Home teams finished the first round 22-21 SU and 20-23 ATS (46.5%) but with the Suns' 123-98 home rout of the Nuggets on Wednesday, home teams have now won FIVE in a row here in the second round, checking in at 6-1 SU and 5-1-1 ATS, overall. Over/Under bettors saw 24 overs, 18 unders and one push in the 43 first round contests (57.1%) but last night's game stayed under, giving under bettors a 5-2 edge to begin the second round. Doing the math, home teams are now 28-22 (.560) though 50 playoff games but just 25-24-1 (51.0%) ATS. Over bettors still own a slight advantage, with 26 overs, 23 unders and one push (53.1%). Those following the "Zig-Zag" theory lost last night on the Nuggets and are now 16-22 ATS or minus-8.2 net games. Two games are set for Thursday, Game 3 in the East between the Nets (2) and Bucks (3) plus Game 2 in the West as the top-seed Jazz host the Clippers (No. 4 seed). Both games are on ESPN, with Brooklyn (up 2-0) at Milwaukee at 7:35 ET and Los Angeles at Utah (up 1-0) at 10:05 ET. I'll have a preview of those games in a bit but first it's a recap of Wednesday's lone contest.
Wednesday Recap: The Suns beat the Lakers in Game 1 of their first round series but then dropped the next two. Phoenix ended a 10-year playoff drought this season by putting up the NBA's second-best record (just ONE win less than Utah) but all of sudden, found themselves staring at a 3-1 deficit if the Suns couldn't win Game 4 in LA. However, the Suns won that game 100-92 and it's been "smooth sailing" since. Phoenix finished off the Lakers 4-2 (with three straight wins) and have now opened a 2-0 lead over the Nuggets in their second round series after last night's 123-98 win (that's a 5-0 SU & ATS run). Chris Paul struggled vs the Lakers with a shoulder injury (averaged just 9.3 PPG) but followed a 21-point, 11-assist effort in Game 1 with 17 points and 15 assists (ZERO turnovers!) last night. All five Phoenix starters scored double digits, led by Booker's 18 points. Booker averaged 29.7 PPG vs the Lakers but has averaged a more modest 19.5 PPG vs Denver. However, the Suns are benefiting by a more balanced attack, with a winning margin of 21.0 PPG vs Denver. Center Ayton has produced a double-double in six of the Suns' eight games, averaging 16.3 & 10.5 in his first postseason, while connecting on 75.3% of his shots. SF Mikal Bridges was quiet against the Lakers (9.3 PPG) but has averaged 19.5 PPG vs Denver. I'll let head coach Michael Malone describe Denver's play. "This was an embarrassing performance for myself all the way to the last player," he said. "We are walking out here with our heads held down and rightfully so. There was a reason that their crowd was yelling "Suns in four!" and they are calling for a sweep because if we play like this in Denver, this is going to be a really quick series." Malone later added he felt the Nuggets "quit tonight, which is something that you never want to see." Jokic had 24-13-6 but sat out the 4th quarter and the rest of Denver's starters were anemic. SF Porter scored 26 points in Games 5 and 6 vs Portland but has averaged just 13.0 PPG vs Phoenix in the first two games (he was 3 of 13 shooting in Game 2). PF Gordon added six points and one rebound last night and starting guards Campazzo and Rivers combined for nine points on 3 of 12 shooting. Backup PG Morris was a star in Games 5 and 6 vs Portland (averaged 25.0 PPG off the bench) but has totaled FIVE points in the first two games of this series, shooting 2 of 17 (11.8%) from the floor.
Thursday preview: The Brooklyn Nets own a 2-0 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks, despite James Harden playing less than a minute in the series. Harden strained his right hamstring in the first minute of the series opener and the Nets have announced that they will be without him once again in Game 3. KD averaged 32.0 PPG vs Boston and Kyrie 24.4 PPG but without Harden, both players have not taken over the scoring load. KD is averaging 30.5 PPG and Kyrie 23.5 PPG. Bruce Brown (6.7 PPG in Brooklyn's first six postseason games) started for Harden in Game 2 and scored 13 points with six rebounds and four assists. Harris has averaged 16.0 PPG (while making 8 of 16 three-pointers) plus Blake Griffin has "come out of nowhere" (had averaged 4.8 & 3.4 vs Boston) to add 12.5 & 11.0 in the two wins. Brooklyn's defense has been superb, holding the Bucks to 96.5 PPG (Milwaukee averaged a league-high 120.1 PPG during the regular season). However, another thought could be that Milwaukee has just plain 'stunk out the joint!' The Bucks are a pathetic 24 of 47 (24.6%) on threes plus have made just 53.6% from the FT line. Nine different Nets have made a three-pointer in the series, while no Milwaukee player has made more than three. Khris Middleton has shot just 3-for-13, Jrue Holiday and Bryn Forbes each 3-for-9 and Giannis Antetokounmpo 2-for-8. The Bucks have been HUGE disappointments in each of the last two postseasons (owned the NBA's best regular record in each year) and now face a "must-win" Game 3 at home. The Bucks lost just FOUR times by 20-plus points in the regular season but each time responded with a win, beating Miami, Memphis, the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando by an average of 18.8 points. Deja vu? Milwaukee is favored by 3 1/2-points and the over/under is 234.
Utah was able to outlast Los Angeles 112-109 in Game 1 on Tuesday. Donovan Mitchell scored 45 points (32 in the second half) to lead the Jazz to a FIFTH straight postseason win. Mitchell was held out of Game 1 vs Memphis but has averaged 31.8 PPG in leading Utah to four straight wins over the Grizzlies and now to a Game 1 win over the Clippers. The Clippers led 60-47 at the half but Utah outscored LA 32-19 in the third quarter, as the teams began the fourth quarter tied. The Jazz took a 10-point lead but the Clippers made the Jazz 'sweat,' taking the game to the final buzzer when Gobert blocked a Morris three-pointer that would have sent the game to OT. Bogdanovich and Clarkson each had 18 points. Gobert had 10 & 12 (plus that key block!) plus Ingles (12.1-3.6-4.7 in the regular season) started for Conley and contributed eight points (shot just 3 of 12) and seven assists. Kawhi had 23 points and George 20 & 10 for the Clippers but the dynamic duo combined to shoot just 13 of 36 (36.1%). Luke Kennard played in just two of LA's first six games vs Dallas but had 11 points in the team's Game 7 win plus played 29 minutes last night, scoring 18 points on 7 of 9 shooting (where did he come from?). The Jazz were coming off five days' rest, while the Clippers were forced into a seven-game series that concluded just two days earlier. "We were lethargic," George said. "It's not an excuse." The Clippers fell behind Dallas 0-2 but came back to win in seven. They sure don't want to go down 0-2 to the NBA's No. 1 overall seed. Conley is questionable again for Utah, which is favored by three points with an over/under of 222 1/2.
My next journal will be available by 1:00 ET Friday afternoon.