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NBA playoff winners, losers: Knicks get crucial win, Nets eliminated

Drama, ejections, flagrant fouls and injuries dominated the second weekend of the NBA playoffs.

Philadelphia is the only team that has advanced to the conference semifinals. The Sixers will start the second round either Saturday or May 1, and with Joel Embiid dealing with a sprained right knee, they’re hoping for the later date so Embiid has more time to heal.

Two series are 2-1 (Los Angeles Lakers over Memphis, Miami over Milwaukee), one is 2-2 (Golden State-Sacramento) and four are 3-1 (Denver leads Minnesota, Phoenix ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston on top of Atlanta, New York in front of Cleveland).

The Dillon Brooks-LeBron James trash-talking took center stage headed into Game 3 only to be upstaged by Brooks’ ejection after striking James in groin area Saturday.

And Atlanta’s Dejounte Murray is facing possible discipline from the league after his confrontation with a referee at the conclusion of the Hawks’ loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Follow every game: Latest NBA Scores and Schedules

Here are the winners and losers from the second weekend of the NBA playoffs:

WINNERS

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle are New York’s All-Stars, but the Knicks also need Barrett’s offense. Barrett has helped the Knicks win the past two games for a 3-1 series lead with efficient offense, especially inside the 3-point line. Barrett scored 19 points in Game 3 and 26 points in Game 4 on a combined 17-for-30 from the field including 14-for-18 inside the arc.

Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

Denver and All-NBA center Nikola Jokic have been strong in the series, but Anthony Edwards saved the Timberwolves from elimination with 34 points in a 114-108 overtime victory. Minnesota wasted a 12-point lead late in the fourth quarter, but Edwards had five points in OT, including the game-deciding 3-pointer.

Kings-Warriors series

Tied at 2-2, this is the best series in the playoffs, complete with great games (one decided by a point, one decided by three points) and fantastic individual performances from the Warriors’ Steph Curry and Draymond Green, and the Kings’ De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis and Malik Monk.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers earned their first series sweep since 1991, and now they’re rooting for the Boston-Atlanta series to go at least six games for a couple of reasons. Let those two teams get tired, and it gives the Sixers a chance to rest some players, and in the case of Embiid, a chance to get healthy after spraining his right knee in Game 3.

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

Booker is averaging 34.8 points, highest in the playoffs, and shooting 57.1% from the field and 43.5% on 3-pointers with games 38, 45 and 30 points (50% shooting on 3s) in the Suns’ three victories against the Clippers. He is the premier benefactor from Kevin Durant’s presence on offense. And Booker’s defense has been outstanding: 11 steals and five blocks.  

Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

In Game 1 and Game 3 victories against Milwaukee to give the Heat a 2-1 series lead, Butler scored 35 and 30 points and shot 58.7% from the field on 27-for-46 shooting. Butler is Miami’s Mr. Do Everything, and if the Heat are going to pull off this 8 over 1 upset, Butler needs to play like that.

LOSERS

Brooklyn Nets

They had two prime chances in Games 3 and 4 to win with Philadelphia missing a star. James Harden was ejected from Game 3 in the third quarter, but the Nets blew a 96-91 lead with 2:15 left in the fourth quarter and lost. In Game 4 with their season at stake, the Nets failed to capitalize on the absence Embiid. The Sixers swept the Nets.

Los Angeles Clippers

They acquired Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in 2019 and have nothing but a Western Conference finals appearance to show for it. They lost in the conference semifinals in 2020, conference finals in 2021, didn’t make the playoffs last season and are down 3-1 against the Suns this season. Over four seasons and 308 regular-season games, Leonard and charge have played together in just 107 games, including no games last season when Leonard was injured. George is likely out for the Suns series, and Leonard missed Game 3. Their record together is stellar (83-35). They’re not just on the court together for enough games.

Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies

Brooks ran his mouth at Lakers star LeBron James during and after Memphis’ Game 2 victory. Brooks said he likes to poke the bear. He should know better. There’s a long line of people who poked James, and it didn’t turn out well from Lance Stephenson to Joakim Noah to Klay Thompson. Brooks was not at his best in Game 3 – ejected for hitting James in the groin area and shot just 3-for-13 from the field for seven points in the Lakers’ 111-101 victory. Brooks is better off, at least in this series, focused on basketball.

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers

Mitchell was 1-for-9 for just two points in the second half of Game 4 on Sunday. He missed his first eight shots of the half and his bucket came with 2:13 left in the fourth quarter. He finished with just 11 points on 5-for-18 shooting, including 0-for-4 on 3-pointers. Mitchell also had six turnovers. This is nothing Mitchell, who will be an All-NBA selection this season, doesn’t know: the Cavs can’t win if he plays like that.

Milwaukee’s defense

Even without Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have outstanding defenders: Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton. The Heat were 23-for-36 in the paint and 16-for-33 on 3-pointers. The Bucks defense is in disarray minus Antetokounmpo, but they also have enough talent and institutional knowledge to play better defense if Antetokounmpo is not on the court.

Injuries

Injuries stink, and through one week of the NBA playoffs, they have had an impact on several series and have the potential to impact conference semifinals, conference finals and NBA Finals.

Embiid has a sprained right knee, missed Game 4 against Brooklyn and Sixers coach Doc Rivers said it’s 50% at best that Embiid will be ready for the start of the next series.

Clippers’ star forward Kawhi Leonard (sprained right knee) missed the past two games – both Suns victories – and the Clippers trail 3-1 in the series. The Clippers have competed without Leonard but not well enough to win without him.

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo missed Games 2 and 3 – a split for the Bucks – and his absence is notable in the Heat’s 2-1 series lead.

Miami’s Victor Oladipo, who has battled injuries in his career, is out for the season after sustaining a torn patellar tendon in his left knee against Milwaukee in Game 3.

Just awful.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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