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NBA

NBA on Sling: Isaiah Thomas Kickstarts Round 2 With Gap-toothed 33 Points

Washington Wizards vs Boston Celtics, Boston leads 1-0

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas has in the past two weeks proven himself to be one of the emotionally and physically toughest players in the NBA. Two days before his team’s round one series against the Bulls, he got word his kid sister had died in a car accident. With a pall hanging over the team, they lost the first two games at home. But after a quick visit home to grieve with friends and family, Thomas returned emotionally recharged, and the team ripped off four straight wins. Al Horford came up big, leading the team in rebounds (8.5) and assists (6.5), while throwing in 16 points per game, but it was Avery Bradley who led the charge in the decisive Game 6, scoring 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Then, Sunday, Thomas’ flight back from his sister’s funeral landed just nine hours before Game 1 against the Wizards, in which Thomas lost a tooth to an Otto Porter Jr. elbow early in the 1st quarter, only to score a game-high 33 points and lead his team back from a 22-5 deficit, for a 123-111 victory. In the Wizards’ first round series, John Wall and Bradley Beal saved the best for last, combining for a career-high 73 points to finish off the Hawks 115-99 in Game 6 of their series. For the series, Wall and Beal combined for 54.3 ppg, with Wall also averaging 10.3 apg. The Wizards and Celtics split four games this season, with the home team winning every time. Prediction: Celtics in 6.

Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers

The Raptors battled back from down 2-1 against the Bucks, but made things a little too interesting in Game 6. The Raptors were up 71-46 midway through the 3rd, but saw the lead evaporate with 1:47 to play before going on a 7-0 run that put the game out of reach. DeMar DeRozan was electric over the last three games, averaging 28 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals per game, while shooting 51.7% from the floor. The Cavaliers may have swept the Pacers, with LeBron James averaging 32.8-9.8-9.0, with 3 steals and 2 blocks per game, but it wasn’t all that easy, as James also averaged 43.5 minutes, and the Cavs average margin of victory was just 4 points. It’s a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals, which the Cavs won 4-2 on their way to the title. This time around, the Cavs again have the talent advantage, as well as having had more than a week of rest. Prediction: Cavs in 5.

Utah Jazz vs Golden State Warriors

The Jazz put the final nail in the coffin of the CP3 Clippers’ title hopes, by winning Game 7 in LA, 104-91. The Jazz managed to win Games 1 and 7 of this series essentially without the services of defensive anchor Rudy Gobert, who was hurt 17 seconds into the first game, and fouled out in just 14 minutes of the seventh. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz in scoring with 23.7 ppg, thanks to a scorching 44.7% shooting percentage from beyond the arch. The Warriors swept their opening round series against the Blazers, winning by an average of 18 points per game, and they did it the old fashioned Warriors way: by draining 40.3% of their 3-pointers. Steph Curry scored a hair under 30 ppg, while Draymond Green went 14-10-8, leading the team in boards and dimes. And the Warriors D was suffocating, holding the Blazers to a 39.7 field goal percentage and just 15.8 apg. Prediction: Warriors in 5

Houston Rockets vs San Antonio Spurs

This promises to be the best series of the second round, featuring the second- and third-winningest teams in the league — it’s almost unfair that they have to face each other this early. The Rockets blew out the Thunder in their Round 1 opener, 118-87, then won 3 of 4, with all four games decided by 6 points or fewer, as they let Russell Westbrook essentially exhaust himself by posting 37-12-11, but shooting just 38.8% from the floor. After taking a 2-0 lead over the Grizzlies, the Spurs were so unimpressive in Game 3, that coach Gregg Popovich benched his starters for much of the second half of Game 3, which they lost 105-94. The Grizz would tie things up at 2-2 with an overtime win, only to have the Spurs reassert their dominance. Both the Rockets and Spurs have deep benches, and it’s tempting to say the Rockets runs deeper, but the Spurs have Popovich and homecourt advantage, and Kawhi Leonard is much better on offense than James Harden is on defense. The Spurs took 3 of 4 against the Rockets in the regular season. Prediction: Spurs in 7

Monday, May 1 on TNT

Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers @ 7pm ET

Houston Rockets vs San Antonio Spurs @ 9:30pm ET

Tuesday, May 2 on TNT

Washington Wizards vs Boston Celtics @ 8pm ET

Utah Jazz vs Golden State Warriors @ 10:30pm ET

Wednesday, May 3 on TNT

Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers @ 7pm ET

Houston Rockets vs San Antonio Spurs @ 9:30pm ET

Thursday, May 4 on ESPN

Boston Celtics vs Washington Wizards @ 8pm ET

Utah Jazz vs Golden State Warriors @ 10:30pm ET

Friday, May 5 on ESPN

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Toronto Raptors @ 7pm ET

San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets @ 9:30pm ET

Saturday, May 6 on ABC/ESPN3

Golden State Warriors vs Utah Jazz @ 8:30pm ET

Sunday, May 7 on ABC/ESPN3

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Toronto Raptors @ 3:30pm ET

Sunday on TNT

Boston Celtics vs Washington Wizards @ 6:30pm ET

San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets @ 9pm ET

Watch the NBA on TNT by subscribing to Sling, ESPN and ESPN3 by subscribing to Sling Orange, and on ABC by subscribing to Sling Orange + Broadcast Extra.

All stats courtesy ESPN and Basketball Reference.

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