The Miami Heat took a commanding 2-0 series lead against the Philadelphia 76ers, comfortably winning 119-103 at home on Wednesday.

The Eastern Conference's first seed were faced with little resistance against a Sixers side without Joel Embiid protecting the paint, shooting 51.3 per cent from the floor and 48.3 per cent from beyond the arc.

Jimmy Butler was transformative on the offensive end for the Heat, finishing with 22 points on eight-of-15 shooting and 12 assists.

Four Heat players - Bam Adebayo, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Tyler Herro - had three assists, while Herro and Victor Oladipo combined for 37 points off the bench on 12-of-21 shooting.

The Sixers kept turnovers relatively low with eight but did not generate great shots either, coming up with 17 assists for the night and connecting on a poor 26.7 per cent of three-point attempts.

Suns secure 2-0 lead over Mavs

The Phoenix Suns assuredly defended home court in their series with the Dallas Mavericks, securing a 129-109 victory.

A dominant second half saw the Suns through in Game 2, scoring 71 points on 29-of-41 shooting against the Mavs' 49 points on 14-of-39 from the floor.

Devin Booker and Chris Paul took over, combining for 41 points on 16-of-21 shooting after the main change. The change in game complexion was all the more distinct with Dallas taking 16 free-throw attempts in comparison to Phoenix's five.

Booker and Paul scored 30 and 28 points respectively for the night, with the latter chipping in eight assists and six rebounds.

Luka Doncic put up 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting along with seven assists, but crucially committed as many turnovers for the Mavs.

Ben Simmons will have surgery to help treat the pain caused by a herniated disc, with the Brooklyn Nets expecting his recovery to take at least three months.

Simmons, the 2020-21 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, did not play a game in the 2021-22 season, encountering more back pain as he tried to ramp up to a return in the playoffs.

A statement released by the Nets highlighted that the surgery he will receive is called a microdiscectomy. 

It was a disappointing season for the Nets, who began the year as the favourites to win the Eastern Conference, but struggled throughout as Kyrie Irving was absent for the first portion of the season, and James Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package around Simmons.

In the playoffs, the Nets were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics, who are now the Eastern Conference favourites.

While Kyrie Irving highlighted in his last post-game press conference of the playoffs that there will be plenty of roster turnover as he and Kevin Durant "co-manage" the offseason along with the front office, he indicated Simmons was seen as a core building block.

Jaylen Brown said he and his Boston Celtics team-mates wanted to play "like our season was on the line" after a 109-86 win in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semi-final against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Brown only shot four-of-13 for 12 points in the Celtics' Game 1 defeat, but followed up by scoring 30 points, with six assists and five rebounds as Boston levelled the series at 1-1 at TD Garden.

The 25-year-old also sank a playoff career-high six shots from beyond the arc and stated after the victory just how much the Celtics had wanted to square things up.

"We knew we had to come out and play like our season was on the line and we did that," Brown said.

"It's the playoffs. Survival of the fittest. Every game counts."

As well as Brown's performance, Jayson Tatum also stepped it up as he shot 29 points, with eight assists and three rebounds.

Boston coach Ime Udoka pointed to what his team had learned in their Game 1 defeat, namely not to get "outmuscled", and just as they were dominated for large periods on Sunday, they followed up with a physical performance of their own on Tuesday.

"We adjusted well," Udoka said. "We learned some things from Game 1 and felt like we knew we didn't react accordingly to the way that we're playing.

"Two big teams but we haven't been outmuscled like that all year. I think our guys took pride in that, took that to heart and we knew we would come out with the right effort tonight."

 

His opposite number, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, acknowledged the game-plan from the Celtics had worked, particularly on star player Giannis Antetokounmpo, who still finished with 28 points, with nine rebounds and seven assists.

"The guys on him, they're solid, good, good defenders and then quite a bit of help," Budenholzer said. "That's where he's just got to see and feel it. Do we kick it and get more threes? Or he's got to finish against one-on-one defense. So, I think it's a little bit of both.

"But Giannis, he always figures things out."

A seething Steve Kerr accused Dillon Brooks of "breaking the code" after an incident that left Gary Payton II with a broken left elbow.

Kerr's Golden State Warriors went down 106-101 to the Memphis Grizzlies, leaving their Western Conference semi-finals series locked at 1-1, in a heated match full of flashpoints.

The Grizzlies' task was made all the more difficult when Brooks was ejected in the first quarter for a nasty-looking strike across the head of Payton II in mid-air.

An X-ray later showed the extent of the damage caused and Payton II is set to undergo an MRI scan on Wednesday.

Kerr acknowledged the physicality of playoff basketball but was fuming with Brooks' play.

"I don't know if it was intentional but it was dirty," Kerr told reporters after the game.

"Playoff basketball is supposed to be physical. Everyone will compete, fight for everything. But there's a code in this league, a code players follow, where you never put a guy's season or career in jeopardy by taking someone out in mid-air and clubbing them across the head and ultimately fracturing Gary's elbow. 

"This is a guy who's been toiling the last six years trying to make it in this league, finally found a home, playing his butt off this year – in the playoffs it should be the time of his life and a guy comes in and whacks him across the head in mid-air. 

"He broke the code. Dillon Brooks broke the code that's how I see it."

Another heated incident saw Draymond Green raise his middle finger towards the Grizzlies fanbase, who jeered the Warriors star after an elbow to the face left him with a cut to his right eye that had nearly swollen shut by half-time.

Green was unrepentant after the game, saying: "[If] you gonna boo somebody who got elbowed in the eye, face running with blood you should get flipped off. 

"So, I'll take the fine, I'll do an appearance and make up the money. But it felt really good to flip 'em off, if you gonna boo someone who got elbowed in the face with blood running down their face, I could have had a concussion or anything. 

"If they gonna be that nasty, I can be nasty too. I'm assuming the cheers are because they know I'll get fined. Great, I make $25million a year I should be just fine."

Ja Morant was the hero for the Grizzlies, scoring 47 points – matching his postseason high – despite himself struggling to see out of his left eye having been hit going for a rebound in the third quarter.

The All-Star guard atoned for missing a layup in Game 1 that would have won the Grizzlies the game, a defeat he conceded was at the forefront of his thinking during Tuesday's contest.

"That loss was on my mind a lot, obviously missing that layup late," Morant said. 

"But coming into today, I told myself we needed a win, and we were going to get a win. I just took it upon myself to go out there and do that for us."

Jaylen Brown found his range with 30 points and Jayson Tatum added 29 as the Boston Celtics squared up their Conference Semifinals series against the Milwaukee Bucks with a 109-86 win on Tuesday.

Brown shot four-of-13 for 12 points in Game 1 but shook that off with a masterful first-half display, scoring 25 of his 30 points before the main break, going nine-of-10.

The Celtics led 65-40 at half-time and held off the reigning champions' best efforts to get back into the contest.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 28 points, with nine rebounds and seven assists and Jrue Holiday added 19 points but shot seven-of-20 from the field and one-of-six from beyond the arc.

The Bucks only managed three triples for the game, while Boston landed 20-of-43 beyond the arc, along with 24 points from turnovers.

Brown also had five rebounds and six assists to go with his 30 points, while Grant Williams chimed in with 21 points for Boston who were without Marcus Smart (quad).

 

Morant dominates as Grizzlies edge home

Ja Morant starred with 47 points as the Memphis Grizzlies edged the Golden State Warriors 106-101 to level up their series at 1-1 at the FedExForum.

Morant shot 15-of-31 and made five triples among his 47-point haul along with eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals, as the Grizzlies got home after scores were locked at three-quarter time.

Stephen Curry did not shoot at his best, making 11-of-25 from the field and three-of-11 from three-point range for his 27 points with nine rebounds and eight assists.

Jordan Poole added 20 points off the bench, while Klay Thompson could only manage 12 points with three steals. Draymond Green returned after his Game 1 ejection with 10 rebounds.

Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro has won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award after an outstanding season.

The 22-year-old, who the Heat took at number 13 in the 2019 NBA Draft, averaged 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists over 32.6 minutes a game this season.

Herro won the award ahead of Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cameron Johnson of the Phoenix Suns. The Heat guard received 96 out of a possible 100 first-place votes.

"We're trying to win a championship here, so whether it's starting or coming off the bench for me, I accepted that role. ... I'm just happy to be on this team and happy to accept my role," Herro said last month after being named as a finalist.

Herro helped the Heat finish top of the Eastern Conference with a 53-29 record, getting past the Atlanta Hawks 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs.

Miami defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 106-92 on Monday in Game 1 of their Conference Semifinals, with Herro scoring 25 points with seven assists off the bench.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers is leaving the door open for Joel Embiid's return to the court, following Monday's series-opening defeat to the Miami Heat, but stopped short of giving "false hope".

The MVP candidate missed Philadelphia's 106-92 defeat in Game 1 against the Heat due to a right facial fracture, after he was hit by Pascal Siakam as they closed the series out against the Toronto Raptors last Thursday.

Embiid has been ruled out for Game 2 on Wednesday, with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reporting he could be back as soon as Game 3 when the series switches to Philadelphia.

With that in mind, Rivers tried to temper expectations but cited progress in Embiid's recovery.

"I know he did something yesterday, but not much, and I know he's feeling a better," Rivers said on Tuesday.

"I don't want to give false hope either. So I'll just stop there."

After winning the scoring title in the regular season, Embiid averaged 26.2 points on 52 per cent shooting and 11.3 rebounds in the series against the Raptors.

 

Jason Kidd called on Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks team-mates to "join the party" after the Slovenian star's 45-point haul was not enough to deny the Phoenix Suns a Game 1 win.

The top-seeded Suns drew first blood in the Western Conference semi-finals on Monday, winning 121-114 at Footprint Center on Monday.

Three-time NBA All-Star Doncic was outstanding yet again, also taking 12 rebounds and providing eight assists to go with his huge tally of points.

Maxi Kleber was the second-highest points scorer for the Mavs with 19 and coach Kidd says Doncic will need more support ahead of Game 2 in Phoenix on Wednesday.

Kidd said: "He [Doncic] got whatever he wanted, when you look at the shots in the paint, behind the arc, midrange and then also I thought he got his team-mates some great looks that we normally had made.

"I thought he played great. We've just got to get someone to join the party."

Doncic did not brush over his analysis over where the Mavs had fallen short as he urged them to "attack the paint."

He said: "We've just got to attack more paint. I settled for a little too much step-backs for me. Attacking the paint is our lethal weapon.

"When we do that, we can score easily, especially with five-out and they've got a big rotating. We've got to attack more paint."

Deandre Ayton led the way for the Suns with 25, while Devin Booker posted 23 and had eight assists.

Suns coach Monty Williams said: "'I liked the fact that we weren't settling for threes. A lot of guys were attacking the paint, we were getting floaters and rim shots."

 

 

The Phoenix Suns were at their offensive best in their 121-114 Game 1 win against the Dallas Mavericks.

Led by center Deandre Ayton, who had 19 of his 25 points in the first half, the Suns scored 35 in the first quarter and 34 in the second to lead 69-56 at the long break.

The only thing keeping the Mavericks in the game was superstar Luka Doncic, who had 26 first-half points on his way to 45 on 15-of-30 shooting, while grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing eight assists.

Dallas' defense was much improved after half-time, but they struggled to cut into the lead as Devin Booker kept things ticking on his way to 23 points, with some cold shooting late bringing his figures to seven-of-20 from the field with nine rebounds and eight assists.

Cameron Johnson also chipped in with a playoff career-high 17 points off the bench in 24 productive minutes.

With a 16-point lead heading into the last frame, the Suns moved their perfect record to 51-0 this season when leading after three quarters, with only some too-little, too-late shot-making cutting the final margin to a respectable deficit.

Dallas will need much more out of guard Jalen Brunson on the attacking end to keep up with the powerful Suns offense as this series moves forward, finishing six-of-16 from the field for his 13 points, with eight of those points coming in the last quarter when the game was essentially decided.

76ers go cold against Heat

A dominant second half saw the Miami Heat pull away for a 106-92 Game 1 home victory against the Philadelphia 76ers.

It was a great start for the Heat, jumping out to a 25-11 lead, but a strong Philly fightback in the second quarter gave the road team a 51-50 advantage heading into half-time as James Harden put through his 12th point.

Harden would only score four points in the second half, which was indicative of how it went for the 76ers as the Heat raised their defense to another level in the third period.

Miami outscored the visitors 56-41 after half-time, as Tyler Herro led the way with 25 points off the bench on nine-of-17 shooting, adding seven assists.

It was also a strong scoring game for Bam Adebayo, who shot eight-for-10 for his 24 points, with 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Tobias Harris was the shining light for the 76ers, battling hard on both ends to finish with 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting, and was a big reason for Jimmy Butler's poor performance, which saw the Heat star not play a minute in the fourth quarter.

Ja Morant refused to give any credit to the Golden State Warriors defense after missing the potential game-winning layup in the Memphis Grizzlies 117-116 Game 1 loss.

Morant finished with 34 points on 14-of-31 shooting, while also adding nine rebounds and 10 assists, but clanked his layup hard off the backboard as time expired under a good contest from Klay Thompson.

Jordan Poole was the star of the show for the Warriors, coming off the bench to score 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting with eight rebounds and nine assists, stepping up to make up for Thompson's six-of-19 performance from the field.

Speaking with post-game media, Morant opted to not give any credit to Thompson's defense when prompted multiple times.

"It was the same message as every time we're in the situation – I just missed a layup," the All-Star said. 

When pressed on if Thompson's defense had any impact, Morant repeated his statement: "Nah, I just missed a layup."

Instead, Morant said where his side lost the contest was in the hustle categories that the Grizzlies usually excel in.

"We gave up too many second-chance points, we gave up [too many] fast-break points," he said. "That's definitely not what we want to be giving up, and it played a factor in this game.

"I feel like that's kind of where we messed up. We were running to the rim on their shots, and there were some long rebounds, 50-50 balls, you know we've got to come up with those against this team. We can't allow them second chances, or open looks, and they made us pay for it.

"We came out and fought – we had a lead, then went down, then got the lead back. Klay hit a big-time three, and I missed a layup. 

"Despite all that, we gave up 26 second-chance points and 18 fast-break points, and we lost by one. 

"It's nothing to hang our heads about – but obviously we've got to correct those things."

Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins did not want to let Jaren Jackson Jr's night go unnoticed either, as he posted a playoff career-high 33 points as the Defensive Player of the Year candidate sank six-of-nine three-pointers.

"[Morant and Jackson] were big for us tonight," Taylor said. "I thought as [the Warriors] changed their line-ups, we started utilising 'JJ' more in ball-screens – Ja was doing a great job finding him, and JJ capitalised. 

"It's going to be a great film to go back and watch to see where we were successful, and see where we weren't. But those two guys were bright spots for sure."

When asked about the plan on the last possession, Jenkins was adamant that he trusts his best player to decide the game.

"[We were looking for] Ja to go make a play," he said. "He had a great look, it just didn't happen to go in."

Draymond Green believes his ejection in the Golden State Warriors' 117-116 win over the Memphis Grizzlies was called due to his reputation.

The Warriors bench responded angrily to Green's ejection after a video review ruled his foul a flagrant-two, for excessive and unnecessary contact with Brandon Clarke, after pulling Clarke's jersey when he went up to the basket following an offensive rebound.

The former Defensive Player of the Year did not take long to sound off, recording an episode of the Draymond Green Podcast from his hotel room in Memphis after the game.

The 32-year-old said the ejection was borne more of his reputation, but also added his hope for the NBA to rescind the flagrant-two to a flagrant-one, meaning his next flagrant in the playoffs would not result in a suspension.

“We’ve seen questionable calls in the first round… some things that didn’t get reviewed,” he said. “Sometimes I guess it’s just a case-by-case thing, it’s a reputation thing. I think tonight was probably a reputation thing more so than a hard foul.

“My biggest worry moving forward is that gives me two flagrant foul points, and as we know I’ve been ejected for an accumulation of flagrant foul points, so my hope is that the right thing will happen and that it will at least get rescinded to a flagrant one.

"I can’t quite say it was unnecessary… and to say it was excessive would be a bit extreme.”

Green was notoriously suspended for Game 5 in the 2016 Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers for a flagrant-one foul, after he was tangled up with LeBron James.

Green made reference to that in providing context on the Clarke foul, and whether we would be surprised at the ejection.

"You know, one thing about the foul is, I actually tried to hold him [Clarke] up," he said.

"I wasn't told anything because I left the court, but guys were told I was ejected for throwing him down, which is very interesting because even when he hit the ground, I still was holding his jersey up.

"But at this point, I kind of expect things like that, like I've been suspended from Game 5 of the NBA Finals. You think for one second I don't believe I would get kicked out of Game 1 of the second round? Not surprising to me at all. Not one bit."

Stephen Curry says he is proud of his team's response to Draymond Green's rejection, after the Golden State Warriors took Game 1 on the road against Memphis Grizzlies with a 117-116 win.

Green was ejected in the first half of Sunday's series opener at the FedEx Forum for a flagrant foul on Brandon Clarke, and the Warriors rallied to take a double-digit lead in the third quarter before holding on with defensive stops on the Grizzlies' final two possessions.

Curry snatched the ball from Ja Morant to set up free-throws for the Warriors, but Klay Thompson shockingly missed both, before he responded by stopping Morant on the final possession of the game.

The former unanimous MVP praised his side's mental toughness in not imploding after the contentious ejection, noting it even galvanised them in front of the Memphis crowd.

"It was a tough call obviously, on the road and you're trying to start a series, and you get a guy like Draymond headed to the locker room," Curry said. "Nobody wants to see that. It's not good for the game, I didn't think it [Green's jersey pull] deserved that.

"We got a little emotional rise out of it, trying to stay locked in and deal with the circumstances and give ourselves a chance to win.

"Whatever emotion you rely on to turn the page from one series to the next, and especially when you're starting on the road, you've got to have an edge about you, for sure."

Along with the defensive stops, the Dubs' win on Sunday was also notable for the fact Curry and Thompson shot a combined 14-of-39, including eight-of-22 from beyond the arc.

Jordan Poole compensated and nearly notched his first triple-double with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting, nine assists and eight rebounds.

With Curry starting in Poole's place this time, after he was eased back off the bench in the series win over the Denver Nuggets, the 34-year-old cited his team's resilience as critical.

"Whatever way you explain it, whatever emotion you tie into it, you just bring it," Curry said. "When Draymond went out, there's your moment like 'What are we gonna do? How are we gonna figure this out?'

"To go into half-time, regroup, come out and play the way that we did, I'm really proud of everybody and their approach to the game. It was a good vibe out there."

Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry will miss the start of the team's Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Philadelphia 76ers as he continues to battle a hamstring injury.

The 36-year-old has been on the sidelines since suffering the injury during game three of the quarter-final series win over the Atlanta Hawks on April 22, as the Heat chase a first NBA championship since 2012-13.

Lowry was listed as an absence for Monday's game one in a social media update from the Heat, and though coach Erik Spoelstra says the six-time NBA all star is making good progress in his recovery, he remains unsure as to when he will return.

"I'm not even going [on] any kind of timetable," Spoelstra said after Sunday's practice. "I know he's doing more. Gym has been great. Everybody's been able to do something and to prepare for the series."

Lowry claimed his one NBA championship to date with the Toronto Raptors in 2019, and has impressed for the top-seeded Heat since joining the franchise last year.

Meanwhile, the team listed Jimmy Butler as questionable after he sat out the final game of their series win over the Hawks with a knee injury, although the 32-year-old said he was confident he would be ready to return to face the Sixers after Saturday's practice.

"We've had so many different rotations and line-ups during the course of the year that we've been forced to stay in the present moment," he added.

"And we have great care and empathy for the guys that have missed time, but we just have to totally lock into who's available. Everybody else is ready to go, and we have a big challenge.

"This is a series that could potentially change, both sides, three or four times. It could feel totally different by the middle of it, so that's why you can exhaust yourself with all the different hypotheticals. 

"We basically know, both teams, who's going to play game one, and that's the way it should be. You shouldn't be thinking about game two, game three, game four, anything past that. Just embrace the competition and what's ahead."

The Heat also have doubts over Markieff Morris, Caleb Martin, Max Strus, P. J. Tucker, and Tyler Herro ahead of their semi-final series.

The Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler expects to be fit for the start of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against Philadelphia 76ers on Monday after recovering from a knee injury.

Butler sat out the Heat's Game 5 win over the Atlanta Hawks as the team secured their first semi-finals appearance since 2019-20, when they went on to lose the NBA finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The six-time NBA all-star impressed in the first four games of the first-round series, becoming just the third player in franchise history – after LeBron James and Dwyane Wade – to post 45 points, five rebounds and five assists in a playoff match in Game 2, but missed out on the series-clinching win.

However, the 32-year-old is confident he will return for the top-seeded Heat's opening clash with the 76ers.

"It's all right," Butler said of his knee after Saturday's practice. "We got another day in between. Get out there, rip and ride.

"I know it will be ready to hold up come Monday, but the time off has been great for myself and so many other guys that are nicked up. Everybody's ready to compete."

Guard Kyle Lowry, who also missed out on the Heat's last outing, was also able to do "a little bit more" on Saturday, coach Erik Spoelstra revealed.

Butler said he would be disappointed to see former team-mate Joel Embiid miss out for the 76ers after he suffered a mild concussion and orbital fracture against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

"I feel bad for my guy," Butler added. "Obviously, one of my former team-mates, arguably the MVP of this league, and I think I speak for everybody that's a part of this team, we want Jo to play.

"We want to go up against them at full strength and prove that we can hang with anybody and we can beat anybody. 

"It's a mishap. I hope he recovers well and gets back very, very soon."

Butler, who spent part of the 2018-19 season with the Sixers, said Embiid would get his vote for MVP after the 28-year-old averaged 30.6 points per game across the regular season – the highest figure in the NBA.

"I'm not an analytics guy, obviously," he added. "But I was told that they're a much better team defensively whenever he's on the floor, as they should be. I would guess offensively as well. 

"And he makes the right plays as well - but he's been doing this a long time in this league, [I'm] damn sure has been this year. 

"He would get my vote for MVP. It's going to be a challenge, but they beat us once without him."

Narratives are being readied all over the place to make this season's NBA playoffs potentially one of the most exciting of recent times.

The first round may not have provided quite as much drama as hoped, with none of the eight clashes going to a Game 7, but looking at the contests in prospect in the Conference semi-finals, we should not be far away from some.

The top four seeds in both Conferences ultimately made it through, though that's not to say some were not given a bit of a fright, and the semis were set after the Memphis Grizzlies eventually put away the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday in Game 6.

There are stories to be written when it comes to the star players in the league, though, with some excelling as they look lead their team to glory, while others are struggling to stay on the court and off the injured list.

This leads us into some potentially fascinating encounters in the final eight, and Stats Perform has taken a look at what we can expect over the next two weeks.

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks

Frankly, these two should be perfectly fresh heading into this one.

The Celtics whitewashed the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, barely breaking a sweat in the process, while the Bucks dropped just one game in overcoming a depleted Chicago Bulls.

Jayson Tatum has unsurprisingly been the star so far for Boston in the postseason, averaging 29.5 points per game, including 39 in Game 3, as well as averaging 7.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Equally unsurprisingly, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been leading the way for the defending NBA champions, averaging 28.6 points per game from five postseason outings so far for the Bucks, as well as 6.2 assists and 13.4 rebounds.

The continued absence of Khris Middleton will be a blow for Mike Budenholzer, with the swingman still recovering from a knee injury suffered in the first round, and reports suggesting he will miss the entirety of this round as well.

These two beat each other twice during the regular season, with the Bucks getting the final win just over three weeks ago at Fiserv Forum, so it promises to be a much tighter affair than either experienced in round one.

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers

The number one seeds in the East were barely inconvenienced by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, with the Heat winning 4-1.

Jimmy Butler is bringing it in the playoffs so far, averaging 30.5 points, with an additional 5.3 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game. He missed Game 5 against the Hawks with a knee inflammation, but it is hoped he will return for Game 1 against his former team.

Kyle Lowry's participation is more of a question mark, with the 36-year-old missing since suffering a hamstring injury in Game 3.

There is an arguably worse injury situation in Philadelphia, though, with Joel Embiid out "indefinitely" with a right orbital fracture and mild concussion. The Cameroonian was averaging 26.2 points across the 4-2 first round win over the Toronto Raptors.

Despite playing with an injured thumb, Embiid was dominant as the Sixers took out Game 6, putting up 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the floor and nine-of-10 from the free-throw line, as well as adding 10 rebounds and three blocks, but it is unclear when he will play a part in this round.

Tyrese Maxey, along with James Harden, will need to step up even more in the absence of Embiid if the Sixers are to dump out the top seeds.

Like the Celtics and the Bucks, these two traded two wins apiece in the regular-season meetings, with the Sixers winning 113-106 at Wells Fargo Center in March without Embiid, with Maxey top-scoring with 28 points.

 

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies

Despite the best efforts of Nikola Jokic, the Warriors strolled past the Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the first round, but can expect a sterner test here from the Grizzlies.

Stephen Curry is on his game, averaging 28 points across those five outings, although only 3.8 three-pointers per game so far, being outshone in that metric by team-mate Klay Thompson, who has averaged 4.4.

Curry and Thompson combined to great effect in Game 5 against the Nuggets, scoring 33 and 32 points respectively.

Memphis probably struggled more than they thought they would against the Timberwolves, securing a 4-2 win in the end but being made to work for it.

Ja Morant recorded 30 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and three steals in Game 5. Only five players in the last 35 seasons have recorded such a stat line in a playoff game, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Morant himself.

Morant has continued his great form, but Desmond Bane is also shining in the postseason, with the top average point score for the Grizzlies of 23.5, and 4.5 three-pointers made per game.

The Grizzlies could have a psychological edge in this contest, having won all of their last three meetings in the regular season, with the 28-point difference in the 123-95 win at FedExForum in late March the largest defeat of the Warriors' season.

Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks

Although ultimately through with a game to spare, it was surprising to see the Suns struggle as much as they did against the eighth-seed New Orleans Pelicans.

The outstanding Suns, who won 64 regular-season games, eventually prevailed 4-2 against the Pelicans, who by comparison won just 36 in the regular season, but that is what the playoffs bring, the threat of upsets.

Monty Williams and his team will have hardly been panicking, though, even when they were tied at 2-2 after Game 4, with a Chris Paul-inspired win in New Orleans in Game 6 sealing their passage through.

Having Devin Booker back is a big boost for West's number one seeds, with the 25-year-old returning from a hamstring injury for Game 6 that ruled him out of Games 3-5, having registered a combined 56 points in Games 1 and 2.

The Mavericks made it through the first round for the first time since they won the championship in 2011, seeing off the Utah Jazz 4-2, in a series that was also previously tied at 2-2.

It was made all the more impressive considering Luka Doncic could only play in three games, though still averaging 29.0 points in those he did, as well as 5.7 assists and 10.7 rebounds.

That meant someone else stepping up, and that someone else was Jalen Brunson, who scored 41 in Game 2 and a further 31 in Game 3, averaging 27.8 across the six games.

Dallas will need to do something about their record against Phoenix, though, having lost their last nine meetings with them, including three this season. The Mavs have not recorded a win against the Suns since November 2019.

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