NBA

NBA Heat Check: Mitchell calls the tune for Jazz, Paul powers Suns in the West

By Sports Desk June 14, 2021

The Phoenix Suns are waiting.

A series sweep over the Denver Nuggets means Monty Williams' team are through to the Western Conference Finals, where they will meet either the Utah Jazz or the Los Angeles Clippers.

In the East, meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks are serving up a prime example of how a seven-game series can ebb and flow throughout. At 2-2 and with injuries taking a toll, it is tough to predict who will progress.

With the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks also locked in a battle in the East, it is time to take a look at those players who have seized the chance to shine across the past week in the NBA playoffs, as well as those struggling in the shade.

RUNNING HOT...

Chris Paul

Paul set an unusual record as the Suns completed a 4-0 sweep of the Nuggets on Sunday. In contributing 37 points, the 36-year-old became the oldest guard in NBA history to outscore his age in a playoff game.

It capped a memorable week for the 11-time All-Star, who averaged 25.5 points per game in the series. Since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1984, Phoenix are the only team to knock out both the previous year's conference finalists in the first two rounds, having also accounted for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Donovan Mitchell

Through three games against the Clippers, Mitchell has been an offensive juggernaut for the Jazz. He has scored a combined total of 112 points to average out for the week at 37.33 per outing.

His output has been aided by getting hot from long range, the guard landing 5.67 three-point attempts per game. Yes, that is correct: Per. Game. An ankle issue could slow him down in the remainder of the series, having already missed the end of the regular season and Utah's first game in the playoffs.

Bruce Brown

With James Harden out due to a hamstring injury, Brown has taken on a greater offensive role for the ailing Nets. In three games across the past week, the 24-year-old has taken 22 shots – he had tallied 31 in the previous six playoff outings – and made his first three-pointer in the playoffs as Brooklyn won Game 2.

His production could be set to further increase if Kyrie Irving joins Harden on the sidelines, the point guard having twisted his right ankle as his team lost Game 4 in Milwaukee on Sunday.

GOING COLD...

Joe Harris

Having been pivotal at the start of the Nets-Bucks series, Harris has cooled off since the teams travelled to Milwaukee. His opening two outings saw him manage 19 and 13 points, but since then just 11 combined in back-to-back defeats.

Harris landed only one of his 11 field goal attempts in Game 3 before fouling out, while Sunday’s Game 4 performance was only marginally better. Perhaps a return to Brooklyn for Game 5 will help him find his scoring touch again.

Bobby Portis

Just like Harris on the opposing roster, Portis is in a slump. The 29-year-old has averaged just 2.0 points per game across the past week, a major drop from his regular-season average of 11.42. He is also contributing less in terms of rebounding too, dipping down to 3.0 per outing.

Fellow big Brook Lopez is another role player to see the points dry up (6.33ppg), leaving Milwaukee to lean heavily on All-Star duo Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton as they bid to make the Eastern Conference Finals.

Marcus Morris Sr and Patrick Beverley

For the second successive series, the Clippers are having to dig themselves out of an early hole. An emphatic Game 3 victory over the Jazz halved the deficit, thanks mainly to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George managing a combined total of 65 points.

The role players will need to help out too if they are to set up a clash with the Suns. Morris Sr has averaged 7.67 points across the past week, not aided by landing just one of his 16 attempts from deep. Team-mate Beverley is also struggling from long range while managing just 10 points in total in his past three games.

Related items

  • Joel Embiid 'ready to go' for play-ins – Nurse Joel Embiid 'ready to go' for play-ins – Nurse

    Joel Embiid will be "ready to go" for the Philadelphia 76ers when they host the Miami Heat, coach Nick Nurse has confirmed.

    The reigning MVP sat out the Sixers' 107-86 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in Sunday's regular-season finale at Wells Fargo Center.

    Embiid returned from a two-month lay-off against the Oklahoma City Thunder two weeks ago, but his status has been questionable for every game since. 

    And after missing the Nets game, concerns were raised with regards to his status ahead of Wednesday's 7-8 play-in contest with the Heat.

    However, Nurse allayed any fears regarding the fitness of Embiid, who practised with the rest of his team-mates on Saturday.

    "He did everything at practice yesterday," Nurse said after the Nets win. "But we decided out of caution to hold him out. He'll be ready to go."

    Despite winning their final eight games, the Sixers finished seventh in the Eastern Conference and are set to contest their first play-in contest.

    As a result of other results over the weekend, the Heat now stand between Philadelphia and a place in the playoffs.

    "Obviously, we've had some great battles with them, and we always expect that facing them," Nurse said.

    "The mindset is we're playing well and do everything we can, like we've been doing for the last month.

    "We're digging in and playing our guys and doing whatever we have to do to win. We've got a good mindset, and we'll take that into Wednesday."

  • Allen reportedly agrees to 4-year, $70million extension with Suns Allen reportedly agrees to 4-year, $70million extension with Suns

    When Grayson Allen takes the court for the Phoenix Suns in their first play-off game this weekend, he'll be playing with a new contract.

    Allen and the Suns agreed to a four-year, $70million extension on Monday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

    The six-year veteran is coming off his best NBA season, averaging career highs of 13.5 points per game, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 0.92 steals while starting 74 of 75 contests.

    He also shot a league-leading 46.1 per cent from 3-point range and averaged a career-best 2.7 made 3-pointers per game.

    He had seven games this season with at least eight made 3-pointers, and only the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry had more such games with eight.

     

    The 21st overall pick of the 2018 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz, Allen joined the Suns last off-season as part of the three-team trade that saw Damian Lillard go to the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Prior to being acquired by Phoenix, Allen spent one season with the Jazz, two with the Memphis Grizzlies and two in Milwaukee.

    He averaged 9.7 points per game in his first five seasons before becoming an important part of Phoenix's offence in 2023-24.

    In the 30 games Allen scored at least 14 points, the Suns went 22-8, compared to going 27-25 when he scored 13 or fewer.

    Phoenix won 10 of its last 14 games to end the season 49-33, and finish in sixth place in the Western Conference.

    The Suns will face the third-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves in a first-round play-off series, beginning on Saturday.

  • 'No doubt' Davis will face the Pelicans 'No doubt' Davis will face the Pelicans

    The Los Angeles Lakers will have Anthony Davis to call on when they face the New Orleans Pelicans in their upcoming play-in game.

    After finishing eighth in the Western Conference, the Lakers will go up against the No.7 seed Pelicans on Tuesday.

    While the loser will drop into a game against either the Sacramento Kings or the Golden State Warriors, the winner will go up against the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

    The Lakers defeated the Pelicans 124-108 in their final regular-season game on Sunday, with an instant rematch now on the cards.

    And Davis, who had to be treated for back spasms after the game, insisted he will be fit to feature.

    "No doubt that I'm going to play," said Davis, who finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds.

    LeBron James is heading into the playoffs in fine form.

    He registered his fifth triple-double of the season, finishing with 28 points, a season-high 17 assists and 11 rebounds.

    "I just read the game and I was just finding my teammates and I just tried to put the ball on time and on target for either jump shots or guys at the rim," James said.

    "I just tried to be very efficient with my play."

    James marked Zion Williamson on Sunday, with the 23-year-old limited to 12 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

    However, James was full of praise for his opponent, adding: "He's a beast.

    "I mean, it's almost impossible to stop him so I just tried to keep a body on him and just tried to keep it tough on him. He's a great player, man."

    Looking towards Tuesday's matchup, James said: "Tuesday's game is going to be extremely hard, extremely difficult, extremely physical.

    "I've always known that, when you play a playoff series, and I look at this like a two-game playoff series, if you win that first game, a team has multiple days to kind of sit on that feeling, or sit with that taste in their mouth of defeat.

    "So they're going to be extremely ready for us and we have to come in with the same sense of urgency that we had the previous game."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.