To NBA fans in Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Portland: avert your eyes. You’re not going to like your playoff odds.
The Wizards, Rockets and Warriors all grabbed 2-0 series leads Wednesday with victories at home against the Hawks, Thunder and Trail Blazers. Prior to Wednesday night’s slate of NBA playoff games, ESPN Stats and Info pointed out 94 percent of teams with 2-0 leads in best-of-seven series have advanced. So it’s an uphill climb, to say the least.
With that said, let’s take a look at what happened in each playoff game, along with the turning points and X-factors that helped shape the final scores.
NBA playoffs: Scores, highlights
Wizards 109, Hawks 101
What happened: John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 63 points to lead Washington past Atlanta. Paul Millsap had a team-high 27 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the Wizards outscored the Hawks 35-23 in the fourth quarter to take care of business at home.
Turning point: With the Hawks leading 78-74 and Wall on the bench to start the fourth, Brandon Jennings kept the Wizards afloat by scoring or assisting on Washington’s first eight points of the final quarter. He got into a groove, orchestrating the offense beautifully and drilling jumpers with confidence. Jennings didn’t let the Hawks extend their lead, and that gave Wall the chance to finish them off.
X-factor: Fouls. Lots and lots of fouls. The officiating crew heard Millsap and made sure Game 2 didn’t turn into MMA. In Game 1, there was a total of 47 fouls and 56 free throws. Wednesday night, there was a total of 55 fouls and 71 free throws. The slightest physical contact resulted in a whistle. The Hawks have taken 27 more free throws than the Wizards through two games, so Millsap can’t complain too much about physical play.
Wall-Star with a throwdown! 💪 pic.twitter.com/PgzCw3dVIs
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) April 20, 2017
Highlight you need to see: Don’t try to jump with Wall.
Rockets 115, Thunder 111
What happened: We got the MVP battle we wanted. Russell Westbrook posted 51 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds — the first 50-point triple-double in NBA playoff history — while James Harden put up 35 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds. The Thunder jumped on the Rockets early, starting the game on a 16-4 run and holding a six-point lead at the half. Then, it all went south for OKC at the end of the third quarter.
Turning point: Houston went on a 12-3 run with Westbrook on the bench to end the third. Watching OKC’s advantage shrink to three points must have changed Westbrook’s mentality. He had done a good job finding his teammates and picking his spots up to that point, shooting 13 of 25 entering the fourth quarter.
However, Westbrook finished 17 of 43 from the field, choosing to put the entire offense on his shoulders, even if it meant declining to pass to open teammates. It’s hard to blame the guy who has a 50-point triple-double, but Westbrook’s “me against the world” mentality hurt the Thunder’s chances of stealing Game 2.
X-factor: The Rockets were a bit out of sorts to start the game, and Mike D’Antoni’s shooters couldn’t find the bottom of the net. Insert Lou Williams to cook up some instant offense. The 12th-year man came off the bench and poured in 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first half, finishing plus-18 with 21 points in 21 minutes. If Williams wasn’t able to keep Houston within shouting distance, this one may have played out differently.
Russ 😯 pic.twitter.com/ngboe6h9lQ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 20, 2017
Highlight you need to see: It turns out Westbrook is pretty good at basketball.
Warriors 110, Trail Blazers 81
What happened: Here’s what Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said during an interview with TNT’s Lewis Johnson in between the first and second quarter: “We’re not scoring the ball very well. We’re turning the ball over. We’re not getting back in transition. We’re not protecting the rim. So, there’s a lot going on.”
Yeah, if you didn’t see this one, that’s kind of how it went for Portland.
Turning point: Any hopes the Trail Blazers had of a comeback were quickly extinguished when the Warriors’ lead ballooned to 19 after an 11-2 surge to start the third quarter. Portland was outscored 28-12 in the third overall. Maybe a certain TNT analyst needs to re-evaluate his opinion on Golden State’s defense.
X-factor: JaVale McGee? No, really. JaVale McGee! The big man came off the bench to score 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting in the first half and ended up with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks in only 13 minutes of play for the game. He threw down just about every lob thrown his way (see below) and brought a palpable energy to the floor each time he checked in.
— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) April 20, 2017