Maybe Russell Westbrook should win the MVP Award. I was among those who was hoping that the NBA would make an exception this year and hold the voting until after Westbrook's Thunder and James Harden's Houston Rockets completed their first-round series. It's only the fourth time in NBA history that the top two points scorers in the league played against each other in the opening round of the playoffs. It also happened in 1951 between the Minneapolis Lakers (George Mikan) and Indianapolis Olympians (Alex Groza), in 1980 between the Rockets (Moses Malone) and Spurs (George Gervin), and in 2016 between the Warriors (Stephen Curry) and Rockets (Harden). But watching their series opener, it's now pretty clear to me that Westbrook carried a pretty mediocre Thunder team to its 47 wins and sixth seed in the West. The hero ball isn't going to work in the playoffs, however. Here's a look at Tuesday's three Game 2s around the league.
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No. 6 Bucks at No. 3 Raptors ( -7.5, 193)
A 7 p.m. ET tip on NBA TV. I didn't see the Game 1 result of this series coming as Milwaukee won 97-83 north of the border. The Raptors are clearly the more talented team, but the Bucks also have clearly the best player on the court in Giannis Antetokounmpo. He was fabulous in the opener with 28 points on 13-for-18 shooting to go with eight rebounds and three assists. The Bucks also got 16 points from rookie Malcolm Brogdon and solid bench play from Greg Monroe and Matthew Dellavedova.
I'm not sure what happens to Raptors All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan in the playoffs. They often couldn't hit the side of a barn last year and it was more of the same in Game 1 as Lowry was an ugly 2-for-11 (0-for-6 from long range) and DeRozan 7-for-21 (0-for-2 from 3-point range). When those guys aren't hitting their jumpers, teams simply clog the lane and the Raptors don't have any other great 3-point shooters to make opponents pay. Serge Ibaka was the only Raptors starter to make a 3-pointer in Game 1. The Raptors have lost the opening game in eight consecutive playoff series (but managed to rally and beat the Pacers in Heat in seven in 2016). That's bad coaching.
Key trends: The Raptors are 1-4 against the spread in their past five at home. The "over/under" has gone under in five of the past six meetings.
Early lean : Bucks and under.
No. 8 Bulls at No. 1 Celtics (-6, 204.5)
This is on TNT at 8 p.m. ET. I'm a Bulls fan, but it was hard not to root for Boston All-Star Isaiah Thomas to have a big Game 1 Sunday after his 22-year-old younger sister was tragically killed in a one-car accident in Washington state on Saturday. Certainly no one would have blamed Thomas for leaving the team to be with his family, but he played and did so well with a team-high 33 points. Alas, Thomas got little help in a 106-102 upset loss. We saw Boston's two main flaws in that game: rebounding and lack of a second scoring option to take over when Thomas is out of the game. Boston was outrebounded 53-36 and outscored by 16 points in the 10 minutes Thomas was on the bench. The little dude can't play 48 minutes per night. Maybe the entire team was a bit emotional, however.
We all know that Boston GM Danny Ainge has tried to trade for Chicago's Jimmy Butler a few times and might again at this summer's draft. Butler was great in the opener with 30 points, 15 of those in the fourth quarter. The biggest surprise for the Bulls was the game played by second-year Bobby Portis, who seems to go in and out of Coach Fred Hoiberg's doghouse. Portis was a big difference off the bench with 19 points and nine rebounds. He nearly scored as many points and pulled down as many rebounds as the entire Boston group of reserves. I'm not super-confident the Bulls can count on that type of result every night.
Key trends: The home team is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Celtics and under.
No. 5 Jazz at No. 4 Clippers (-8, 195.5)
This tips at 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT. If you had told me that Utah was going to lose center Rudy Gobert, who had a huge season and might be named Defensive Player of the Year, on the team's first possession in Game 1 against the Clippers, then I would have put down a small fortune on L.A. to cover the 5.5-point spread. That did happen but Utah still won, 97-95. Joe Johnson, 35, looked 10 years younger by finishing with 21 points off the bench and hit the game-winning floater at the buzzer. Big Shot Joe has made an NBA-best eight game-winning buzzer-beaters in the past 10 years.The last player hit a Game 1 buzzer-beater on the road was the Suns' Stephon Marbury, who hit a 3-pointer in a one-point overtime win at San Antonio in the first round in 2003.
The good news is that an MRI revealed no ligament damage in Gobert's knee, but his status for the rest of this series is up in the air. He certainly won't play here. I don't see how Utah can win this series without the league leader in blocks and defensive real play-minus, but I didn't see them winning Game 1, either.Blake Griffin and Chris Paul combined for 51 points in the loss but no other Clipper had more than 10. Jamal Crawford was just 4-for-12 off the bench and 0-for-4 from long range for eight points. Never thought I'd type this, but the team missed the injured Austin Rivers. Los Angeles entered on a seven-game winning streak.
Key trends: The Jazz are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five in L.A.
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