated NBA money line picks, entering Week 28 on a strong 85-60 run. Anybody who has followed it is way up.

Now it has locked in on Celtics vs. Bucks. We can tell you it’s leaning under, and it also says one side of the spread hits in nearly 70 percent of simulations. You can only see that selection at SportsLine.

The model is well aware of how much better Milwaukee has been on its home court this season. The Bucks’ 33-8 record was just one win short of the NBA’s best home record, and they finished with a terrific 61 percent cover rate against-the-spread when playing in the Fiserv Forum. Meanwhile, the Celtics had just a 48.8 percent cover rate when playing on the road. In fact, Boston struggled against-the-spread in general this season, carrying a 50 percent cover rate that is down significantly from Milwaukee’s NBA-best 62.2 percent cover rate.

Normally elite teams go a bit overvalued by Vegas, as evidenced by sub-50 percent cover rates for each of the Warriors, Raptors, 76ers, Celtics and Thunder. That was not the case for Milwaukee, a team that was actually undervalued all year.
But just because Milwaukee has been excellent on its home floor doesn’t mean it will win or cover the Celtics vs. Bucks spread Tuesday night in the NBA Playoffs 2019.

The model also knows that this Boston team has found a new level in the postseason. Brad Stevens has shown a consistent ability to have his teams more well-prepared than their opponents in the playoffs, so the fact that Milwaukee was much better during the regular season might not matter much. Even without the help of Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics were able to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, on the back of a sterling 9-3 against-the-spread record in the first two rounds. They swept a well-respected Pacers squad in Round 1 of this year’s playoffs, which included a perfect 4-0 mark against-the-spread.

Plus, we saw Stevens and this Celtics squad dismantle the Bucks in the first round last year, and their defensive schemes similarly frustrated Antetokounmpo in Game 1 of this year’s series.

In the wake of a calamitous Game 1 against the Boston Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t look at themselves in the mirror. What you see in a mirror doesn’t always give you a full picture, especially of things that happened outside of that moment.

Instead, they sought truth in looking over the game film of Sunday’s debacle.

“Film don’t lie,” point guard Eric Bledsoe said. “People can say what they want; once it gets on film they can see what really happened.”

What the Bucks saw was a version of themselves that looked nothing like the prior 86 games.

Celtics forward Daniel Theis dunks as Bucks forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ersan Ilyasova watch Sunday.
Celtics forward Daniel Theis dunks as Bucks forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ersan Ilyasova watch Sunday. (Photo: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

They were sluggish with a lack of urgency, damning traits for a playoff game. The ball got stuck on offense, and the defense surrendered open look after open look. MVP front-runner Giannis Antetokounmpo looked powerless against Boston’s size and traps while his supporting cast was anything but supportive, with players missing open shots – or worse – being hesitant of taking them.

“I think as a team we didn’t compete as hard as we could compete” Antetokounmpo said, “and we have to be better going into Game 2.”

Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Fiserv Forum will be the most critical game played in Milwaukee in nearly two decades. If the Bucks can’t rebound from a 22-point loss, they could find themselves watching as a magical regular season gets flushed down the drain.

Things have to change if the Bucks are going to even the series before it shifts to Boston. There’s no question about that. Everyone at the Bucks’ downtown practice facility Monday would agree with that point.

However, the Bucks are not inclined to believe major changes need to be made. The consensus from their point of view is they’ve been successful all season and can continue to ride those habits and schemes to future success. They contend the issue on Sunday was they got away from who they are, not that their scheme and management are flawed.

“I think when we’re us that’s when we’re at our best,” said coach Mike Budenholzer, who noted the Bucks failed to meet their standards in Game 1. “I think sometimes adjustments and all those things are actually somewhat overrated.”

Antetokounmpo was even more forceful with his words. When asked about the need for noteworthy changes – adjustments to the rotation, playing time, etc. – Antetokounmpo shook his head and repeatedly dismissed the notion out of hand.