Heat, Nuggets excel in NBA bubble

Miami Heat defeat the Boston Celtics 117–114 to take a 1–0 lead

The Boston Celtics were down 116–114 against the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, as Jayson Tatum’s game-tying dunk got blocked by the 6-foot-9 center, Bam Adebayo, with 3.7 seconds left in overtime

The Celtics had no fouls to give, but they fouled Adebayo with 2.5 seconds on the clock and he headed to the free-throw line. Adebayo knocked down the free throw to put the Heat up three. 

Marcus Smart heaved a long pass to Tatum who was behind the 3-point line. Tatum fumbled but got the shot up in time — but the ball rimmed out and the Heat won Game 1.

Goran Dragić, the crafty point guard for the Miami Heat, led his team in scoring with 29 points on 11 for 19 shooting. Jimmy Butler, who has been a key part of the Heat’s stellar playoff performance in winning nine of their 10 playoff games in 2020, hit two clutch shots in the fourth quarter and ended the game with 20 points on seven for 14 shooting. The Heat had five of their key players — Goran Dragić, Jae Crowder, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro — score over 10 points and contribute to their overtime win against the Celtics.

The Miami Heat are known to be one of the best shooting teams this season. They scored 16 3-pointers against the Celtics and Crowder — who has been working on his shooting form — contributed five three’s single-handedly. The Heat shot a casual 44% from beyond the arc as their best 3-point shooter, Duncan Robinson, struggled to find the bottom of the net.

Tatum ended the game with 30 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three steals. He was the second-youngest player in NBA history to achieve 25-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and 5-plus assists in a Game 7, the youngest player being the late Kobe Bryant, Tatum’s idol and hero.

Smart has been phenomenal for the Celtics, making great defensive plays, improving his scoring from beyond the 3-point line, saving the ball from going out of bounds, chasing down opponents for dramatic blocks, and energizing the rest of the Celtics team. In Game 1, Smart knocked down six 3-pointers and ended the night with 26 points.

Gordon Hayward suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain in the Celtics’ first round against the Philadelphia 76ers. At the time, he was expected to miss approximately four weeks of play. Although it has been a month since the injury, Hayward has not returned yet. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens is optimistic that Hayward will play in the Eastern Conference finals. “I think he’ll be back at some point in that series, but I don’t know when,” Stevens said after the team’s win against the Toronto Raptors. The Celtics have gone 14–6 without Hayward during the regular season, as he missed 13 games early in the season after breaking a bone in his hand. 

If Game 1 is any indication of how the series is going to pan out, the viewers are in for a treat. Both teams are great on the offensive and defensive end, so it is going to be a dog fight to proceed to the NBA Finals.


The Denver Nuggets overcome another 3–1 deficit

Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic had dominant performances in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers and helped the Denver Nuggets advance to the NBA Western Conference finals. The Los Angeles Lakers, led by Lebron James, are waiting to play the Nuggets on Friday, who overcame two 3–1 deficits during these NBA playoffs. The Nuggets are the first team to conquer a 3–1 deficit twice in the same playoffs in the 74-year history of the NBA.

Jamal Murray had an impressive Game 7, in which he scored 40 points on 15 for 26 shooting and made six 3-pointers. Nikola Jokic had a triple double with 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists. This dynamic duo scored over 56 points, which was 50% of the points for the Nuggets, as they stunned the Clippers and won by 15 points.

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard both had abysmal performances and are to be held accountable for the embarrassing loss. George has not played well during these playoffs and has been given the nickname “Pandemic P” for his poor performances. George shot a pathetic two for 11 from beyond the 3-point line and had five turnovers in the game. He missed two simple layups, missed wide open 3-pointers and was not making defensive plays either. George’s box plus/minus (BPM), which estimates a player’s contribution to the team while on the court, was -20, indicating that he was actually hindering the team’s performance.

Leonard is also equally to be blamed, as he shot only six for 22 from the field. Leonard missed his signature shots like the mid-range jump shot and the pull-up jump shot and had a -21 BPM.

In the post-game interview, Lou Williams, George and coach Doc Rivers said that the team’s poor chemistry was the reason for its early knockout in the 2020 playoffs.

“We came up short. We did have championship expectations. We had the talent to do it. I don’t think we had the chemistry to do it and it showed,” Williams said

George also referred to the same issue and said, “First year together … we can’t even say we want to change our roster; we like what we got. We’ve been saying it all year: just chemistry, being together. The more we’re together, the better we will be. It’s year one, year one.”

As the Nuggets advance to the Western Conference finals, Jamal Murray tells the Lakers, “They gotta worry about us.” Lakers versus Nuggets is going to be an interesting series as the unguardable Jokic meets the 17-year veteran, Lebron James.