NBA Playoffs – Day 24

TONIGHT! Both Eastern Semifinals could come to an end as the Celtics and Cavs look to put the finishing touches on sweeping their opponents. Boston goes first, facing the Philadelphia 76ers down at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s been a hard fought series, but so far, the C’s have been able to maintain an edge, especially tight situations, like their big comeback in Game 2, or overtime in Game 3.

Later on, the Cavs will look to put the Raptors out of their misery. I don’t even know what to say about the Raptors other than it’s time for them to go. LeBron and the Cavs just own them on an existential level, and I’m frankly tired of watching them continually getting their soul ripped out and stomped on as they stare helplessly off into the abyss.

You might wonder what the hell I’m doing home early enough to catch the start of this 6:00 pm Celtics game. Well, I’ll tell you. I had to take the day off to bring the ol’ car to the shop, and it coincidentally was scheduled for a day that the Celtics were playing at six. Sometimes, the stars just align for you…

5:58 pm – Just waiting forΒ Unstoppable to end on TNT. It looks patently ridiculous.

6:00 – There’s not even an introduction by Ernie, Kenny, Chuck and Shaq in Studio J, instead we’re whisked straight to the Wells Fargo Center down in Philadelphia, where narrators Brian Anderson and Kevin McHale set the scene for tonight’s game.

6:02 – Desperate times call for desperate measures, as the Sixers have made a change to their starting lineup…

6:03 – The Celtics win the opening tip, and Game 4 is underway.

6:04 – Joel Embiid backs in on Al Horford and hits a hook shot, putting the Sixers on the board first with a 2-0 lead.

6:06 – Aron Baynes knocks down a corner three, and the Celtics are on the board and have taken an early 3-2 lead.

6:09 – Jayson Tatum has picked up his second foul, going for a block against Dario Saric. He stays in the game for now.

6:11 – We’ve got our first time out with the score Philadelphia 11, Boston 7 with 6:07 left in the first quarter. So far, these teams have combined to shoot 6-22, so we could be in for a grimy game.

6:13 – Oh, and if you’re wondering how things went with the car, she needs a new wheel bearing.

6:16 – After Jaylen Brown knocks down a three, we’ll have another time out with the score Philadelphia 14, Boston 13 with 4:59 left in the opening quarter.

6:27 – The Celtics have to take a time out as Shane Larkin appears to have hurt his shoulder after running into a pick from Joel Embiid. He heads straight to the locker room with the score Boston 19, Philadelphia 18 with 1:20 left in the first quarter.

6:31 – We’re here at the end of the first quarter with the score Boston 22, Philadelphia 21. JJ Redick leads the Sixers with seven points, while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have each scored five for the Celtics. Both teams are down to a combined 14-45 from the field, so we’re still on track for a low scoring, defensive battle here in Game 4.

6:36 – Aron Baynes puts in two free throws for the first points of the second quarter, putting the Celtics up 24-21. He sent to the line after the third foul on Robert Covington, who is yanked back to the bench.

6:40 – News on Shane Larkin…

6:43 – Jayson Tatum gets hit with his third foul, but he continues to remain in the game, at least for now.

6:44 – After a Celtics turnover, we go into a time out with the score Boston 33, Philadelphia 27 with 6:40 left in the first half. Before I forget, I’d like to let everyone know that I am wearing my Dino Radja shirt for tonight’s game. Sorry, I meantΒ HALL OF FAMER DINO RADJA shirt.

6:55 – Joel Embiid draws a foul on Aron Baynes, and it’ll bring us into another time out with a score of Boston 38, Philadelphia 37 with 2:51 left in the second quarter. It hasn’t been the prettiest game, but at least it’s close.

7:00 – FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

Terry Rozier gets called for an offensive foul, and Joel Embiid comes up to him to snatch the ball away, but Rozier won’t give it up and the two exchange a few shoves and pushes.

7:03 – Both Rozier and Embiid earn technical fouls, prompting the always lame, “REFS, YOU SUCK” chant from the Philly crowd. You’d think the ornery folks of Philadelphia could at least muster up a “BULLSHIT” chant.

7:06 – News from the Western Semifinals…

That is really unfortunate. I’ve enjoyed the Jazz, and I am going to miss them.

7:08 – We’ve made it to halftime with a score of Philadelphia 47, Boston 43. Joel Embiid is up to 11 points and 8 rebounds for the Sixers, while Terry Rozier has eight to lead the Celtics.

The energy level began to ramp up towards the end of the half, and the Sixers put together a little flurry to take a small lead. Meanwhile, the Celtics turned the ball over a bit too much, and have four, count ’em, four players with three fouls (Tatum, Smart, Morris and Brown). That could definitely become a big factor down the stretch.

7:25 – Ben Simmons begins the second half with a bucket to extend the Sixers lead to 49-43.

7:32 – As the ball finds itself out of bounds, we’ll have a time out with the score Philadelphia 62, Boston 54 with 6:15 left in the third quarter. The Sixers are definitely playing better, but the Celtics keep hanging around. We’ll see if they can eventually make their move, or if the Sixers will continue to fend them off.

7:40 – Oh dear. Jaylen Brown commits his fifth foul on Ersan Ilyasova. To add insult to injury, Ilyasova converts the layup and hits the free throw to put the Sixers up, 69-62. Brad Stevens leaves him in the game, and Brown immediately earns a technical foul. The Sixers hit the free throw, and their lead is up to 70-62, just after Boston had cut their deficit down to four.

7:42 – Jesus Christ, now Brad Stevens gets hit with a T, a rare occurrence. The Sixers are good on the free throw, and their lead goes up to 71-62.

7:43 – Joel Embiid slams home an offensive board, and we’ll go into a time out with a score of Philadelphia 73, Boston 62 with 2:36 left in a third quarter that is quickly going off the rails for the Celtics, who seem to be losing their composure a bit here. Meanwhile, Embiid is talking a whole bunch of smack as the teams head to their benches.

7:51 – We’re at the end of the third quarter of an increasingly ornery game with a score of Philadelphia 76, Boston 65. Dario Saric leads Philly with 16, while Joel Embiid has 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jayson Tatum’s 15 leads the Celtics.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Celtics lose their cool the way they did in the third. As a result, the Sixers are primed to extend this series, but there’s still plenty of time remaining.

7:56 – Marcus Smart splits a pair of free throws to give us our first point of the fourth quarter, making this a ten point game with the Celtics behind, 76-66.

8:04 – Marcus Morris makes it to the hoop for a layup, and we’ll have a time out with the score Philadelphia 88, Boston 76 with 7:32 left in the game. So far, the Sixers have done a great job keeping the Celtics at arms length. If Boston’s going to make a run, it has to be now.

8:14 – Joel Embiid badly misses a three, and we’ll have a time out after it goes sailing out of bounds with the score Philadelphia 92, Boston 82 with 3:53 to go. The Sixers have continued to do a nice job maintaining this lead. It’s felt more like a 20 point game throughout the fourth quarter due to how hyped up the Sixers and their fans have been, combined with the Celtics inability to come up with some consistent offense this evening.

8:29 – This one draws to a close with a final score of Philadelphia 103, Boston 92.

Dario Saric led the way with 25 points and 8 rebounds after struggling throughout the series, and Ben Simmons finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists. TJ McConnell, inserted into the starting lineup, came up big with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists on 9-12 shooting. Joel Embiid added 15 & 13.

For the Celtics, Jayson Tatum scored 20, and Al Horford chipped in with 10 & 10.

It was a great bounce back game for the Sixers, they got a great boost from TJ McConnell, and some of their struggling players, namely Saric and Simmons, looked more like their regular selves. Meanwhile, the Celtics never established a good offensive flow, and on top of that, they turned the ball over too often. Now, the series heads back up to Boston for Game 5.

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8:37 – We’re sent out to Cleveland where the Raptors will try to match the Sixers and stay alive against the Cleveland Cavaliers, fresh off their latest soul crushing defeat. Ian Eagle and Brent Barry will narrate the action, and if necessary, eulogize the Raptors.

8:41 – The Cavs win the opening tip, and we’re underway at the Quicken Loans Arena.

Kevin Love blocks a shot, but the ball goes out to Kyle Lowry who knocks down a three, and that’s how the first points of Game 4 are scored, giving the Raptors an early 3-0 lead.

8:43 – JR Smith herks and jerks his way within the three point line and hits a jumper, and the Cavs are on the board, down 3-2.

8:48 – After Kyle Korver knocks down a three, we’ll have our first time out with the score Cleveland 15, Toronto 12 with 6:38 left in the first quarter.

8:57 – After LeBron finds JR Smith in the corner for a three, we’ll have another time out with the score Cleveland 26, Toronto 17 with 2:52 left in the first quarter. The Raptors are shooting 7-13 from the floor, including 2-3 from downtown, but it hasn’t mattered because the Cavs are up at 12-15 overall.

9:03 – A Fred VanVleet three inspires a time out as the Raptors have woken up a little bit to make the score Cleveland 29, Toronto 24 with 1:12 left in the first quarter.

9:09 – We’re here at the end of the first quarter with a score of Cleveland 30, Toronto 26. JR Smith leads the Cavs with 12 points on 5-5 shooting. It’s hard to beat them when JR’s on fire like that. Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan has seven for the Raptors. The problem for them remains that despite playing pretty well offensively, they just don’t seem to know how to limit the Cavs on defense. Right now, Cleveland’s up at 68.4% shooting to offset Toronto’s 50%.

9:13 – Pascal Siakam is found under the hoop for a dunk, and the Raptors strike first in the second to cut their deficit down to 30-28.

9:17 – Jonas Valanciunas storms towards the hoop and puts it in, and holy hell, the Raptors are on an 8-0 run to make the score Toronto 38, Cleveland 36 with 7:59 remaining in the first half. As much as the Raptors haven’t been able to stop the Cavs from scoring, Cleveland’s been pretty lousy at keeping Toronto from racking up points as well.

9:25 – LeBron finds Kevin Love near the hoop for an easy bucket, and the Cavs have hit their last five shots to send us into a time out with the score Cleveland 47, Toronto 40 with 5:52 left until halftime.

9:42 – JR Smith knocks down yet another corner three, and the Cavs are on a 10-0 run and running away with the game so dominantly that Ian Eagle just said, “The Raptors have run into a LeBrontasaurus.” I think we could all use a time out with the score Cleveland 61, Toronto 47 with 53.1 seconds left in the first half.

9:45 – We’re here at halftime with the score Cleveland 63, Toronto 47. It’s a little early for this, but the Raptors band has already begun playing lively ragtime music to try and alleviate the panic on the deck of the ship.

JR Smith leads the Cavs with 15 points on 6-6 shooting. Kyle Korver has 13, Kevin Love has 11 and LeBron James, playing the distributor, has 10 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists.

Jonas Valanciunas, coming off the bench tonight, leads the Raptors with ten points, but aside from his stint, the Raptors have been pretty uninspiring.

9:55 – I think it’s time to feed the cat.

9:59 – Here’s another depressing tidbit from Twitter about the state of the Raptors…

10:02 – Serge Ibaka grabs an offensive rebound and puts it in, but the Raptors have a ton of work to do, down 63-49 as we start off the second half.

10:06 – DeMar DeRozan goes into the paint for a layup, and we’ll have a time out with the score Cleveland 69, Toronto 53 with 8:43 left in the third.

10:15 – George Hill spins his way along the baseline for a layup, and the Cavs are getting whatever the hell they want now, and they have the score all the way up to Cleveland 82, Toronto 59 with 5:48 left in the third quarter.

10:31 – We have a time out with the third quarter winding down with the score Cleveland 97, Toronto 72 with 46.1 seconds left on the clock. At this point, scrolling up and down NBA Twitter is more fun than paying attention to this game.

10:35 – We’ve got a review as Jordan Clarkson was going up for a fast break layup, and DeMar DeRozan just flew in and slapped him across the dome. Clarkson even lost a contact lens on that one.

10:37 – Oh wow, it’s a Flagrant-2. That’s an automatic ejection for DeRozan, who finishes a horrendous series with 13 points and 5 rebounds tonight.

10:38 – This one comes to an end with a final score of Cleveland 100, Toron—oh, right, we still have another quarter of this shit to live through. Anyway, the score’s Cleveland 100, Toronto 72. LeBron’s up to 25-7-10 on the night, and Kevin Love is right behind him with 23 & 6. Jonas Valanciunas has 18 off the bench for the Raptors.

This one, and this series as a whole, is primed to take its rightful place in the ever growing library of humiliating Toronto playoff defeats, and here comes the Raptors band for an entire fourth quarter rendition ofΒ Nearer My God To Thee…

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10:43 – Delon Wright kicks off the fourth quarter with a little hook in the paint to close the Raptors gap all the way down to 100-74.

10:49 – A time out with the score Cleveland 100, Toronto 80 with 7:38 left in the ballgame. I’m frankly barely paying attention, and instead discussing Adam Sandler’s character, The Buffoon, with a friend of mine in Los Angeles. I wish I was kidding.

10:53 – See, the problem with making the Titanic/Nearer My God To Thee joke is that who the hell on the Raptors has it been a privilege playing with tonight? Jonas Valanciunas, and that might be it. I am definitely giving this entirely more thought than it deserves.

11:00 – Now TNT is just playing an excerpt of sideline reporter’s Allie LaForce’s commencement speech that she gave at her alma mater instead of paying attention to the game. Everybody’s disrespecting the Raptors at this point.

11:02 – We’ll have one last time out with the score Cleveland 124, Toronto 92 with 1:36 left in the game.

11:08 – This one finally comes to an end with a solemn score of Cleveland 128, Toronto 93.

As always, LeBron James led the way with 29 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists. Kevin Love added 23 points and 6 rebounds, and the Cavs as a team shot an even 59%.

For the Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas was just about the only one who showed up, and they brought him off the bench tonight. He scored 18 points and 5 rebounds. The less said about the rest of the Raptors the better, but let’s see how their two stars did. DeMar DeRozan had 13 points and 5 rebounds before getting ejected, and Kyle Lowry mustered just five points, and dished out ten assists.

Well, that’s it for the Raptors. That tweet from Bruce Arthur sums it up nicely. The Raptors had their greatest season, and it still ended with the same old story. To me, their biggest problem is that their two best players continually disappear in the biggest moments. If they try to rebuild, they could find themselves in the dregs of the league for quite some time. For every quick rebuild like the Celtics, or successful rebuild like the Sixers, there’s the Kings, Suns and Magic. This has been the best stretch in Raptors history, and if this is truly who they are, a great regular season team that throws up all over itself in the playoffs, I think I would still take as much as that as possible over being the Kings, Suns and Magic. I’d rather be hopeful that this group might turn the corner in the postseason one of these days. That being said, their playoff failures get increasingly more depressing and harder to watch with each passing year. It’s a tough situation to be in.

As for the Cavs, they’re the first team to advance to the Conference Finals. That’s important for them, because they’ll have nearly a week of rest, at least. On top of that, LeBron’s added another ass-kicking to his legendary playoff resume. It will be interesting to see what version of the Cavs show up in the next round. Will it be the team that barely defeated the Indiana Pacers, or will it be this dominating team that just dispatched the Raptors? Who the hell knows. The one thing I do know is that I’m glad they won, because that means the end of these whack-ass 6:00 pm weekday playoff games.

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Tomorrow night, the Western Conference Finals could be set, with the Rockets and Warriors both enjoying 3-1 leads over the Jazz and Pelicans. If both of those series end, it could be a relatively quiet week in the NBA playoffs, so let’s hope for at least a little excitement.

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NBA Playoffs – Day 23

We’re back after a one day hiatus spent at a Cinco De Mayo party in Maine, not far from where Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown is from. In fact, while I wasn’t able to document a running account of my basketball watching, I did get to see the games with a grizzled collection of old basketball fans, one of whom recalled seeing Brown play high school ball back in the day. It was a very pro-Celtics crowd, except for a lone Bulls fan who’s been around long enough to remember when legends like Norm Van Lier, Jerry Sloan and Bob Love roamed the courts. He even brought up Reggie Theus at one point.

Anyway, it was a raucous scene in my girlfriend’s father’s living room, as the Celtics outlasted the Sixers, 101-98, in overtime to take a 3-0 lead in the series. Of course, many of us were marveling at the continued outstanding performance by Celtics coach Brad Stevens, but the players deserve the same amount of credit. Stevens can draw up all the beautiful plays he wants, but Marcus Morris still has to throw the perfect inbounds pass, and Al Horford still has to catch it, and everyone else still needs to draw their defenders out of the paint to free up the space to operate.

After that game ended, my girlfriend’s father stormed into the room, having missed the game due to his hosting/margarita making duties. He declared he needed to see the end of the game, so he rewound back to the end of regulation, where the Sixers were so sure they had hit a game winning three, that confetti was released throughout the Wells Fargo Center. Instead, they had only managed a lowly game tying two. I sat and watched overtime again with him, because it was awesome.

I have to admit, I didn’t watch Game 3 between the Raptors and Cavaliers because sometimes, it’s just too painful to watch a team be put to death over the course of the series, and I figured that a big Raptors loss was a foregone conclusion. Well, as usual, they didn’t just lose, they lost in a new and excitingly soul crushing manner, this time courtesy of a ridiculous game winning shot, banked in by LeBron James at the buzzer. Like the Sixers, they now face the insurmountable 3-0 series deficit.

As we made our way back home from Maine this afternoon, Game 4 between the Warriors and Pelicans took place. After suffering a blow out loss in Game 3, the Warriors returned the favor, soundly defeating the Pelicans to go up 3-1 as the series goes back out to Oakland for Game 5.

That leaves one more game this weekend, and now that I’m back home and recovered from the party, I’m back at my familiar spot on the couch and behind the laptop. It’s time for Game 4 between the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz. After the plucky Jazz evened the series with a Game 2 victory in Houston, the Rockets exploded out of the gates in Game 3, immediately running away with the game for a 2-1 series lead. Like the Celtics, Cavs and Warriors before them, they now have a chance to move one win away from the Conference Finals.

7:50 pm – Thankfully, tonight’s exciting installment of the 2018 NBA Playoffs is on TNT.

8:00 – We’re welcomed to Salt Lake City by the familiar voice of Kevin Harlan, which means we can also expect to be hearing the voice of Reggie Miller. You win some, you lose some.

8:02 – Kristen Ledlow informs us that Derrick Favors is coming off the bench and on a 15 minute restriction after turning an ankle in Game 3. Meanwhile, the Rockets win the opening tip, and we’re underway in SLC.

8:04 – Chris Paul, celebrating his 33rd birthday, nets the first points of the game with a jumper over Rudy Gobert to give the Rockets an opening 2-0 lead.

8:06 – Rudy Gobert splits a pair of free throws to get the Jazz on the board, trailing 4-1.

8:07 – Oh dear. We have a time out as Royce O’Neale has seemed to have hurt himself. The Jazz are already without Ricky Rubio, and operating with a limited Derrick Favors. The score’s still Houston 4, Utah 1 with 9:09 left in the first quarter.

8:10 – We’re back underway with Dante Exum in the Jazz lineup and Royce O’Neale back on the Utah bench.

8:13 – Kristen Ledlow chimes in to tell us that Royce O’Neale has his knee wrapped, but will be available to return.

8:16 – A Joe Ingles three sends us into a time out with the score Houston 15, Utah 10 with 4:53 left in the opening quarter. After a slow start, the Jazz are starting to establish a little bit of an offensive flow.

8:29 – James Harden draws the third foul on Dante Exum, which is too bad because the young Australian has provided a real spark for the Jazz. Royce O’Neale returns to action to replace Exum.

8:31 – We’re here at the end of the first quarter with a score of Houston 30, Utah 23. Dante Exum leads the Jazz with nine points off the bench, on 4-5 shooting, but those three fouls have curtailed his contributions for now. James Harden is already up to 14 points for the Rockets, and he’s been getting to the line, putting in 6-7 free throws so far.

8:35 – Chris Paul drives into the hoop and knocks down a floater, and the Rockets strike first in the second quarter to extend their lead to 32-23.

8:42 – After the ball ventures out of bounds, we’ll have a time out with the score Houston 40, Utah 28 with 7:26 left in the first half. The Jazz have gone a bit cold, and it’s left the door open for the Rockets to build up their lead.

8:51 – Royce O’Neale leads a fast break, fakes a pass and takes it in for a layup to bring us into a time out with the score Houston 46, Utah 37 with 4:10 left in the first half and the Jazz trying to stay within shouting distance.

8:59 – We’re in the midst of a flagrant foul review after Joe Ingles pump fakes a three, and PJ Tucker flies by and smacks him in the face. When all is said and done, it is indeed a Flagrant-1 on Tucker.

9:06 – We’ve made it to halftime with the score Houston 58, Utah 48. Donovan Mitchell came alive in the quarter, scoring 13 of his 15 points to personally keep this one interesting. Nevertheless, the Rockets still have a double digit lead, thanks to 18 points from James Harden, and 12 points and 7 rebounds courtesy of Chris Paul.

This one’s starting to get a little ornery, with some chippy behavior from both sides. Hopefully the Jazz can chisel away the Rockets lead in the third quarter, because this one has the potential to be awesome down the stretch. It also has the potential to devolve into a blow out.

9:23 – James Harden gets the second half underway with a three, and it’ll put the Rockets lead up to 61-48.

9:29 – Joe Ingles works his way into the paint and dumps it off for a Rudy Gobert dunk, and we’ll have a time out with the score Houston 67, Utah 57 with 6:57 left in the third quarter.

9:35 – Unfortunate news. The oft-injured Dante Exum seems to have cramped up or pulled a hamstring and limps off the court and is eventually helped the rest of the way to the locker room.

9:40 – With the Rockets on a 7-0 run, the Jazz take a time out with the score Houston 74, Utah 57 with 3:30 left in the third. This one’s starting to get away from the Jazz, unfortunately.

9:49 – The third quarter draws to a close with a score of Houston 79, Utah 65. Donovan Mitchell has 17 to lead the Jazz, but aside from that 13 point second quarter, he’s been very quiet. Meanwhile, Chris Paul has 23 points and 7 rebounds, and James Harden’s right behind him with 21.

The Jazz just don’t have the punch to hang with the Rockets tonight, and on top of that, their players keep getting injured. Never a winning combination.

9:53 – As the third quarter gets underway, we have an update on Dante Exum…

9:54 – With the shot clock winding down, Donovan Mitchell cans a long three to get himself up to 20 points, and get the Jazz deficit down to 79-68 to begin the fourth.

10:00 – We have technical fouls on Clint Capela and Donovan Mitchell after the mouth off to one another after they force a jump ball. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni also earns a T, and Mitchell knocks down the ensuing free throw, and the Jazz trail, 83-74.

10:02 – After Chris Paul gets called for a foul, we have a time out with the score still Houston 83, Utah 74 with 7:35 remaining. The intensity is certainly on the rise, but at some point, the Jazz are going to have to reel off some points if they’re going to salvage this game.

10:11 – We’ve got another time out with the score Houston 92, Utah 82 with 3:41 to go. The Jazz did get this down to a five point game, but they haven’t been able to get any closer, or stop the Rockets from building their lead back up to double digits.

10:16 – Donovan Mitchell drives in for a layup, but Clint Capela sends it away, and gives Mitchell the ol’ Mutombo Memorial Finger Wag. Anyway, it sends us into a time out with the score still Houston 92, Utah 82 with 2:39 left on the clock.

10:22 – Donovan Mitchell fouls out of the ballgame fighting for a rebound with PJ Tucker. He finishes the night with 25 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals, despite 8-24 shooting.

10:24 – This one comes to an end with a final score of Houston 100, Utah 87.

Donovan Mitchell led Utah with his aforementioned 25 points, 9 boards, 4 steals and 8-24 shooting. Rudy Gobert chipped in with 11 & 10.

Chris Paul set the tone for the Rockets, ending the night with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists, James Harden scored 24, and Clint Capela provided 12 points, 15 rebounds and 6 blocks, many of which came towards the end of the game.

The Jazz hung in there the best they could, but the Rockets are just better, and have more firepower. Often times, that’s all it takes. Now, the series will return to Houston with the Rockets ahead 3-1 and looking to move on to the Conference Finals.

Houston Rockets v Utah Jazz - Game Four

Tomorrow, the Eastern Conference Finals could become set with both the Celtics and Cavs looking to finish off sweeps. Will it be the last we see of the Sixers and Raptors? We’ll be here to find out.

NBA Playoffs – Day 20

7:12 – Just got settled in at home after a whirlwind commute that involved leaving work early to get fitted for a tuxedo, and not, I repeat: not to get home on time to watch Game 2 between the Raptors and Cavs. If I wanted to do that, I would have left an extra hour earlier than I did, because some knob decided that this game should start at 6:00 pm.

Anyway, now that I’m settled in with my Steak Tips sub, let’s flip on the television and see where we’re at…

7:14 – We’re right before halftime with the score Toronto 61, Cleveland 58. Perfect, I can eat during halftime and pay full attention throughout the second half.

7:24 – Okay, I ate the sub, so let’s see if I can get an idea on how this game’s going…

Here at halftime the score’s Toronto 63, Cleveland 61. Kyle Lowry has 18 points on 6-7 shooting for the Raptors, but he also has three fouls. DeMar DeRozan’s added 11.

For the Cavs, it looks as though Kevin Love has come alive. He’s got 18 points and 7 rebounds to lift some of the burden off of LeBron, who’s got 16 points and 7 assists on 6-9 shooting.

Of course, the Raptors are looking to bounce back from that horrendous Game 1 collapse. The last thing they want is to have to head to Cleveland down 2-0. Oh, and thankfully, Mark Davis and Hubie Brown are narrating the action, sparing us from an evening of Breen, Van Gundy and Jackson.

After this one, it’s Game 2 between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics looked impressive in Game 1, while the Sixers looked unready. They’ll be looking for to bounce back strong and even the series.

7:32 – LeBron James finds JR Smith for a layup, plus a foul! It’s the opening points of the second half, and after Smith knocks down the free throw, the Cavs lead, 64-63.

7:33 – LeBron pulls up and knocks down a jumper, extending the Cavs lead to 66-63. 7:34 – Kyle Lowry gets called for a charge, and it’s his fourth foul. On the other end, Kyle Korver hits a three, and the second half is off to an unfortunate start for the Raptors. We’ll have a time out with the score Cleveland 69, Toronto 63 with 10:17 left in the third quarter. Everything was going just fine until I showed up.

See? It’s notΒ just my fault.

7:37 – Mark Davis informs us that the Cavs are on a 16-2 run dating back to the second quarter, so this clearly started long before I got home. In other news, Kyle Lowry remains in the game with his four fouls.

7:42 – LeBron finds George Hill with a nice pass for a layup, and we’ll have another time out as things continue to go swirling down the drain for the Raptors. The score’s now Cleveland 79, Toronto 68 with 7:50 left in the third. The Air Canada Centre sounds about as lively as a funeral.

As you can see, NBA Twitter smells blood.

7:51 – Fred VanVleet knocks down a three to send us into a time out with the score Cleveland 89, Toronto 78 with 3:57 left in the third. The Cavs are making everything look so effortless, while everything the Raptors get looks like it came with a lot of exertion.

7:53 – News from Boston!

7:58 – An unfortunate third quarter comes to an end with Mark Davis saying, “We’ll be back to LeBronto after this!” Ouch, Toronto. Anyway, our score’s Cleveland 98, Toronto 87, and LeBron does seem personally intent on sweeping the Raptors. He’s up to 31 points, 7 rebounds and 13 assists on 13-19 shooting, and Kevin Love has 27 and 9. Kyle Lowry leads the Raptors with 21.

8:02 – Jeff Green knocks down a three from the corner, and the Cavs lead grows to 101-87.

8:05 – LeBron James hits a jumper, and as we head into a time out, boos are heard in the Air Canada Centre, which is actually the noisiest it’s been in awhile. The score’s Cleveland 105, Toronto 87 with 9:47 remaining.

8:13 – We’ve got a time out with the score Cleveland 109, Toronto 96 with 7:09 left in the game. The Raptors have chipped away slightly, but LeBron keeps hitting ridiculous shot after ridiculous shot.

8:17 – The cat is licking the coffee table. Time to feed her.

8:23 – Fred VanVleet hits a three from the corner, but we’re beyond the point of no return with a score of Cleveland 121, Toronto 101 with 3:30 left in the ballgame. Let’s wrap this one up so we can get to the Celtics.

8:27 – A Jonas Valanciunas dunk sends us into another time out with the score now Cleveland 123, Toronto 105 with 2:34 remaining.

8:31 – This one comes to an end with a final score of Cleveland 128, Toronto 110.

DeMar DeRozan had 24 for the Raptors, and Kyle Lowry had 21 points and 8 assists. Jonas Valanciunas chipped in with 16 points and 12 boards.

Nobody cares about any of that because LeBron James finished the evening with 43 points, 8 rebounds and 14 assists on 19-28 shooting, while Kevin Love came back to life with 31 & 11.

Jesus Christ. Sometimes you just are who you are, and that certainly seems to be the case for the Toronto Raptors. LeBron toyed with them all night, and the Raptors had no answers. There’s not much more to say than that, and also, I miss the Pacers. I don’t know what it is about Toronto. They just don’t seem to have the gumption, constitution or fight to not embarrass themselves. It’s one thing to fall to a player like LeBron, but it’s another to completely throw up all over yourselves while doing it.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors - Game Two

8:34 – Charles Barkley says the Sixers are a lock tonight. Meanwhile, Shaq is getting a foot massage on the edge of the set, and Jaylen Brown is active tonight for the Celtics, but will not be in the starting lineup. Lots of stuff going on.

8:40 – Time to throw on the Larry Bird jersey.

8:41 – We’re welcomed into the TD Garden by our friends and narrators Brian Anderson and Kevin McHale.

8:42 – The Sixers control the opening tip, and Game 2 is underway in Boston.

8:43 – JJ Redick gets the Sixers on the board first with a three in the corner.

8:46 – Redick knocks down another three and we’ve got an early time out because the score is Philadelphia 8, Boston 0 with 8:56 left in the first quarter. Blah.

8:50 – Marcus Smart, of all people, knocks down a three to finally get the Celtics on the board. They trail, 8-3.

8:52 – Jaylen Brown enters the game to a nice round of applause from the home fans. Let’s see if he can the Celtics going.

8:53 – Brown scoops up a loose ball and goes all the way in for a big dunk! It’ll send us into a time out with the score Philadelphia 11, Boston 7 with 6:38 left in the first quarter.

9:09 – The first quarter comes to an end with the score Philadelphia 31, Boston 22. Marcus Smart has eight points, including a pair of threes, to lead the Celtics. Meanwhile, JJ Redick has 13 on 5-6 shooting for the Sixers, and honestly, that’s been the difference early on.

9:13 – A quick TJ McConnell layup gives the Sixers the first points of the second quarter, extending their lead to 33-22.

9:18 – We’ve got a time out with the score Philadelphia 40, Boston 24 with 8:19 left in the first half. The Sixers are already out-rebounding the Celtics, 23-11, and look generally more energized and ready for action than they did in Game 1. Meanwhile, the shots aren’t falling for the Celtics like they were the other night. The C’s are just 8-25 from the floor so far. If you’re going to miss that many shots, and give up that many rebounds, you’re going to be in for a long and unenjoyable evening.

9:24 – Dario Saric cans a three, and we’ll have another time out as the score’s now Philadelphia 45, Boston 24 with 7:21 left in the first half. The Sixers are feeling themselves right now, and with good reason.

9:40 – We’re here at halftime, and after a Celtics rampage, our score’s Philadelphia 56, Boston 51. Now that’s more like it!

Marcus Smart leads the C’s with 14 points, thanks to a 4-5 mark from downtown. Terry Rozier’s added ten. For the Sixers, JJ Redick has 15, Robert Covington has 12, and Joel Embiid’s already up to 10 & 10.

The Sixers got off to the big start, with everyone looking more sharp than they did in Game 1, but then, the Celtics awoke, ramping up the defense and hitting timely shots. Marcus Smart has certainly picked a good time to supply his random, annual playoff three pointer explosion game.

Let me say for the 3598th time: it is so dope that the Celtics and Sixers are awesome at the same time again.

9:58 – Marcus Smart remains hot from three and gives the Celtics the first points of the second half, but JJ Redick comes back with a long two, and the Sixers lead, 58-54 as we begin the second half.

9:59 – A Jayson Tatum layup makes this a one possession game with the Celtics behind, 58-56. Meanwhile, Jaylen Brown is running up and down the corridor near the locker rooms to stay loose.

10:01 – We’re tied at 58 after a pair of Terry Rozier free throws.

10:02 – JJ Redick quickly breaks the tie with a three pointer to put the Sixers up, 61-58.

On the other end, Jayson Tatum knots us back up by answering with his own three.

10:03 – Dario Saric gives the Sixers a 63-61 lead with two free throws.

10:04 – Aron Baynes gets a friendly bounce on a corner three, and the Celtics have their first lead of the night, at 64-63!

10:06 – As the ball goes out of bounds, we’ll have a time out with the score Boston 64, Philadelphia 63 with 6:28 left in the third quarter.

10:10 – Marcus Smart splits a pair of free throws, and the Celtics lead inches ahead to 65-63.

10:11 – Marco Bellinelli knocks down a three, and the lead is returned to the Sixers at 66-65. Marcus Smart snatches it right back with a jumper, and the Celtics go ahead, 67-66.

10:12 – Marcus Morris hits a jumper over Bellinelli, and the Celtics lead, 69-66.

10:15 – Jaylen Brown cans a three from the corner, and the Celtics have made this a two possession game with a 72-66 lead.

10:17 – Jayson Tatum ventures down the baseline and throws down a big dunk! It’ll bring us into a time out with the score Boston 76, Philadelphia 68 with 2:24 left in the third quarter.

10:25 – The third quarter comes to an end with the score Boston 79, Philadelphia 75. This has been a real old school battle, like something out of the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals. Anyway, here in 2018, Marcus Smarts has 18 to lead the Celtics, and JJ Redick’s 20 leads the Sixers. Strangely absent from this game so far has been Ben Simmons, who has one point, four rebounds and five assists after a lackluster Game 1.

10:29 – Joel Embiid bounces a pass to TJ McConnell for a layup, and the Sixers strike first in the fourth to cut their deficit down to 79-77. On their next trip down the court, McConnell gets another layup, this time along the baseline, and we’re tied up at 79.

10:31 – Two Marcus Morris free throws pushes the Celtics back ahead at 81-79.

10:32 – TJ McConnell grabs an offensive board and kicks it out to Robert Covington who knocks down a three to give the Sixers an 82-81 lead. However, Marcus Morris knocks down a three on the other end to put the Celtics ahead, 84-82.

10:33 – Morris bounces a pass down the court to Jaylen Brown who goes up for a big two hand slam! It inspires a time out to catch our breath, and the score’s Boston 86, Philadelphia 82 with 9:02 left in the game.

10:37 – JJ Redick hits a straightaway three, and it’s a one point game again with the Sixers trailing, 86-85.

10:39 – Joel Embiid rattles in a three, and the Sixers regain the lead at 88-86 as Philly fan Kevin Hart is seen mouthing off to the Celtics fans behind him.

I now hate Kevin Hart.

10:40 – Jayson Tatum ties us right back up with a pair of free throws, but Robert Covington knocks down a three to put the Sixers up, 91-88, and he’s got 20 points after a lousy Game 1.

10:41 – We’re going into a time out with the score still Philadelphia 91, Boston 88 with 6:59 remaining. The Sixers have been getting it done as Ben Simmons continues to sit on the bench with his crummy performance tonight. Will we see him at all down the stretch?

10:45 – After a lousy Celtics turnover, TJ McConnell, who is playing really well, finds Ersan Ilyasova for a layup, and the Sixers extend their lead to 93–88.

10:46 – Terry Rozier comes back with a three! It’s followed by another time out with the score Philadelphia 93, Boston 91 with 5:29 to go.

10:47 – We’re back and Ben Simmons is back in the ballgame as we head down the stretch.

10:49 – Al Horford puts in two free throws, and we’re knotted up at 93, but Joel Embiid knocks down a jumper to put the Sixers back on top, 95-93.

10:50 – Marcus Smart misses a three, but Marcus Morris grabs the offensive rebound, strolls behind the arc and knocks down a three ti give the Celtics a 96-95 lead.

On their next trip down the court, Terry Rozier puts in a corner three, and the Celtics lead goes up to 99-95.

10:52 – Two free throws from Dario Saric makes this a two point game with the Sixers behind, 99-97. On the other end, Terry Rozier gets into the paint for a layup, and the Celtics maintain their four point lead at 101-97. Rozier’s up to 20 points on the night.

10:53 – After JJ Redick misses a wide open three, the Celtics go on the break, and it ends with Terry Rozier throwing up a lob to Jayson Tatum who slams it home! The Sixers take a time out with the score Boston 103, Philadelphia 97 with 2:23 left in the ballgame.

10:57 – We’re going to have a time out with the score Boston 104, Philadelphia 99 with 59.7 seconds on the clock.

11:00 – Joel Embiid misses a three, but Dario Saric grabs the miss and puts it in, and the Sixers trail, 104-101. On the other end, with the shot clock running down, and the Sixers hoping for a stop, Al Horford gets by Joel Embiid (who has five fouls) and takes it to the hoop for a layup! We’ll have a time out with the score now Boston 106, Philadelphia 101 with 8.3 seconds to go.

11:03 – Dario Saric gets free for a layup, and we’ve got another time out with the score now Boston 106, Philadelphia 103 with 5.5 seconds remaining.

11:04 – The ball is inbounded to Jayson Tatum, who the Sixers foul to send to the line with 3.4 seconds left.

11:05 – Tatum hits the first free throw to make this a two possession game. He hits the second one for good measure, and this one’s sealed, ladies and gentlemen.

11:06 – The final buzzer goes off, and our final score is Boston 108, Philadelphia 103.

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 21, Terry Rozier sprung for 20 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists, and Al Horford contributed 13 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists.

JJ Redick scored 23 to lead the Sixers, Robert Covington added 22 and 9, and Joel Embiid had 20 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists, but playing with five fouls made him a defensive liability down the stretch, especially on the clutch layup from Al Horford. Ben Simmons disappeared, shooting 0-4 from the field in 31 minutes for one point, five rebounds and seven assists.

It was another rousing victory for the Celtics who rallied after falling behind early. It will be interesting to see if they get the same sort of contributions up and down the roster when they’re on the road in Philly. On the other end of that spectrum, it’s likely the Sixers will get bigger and better contributions from their role guys, and hopefully for them, Ben Simmons decides to join the proceedings some time soon. As for now, I am just happy that Kevin Hart’s night has been ruined.

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11:09 – After guaranteeing victories for both the Raptors and Sixers tonight, Charles Barkley leads off the postgame show by declaring, “I GUARANTEE…..no more guarantees!”

That does it for the evening. Both Eastern Semifinals feature 2-0 leads. The Sixers don’t seem as dead as the Raptors do, but they’re in real danger of having their awesome season come to an unceremonious end.

As for tomorrow night, we head back out West where the Pelicans are home and hoping to notch a win over the Warriors. If they don’t, they’ll be in the dreaded 3-0 hole. Then, out in Utah, the Jazz will look to build on their Game 2 success and take a surprising 2-1 lead against the Rockets. It’ll be another late one, so, I’m going to take advantage of another pre-midnight finish and head to bed.