Everything You Need To Know For Day 16 Of The NBA Playoffs
If you thought you were going to have a second to catch your breath after how awesome the games have been to start this week I have some bad news for you. We're getting two more big time matchups today including another epic Game 7 duel. The other matchup with MIL/MIA will be must watch as well after the Bucks dropped Game 1 and Jimmy Butler went nuts, so let's get you ready for everything you'll see once the games finally arrive.
Miami Heat (1-0) vs Milwaukee Bucks (0-1) 5:30pm ET
This isn't exactly a must win for the Bucks, but it is an opportunity for the Heat to really make a statement. I think Bucks fans aren't really panicked yet because they saw this same story last postseason, but it doesn't really seem like anyone on the Heat is going to quit like Kyrie quit for the Celts in that matchup. You also have to feel pretty good because the trio of Giannis/Middleton/Lopez were both effective and efficient in that first game. Getting the version of Middleton we saw in Game 1 will be crucial, but more importantly the Bucks need to find a way to close this game strong. In their fourth quarter of Game 1 they scored just 18 points on 37/37% splits. They had the same number of turnovers (6) as FGM (6). That can't happen. Giannis needs to play like the MVP he is and not go 1-4.
There's reason to think they'll be better this time around, mostly because during the entire season the Bucks were the #1 fourth quarter scoring team in the NBA at 29.4 points while shooting 48%. To me, Game 1s collapse was more the exception than the rule. I'm also interested to see how they switch up their defense and if we actually do get Giannis on Jimmy Butler. My gut says the Bucks will stay true to their system unless he starts going nuts, which at that point Giannis HAS to take that matchup.
For MIA, to win Game 1 while getting nothing from either Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro was huge. They combined to shoot just 4-15. My guess is that won't happen again. The Bucks are perfectly fine allowing teams to shoot as many threes as they want so expect them to get plenty of looks. As I write this Eric Bledsoe is still questionable and that's huge because Goran Dragic is having his way with pretty much any defender the Bucks have. His offensive production takes a huge amount of pressure off guys like Butler, and if the Bucks don't have Bledsoe in Game 2 I imagine it'll be more of the same.
Houston Rockets (3-3) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3) 9:00pm ET
After last night's Game 7 I think we're all foaming at the mouth for this matchup. Lord only knows how stressed both Thunder and Rockets fans are right now. A matchup that is truly a toss up, you could tell me anything about how this game is going to unfold and I'd believe you. The one thing I do know is that the Thunder are going to compete. Chris Paul looks like he's on a mission. The three guard trio has been a problem for the Rockets to handle for most of this series. At the same time if the Rockets finally don't choke from three in a Game 7, they'll move on.
The one thing I know for certain though is the Rockets do not want to get into a close game down the stretch. Not only because Chris Paul is the best clutch player in the league averaging 52.2% shooting during the season, but he also just showed us why in Game 6. Conversly, both James Harden and Russell Westbrook sneaky struggle in the clutch. Take their fourth quarter performances in Game 6. They combined to go 3-11 with 3 turnovers. We've seen time and time again where James Harden runs out of gas late in these playoff games. That's why if things are close I sneaky lean OKC. The way their offense is structured has them better prepared for those type of situations. With the Rockets it's basically threes or nothing. Chances are Harden and Westbrook won't have 12 combined turnovers again, but the real key is what they get from Eric Gordon. He's been BRUTAL this entire series and is shooting just 38/18%. He was a rough 3-12 (1-6) with 4 TOs in Game 6 and had just 2 points in the fourth quarter. He needs to show up as that 3rd guy and be efficient if the Rockets want to pull this out.
Either way, today is setting up to be yet another fantastic night of playoff basketball. While both games do have a blowout factor, I'm hoping for two competitive games that are loaded with drama. Thankfully that's what we've had so far this week and I need that to continue tonight.