Injuries have dominated the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs so far.
Both teams that competed in the 2021 Finals likely will miss star players for the remainder of the first round of the playoffs.
The Suns take on the Pelicans in Game 4 in New Orleans without star Devin Booker, who is out with a hamstring injury. The Bucks were in the same boat with Khris Middleton, who missed Game 4 against the Bulls in Chicago with a sprained MCL. Despite missing Middleton, the Bucks routed the Bulls, 119-95, on Sunday.
The Golden State Warriors were moving full steam ahead after Steph Curry returned to the lineup, but were unable to complete the series sweep of the Denver Nuggets. No team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA playoff series.
SATURDAY RECAP:T’wolves pull even with Grizzlies; Celtics go up 3-0 on Nets
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Can the Pelicans even series with Suns?
Phoenix took a 51-49 lead into halftime against New Orleans in Game 4. Playing again without injured star Devin Booker, the Suns received strong efforts from Deandre Ayton (14 points, four rebounds), Cam Johnson (10 points) and Mikal Bridges ( eight points, four rebounds, three assists, one block). Chris Paul had just four points but also had six assists for the Suns who own a 2-1 series lead. Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 14 points followed by CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas, each of whom had 11 points and six rebounds. The Pelicans made just 3 of 16 3-pointers, and the Suns weren’t much better at 3-for-11.
Quick takeaways from Heat’s Game 4 victory
Atlanta had no answer for Miami’s Jimmy Butler, who had 36 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four steals, a block and zero turnovers in the Heat’s 110-86 victory against the Hawks in Game 4.
Miami has a 3-1 series lead and can finish off Atlanta in Game 5 in Miami on Tuesday (7 pm ET, NBA TV).
Butler had 13 of his points in the second quarter when the Heat began to pull away from the Hawks and 12 points in the fourth when the Heat put them away.
Trae Young’s struggles continued against a solid and physical defense. On one possession, the Heat’s PJ Tucker, Bam Adebayo and Butler defended Young. Even for an All-NBA player like Young, that makes for a difficult game. Young was 3-for-11 from the field and 3-for-10 on 3-pointers.
It’s tough for the Hawks to win a playoff a game with those numbers from Young, and even more difficult when he doesn’t get much help, especially offensively.
Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari were 0-for-7 and Kevin Huerter 1-for-5 from 3.
The Heat, who were without injured Kyle Lowry, shot 31% on 3-pointers – and still won easily. They took advantage of Atlanta turnovers, including five by Young and four by Huerter, and outscored the Hawks 25-10 on points off turnovers.
Stephen A. Smith rips Ben Simmons
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith lambasted Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons after the team ruled him out for Game 4 against the Boston Celtics on Monday.
“I feel bad for anybody who was his teammate,” Smith said of the Simmons situation during halftime of Sunday’s Golden State-Denver game. “He quit on LSU. He quit on the Philadelphia 76ers. And now, he ain’t showing up for the Brooklyn Nets. We can point to all the excuses, all the rationale behind it that we want to. I do recall, despite him not playing, he still filed a grievance to collect $20 million that he has not earned.”
It was 46 seconds of fire from Smith.
There was chatter that Simmons targeted Game 4 for his season debut, but that’s not happening. Boston has dominated the series and has a 3-0 series lead.
Heat halfway to commanding series lead
Miami’s Jimmy Butler took over in the second quarter with 13 points, and 15-0 run late in the second quarter helped the Heat to a 55-41 halftime against Atlanta. The Heat, playing without injured Kyle Lowry, are looking to take a 3-1 series lead. Butler has 19 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. DeAndre Hunter led the Hawks with 11 points, and Trae Young had six on points on 2-for-7 shooting
Nuggets avoid sweep vs. Warriors
Denver’s Nikola Jokic may or may not win his second consecutive MVP. He is either magnificent way. Jokic had 37 points, eight rebounds and six assists and helped the Nuggets avoid a sweep with a 126-121 victory over Golden State in Game 4. The Warriors can close out the series at home on Wednesday (10 pm ET, TNT).
Will Barton hit a huge corner 3-pointer with 7.9 seconds left, putting the nuggets ahead 126-121.
Jokic had help, too: Monte Morris scored 24 points, including the go-ahead floater, Aaron Gordon had 21 points, six rebounds and four assists and rookie Bones Hyland had 15 points off the bench.
Golden State’s Steph Curry had a strange game even with xx points. He was 10-for-23 from the field, just 3-for-11 on 3s, missed four free throws in a game for the first time in his NBA career but had 15 points in the fourth quarter when the Warriors needed his offense.
Klay Thompson had 32 points on 12-for-20 shooting, including 7-for-11 on 3s.
Overall, the Warriors shot the ball well at 50% from the field, 35.3% on 3s and 71.9% from the foul line – just not as good as Denver’s 56.2%, 48.4% and 80.6%.
No Lowry for Heat in Game 4
Miami guard Kyle Lowry (left hamstring strain) was listed on the official injury report as questionable for Game 4 against Atlanta on Sunday, and just before tip-off, the Heat ruled him out. The Heat own a 2-1 series lead but lost Game 3 where Lowry exited the game late in the third quarter and did not return.
Nuggets trying to avoid elimination
Denver All-Star Nikola Jokic scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first half against Golden State and helped the Nuggets to a 63-52 halftime lead with their season on the line. Down 3-0 in the series, Denver had their best half of the series. Aaron Gordon and Bones Hyland each had 11 points for the Nuggets who shot 48.7% from the field and 41.2% on 3-pointers.
An oddity: Steph Curry – just 1-for-6 on 3s – missed consecutive free throws late in the second quarter. Andrew Wiggins had 14 points for the Warriors who shot 4-for-15 on 3s in the opening half. Golden State’s Klay Thompson (10 points) picked up his fourth foul with .5 seconds left in the half.
No Simmons in Game 4 for Nets
There had been some chatter that Brooklyn’s Ben Simmons would make his season debut in Game 4 against Boston. However, the Nets, who trail the Celtics 3-0 in the first-round series, ruled him out of Monday’s game with back soreness/return to competition reconditioning. The way the Nets are playing (not well), it also doesn’t make sense for them to put Simmons in that situation with their season on the line. That’s just too much pressure for a player who hasn’t played all season.
VanVleet questionable for Game 5
Toronto’s Fred VanVleet, a key piece to its success, is questionable for Game 5 against Philadelphia on Monday (8 pm, NBA TV). VanVleet sustained a strained left hip in the second quarter of the Raptors’ 110-102 Game 4 victory on Saturday. The Raptors, down 3-1 in the series, have been battered by health issues in this series.
Quick takeaways from Bucks’ Game 4 victory
One team has Giannis Antetokounmpo and the other team doesn’t. The Bucks star had 32 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks, lifting Milwaukee to a 119-95 victory over Chicago in Game 4. The Bucks own a 3-1 series lead and can eliminate the Bulls Wednesday in Milwaukee.
The Bucks made use of the 3-pointer – primarily from Grayson Allen (playoff career-high 27 points) and Jrue Holiday (26 points.) Allen made 10-for-12 shots from the field, including 6-for-7 on 3s , and Holiday made 5-for-8 on 3s. With Khris Middleton out with an injury, Allen has stepped up. He had 22 points in Game 3 and is the first Bucks player to make at least five 3-pointers in consecutive playoff games.
Milwaukee is a solid defensive team so credit where it’s due, but the Bulls made just 38.9% of their shots and just 25% on 3s. In three losses in the series, the Bulls didn’t reach 90 in two and didn’t get to a 100 in the third.
Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 24 points and 13 assists, and DeMar DeRozan added 23 points and Patrick Williams 20 points and 10 rebounds. DeRozan missed all five of his 3-point attempts.
Bulls’ Caruso out for the rest of the game
Chicago has ruled guard Alex Caruso out for the remainder of Game 4, the team said. The Bulls said Caruso sustained a facial injury, and ESPN reported Caruso is undergoing an exam for a concussion. Alex Caruso did not start the second half and was not on the bench with the team. Caruso did not score in the first half but had four assists, four rebounds and a steal.
It’s official: Embiid has torn ligament in thumb
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers confirmed on Sunday that center Joel Embiid has a torn ligament in his right thumb but the star will play through it until the Sixers’ postseason is over. It’s likely Embiid will need surgery after the season.
It’s clear the thumb bothers him. “Obviously, he’s going to struggle with it a little bit,” Rivers said on Saturday. “He’s got to get used to it, too. He’s never played with it. I think we’re both going to learn a lot – what he can do and what he can’t do.”
Bucks in charge in Game 4
Even without injured Khris Middleton, Milwaukee is trying to make quick work of Chicago in its first-round series. Up 2-1, the Bucks took a 56-41 lead into halftime of Game 4. Bobby Portis (11 points, five rebounds) and Grayson Allen (16 points, three steals) led the Bucks in the first half. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo had 12 points, six rebounds and three assists. Allen continues to make 3-pointers – he was 4-for-5 on 3, and the Bucks shot 47.4% on nine made 3s in the first half.
Zach LaVine had 12 points and Nik Vucevic had 11 for the Bulls, who were just 29.4% on 3s and did not shoot a free throw in the opening two quarters.
‘Third Splash Brother’ Jordan Poole has long history as a playoff breakout star
This isn’t the first time Poole has decided the postseason would be his breakout party.
There’s the shot everyone remembers – his buzzer-beater 3-pointer that pushed the Michigan Wolverines past the Houston Cougars in the second round of the 2018 men’s NCAA Tournament. Poole, then a freshman, came off the bench with Duncan Robinson for a team that reached the championship game.
But Poole’s playoff poise actually traces its origin story to his freshman year of high school, long before his performances through three games of the 2022 NBA playoffs have helped the Golden State Warriors take a 3-0 series lead over the Denver Nuggets.
As a teenager at Rufus King — a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, public school powerhouse — Poole buried a shot from just inside the logo, sending the game to overtime. Rufus King won and advanced to the state tournament.
“He’s a winner,” then coach Jim Gosz told USA TODAY Sports from Denver, hours before Gosz watched the Warriors punish the Nuggets for the third straight game. Poole had 27 points to complement Games 1 and 2 of 30 and 29, respectively. “Everywhere he’s gone, he’s won.”
— Chris Bumbaca