Thursday Time-Out: Heat and Suns Stay Hot in NBA Playoffs
No games scheduled for Thursday – a quick time-out for reflection on where things stand
The NBA playoffs always include overreactions and surprises, and so far we've seen plenty of both.
The quirky schedule gives us opportunity to pause and make some judgments about where things stand. With a rare off day in the middle of the playoffs -- no games are being played on Thursday -- let's evaluate what we've seen thus far in the second round.
First fact: All four playoff series have completed two games.
Second Fact: The top-seeded Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat appear solidly in control of their series. Both favourites hold commanding 2-0 leads and look to be well on their way to the conference finals. On the other side of those matchups, the Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers are searching for answers to obstacles unlikely to be overcome. Their seasons are about to slip away.
Third Fact: Two series could go the distance (7 games).
Fourth Fact: Four teams are involved in a dog fight and those series could go either way. The Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks are tied at 1-1, with each winning handily in their respective victories. The Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors are also even at 1-1 after a pair of down-to-the-buzzer nail-biters.
The Odds Show Some Surprises
Here's a look at the latest odds to win the NBA title. There are a few surprises – one of the dominant teams is not favoured (Miami). Instead, Boston is still viewed as the primary threat in the East. And Golden State gets huge respect as the second-betting choice despite being in a tough battle with Memphis (the Warriors could easily be down 0-2 in this series if officiating had gone in the Grizzlies' favour).
You can read more and see the full slate of NBA odds HERE at Spreads.ca.
So, while we prepare for games to resume on Friday night, let's break down the what we've seen so far from the second round of the NBA playoffs:
Suns Sweep Possible?
After a small speed bump in the first round, the Suns are not messing around with the Mavericks.
Chris Paul, Devin Booker and company put away the Mavs in Game 2 with a clinical second-half destruction. Phoenix outscored Dallas 71-49 after the break, including 40-26 in a fourth quarter that snuffed out any hopes the Mavericks may have had of pulling off a series upset.
The Suns set a franchise playoff record by shooting 64.5 percent from the field as they methodically picked the Mavericks apart. They shot an incredible 16-for-19 in the fourth quarter. Phoenix made a point to put Dallas away after nearly coughing up a big lead in Game 1.
If they continue to knock down shots like they have in the first two games of the series, the Suns won't have any trouble finishing off the Mavericks and could make quick work of the Grizzlies or Warriors in the conference finals.
Heat Stay Hot
The opening two games have confirmed most of the suspicions heading into the series: Miami will cruise as long as Joel Embiid is out for Philadelphia.
As was the case in the Toronto Raptors series, defence carried the Heat in Game 1, and it was good again in Game 2 as the offense also found its rhythm. Miami shot 51.3 percent from the field in Game 2 and 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) on 3-pointers while running up an offensive rating of 125.3 (the best rating in the regular season was 116.2!).
Why is this happening? Heat center Bam Adebayo has been able to wreak havoc. Adebayo is averaging 23.5 points while shooting a combined 15-for-21 (71.4 percent) from the field. He's also gotten to the free throw line where he's 17-for-19.
Tyler Herro is averaging 21.5 points and shooting 63.6 percent from 3-point range to help make up for the absence of Kyle Lowry, who has missed the first two games of the series with an injured hamstring.
On the other end, Miami has been able to lock down on Philadelphia's shooters without Embiid's dominant presence inside. The Heat have held the Sixers to a dismal 21.9 percent shooting from 3-point range.
Note: We'll share more thoughts on the other two series in the next article.