I hate to say it, but today is most likely a wrap up day for 2/3s of the games we'll be getting today. It's not exactly a surprise that the 1 seeds should be wrapping up their series today in 5 games, but it is a little disappointing. Especially POR/LAL, that one looked like it at least had some promise for a second. The good news is we only have to wait until 4pm before the games start so let's get you all prepped and ready for today's action.
Orlando Magic (1-3) vs Milwaukee Bucks (3-1) 4:00pm ET
It feels like a lifetime ago that the Magic pulled out Game 1 of this series, and I think part of that is because the Bucks responded by whooping that ass in every game since. Back to back games with at least 120 points, they are shooting 50/41% since the opener while also turning up their defense. The Magic are shooting just 40% in the last three games and I think it's safe to say order has been restored. Common sense says the Bucks will end this today, so what should they focus on? Pretty simple if you ask me, they need to get Khris Middleton right. In their three wins he's only shooting 34/38% which is by far the worst shooting on the entire roster. That can't happen for this team's #2. Guys like Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Wes Matthews have all been great since the opener. But for this Bucks team to get past MIA they need elite level play from Middleton and honestly Eric Bledsoe as well who hasn't been all that great either (43/25%). My guess is Giannis will get them a nice lead early and you'll be able to have this game on while doing laundry or some shit.
For ORL, you just want to compete. At least make the Bucks earn it. I'll be pretty disappointed if this game is over in the first quarter. From what I can tell Aaron Gordon is questionable, but why on earth would you play him? The Magic had a decent bubble run in my opinion, Vucevic established himself as a legit stud down low and we even saw flashes from Fultz. But when you have the injuries this team had combined with having to go up against a historic team, a series wrapping up in 5 is pretty much what you expect.
Oklahoma City Thunder (2-2) vs Houston Rockets (2-2) 6:30pm ET
Now this is the game I cannot wait for. We know Russell Westbrook has been ruled out and we also know that the Thunder have stolen all the momentum in this series. The past two games have been incredible and a lot of that is due to the fact that the Thunder guard trio is playing out of their mind. In these back to back wins the CP3/Shai/Schroder trio is averaging 76 points with two of the three shooting over 51% from the floor. That's changed the entire series and the Rockets need to find a way to limit them offensively. You have to cut off all three heads of that snake if you want to beat the Thunder. There's also the Lu Dort factor that as this point we simply cannot ignore
this isn't an accident. Dort has been incredible on Harden this series and it's no surprise the Rockets won one of the games he didn't play in. I don't think anyone is truly a "Harden Stopper", but he's making his life pretty tough at the moment. With this being such a huge swing game, that matchup becomes even more important.
On the Rockets side, listen they are going to trust the math. They know that if they have a night where they don't shoot like assholes from three, chances are they win. But you can't ignore the choke factor. I'm sorry but it's part of the Rockets postseason history until proven otherwise. I look at these last two losses and I see a team that keeps running out of gas. Over the last two, the Rockets are one of the worst 4th quarter shooting teams in the playoffs (34/22%) while also taking the second fewest fourth quarter FTA (3.0). James Harden is shooting just 36/20% in the fourth quarters of both of these losses. Eric Gordon is shooting 25/12% (!!!!!!). If their defense is going to take a step back in these big moments, this team can't also have their two best offensive players no show.
That's why to me, the Rockets have all the pressure today. Not only are they the higher seed, but teams that had a 2-0 lead won the series 93.6% of the time. There have been 420 series all time where someone had a 2-0 lead and the team that was down has won in 6 only 12 times and won in 7 only 9. I think if the Rockets get down 3-2 we'll see them activate Westbrook, but just like the Clippers last night this is the Rockets chance to stop the bullshit and make a statement. Come out and blow this team out and Rockets fans can exhale. Have another game where you choke late and it's only going to get worse.
Portland Trail Blazers (1-3) vs Los Angeles Lakers (3-1) 9:00pm ET
Just like the Magic, all I want from the Blazers today is at least make this a competitive game. With no Damian Lillard, that's probably not going to happen. It's much more likely that we get another 15-0 lead for the Lakers in the first quarter. Listen, the Blazers were a fun story, Dame's run was fucking incredible to watch, but the Lakers are awake now. LeBron took their Game 1 punch and then responded with absolute haymakers. He's had enough of this team and you can tell. When him and AD are focused and on top of their game, the gap between these two teams is wider than the Grand Canyon. It's crucial for the Lakers to not play with their food and end their series as soon as possible, especially if the Clippers could potentially be going 7 and their next round opponent could be going 7 as well.
I don't know how the Blazers are going to score enough to make this competitive, so unless there is a Vintage Melo throwback on the horizon or CJ goes nuts and drops 50, my gut says this is going to get ugly. The sad news is that even if the Blazers somehow win this game, we're done seeing Dame in the bubble
so we may as well just get this wrapped up in 5.