[caption id="attachment_313974" align="aligncenter" width="2276"] (Andrew D. Bernstein)
Good afternoon, folks. Giannis reinjured his ankle and Playoff Rondo has arrived. Let's talk NBA Bubble.
Bucks force a Game 5 despite Giannis' injury
All the talk regarding how many minutes Giannis Antetokunmpo might need to play in Game 4 in order for the Milwaukee Bucks to keep the series alive went to the wayside not even two minutes into the second quarter. The Greek Freak landed a bit awkwardly on his already bum ankle (the same one that nearly kept him out of Game 4) and immediately grimaced in severe pain. Up until his injury--and even after it, honestly--Giannis has been a man who had one mission to complete and one mission only: do whatever it takes to win, even if he has to do it himself. He was up to 18 points in just 11 minutes before the unfortunate ankle roll, and he even managed to knock down a free-throw after the fact, finishing with 19 points before being shuffled into the Milwaukee Bucks locker room. At the time, Milwaukee trailed the Miami Heat 31-30, but with the soon-to-be two-time MVP not on the floor, many expected the Heat to run away with the game and complete the 4-0 series sweep. Instead, what we saw was a magnificent third-quarter from Khris Middleton as the rest of the Bucks stepped up to force a Game 5 with a 118-115 win that needed an overtime period to decide the outcome.
Middleton ended his night with 36 points, 22 of them coming in the third period alone. He also drilled the biggest shot of the night, a triple with under seven seconds left that pushed the Bucks advantage to four points. Middleton led a 12-0 run late in the game that shifted the momentum and they never looked back. Eric Bledsoe
finally played closer to his standards in Game 4, recording 14 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists, although he turned the ball over four times and went 0-6 from beyond the arc. But considering how poor Bledsoe's performances through his first two outings were, Sunday night was a much-needed sign of improvement. Now if he would have just stop pretending that he could take Bam Adebayo
one-on-one only to step back and chuck up an ugly contested 3, he would have been one of the best players on the floor. But either way, Bledsoe and Middleton rose to the occasion with the team's best player watching from the sidelines.
*Middleton played 48 minutes, Bledsoe played 39, and Brook Lopex played 41. Even without the overtime period, that would still be more than usual. Middleton's season-high prior to Sunday night was only 40 minutes. Weird how the Bucks earned a win when their best available players were in the game for the longest, right?*
But speaking of Bam Adebayo, the Miami Heat big man was an unstoppable force once again, especially without Giannis on the floor, posting 26 points (on 10-13 shooting), 12 rebounds, eight assists, and just one turnover in 43 minutes. As good as Adebayo was all game, it was fellow Wildcat Tyler Herro
who came up clutch on multiple occasions. The rookie drilled a massive triple--the biggest of the game at the time and probably of his entire basketball career--to put Miami up 107-106 with under one minute left in regulation. Once the game went to an extra-inning, Herro canned two more game-saving 3-pointers with 30 seconds and three seconds left in the game, respectively. Unfortunately, Middleton stole the glory in the end, but I still can't get over how important Herro's confidence is for Miami. He played a poor game pretty much all evening, but his three of the five biggest shots of the entire night. He's only 20 years old.
Now the conversation will shift to the status of Giannis for Game 5. He was officially ruled out of Game 4 despite his best efforts to try and reenter the game, and I would assume it will be nearly impossible to convince him to sit out Game 5. However, he's clearly in serious pain. Milwaukee is going to have to make a longterm business decision: risk Giannis' health for the chance at an unprecedented comeback or ensure that the franchise player is healthy for next season.
Playoff Rondo is BACK!
Well, well, well, the myths still hold true: Rajon Rondo
is a different player in the playoffs.
In a 117-109 Game 2 win over the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Lakers point guard made just his second appearance down in the Orlando Bubble after a slew of injuries kept him on the sideline up until Game 1. And all he did was manage an insane stat line of 10 points, three boards, nine dimes, FIVE
steals, and just one turnover. He finished with the best plus/minus on either side, going +28 in 28 minutes. While he wasn't perfect by any means, it was a huge awakening for the Lakers, who have been somewhat desperate for an extra guard to help operate the offense. It was a vast improvement from Rondo's subpar outing in Game 1 and it was reflected in the final score.
But to be fair, Rondo did have two fellas by the names of Anthony Davis
and LeBron James by his side, who were both playing on another level of basketball that most will never be able to obtain. AD finished with 34 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists while shooting 15-24 from the floor while LeBron dropped 28 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, four steals, and two blocks (and seven turnovers).
After the Rockets thoroughly outplayed L.A. in Game 1, the Lakers were out for blood in Game 2. They were actually up by 16 points at the intermission and led by as many as 21 in the first half before allowing Houston to crawl back into the game, eventually watching the Rockets take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter. But then LeBron and AD decided to take over, helping rattle off separate scoring runs of 9-0 and 8-0 in the final period to ice the game away for good.
Series standings from Sunday
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
(5) Heat lead (1) Bucks 3-1
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
(1) Lakers tied with (4) Rockets 1-1
[table id=584 /]
TONIGHT IN THE BUBBLE
6:30 (TNT): Celtics (Kanter)
@ Raptors [Series tied 2-2]
9:00 (TNT): Clippers (Patterson)
@ Nuggets (Murray) [Series tied 1-1]