Three Series Come to an End as Luka Pushes Mavs to Pivotal 3-2 Lead
No Joel Embiid, no problem.
The Philadelphia 76ers overcame the absence of their superstar big man, who is dealing with a “small meniscus tear”, to power past the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards were able to keep things close in the first half, but in the final two frames, it was all Sixers as they punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Seth Curry led the way with 30 points, Tobias Harris had 28 points, nine boards and six assists in the win. Ben Simmons, who struggled hitting free throws down the stretch in Game 4 came up big on Wednesday night, finishing with a 19 point, 10 rebound and 11 assist triple-double.
“We know we’ve got enough without Joel out there to win a few games,” Curry said. “We don’t have a choice — we’ve got to have that confidence and believe. We’ve got a lot of confident guys. Joel has been huge for us all year. It’s only right for us to give him as much time as he needs to get back and help us win it all.”
Listed as day-to-day, the Sixers will hope to get Embiid back for when they kick off the second round.
The Sixers did not need to wait long to find out their second round opponent.
Similar to Philly, the Atlanta Hawks didn’t need a drawn out series to move past their first round opponent as Trae Young proved to be far too much for the New York Knicks to handle.
The Hawks point guard continues his evolution into a superstar as he finished the night with 36 points and nine assists. Virtually unguardable all series long, the Knicks ultimately failed to line up offensively with the Hawks deep attack. Clint Capela added 14 point and 15 rebounds while DeAndre Hunter scored 15 points in the win.
“It feels good,” Young said. “Like I said since the beginning of the season, I feel like I’ve worked my whole life for this moment, to play in the playoffs on the biggest stage. I put in a lot of work. A lot of the guys who have been here have done the same. It feels good to win it. It feels good to win the series. Now, we get to focus on the second round.”
Despite the disappointing series, the Knicks have made a huge jump this season under Tom Thibodeau. Accomplishing a fourth seed finish without a single max contract sets the Knicks up really well for what looks like a much brighter future in The Mecca.
Over in Utah, a healthy Jazz team was far too much for the Memphis Grizzlies to handle.
Donovan Mitchell exploded in Game 4, going for 30 points, 10 assists and six boards, while Rudy Gobert pitched in with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Royce O’Neale and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for 34 points, while Jordan Clarkson added 24 points off the bench in a game which was just about over following the Jazz’s 47 point first quarter.
“Having guys that work so hard and want to win is how you build a championship identity, and I think he has that, as we saw tonight. He’s getting better every single year, so it’s fun to be a part of. I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next.” said Rudy Gobert on Donovan Mitchell’s high level of play since his return from injury.
It seems like the storyline surrounding Mitchell’s frustrations with the team is now a thing of the past as the Jazz now await their second round opponent.
Wednesday night wrapped up with one final show out in Los Angeles.
After relinquishing two straight games on their home court, the Dallas Mavericks took a pivotal Game 5 behind yet another remarkable performance from Luka Doncic.
Struggling with nerve damage in his neck in Game 4, Doncic was simply unstoppable in Game 5, going off for 42 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds to help lead the Mavs to a 105-100 victory. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 20 points in the win as the Mavs will now have a chance to close out the series at the American Airlines Arena.
“I could have played way better,” Doncic said following the win. “I missed a lot of shots, some layups that I should make. But it wasn’t just me, man. It was the whole team, the energy. I shot some shots that I shouldn’t have shot. I honestly think it was too much. I think I was good from 3, but I missed a couple of layups.”
I guess, in a parallel universe Doncic could have played better, but on Wednesday night, he was on another planet as the Clippers will now face elimination in Game 6.
Thursday will be a quieter day in the NBA as the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns will look to punch their ticket to the next round of the playoffs.