NBA playoffs day by day outcomes: Jimmy Butler goes off; Grizzlies tie issues up; Pelicans stun Suns

Game 2: Heat 115, Hawks 105 | Heat lead 2-0

Who was the guy? Jimmy Butler. Prior to Tuesday night, only Jamal Murray, Dominique Wilkins, Kevin Durant and Paul Pierce had scored at least 45 points in a playoff game with zero turnovers. Butler joined them with 45 points, five rebounds and five assists (obviously with zero turnovers) in a completely dominant performance. Nobody on Atlanta had any kind of answer for him, and the Hawks couldn’t keep the ball out of his hands from him.

What was the key here? Sometimes it’s as simple as the Heat’s star playing better than the Hawks’ star. Trae Young had a better time scoring the ball than his 1-of-12 performance in the first game, but he kept giving it away. Butler couldn’t be rattled at all. Didn’t matter what look the Hawks threw his way, he was ready for it. It wasn’t quite as impressive as that all-out effort in the NBA Finals in 2020, but he was entirely dominant.

Keystat: 19-21-20. No, that wasn’t a locker combination for some high school kid. The Heat forced 19 turnovers, scored 21 points off those turnovers and scored 20 points overall in transition. The Heat turned the Hawks completely upside down at times with their defense. They forced 10 turnovers from Young alone. When the Heat are this active defensively, you really can’t have lazy possessions or passes that aren’t crisp.

The moment it was over: As Bogdan Bogdanovic was trying to pull the Hawks back into this with 19 points in the fourth, he knocked down a 3-pointer to make it just a three-point game with 3:15 left. Butler then managed to run off seven straight points over the next 1:55 to put this thing out of reach. Atlanta just ran out of game, and Butler didn’t.

The moment of the game: What about the weird stuff between Kyle Lowry and De’Andre Hunter? There was this odd, almost sheepdogging method Lowry used running down the floor with Hunter to try and draw a foul. At another point, Hunter gave a hard foul to Lowry out of nowhere. We had the stuff with Young trying to trip someone by grabbing their foot, and of course, it all spills over from Game 1 with the physical play pointed toward Young. This was a fun game, but everybody is going to remember Lowry and Hunter.

What can the Heat do to win Game 3? The Heat don’t have to change much. It’ll be interesting to see what changes happen on Atlanta’s side, but the game plan for the Heat is pretty sound. The key for Game 3 with them is how physical they’re allowed to be on the road. If Young ends up at the free-throw line 15-20 times, it means Miami has to defend another way. Keeping Bam Adebayo out of foul trouble is big too.

What can the Hawks do to win Game 3? The defensive intensity to start Game 2 for the Hawks was refreshing. We haven’t seen much of that from them this season. They need more of it. And Young really needs to find a way to move without the ball. The Hawks without Clint Capela have to be nearly perfect against Miami. No more sloppy play. Everything has to be sound and with a purpose.

Heat Worry Meter: 🧊🧊🧊🧊🧊

Hawks Worry Meter: 😱😱😱😱😱


Game 2: Grizzlies 124, Wolves 96 | Sets tied 1-1

Who was the guy? Ha Morant. We had a little bit of a scare when Karl-Anthony Towns’ knee hit Morant in the thigh on a screen in the second half, but he came back and finished off a spectacular effort. Morant blew by Patrick Beverley like it was a pre-draft drill. I have finished with 23 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. It felt like he had way more of everything. He got wherever he wanted to, and the Wolves simply couldn’t even think about containing him.

What was the key here? Memphis went small, and Minnesota had zero answers for it. Taylor Jenkins pulled the plug on Steven Adams defending Towns pretty early into the game. The Grizzlies used Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman perfectly in this game. They still had length and strength, but the athleticism was a lot for Minnesota to handle. That might need to be the look for them the rest of the series.

Keystat: 28. Much like the Hawks’ loss on Tuesday to Miami, this Grizzlies-Wolves Game 2 had a lot to do with turnovers. The Grizzlies scored 28 points off 20 Minnesota turnovers in Game 2. Nine of those turnovers were live-ball steals. If the Wolves are going to be sloppy with the ball, the Grizzlies will make life hell on the fast break.

The moment it was over: Within the first five minutes of the third quarter, the Grizzlies took an 11-point halftime lead to 24 points. The Wolves were flustered with the officiating, and they weren’t able to get nearly as free as they did in Game 1. The Grizzlies’ defense locked them up in the second and third quarters, and then it just became about not letting anybody get injured.

The moment of the game: Not so much the moment of the game, but I’m going to use this space to complain about the officiating. It was atrocious. Erratic whistles all over the place. Ten fouls, a technical foul and a flagrant-1 were all called in the first four minutes of the game. Maybe two of those calls were necessary, and neither of them was the tech or the flagrant. Five foul calls in the first 67 seconds of the third quarter. Let some flow to the game happen.

What can the Grizzlies do to win Game 3? How do you keep replicating this performance? Memphis had one fewer assisted basket (29) in this game than the Wolves had total made baskets (30). The versatility and the movement the Grizzlies had in this game is far too much for a Wolves team that loves to play fast. The Grizzlies need to stay small and flexible. This may not be a series Adams can play in. That’s fine. Beat the Wolves at their own game because that’s your game, too.

What can the Wolves do to win Game 3? If the Grizzlies go small, maybe it’s time for the Wolves to go big. Not personnel-wise, but how they use Towns. He’s such a gifted post player, but he does struggle against the double team. He’s going to have to be more decisive with the ball if they go this route. Step-through on swarming doubles. Space the floor so the pass out is easy for Towns to see, swing the ball and knock down 3-pointers. If it causes Adams to come back in, then move Towns to the perimeter and let it fly.

Grizzlies Worry Meter: 🐻🐻

Wolves Worry Meter: 🐺🐺🐺


Game 2: Pelicans 125, Suns 114 | Sets tied 1-1

Who was the guy? Brandon Ingram. The Phoenix Suns have some good defenders. Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder are the types of guys you want hounding a scorer like Ingram. None of it mattered in Game 2. Ingram lit the Suns up for 37 points to go with 11 rebounds and nine assists. He was hitting jumpers in everybody’s eye. He was getting wherever he wanted to go on the floor. What a special moment for just his second career playoff game.

What was the key here? Maybe the scariest moment of the game for the Suns was Devin Booker hurting his hamstring and not being able to return. He’s had hamstring issues before, and as we’ve seen with guys like Chris Paul and James Harden, that can be a really debilitating injury. Once Booker was out of the game, the Pelicans being in an offensive rhythm made the night even more miserable for Phoenix.

Keystat: +12. That’s what the Pelicans were from beyond the 3-point line against the Suns. CJ McCollum did a great job knocking down 6 of 10 3-point attempts. Jose Alvarado, Trey Murphy III and Herb Jones are three rookies who each knocked down at least a couple of 3-pointers. The Pelicans outshooting the Suns in Phoenix is ​​a huge reason they could keep pace with the Suns and eventually beat them.

The moment it was over: There was a stretch for a little over a minute with three minutes left in the fourth quarter when the Pelicans put this to bed. Crowder hit a massive 3-pointer to cut the deficit to five. Ingram answered with a 3-pointer to push it back to eight. Paul hit a 3-pointer to cut it back down to five. Ingram answered with a 2-point jumper to push it back to seven. Then CP3 missed a 3-pointer with 1:50 left, and the comeback was over.

The moment of the game: I do not believe in conspiracy theories when it comes to the NBA and officiating. But I do find this coincidentally hilarious that Paul is now 0-14 in playoff games officiated by Scott Foster. Suns fans and CP3 himself probably won’t find it funny. Rockets fans and Clippers fans are probably mad. But this is a crazy statistic, and it ended up flooding my timeline after the game was over.

What can the Suns do to win Game 3? First, we need to know what’s up with Booker’s hamstring. Is he good to go, or do they need to sit him to rest? Now it’s on Paul, Deandre Ayton and Bridges to pick up the scoring slack. The Suns should still be fine in this series, but they just learned how dangerous New Orleans can be. Defend the 3-point line, don’t turn it over and impose your will defensively.

What can the Pelicans do to win Game 3? When the massive underdog ends up taking one of the first two road games, it’s always deemed a successful trip. And it typically is. That can also lead to a letdown once they get back home. Then they lose focus, give up Game 3 and we’re back to where they’re not supposed to be if they want to pull off the upset. The Pelicans need to be active and run on this Suns team at every opportunity, especially if Booker’s status is questionable.

Suns Worry Meter: πŸ™„πŸ™„

Pelicans Worry Meter: πŸ‘€πŸ‘€


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(Photo by Jimmy Butler: Jasen Vinlove/USA Today)

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