It was a busy slate in the National Basketball Association playoffs on Sunday, and no one was able to punch their ticket to the next round or gain the upper hand in their series. The San Antonio Spurs faced an elimination game without their head coach Gregg Popovich, but they did their coach proud by staving off elimination and forcing at least a Game 5 against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. All of the other series were in the Eastern Conference, and all three series were knotted up at two games apiece with some spectacular basketball games in Indianapolis and Milwaukee. Let's get started!
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Milwaukee Bucks 104, Boston Celtics 102:
The Celtics won the first two games of this high-scoring series. While the Bucks might not be covering, going just 1-3 against the spread, they're even Steven in this best-of-seven series now after Monday's two-point win. If you're a fan of Vegas totals, the 'over' has hit in four in a row in this series, too.
The Bucks were without John Henson for a second straight game due to a sore back, so Tyler Zeller stepped into the starting five again. He was limited to just 11 minutes, however, as he spent the night at the mercy of the referee's whistle with four quick personal fouls. That thrust Thon Maker into action and he delivered, posting eight points with two rebounds and an assist in his 31 minutes off the bench. However, it was his five blocked shots that were turning heads and giving fantasy owners something to pay attention to as they do some early scouting for the 2018-19 season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was also doing his thing, dropping in 12-of-20 from the field to post 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists with just two turnovers across his 40 minutes. He and Khris Middleton combined for 50 of the 73 points posted by Bucks starters, and Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Zeller were each good for two blocked shots. That's in addition to the five swats by Maker, and three by Jabari Parker, as the Bucks bigs made it difficult for the Celtics to penetrate the lane all day long. In fact, the 14 blocked shots were a playoff franchise record.
Parker went for 16 points, seven rebounds, two steals and an assist with the three swats in 25 minutes off the bench, as Milwaukee's reserved outscored Boston's bench by a 31-15 count. That helped the Bucks draw even in the series, making it a best-of-three now to advance to the next round.
The final total in this game was very interesting, too, and depending on your offshore book or shop, the result was either an under, a push or an over. Hopefully you didn't take a bad beat.
San Antonio Spurs 103, Golden State Warriors 90:
The Spurs delivered an emotional victory in Game 4 against the defending champs in an elimination game, staving off the golf course for now. Their coach Popovich missed his second consecutive game after the death of his wife, Erin. Ettore Messina was again at the reins and he led Manu Ginobili to a victory in what might be his final game in the city of San Antonio. Messina, who coached Ginobili in his early 20s in Italy in the EuroLeague, was stepping in for the absent coach.
Ginobili delivered a vintage playoff performance in what could have been his farewell gift to the home fans, posting 16 points with five assists and three rebounds over 25 minutes while hitting 5-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc. He led the bench in points and he had a plus-18 rating, second only to Patty Mills on the Spurs. San Antonio was doing work from downtown all evening, as they finished 15-of-28 from behind the arc, including three triples apiece from LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu, Mills and Dejounte Murray.
Aldridge bagged the team's only double-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot over 38 minutes, while Rudy Gay contributed 14 points with seven rebounds, two assists and two steals over his 37 minutes. Danny Green wasn't terribly effective, going 2-of-7 from the field, but he did knock down two 3-pointers. Tony Parker also had a turn back the clock kind of performance, going for nine points on 4-of-7 from the field in his 16 minutes off the pine.
Kevin Durant did everything in his power to sweep the Spurs away, posting 34 points on 12-of-28 from the floor, including 4-of-13 from downtown. He also grabbed 13 rebounds with two assists and a blocked shot, and he was just one of two Warriors starters with double-digit points. Klay Thompson took the circuitous route to his 12 points, hitting just 4-of-16 from the floor while turning it over three times. Overall, Golden State was uncharacteristically sloppy with the basketball, turning it over 16 times, including five by Draymond Green The other starters not named Durant were just 11-of-39 (28.2 percent) from the field.
Washington Wizards 106, Toronto Raptors 98:
In the history of the Toronto Raptors they have never held a 3-1 series lead in the playoffs. They still haven't.
The No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference led 2-0 after leaving Toronto after Game 2, but they were back to their underachieving playoff selves in Games 3 and 4 in D.C. DeMar DeRozan did everything in his power to try and change the narrative for the Raps, dumping in 35 points with 14-of-18 from the free-throw line, and Kyle Lowry was fairly effective with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting in his 39 minutes. However, the Raps could use some other scoring options and no one stepped to the forefront over the past couple of games. OG Anunoby played through a right ankle injury, soldiering on after a collision with Marcin Gortat before halftime. With Fred VanVleet (shoulder) sidelined, Delon Wright went for seven points, five assists and three rebounds with a steal and blocked shot over 27 minutes.
John Wall answered the bell, though, as he banged home 27 points with 14 assists, six rebounds and three steals over 43 minutes on 10-of-24 shooting, teaming with backcourt partner in crime Bradley Beal. The shooting guard was 10-of-19 from the field for 31 points, including 5-of-7 from behind the 3-point line. It seemed like old times for the Wizards, who have been missing Beal or Wall for lengthy periods of time this season due to injury. When they're in the lineup at the same time they give Washington one of the best one-two punches in the backcourt.
Gortat was a very efficient 6-of-8 from the field to post 12 points with six rebounds, an assist and a steal. Like Gortat, Otto Porter Jr. was good for 12 points and six rebounds, and Kelly Oubre also hit double digits in points, going for 10 points. He managed to get to the free-throw line seven times, converting six of his attempts.
Like Milwaukee above, Washington was able to hold serve in their two home games and go into Game 5 on the road with renewed confidence despite entering the series as a heavy underdog.
Cleveland Cavaliers 104, Indiana Pacers 100:
The Cavaliers haven't exactly been hitting on all cylinders, and the home team and upstart Pacers were looking like they were in good position to take a 3-1 series lead. However, as has been the case for most of his career, LeBron James took his team on his back and led them to an important and much-needed road victory.
The King hit 12-of-22 from the field while finishing with a game-high 32 points while adding 13 rebounds, seven assists and two blocked shots over 46 minutes. For the second consecutive game he also played the entire second half without rest, willing his team to a 2-2 series split and home-court advantage heading back to Cleveland for Game 5. For LeBron, it was his 100th game with 30 or more points in the playoffs, second only to Michael Jordan. Kevin Love pulled down 11 boards to help on the glass, although he was a dismal 2-of-10 from the floor to finish with just five points. With George Hill sidelined by back spasms, Jose Calderon made the start and was 2-of-4 from the field with five points, two rebounds, two assists and just one turnover in 19 minutes. Kyle Korver banged home four triples and was improved with 18 points and a surprising two blocked shots, while Jordan Clarkson hit two treys to end up with 12 points over 22 minutes. Korver now has 200 career postseason 3-pointers.
The Pacers made a valiant run in the second half, erasing a 16-point deficit, briefly taking the lead in the second half. It appears the Cavs were in some real trouble, and it was a one-possession game down the stretch late. All five starters finished with 10 or more points, and the Pacers had seven players with double-digit point totals. The balance was nice, and nearly enough to push them over the hump and into a commanding 3-1 series lead. When they look back on what went wrong they might point to the free-throw line, where they were just 61.5 percent. Domantas Sabonis was 9-of-12 from the field with 19 points and six rebounds, but Victor Oladipo was a dismal 5-of-20 from the floor to end up with 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots. For DFS purposes, the stat line was nice, but the awful shooting will haunt him and Darren Collison if the Pacers cannot complete the upset series win.
* Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves - TNT - 8:00 PM
* Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz - TNT - 10:30 PM