2019 NBA Playoffs: Irving, Harden and Antetokounmpo protect home court

NBA Playoff results: April 18, 2019

5. Indiana Pacers (91) – 4. Boston Celtics (99)

8. Detroit Pistons (99) – 1. Milwaukee Bucks (120)

5. Utah Jazz (98) – 4. Houston Rockets (118)

What happened in the Playoffs today:

1. Irving took over in the fourth quarter

The Pacers looked more competitive than they were in Game 1. They were a quarter away from stealing home court advantage from the Celtics. But the Boston bench sparked a run and Irving came in to finish it with a bang.

Indiana held an 12-point lead early in final period and looked like they had full control of the game. With Kyrie Irving resting, it was up to the rest of the Celtics to rise up and pull themselves back in the game.

The run was started by Al Horford who nailed a long jumper. It was followed by successive Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier put backs. Tatum then sliced into the lane and slammed home a one-handed hammer to cut the deficit down to just four points, forcing Indiana to call a timeout.

Irving checked back in and immediately shimmied his way to a pull-up three. After an Indiana miss, Rozier found Irving on the break for another three-pointer, completing a 14-0 blast to retake the lead from the Pacers. Irving continued the run with a pull-up midrange jumper to extend Boston’s lead up to four.

The Pacers finally broke their nearly eight-minute dry spell with a three-pointer. But at that point, the Celtics wrestled momentum away from them.

After the Pacers retook the lead with a little over two minutes left in the game, Boston unleashed a 7-0 run with Tatum leading the way. He nailed a three-pointer to grab the lead back. He then followed it up with a nice pass to Gordon Hayward underneath and capped it off with a two-handed slam.

Kyrie Irving proved once again that he’s built for postseason play. He led the comeback and trusted his teammates to put the game away in the end. The Celtics could have lost home court advantage against a plucky Pacers squad. But because of Irving, Tatum, Horford and Hayward, they now hold a commanding series lead against Indiana.

2. Bucks shut down Detroit in the second half

It was so easy to take the Pistons for granted. Already barely a playoff team, Detroit was still missing Blake Griffin who’s out due to a knee injury. There are reports that Griffin will most likely miss the first round, which is a polite way of saying that he’s done for the rest of the Pistons’ season.

After their domination in Game 1, everyone expected an even worse massacre in Game 2. While the results was expected, how the Bucks got there wasn’t. Milwaukee played lethargic basketball in the first two periods. They looked disengaged and disinterested against an overmatched Detroit team. Because of that, the Pistons made them pay. Detroit outscored Milwaukee 32-20 in the second quarter and were up by one heading into the half.

That in itself was embarrassing for the Bucks. They were the top team in the league and they were down against a coin flip Playoff team without their best player. That was all the wake-up call that Milwaukee needed.

The Bucks came out in the second half and played with more energy. They came out with the energy that a top Playoff team should have. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the charge with half of his total output coming in the game-changing third period. Milwaukee outscored Detroit 35-17 in the third to take a 17-point lead heading into the final period.

Detroit tried to challenge again, cutting the deficit down to just even points midway through the fourth period. But Eric Bledsoe led a closing run to seal the win.

Antetokounmpo finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds in only 30 minutes. Bledsoe led the Bucks with 27 points and six assists. It may have taken a while but the Bucks eventually got the result they were looking for. Just two more games like this and Milwaukee can look forward to a more competitive opponent in the second round.

3. Rockets blowout Jazz… again.

Speaking of blowouts, the Rockets’ dominance of the Jazz is starting to become just comical. Houston once again torched the Jazz “defense” (putting air quotes because of the following numbers).

In two games, the Rockets are scoring 120 points per game (4th in the Playoffs) at a 49% clip (3rd in the Playoffs) and averaging 16 three-pointers per game (1st in the Playoffs). The Jazz are allowing 50 points in the paint (tied for 4th worst in the Playoffs) and giving up 120 per game (2nd worst in the Playoffs)

Game 2 was done by halftime. Houston dropped 70 points on Utah and James harden looked unstoppable. He had 25-7-7 in just two quarters. The Rockets were up by 26 and cruised to the easy win in the second half.

Things aren’t looking too good for the Jazz. There was no adjustment between both games. Harden feasted with so much room to operate and Utah’s “tough defense” didn’t bother the MVP.

Maybe home court changes the way the Jazz perform. But one thing’s for sure, if Utah doesn’t adjust then this series will end on their home floor.

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