The Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat are halfway to booking their place in the conference finals, while the other two conference semis are tied at 1 game apiece. There’s almost nothing to separate the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors, while the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics have punched each other in the mouth with convincing wins.
Here are the stories for each playoff series so far as told by the numbers.
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks: 24
The first two games of the series were both practically decided in the first 24 minutes. The Bucks carried a ten-point halftime lead in Game 1 en route to a 101-89 win. In Game 2, the Celtics led by 25 at the half and won by 23. The Bucks and Celtics are both excellent defensive teams who are capable of protecting leads by making stops. What we’ve seen so far is that the team that builds a double-digit lead in the first half is not threatened the rest of the way.
One thing that stands out in the two first halves is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s +/-. The reigning Finals MVP was plus-17 in Game 1 and minus-16 in Game 2. He didn’t shoot the ball well in both games, but he was able to do other things in Game 1—he had eight boards, seven assists and got to the line four times in the first half. The Celtics successfully limited Giannis from doing these things in Game 2. Without Khris Middleton, the Bucks have a smaller margin for error and need Giannis to be dominant from the get-go.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors: 22
This has been hands-down the best second-round series so far, with two thrilling games that went down the wire. This despite both teams seemingly playing handicapped because their #2 guys have not been shooting the ball well.
Desmond Bane and Klay Thompson are each shooting just 22% from deep this series after being lights out in the first round. Bane hit 27 of 55 three-point attempts (49.1%) against Minnesota, while Thompson went 22-for-48 (45.8%) versus Denver. Bane has only made a total of two threes in this series. Thompson’s go-ahead three-pointer in Game 1 tends to mask his struggles, but he missed two crucial free throws at the end that could’ve iced the game and followed that up with a 5-for-19 outing in Game 2.
In a tightly contested series, it feels like whoever breaks out of the slump first will provide the separation his team needs.
Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks: 33
Through the first two games, the Suns are plus-33 when Chris Paul is on the floor and minus-6 when he sits. He delivered another fourth quarter gem in Game 2, so that it’s easy to overlook that he was in full command of Game 1 albeit in a less spectacular fashion.
Every time the Mavs cut the lead to single digits in the series opener, the Point God responded with timely buckets. When Dallas got to within eight with under three minutes left in the first half, Paul rattled off five straight points to give the Suns a 13-point cushion heading into the break.
When the Mavs cut the lead to eight early in third, boom, three-point play by Paul.
Luka Doncic has been sensational for the Mavs, but CP3’s baskets have been more impactful. This has been a masterclass of game management from the soon-to-be 37-year-old, and Doncic best be taking notes because this might be the only thing Dallas can take from this series.
Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers: Zero
The amount of interest that fans have on this series.
No, not that? Okay, the number of minutes Joel Embiid has played in this series.
Miami won the first two games by an average margin of 15 points. The simplest answer is usually correct, and the reason why the Sixers haven’t been competitive is because of Embiid’s absence. Whether it’s scoring, rebounding or defense, Embiid is central to everything the Sixers do.
I hate to be Mr. Obvious here, but it wouldn’t be a series until Embiid plays. There were reports that he is targeting to return for Game 3, but Doc Rivers didn’t sound too optimistic after Game 2 because Embiid apparently hasn’t cleared any of the steps necessary to return. If he misses Game 3, then that’s a wrap.