Well, the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs is over. Well, at least for the Marquette fans out there, the first round is over. Every first round series that had a former MU player involved as either a player or a head coach has wrapped up, and three of the five teams we were watching have advanced to the second round. FUN FACT: The NBA officially calls this round “Conference Semi-Finals” so we’ve got that going for us, I guess.
Anyway, let’s do what we did for the first round: Go team by team and make sure that we all know when to tune in to watch the former MU stars in action.
We’re going by regular season record again here, and yet again, this gives us a series with two former Golden Eagles involved......
Jae Crowder — Phoenix Suns (51-21)
Markus Howard — Denver Nuggets (47-21)
Crowder and the Suns had the #2 seed in the Western Conference and knocked out the defending champs, the #7 seeded Los Angeles Lakers by a series score of 4-2. Phoenix won the first game before the Lakers took the next two as well as the lead through three games. It was all Suns, all the time after that, though, as Phoenix won 100-92, 115-85, and 113-100 to close the series out. That sounds like it wasn’t that impressive of a win in Game 6, but the Suns were up 29, 48-19, with 7:44 left in the second quarter. The Suns never led by fewer than 10 points the rest of the way.
Crowder had himself a nice little series, averaging 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. He officially struggled to shoot the ball against the Lakers, connecting on just 30.4% of his 46 long range attempts in the six game set buuuuuut Crowder went 6-for-9 on threes in Game 6 to help the Suns build that big ol’ lead and coast to the W.
Oh, and he was ejected with 30 seconds to go in Game 6 for salsa dancing in the lane. Watch the left side of the video as it pans over.
Jae Crowder taunts LeBron by Salsa dancing pic.twitter.com/FGAIxKHwq1— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 4, 2021
The Suns will be squaring off against Markus Howard and the Nuggets in the second round after Denver eliminated Portland 4-2 with a 126-115 victory in Game 6 on Thursday night. This was a wild series, with the winning team in each game scoring at least 115 points and four of the six games being decided by at least 11 points. Denver had to withstand a 55 point outing from Damian Lillard in Game 5, as the Trail Blazers star guard shot 12-for-17 from behind the arc and chipped in 10 assists and six rebounds..... but the Nuggets won 147-140 in double overtime.
Markus Howard is the Golden Eagle of interest here, and boy, is he having an interesting playoff run. Howard played a grand total of 205 minutes for Denver in the regular season. In just six playoff games, Howard is already up to 92 minutes played. He’s getting 15 minutes of burn a night as the Nuggets are plastering together a backcourt one way or another in the postseason, and Howard is averaging 5.5 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.5 assists while shooting 45% from behind the arc. It’s important to point out that Howard is 9-for-20 on threes in the postseason after going 18-for-65 (27.7%) in 37 regular season games.
Can he keep this up against the Suns? Let’s find out!
Game 1: Monday, June 7, 9pm Central, TNT
Game 2: Wednesday, June 9, 8:30pm Central, TNT
Game 3: Friday, June 11, 9pm Central, ESPN
Game 4: Sunday, June 13, 7pm Central, TNT
Doc Rivers — Philadelphia 76ers (49-23)
Well, let’s just put our cards on the table, shall we? The Sixers’ chances of beating the Atlanta Hawks and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals miiiiiiight come down to how much coachin’ ‘em up Doc Rivers can do. Joel Embiid suffered a small tear of the meniscus in his right knee early in Game 4 of their series against Washington. That was the only game that the Wizards won as Philly took the series in a 4-1 gentleman’s sweep, as Philly couldn’t adjust on the fly with Embiid out for the rest of the game.
Now they know he’s going to be out, although they’re saying he’s “day-to-day.” Embiid averaged 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game along with a steal and just over a block as the Sixers earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Ignoring Game 4 and his 11 minutes played, Embiid averaged 29.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.0 steals per game against the Wizards. He was doing a whole hell of a lot to propel the team, but they got caught when he was injured even though they easily beat Washington, 129-112, in Game 5 to close the series out.
What does Doc have in his bag of tricks for the second round? How injured is Embiid? Is he really day-to-day or are the 76ers going to have to figure out a way to get past the Hawks and Trae Young before they even think about getting their MVP candidate back in the lineup?
Game 1: Sunday, June 6, 12pm Central, ABC
Game 2: Tuesday, June 8, 6:30pm Central, TNT
Game 3: Friday, June 11, 6:30pm Central, ESPN
Game 4: Monday, June 14, 6:30pm Central, TNT
Game 5: Wednesday, June 16, 6:30pm Central, TNT
Game 6: Friday, June 18, 6:30pm Central, ESPN
Game 7: Sunday, June 20, 7pm Central, TNT