Who’s ready for the second round of the NBA Playoffs?
Better question: Do you really call them “Conference Semifinals” like the NBA likes to insist, or do you just stick with “Second Round” when talking with your friends and/or enemies? Holler in the comments if you feel strongly about this.
We’ve got three former Marquette players to keep an eye on in this round of the playoffs, although only one is going to be playing on the court. Let’s get right to it!
Jimmy Butler & Jamal Cain — Miami Heat
Well, we knew we were losing two former Marquette guys out of that first round Milwaukee/Miami series, and so we did. Did anyone expect it to be Butler and Cain advancing? Maybe, maybe not, but I think we can definitively say that no one expected that series to get done in five games.
One of the reasons it went 4-1 to the Heat? Jimmy Butler averaged 37.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.8 steals in the series, and he shot 44% from long range. Yeah, that’ll do it, especially with Tyler Herro out early with a broken hand. Jimmy’s “worst” game of the series was in Miami’s loss, where he finished with 25/3/3/2. I don’t know if Miami can win another series if Butler has to do better than that to make sure that the Heat wins, but I’m certainly excited to see if he can keep putting up more games better than that.
As for Jamal Cain, no, he’s not playing for the Heat. That’s an NBA rules thing, as he’s on a two-way contract and those guys are not eligible for the playoff roster. He is with the team, and you’ve been able to see him cheering on the squad from the bench against Milwaukee. I don’t know where his career goes from here, but man, this has to be a fantastic experience for him.
Miami will be playing the New York Knicks in the conference semifinals, and because the Knicks are the #5 seed and Miami is the #8, yes, New York is officially favored to win. The Knicks got here by way of a 4-1 series win over #4 seed Cleveland in the first round. The two teams split the first two games in Ohio with the Knicks opening up a 1-0 lead to start with, and then it was a gentleman’s sweep from there.
Our old friend Jalen Brunson is the leader for New York, leading the Knicks in scoring (24.0 ppg) and assists (4.8 apg) in the playoffs so far. They get between 11 and 18 points a night from three guys, including Brunson’s old friend Josh Hart. Mitchell Robinson is the leading rebounder for New York at nearly 10 per game.
Game 1: Sunday, April 30, Noon Central, ABC
Game 2: Tuesday, May 2, 6:30pm Central, TNT
Game 3: Saturday, May 6, 2:30pm Central, ABC
Game 4: Monday, May 8, 6:30pm Central, TNT
Game 5: Wednesday, May 10, 6:30pm Central, TNT
Game 6: Friday, May 12, 6:30pm Central, ESPN
Game 7*: Monday, May 15, 7pm Central, TBD
Doc Rivers — Philadelphia 76ers
Doc and the Sixers eliminated Brooklyn in four games in the first round, which is not much of a surprise based on the “under .500 since the Kevin Durant Trade” thing that we mentioned last time around. However, it’s not all good news for Philly, as Joel Embiid is day-to-day with a knee injury. The MVP candidate did not play in Game 4 for the Sixers, but the question stands as to whether that’s a “let’s see if we can buy Joel some rest with a 4-0 lead” or a “yeah, he can not play, let’s cross our fingers that he’s fine for round 2” situation. They did catch a break in that direction as it took Boston six games to finish off Atlanta, so Philadelphia has been off since April 22nd and the Celtics had to play on the 27th.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the big names to watch for Boston, as you’d expect. Both men are averaging north of 26 points per game, and Tatum went for a double-double average against Atlanta at 27.2 points and 10.0 rebounds. Tatum also beat out Marcus Smart for the team lead in assists in that series with 5.3 per game, so solving that riddle is at the top of Doc’s To-Do list.
Game 1: Monday, May 1, 6:30pm Central, TNT
Game 2: Wednesday, May 3, 7pm Central, TNT
Game 3: Friday, May 5, 6:30pm Central, ESPN
Game 4: Sunday, May 7, 2:30pm Central, ESPN
Game 5: Tuesday, May 9, 6:30pm Central, TNT
Game 6: Thursday, May 11, 6:30pm Central, ESPN
Game 7: Sunday, May 14, 2:30pm Central, ABC