About last night: Butler the key to Sixers' success, Jokic goes off again



Blakely: The Butler did it (again); Nuggets rolling now 

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons may be the headliners for the Philadelphia 76ers, but two games into Philly’s second-round series with Toronto, it’s clear that Jimmy Butler is the key to Philly’s success. 

Performances like the one he put on in Game 2 serve as a reminder as to why the Sixers’ brass made the blockbuster trade to get him to Philly. 

While he has been at his best down the stretch of close games, he’s going to have to elevate his play for longer stretches -- and to his credit he did just that in Game 2 while leading the Sixers with 30 points to tie the series at one game apiece.

But more than the points, Butler plays with an elite level of mental toughness that for the rest of the team appears to be a work in progress.

With the Spurs out of the way, Denver picked up right where it left off with a nice Game 1 win over a well-rested (and likely rusty) Portland squad.  

My favorite part of this postseason has been how it has forced NBA fans (OK, East coast fans) to take notice of Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who continues to be the best player on the planet that hardly anyone is talking about.

In Game 1, he scored 37 points to go with nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and a pair of blocked shots. So much of what the Nuggets do revolves around his ability to make an impact on multiple levels, which is something he has gotten better at doing as we get deeper into the postseason grind. 

Forsberg: Did he really just do that? 

Apologies to anyone seated near our table at dinner in Milwaukee last night when Kyle Lowry apparently tried to nutmeg Tobias Harris in a key moment of Game 2 between the Sixers and Raptors. Some of us might have screamed loudly, “Did he really just try to do that?!” before we all scrambled to find replays on our phones.

Listen, Celtics fans are well aware of Lowry’s nutmegging potential … 

… but that was simply a ludicrous time to bust out that move. Even if it works, what exactly is Lowry’s plan with his team down 3 and 15 seconds to go. The Raptors were absurdly lucky that the ensuing scramble, when the ball ticked off Harris’ leg, still ended with a quality look for Danny Green that could have tied the game.

But it sorta summed up the night for a Raptors team that got way too cute with a chance to go up 2-0. On a night that Greg Monroe and James Ennis had more combined field goals (8) than Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (5), there’s absolutely no reason that Toronto should have lost that game.

Toronto is clearly the deeper, more talented team in this series and yet it's 1-1 headed to Philadelphia. The nutmeg attempt was far from the only head-slapping moment of this game for a Raptors team that should have just taken care of business.



30/11/5 -- Jimmy Butler's line vs. Toronto in Game 2. He joins Joel Embiid and Charles Barkley as the only Sixers to go for 30/10/5 in a playoff game over the last 35 years. 


"He's like a quarterback out there. I consider him like a Tom Brady. He's always going to pick you apart and make the right reads."
-- Nuggets forward Paul Millsap on Nikola Jokic after his 37-point performance in a Game 1 win


  • 76ers 94, Raptors 89 (Series tied 1-1)
  • Nuggets 121, Trail Blazers 113 (DEN leads series 1-0)


Blakely: Let the adjustments game begin … now! 

If there’s one thing we know about Game 2 already, it’s that it won’t be an identical sequel to the 112-90 thumping Boston put on the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday afternoon. The Bucks aren’t tipping their hand in terms of X’s and O’s changes, but they have talked a lot about playing with better effort and not being so tight to start the game.

Somewhere in the middle of their non-adjustment adjustments, the Bucks will surely look at ways to get Giannis Antetokounmpo in more advantageous positions to score. And defensively, Milwaukee has to do a better job against Boston’s pick-and-roll sets, particularly when they involve Al Horford. 

The Celtics won in convincing fashion in Game 1, but they too need to be better if they are to return to Boston with a commanding 2-0 series lead.

The biggest adjustment we should see from the Celtics involves them getting used to being the hunted rather than the hunter. 

This team plays better when it hasa chip on its shoulder, something that’s a little harder to have considering Boston won Game 1 so convincingly. 

There was a certain freedom the Celtics played with in Game 1 that allowed them to play pressure-free basketball. And unfortunately for the Bucks, the pressure tonight is even greater on them than it was in Game 1, which has the Celtics exactly where they want to be at this point in the series. 

Forsberg: Eyes on the supporting cast 

While the big storyline heading into Game 2 of Celtics-Bucks will undoubtedly be how Giannis Antetokounmpo responds to his 7-for-21 performance, we think it’s a pretty good bet that the potential league MVP will have a bounceback night.

Which means the bigger question is this: How does his supporting cast fare?

Khris Middleton seemingly hasn’t missed a single shot against the Celtics dating back to last year’s playoffs. But the Bucks have really struggled to find others to step up. Most notably, Boston seems to have taken up real estate in Eric Bledsoe’s head, and it goes beyond last season’s flareup with Terry Rozier.

With Malcolm Brogdon sidelined, the Bucks desperately need other players that are capable of punishing the Celtics when they commit extra attention to Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee’s starting backcourt was 2-of-12 shooting in Game 1, with Bledsoe and Sterling Brown making just one field goal apiece in 48 minutes of combined floor time.

Boston has an obvious depth advantage in this series. They feasted on it in Game 1, all while still being able to harass Antetokounmpo. Something has to budge there, so either Giannis goes supernova in Game 2 or someone not named Middleton has to step up for the supporting cast.


  • Celtics at Bucks, Game 2 (BOS leads series 1-0) -- 8:00pm, TNT (Celtics Pregame Live at 7:00pm on NBC Sports Boston)
  • Rockets at Warriors, Game 2 (GS leads series 1-0) -- 10:30pm, TNT

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