The NBA playoffs have reached the conference semifinals after the favorites came out on top in every first-round matchup. Here’s a look at the series-opening games scheduled for Monday night.
Sixers Travel to Miami for Game One
The much-awaited series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat begins tonight with game one at FTX Arena. The Sixers closed out the Toronto Raptors in six games with a huge victory in Game 6 of their first-round series. Still, the win came at a significant cost, as MVP candidate Joel Embiid was injured and will be out for Game 1 tonight with a concussion suffered from a fractured orbital bone. His availability for the rest of the series is unknown.
In their first-round series, the Heat dominated the Hawks, closing it out in five games. Miami held Trae Young to just 15.4 points per game on 31.9% shooting. Their stifling pressure defense against the All-Star point guard also limited him to 18.4% shooting from beyond the arc.
After their success against the Hawks, Miami also has to deal with a few injuries. Jimmy Butler had soreness in his knee and didn’t play in Game 5 against Atlanta, but he will be in the lineup tonight. In addition, Kyle Lowry has a strained hamstring which will keep him out of action for the first two games of this series. He also missed the last game against Atlanta.
The teams split the season series and haven’t faced each other since March or since Philly acquired James Harden and the Heat moved Max Strus into the starting lineup. Strus is a better defender than Duncan Robinson and has averaged 14 points, and 1.4 steals in the playoffs.
Harden has averaged 19 points and 10.2 assists in the postseason. He will need to increase his production tonight if Philly hopes to win.
Miami will get the easy win at home against the ailing Sixers.
Mavs Face Tough Test in Phoenix
On Monday night, the Dallas Mavericks will play Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series in Phoenix vs. the Suns. The number-four seed Mavs defeated Utah in six games to make it to this point, as Phoenix also needed six games to win over the New Orleans Pelicans. The Suns finished with the league’s best record and swept the season series 3-0 against Dallas.
The Mavericks aren’t among the top-scoring teams in the NBA but are near the top in shooting percentage at 54.8%. This is enough to rank them fifth overall. Luka Doncic had another great season, leading them with 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game. Jalen Brunson followed him with 16.3 points and 4.8 assists.
The Suns have also been shooting the ball well in these playoffs. Devin Booker missed three games of the series vs. New Orleans with a strained hamstring, but Chris Paul had no problem taking up the slack in the deciding game. Paul set an NBA record for most consecutive field goals in a playoff game without a miss, going 14-14 from the field and scoring 33 points, and dishing out eight assists. Deandre Ayton had 22 points and seven rebounds as the Suns shot 60% for the game.
The Suns will get the win and again show Dallas who is the better team.