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The Brooklyn Nets ostensibly need two more wins to advance to the second round but this series certainly feels over. The Nets won Game 2 by 22, which now makes them plus-33 for the series. Per 538’s NBA model, the Celtics’ chancing of advancing are down to five percent.
So far, it’s been all about the Nets’ dominant individual scorers. Through two games, Brooklyn has finished an average of 30.5 possessions per game out of isolations, more than a quarter of their total offensive possessions and more than twice as many as any other team in the postseason. James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have combined for 71.5 points per game on a 63.8 true shooting percentage. Even on possessions where the Celtics have been able to take away reasonable shots for that threesome, Joe Harris has been lurking on the perimeter and he’s already hit 9-of-16 from beyond the arc in the series.
Boston gets a chance to play in front of their home crowd but it’s hard to see how that does much to change the dynamic on the court.
Anthony Davis moved inside and the Lakers thrived
After the Lakers’ Game 1 loss, and Anthony Davus’ struggles, I pointed out the general trend this season of him moving more and more away from the basket on offense. He completely flipped that in Game 2, finishing with 34 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. He bullied his way to 21 free throw attempts and five of his 15 field-goal attempts came within 10 feet of the basket.
The positive effect on the Lakers didn’t just come from his own scoring in the paint, it was also the way he drew defensive attention. Davis had 11 post-up touches in Game 2, compared to just 5 in Game 1. At least three of his assists were a direct result of drawing multiple defenders with his back to the basket and his personal gravity helped open space for players like Dennis Schroder to go off, both beyond the arc and driving to the basket.
What adjustments do the Clippers have to make?
Kawhi Leonard played about as well as he could have offensively, putting up 41 points on 21 shots, and the Clippers still find themselves in an 0-2 hole. Luka Doncic’s box score line had a few more warts — 39 points but on 29 shots, 7 assists but also 7 turnovers, but he was again the difference. His teammates were 13-of-21 from beyond the arc in Game 2 — with more than half of those 3-point attempts (11) classified as wide-open, with no defender within six feet of the shooter.
Doncic saw George and Kawhi as his primary defenders in Game 2, after being matched up mostly with Patrick Beverley and Nicolas Batum in Game 1, but it didn’t really make a difference. He was still able to get to his spots, make both easy and difficult shots and find open teammates whenever help was drawn.
The question now for the Clippers is what other levers there are to pull. George and Leonard took on the most difficult defense assignment, still had enough energy for strong offensive games and it wasn’t enough. Tim Hardaway Jr. probably isn’t going to go 6-of-8 from beyond the arc again but Leonard also probably isn’t going to put up 41 points on 21 shots while defending Doncic for about a fifth of his possessions. A few more 3-pointers going in for the Clippers (non-Leonard shooters were 9-of-26 from beyond the arc) could have swung the game but these two teams look far more evenly matched than the pre-series odds implied and L.A. is now the one having to climb out of the deep hole.
The Clippers have no obvious defensive matchups to swap or rotation changes to make. At this point, it’s basically running it back and hoping for a different outcome.
Chris Paul could barely move his right arm in Game 2, which means the Phoenix Suns have hit their first patch of adversity in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
The New York Liberty have gone from one of the worst teams in WNBA history to the top of the standings. And it’s not just about Sabrina Ionescu.
Some interesting details in this shot analysis from Owen Phillips, including why the Memphis Grizzlies are a uniquely difficult defensive challenge for the Utah Jazz.