The Lakers were corrected in Phoenix and are one elimination defeat in the 1st round, while Denver took the advantage over Portland despite a huge Damian Lillard, with Brooklyn advancing to the semifinals of the Eastern Conference.
The Lakers on the brink
Deprived of Anthony Davis (groin), defensive virtues, impact in attack and especially lacking in fighting spirit, the reigning champion was humiliated with the Suns (115-85) and found himself on the verge of elimination being led 3-2. To say that Davis’ absence penalizes Los Angeles is an understatement and it will take the purples and golds to hope that he is restored Thursday for the 6th game at Staples Center, otherwise their dream of a back-to-back (doubled) will collapse. Because LeBron James will not be able to work a miracle on his own. The demonstration was striking on this meeting where he was the only one to avoid the sinking (24 pts, 7 assists, 5 rebounds). This did not prevent him from showing his dismay on the floor, returning to the locker room five minutes before the end of the match. Carried by Devin Booker (30 pts) Phoenix led by 30 units at the break, the biggest gap conceded in a period by the Californians in 25 years. The only downside to the Suns, Chris Paul again hurt his right shoulder. But unlike the Lakers, a very solid collective works in the event of a major absence.
Harden in bulldozer mode
James Harden, author of a triple-double (34 pts, 10 assists, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks), was the locomotive of the Nets during their fourth victory (123-109) decisive at the expense of the Celtics. Without forcing, Brooklyn gave a big boost in the 4th quarter, with four consecutive three-point actions: a basket plus the free throw of the « Beard » (of the bearded), followed by two shots behind the arc of two other members of the « Big 3 » Kevin Durant (24 pts) and Kyrie Irving (25 pts), before Harden plants another. In two minutes, they killed the suspense. The march was too high for the C’s, a fortiori without Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown, injured, even if Jayson Tatum managed 32 points (9 rebounds) and Evan Fournier struggled (18 pts, 6 rebounds, 5 faults). The Nets will have to assume their favorite status a little more in the next round, starting Saturday, against the Bucks of another caliber with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.
« Instant Classic » in Denver
The genius of Damian Lillard was not enough for Portland: despite two extensions snatched by his star, extraordinary three-point, with 12 shots returned (beating the record of 11 successful in the final phase by Klay Thompson in 2016) the Blazers gave in on the floor of the Nuggets (147-140), after a match that will go down in the annals of the play-offs. After five catastrophic first minutes (14-1), Portland has almost glued to the score at the break (65-62), already in the wake of his star, who kept the best for last, as usual. He first put a shot behind the arc almost to the buzzer to force a first overtime and when the Nuggets thought to finish it thanks to seven points from substitute Monte Morris (28 in total), the « Dame Time » again Stunned three times, Lillard scoring three long-range shots in the last minute to get a 2nd overtime.
He added five points in the last five extra minutes, to total 55 (10 assists, 6 rebounds), but it was not enough. Because, in addition to the inevitable Nikola Jokic (38 pts, 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 blocks), Denver was able to count on Michael Porter Jr (26 pts, 12 rebounds) and Austin Rivers (18 pts), while opposite Robert Covington missed a dunk at the worst moment and CJ McCollum (18 pts) put his foot out of bounds on a crucial action. The Blazers will need to find the mental toughness to remobilize at home on Thursday or the Nuggets will qualify. “This defeat is hard to take. We have to win the next game, it’s a matter of life and death, ”said Lillard.