Throughout the NBA play-offs, The National's resident NBA dudes Jonathan Raymond and Kevin Jeffers will be breaking down the key talking points of the night before. Below, the takeaways from Monday night's action in the 2016 post-season.
• Read more: 2016 NBA play-offs: Previews, predictions and what we learnt day-by-day
• Charlotte 89, Miami 85 | Series tied at 2
• Oklahoma City 118, Dallas 104 | Thunder win series 4-1
• Portland 98, LA Clippers 84 | Series tied at 2
Let’s just play in bubble wrap
If there were any shade of good news for Golden State Warriors fans on Monday following the news that Stephen Curry will miss at least two weeks with a sprained MCL, it was that their next opponent is in for at least a six-game fight.
That’s thanks to the Portland Trail Blazers, who evened their series with the Los Angeles Clippers at two games apiece. But the big story out of that game is, unfortunately, another injury to a top superstar.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul left in the third quarter with a broken bone in his right hand. He's likely out for the play-offs, and what was supposed to be a dream Western Conference play-off run for NBA fans is quickly turning into a nightmare.
You had the Warriors and Spurs, two of the greatest regular-season teams ever, destined to meet in the conference finals. But to get there they would have to get past huge tests – the Warriors against presumably the Clippers in a matchup of the two best point guards of their generation, and the Spurs past the Thunder and their all-time-great duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It’d be tough to script a better final four.
The Spurs-Thunder part of the equation is still on schedule, but nothing else is guaranteed, least of all the Clippers’ spot in the next round. They now have a legitimate fight on their hands with the upstart Blazers. The winner of that fight likely gets a Curry-less Warriors (at least for the first few games). The longer this series goes, the better for Golden State and the more rest Curry gets. But a lot of the lustre of a Warriors-Clippers series is worn with Paul being out. Actually, a Warriors-Blazers second-round match might be a better series.
It’s a shame. One of the most memorable regular seasons ever deserves a memorable postseason to match. Right now, it’s looking like the memory will be “what could have been”.
Before the Thunder dispatched of the Mavericks Monday night, Dallas owner Mark Cuban did a dumb thing by saying Russell Westbrook wasn't a superstar.
Westbrook went on to score 36 angry points with 12 angry rebounds and 9 angry assists because he is the angriest superstar who was given another reason to be angry. Not smart, Mark.
Oh, and Kevin Durant had 33 with 9 boards himself. Spurs-Thunder can’t start soon enough.
Feel the Buzz
For all the bad news out of the West, the East has been extremely entertaining so far.
Charlotte continued the trend of fierce battles last night by evening their series with Miami, thanks again to emerging star Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin’s rise back to prominence.
Walker had 34 and Lin scored 21 off the bench as the two guards just ran circles around a usually stifling Miami defence. Walker – who is used to the big stage from his title-winning college days at Connecticut – looked the part of a star, an ingredient that’s been missing in Charlotte for going on two decades. And Lin – an at-times frustratingly incomplete player – has been used perfectly as a score-first guard off the bench.
This is a great match-up. Miami is lousy with wing depth and balanced scoring, and Charlotte goes on microwave-hot stretches that are as fun to watch as any team. Meanwhile, Indiana-Toronto is a battle few saw coming, and Atlanta and Boston are ripping each others’ throats out. Aside from the leviathan in Cleveland, the East is competitive and fun – a nice change from the misery out West right now.
• Indiana at Toronto, 2am. | Series tied at 2
• Boston at Atlanta, 4.30am. | Series tied at 2
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