Would the Utah Jazz prefer the Dallas Mavericks or LA Clippers in the second round?
Donovan Mitchell was excellent in his first action since April 16, the Jazz made a bunch of 3-pointers, Rudy Gobert dominated down the stretch and Grizzlies such as Dillon Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas who were great in Game 1 were more neutralized in Game 2 because of foul trouble.
Meanwhile, in Utah’s portion of the Western Conference playoff bracket, the Dallas Mavericks have taken a 2-0 lead on the LA Clippers. The winner of the Jazz-Grizzlies series will take on the winner of Mavericks-Clippers in the second round.
When the bracket was finalized, the prevailing thought was that the Clippers would take care of the Mavericks with relative ease. That has obviously proven not to be the case. The thinking went that LA has both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George along with a very good supporting cast, while Dallas is basically a one-man show of Luka Doncic with a decent Kristaps Porzingis and not a whole lot else.
Well, Leonard has been excellent and George has been good (although he has made just 3 of 15 3-point attempts), but Nicolas Batum is the only other player averaging in double figures, and he just is barely getting there at exactly 10 points per game. On the flip side, Doncic has been downright unguardable (averaging 35 points, nine assists and 8.5 rebounds), but four other Mavericks are averaging double figures as well.
It still feels like the Clippers might have enough to put up a fight, but the math of a best-of-seven series is obviously not working in their favor. The Jazz still have work to do in their own series against the Grizzlies, but assuming things go as expected, it’s probably time to start paying more attention to Dallas as their potential next opponent.
Elsewhere around the NBA playoffs ...
- The Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns series is setting up to be fun. After the No. 2-seed Suns took Game 1, the seventh-seeded Lakers responded with a win in Game 2. We wrote here after Game 1 that a potential injury scare for Suns point guard Chris Paul could have changed the complexion of the series, but that it appeared he would be fine. In Game 2, however, he played just 23 minutes and scored six points with five assists and three rebounds. His health could be a huge factor during the rest of the series.
- Most everyone figured the four Western Conference first-round series were going to be wild, and the Denver Nuggets-Portland Trail Blazers series has officially entered that zone. The No. 6-seed Blazers took Game 1 before the No. 3-seed Nuggets responded with a Game 2 victory as the series now moves from Denver to Portland. It’s shaping up to be pretty spicy.
- On the contrary, the first-round matchups in the Eastern Conference were not expected to be so great, and that has proven to be true thus far, as the higher-seeded teams in the 1-8, 2-7 and 3-6 matchups all have 2-0 leads, even if a couple of the six games have been good.
- The one exception is the 4-5 matchup between the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks. Not only is the series tied at a game apiece, but both contests have been great. The Hawks won Game 1 on a last-second shot from Trae Young, and then Game 2 was tied with less than five minutes to go before the Knicks pulled away and won by nine.