Wednesday night was a busy affair for the NBA, as eight teams took the court for the 2021 NBA Playoffs with three facing elimination.
In what have been two of the most discussed first-round matchups, Dallas Mavericks floor general Luka Doncic stole the spotlight in the final game of the evening thanks to his 42-point, 14-assist outing.
But was it enough to get past a Los Angeles Clippers team that had won two straight to even the series?
No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers 129, No. 8 Washington Wizards 112
PHI wins series 4-1
The first of three teams to be bounced from the playoffs tonight, the Washington Wizards couldn’t hang with the Philadelphia 76ers even without Joel Embiid playing.
Sharpshooter Seth Curry exploded for a team-high 30 points and Defensive Player of the Year finalist Ben Simmons silenced his critics with 19 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, one steal and two blocks. Meanwhile, veteran forward Tobias Harris rounded off a nice first-round series with 28 points and six assists of his own.
Washington showed some promise at points over the five-game series but, ultimately, Philly had too much talent for the D.C.-based squad.
The Wizards got another good game from youngster Rui Hachimura, who had 21 points on 8-for-13 from the field. All-Star Bradley Beal capped off another spectacular season with a game-high 32 points, while Russell Westbrook chipped in 24 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds.
Nonetheless, Washington’s lack of depth proved to be costly down the stretch. The Wizards trailed by just two at halftime, but as the game got deeper, Washington’s starters began to lose steam, and Philadelphia pulled away.
No. 4 New York Knicks 89, No. 5 Atlanta Hawks 103
ATL wins series 4-1
The New York Knicks disappointed a packed Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night when they were the second team pf the day to be eliminated from the playoffs.
In what was a tough series for the big man, Knicks star forward Julius Randle had another disappointing outing for New York, putting up 21 points on 8-for-21 shooting, while also turning the ball over eight times.
Randle finished the playoffs averaging 18 points, 4.0 assists and 4.6 turnovers per game while shooting 29.8 percent from the field—a stark contrast from the 45.6 percent he shot from the floor in the regular season.
Reggie Bullock, who averaged 8.0 points on 37.9 percent shooting from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range, started the game off well. Bullock went for 12 points in the first quarter after nailing four shots from beyond the arc; but he was held scoreless for the rest of the game.
The star of the show, 22-year-old point guard Trae Young, put together another masterpiece with a game-high 36 points. Wednesday was the third time in the series where Young scored at least 30 points in the series, as the Knicks defense continued to be confounded by his craftiness.
Atlanta also received double-digit contributions from De’Andre Hunter (15), Clint Capela (14) and John Collins (13) in the points column, while holding the Knicks to 37.8 percent shooting from the field.
The Hawks will be moving to the second round of the NBA Playoffs, where they’ll take on the 76ers.
No. 1 Utah Jazz 126, No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies 110
UTA wins series 4-1
The third and final team to get booted from the playoffs was the Memphis Grizzlies.
Still, just as young guns Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks shined for the Grizzlies throughout the series, the duo was excellent yet again on Wednesday, with both scoring 27 points.
Brooks’ scoring output through the series was impressive, putting up 25.8 points per game on 51.5 percent shooting, and Morant paired that with his 30.5 points per game on 48.7 percent shooting. While Memphis’ season may be over, their young core is only just getting started.
Despite feeling ill coming into the game, Utah Jazz centerpiece Donovan Mitchell handled the Grizzlies with ease, dropping 30 points and dishing out 10 assists.
Defensive weapon Rudy Gobert may have had even more impact than Mitchell though, as the Steiffel Tower notched a 23-point, 15-rebound double-double while blocking three shots.
Despite moving on to the second round, the Jazz didn’t leave the court entirely happy, as starting guard Mike Conley left the game early due to injury. The All-Star’s status moving forward is unclear, but Utah will need him when they take on one of the Dallas Mavericks or Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals.
No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers 100, No. 5 Dallas Mavericks 105
DAL leads series 3-1
Playmaking extraordinaire Luka Doncic rewrote history books at the end of Wednesday night’s slate of games.
Doncic put up a blistering 42 points and 14 assists, scoring or assisting on 31 of the Mavericks 37 made field goals. The only other player to finish with double-digit scoring for Dallas was Tim Hardaway Jr., who had 20 points.
Fifth-year pro Dorian Finney-Smith was hugely impactful for Dallas on the defensive end, helping keep Kawhi Leonard (who shot 7-19 from the field) contained, while snatching the opponent five times and recording a block.
The Los Angeles Clippers, who had even the series at 2-2 following Game 4, kept the game within reach all night. They even cut the Mavs’ lead to one point with under one minute left.
But, in the end, they couldn’t stop Doncic enough to come out on top. Clippers forward Paul George finished with a team-high 23 points, while Leonard and Reggie Jackson (6-12 from 3-point range) each had 20 points.
LA just couldn’t get the buckets to fall on Wednesday night, shooting just 41.3 percent from the field as a team.
Game 6, which will be in Dallas, takes place on Friday, June 4.