We had a proper NBA Monday madness to experience! But, who are the biggest winners and losers of yesterday’s clashes? Let’s take a closer look!
Monday Madness Recap
The #2 seeds reigned supreme in Monday night’s playoff matchups between the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets.
Brooklyn played without leading assist man James Harden but came out scorching hot, riding Kevin Durant’s hot hand en route to a 125-86 victory.
The Bucks were unable to get anything going offensively, finishing with a combined 44% from the field and 29.6% on three-point shots. Giannis Antetokounmpo had averaged just under 40 points in three regular-season bouts with the Nets but was held to just 18 with 11 rebounds in 31 minutes of action.
While the “Greek Freak’s” ballclub struggled to find themselves on the court, KD showed out for his team, depositing 32 points and 4-6 3PT while four Nets in the starting lineup found double figures in scoring.
Milwaukee now finds themselves in a 0-2 deficit in the series heading back to Fiserv Forum, where they were 26-10 in the regular season. Brooklyn, despite their overall success, was only four games over .500 on the road throughout the campaign and could be in for a rude awakening if the Bucks start to hit threes as they did during the regular season.
The same way that a series is said to officially start when the home team loses a game, it will be hard to see Milwaukee’s path to the Eastern Conference Finals if they go down 0-3 Wednesday night. Giannis is still in the early stages of his career but has begun to build a reputation as a regular-season player incapable of exceeding expectations in the playoffs, and although he has notched a decent stat-line through six games in the playoffs, Brooklyn will be the real measuring stick in determining his postseason “clutch” factor.
While the Nets and Bucks were setting the tone for the rest of their series, Phoenix and Denver got theirs underway in the second game of the evening in Arizona. The Nuggets held a steady lead for a majority of the first half and seemed to have edged ahead halfway through the third until a 25-7 stretch for the Suns brutalized Denver and put them down nine points heading into the final period.
Phoenix continued its hellacious run to close out the game behind the steady scoring and playmaking of Chris Paul, who scored 11 of his 21 points from the 12:00-4:13 mark. The Suns’ defense matched its offensive output and refused to let Denver string multiple scores together, holding a double-digit lead and finishing ahead in a relatively comfortable fashion.
Four Phoenix players— Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges and DeAndre Ayton— finished with at least 20 points in scoring, while the bench combined to tack on another 23 in the scoring column. Booker, the Suns’ best player, may not be quite as talented as Denver’s Nikola Jokic, the presumptive MVP, but if he can get this level of support from his teammates throughout the series, the championship dream could be over quickly for the Nuggets.
Denver’s moral victory in the Game One loss is that its two best players in Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. had one of their worst playoff performances as a tandem, totaling just 37 points between them. This is a long shot from their playoff average of 49.7 which, had they hit, would have brought the final score to a much more respectable five-point differential. Michael Malone will surely emphasize getting his stars high-quality looks at the basket early in the game to get them rolling and give his team a chance at stealing the home-court advantage.
Wrapping Things Up
Tuesday’s playoff action will involve the Atlanta Hawks at the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers at the Utah Jazz; Phoenix and Denver will return Wednesday and Brooklyn and Milwaukee Thursday.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.