NBA Today complements Keith Smith’s “NBA Yesterday” feature, “The Skip Pass.” While Smith’s feature emphasizes what we “saw,” this will focus on what to look for in the night’s upcoming games.
Boston Celtics (1) at Chicago Bulls (8), Chicago leads series 2-0
7 p.m. ET, ESPN
So far, the upset brewing in the playoffs is the Chicago Bulls taking a 2-0 lead over the Boston Celtics. It is only the second time in NBA history that a No. 8 seed has led a No. 1 seed 2-0. The last time that happened was 1993 when the Los Angeles Lakers went up two games on the Phoenix Suns. If you’re a Celtics fan, the good news is that the Suns came back and won the next the three to take the series 3-2.
Amazingly, there have been 498 completed series in NBA history, and the lower seed has won the first three games just 18 times, per WhoWins.com. The Bulls would be the 19th with a win. Regardless, when the lower seed has taken a 2-0 lead, they are 28-3. They are 18-13 in Game 3, and they have won the series all 18 times they’ve taken that 3-0 series lead.
The Celtics are hanging on by a very thin thread already, although they get some relief in the form of Rajon Rondo’s broken thumb. Rondo had been balling in this series, and his absence means good things for Isaiah Thomas and Boston. Jerian Grant will get the start in place of Rondo.
Still, the Celtics aren’t getting any bigger (the Bulls have 23 more boards through the first two games), and they’re not going to magically get a player than Jimmy Butler. Boston still has a lot of work to do, even with Rondo sidelined.
Houston Rockets (3) at Oklahoma City Thunder (6), Houston leads series 2-0
9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Rockets dominated the first game and won it going away.
Good Russell Westbrook dominated the second game for the first three quarters. He was involving his teammates, not forcing shots, and the Thunder were running away with the game.
Bad Russell Westbrook dominated the fourth quarter. He didn’t involve his teammates, forced shots, and tried to engage the entire Rockets team in a 3-point shooting contest. Needless to say, that’s a contest Westbrook is going to lose almost every time. And, yeah, he lost.
For the Thunder to beat the Rockets, it’s going to have to take a team effort. One-on-five might win games against inferior opponents, but it isn’t going to win a series against a better team.
Los Angeles Clippers (4) at Utah Jazz (5), Series tied 1-1
10 p.m. ET, ESPN2
The Clippers and Jazz are tied 1-1, and at least based on record and the average margin of victory it promised us the closest series. So far, it hasn’t disappointed, even with the shocking injury to Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert seconds into Game 1. The Jazz took the opener on a Joe Johnson buzzer-beater, and the Clippers took the second game, 99-91.
The Clippers won Game 2 by dominating inside and outscoring the Jazz 60-38 in the paint. One can’t help but think that might have gone just a little bit differently if Gobert was there. Sadly for Jazz fans, he will not be there in Game 3, either. The Jazz will need to find an answer for DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin if they’re going to hold serve in their own court and not surrender the advantage they won with that impressive Game 1 victory.