Daily NBA playoff results: Sixers roll; The suns survive; Mavericks send Jazz on vacation

Game 6: 76ers 132, Raptors 97 | Sixers win series 4-2

Who was the guy? Tyrese Maxey. His open field speed has often proved too much for the Toronto Raptors in this series. Every time Maxey got loose, the Raptors just couldn’t keep up. He broke free for 3-pointers throughout Game 6. They had enough to worry about with James Harden and Joel Embiid. Losing track of Maxey in this game and throughout the series simply gave the Sixers too many weapons to consider. He finished with 25 points and eight assists, including 8 of 16 from the field and 5 of 12 from deep.

What was the key here? Avoid the story. It’s hard enough to force a Game 6 when you’re down 0-3 in a playoff series. Force a Game 7? It’s only happened three times: once before the invention of the shot clock, once in 1994 by the Denver Nuggets in the second round after knocking down the top-seeded Seattle SuperSonics in the first round and it happened last seen in 2003 when Portland forced one against Dallas. The law of averages was on Philadelphia’s side, but the Sixers still had to go out there and take the pressure and doubt off their shoulders. They did it with a dominant second half.

Key stat: 32 and 35. This is the number of baskets assisted by the Sixers in this game (32) compared to the total number of baskets (35) for the Raptors. There was such an overwhelming differential over depth, but any time one team’s assisted buckets compare to another team’s crafted buckets overall, it’ll usually be a blowout win. The Raptors finished with 15 total assists. The Sixers had 16 3-point shots.

When it was over: The third quarter was dominated by the Sixers. It was a one-point halftime game, and the Raptors must have been feeling pretty good. Pascal Siakam cooked a little. Chris Boucher had a great first half. Gary Trent Jr. was trying to replace the absence of Fred VanVleet in the backcourt. The Sixers came out of halftime looking to demoralize the Raptors. In the blink of an eye, it was a 15-point game. They won the quarter 37-17 to move up 21 points with 12 minutes remaining. Maxey’s 15 points in the quarter nearly tied the entire Raptors team.

Game time: There was a time when the game seemed like it was all decided with about a quarter to go. One last sign of crowdwork from Raptors fans had them chanting “F*** Embiid!” with the Sixers up more than 20. Embiid embraced the trolling moment like he always does and invited more. He put his hand to his ear to hear her better. He performed with the audience. And then he continued to help finish the job to move on.

What’s next for the Raptors this offseason? It was a really positive season for the Raptors, and with playoff health, maybe they would move on. Masai Ujiri and Nick Nurse really appreciate their versatility and switchability on the roster, but they’re going to have to bring some interior size (which can hopefully compete on the perimeter) and maybe a bit more depth from game at the guardhouse. Fantastic season for the team that nabbed a gem from Scottie Barnes in the previous draft.

What can the Sixers expect from the semi-final against the Miami Heat? A fight. The Raptors have prepared them for some of what they’ll face in Miami, but the Heat have better size and more consistent shooting as long as they’re healthy. Jimmy Butler has a knee problem. Kyle Lowry missed much of the first round. Embiid’s thumb isn’t going to improve, so they need to see the same efforts from Tobias Harris and Maxey in the second round.


Game 6: Suns 115, Pelicans 109 | Suns win series 4-2

Who was the guy? ChrisPaul. He just set a playoff record for most field goals without a miss. He scored 33 of 14 of 14 points from the field. He hit his only 3-point attempt for the game and was perfect on four tries from the free throw line. The only thing the Phoenix Suns point guard spoiled in the game was committing three turnovers on the night, but he was still too perfect for the New Orleans Pelicans to overcome. His battle with Jose Alvarado was intense, and he even ran away with an elbow to the face during hoop practice. Paul was done with only one good match in every other contest in this series.

What was the key here? The return of Devin Booker helped give them more threats for the Pelicans to follow. We didn’t see much of Booker on the floor. He handled the ball a little to give CP3 a break and only scored a little, with 13 points on 5 of 12 shooting in 32 minutes after the hamstring injury. But the only 3-pointer he made on six shots was huge late in the game to give the Suns the lead. His mere presence gave the Pelicans a lot more to think about.

Key stat: Other than CP3 displaying a historic shooting night? That was the turnovers for the Pelicans. They needed to take better care of the ball, and 17 turnovers for 25 points less than those turnovers just wasn’t enough. There were several live ball turnovers that not only turned into points for Phoenix, but some of the easiest points they could score. The Pelicans showed a lot of fighting spirit, but they also showed their youth.

When it was over: A big streak late in the game with the Suns up two. CJ McCollum lost control of the ball and Mikal Bridges snatched it away and took it down the field for an easy score with around 90 seconds left. Then, after a missed jumper from Brandon Ingram, CP3 ended up drawing a foul from Alvarado for two free throws to push him to six points. After a three-point play from Larry Nance Jr. to cut the lead in half, Paul cut the shot clock to about 29 seconds. It was then that he buried his 14th shot in 14 attempts to push it to five and essentially seal the game.

Game time: For me, it’s Bridges stealing against McCollum with 1:30 to go in fourth. The Suns and Pelicans had a big back-and-forth at that time. Bridges was all over the defensive as he passed from Ingram to McCollum and everyone in between. A slight error from McCollum gave Bridges the green light to snatch the ball away, and he rarely misses that opportunity.

What’s next for the Pelicans’ offseason? This whole offseason for the Pelicans will be about getting Zion Williamson healthy and back into the mix. This team was so exciting and fun. They have a bright core with McCollum added to Ingram, Zion and Jonas Valanciunas. They found three great rookie roleplayers in Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III, and Alvarado. Willie Green can really coach. Add some depth and size to the backcourt and see what it looks like when Zion flies around the edge.

What should we expect in the next round from the Suns? It may all come down to Booker’s hamstring health. The Suns were the best team in the NBA from late November to the end of the season. They have depth. They have the versatility. But they need health. CP3 has a history of injuries this time of year. Booker is currently nursing an injury that only gets better with rest. And with Dallas on the way, the Suns face good defense and a brilliant perimeter offense.


Game 6: Mavericks 98, Jazz 96 | The Mavs win the series 4-2

Who was the guy? Luka Doncic. Other Mavericks had great games, but Luka controlled the game almost completely. He had 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and while he didn’t have the most effective game (8 of 21), the Mavs were plus-15 with him on the floor. His pace of play was just about perfect. He attacked in the open seams. He created the open seams. And by the end of the game, the Jazz were throwing reckless doubles in hopes he would get rid of the ball.

What was the key here? The Mavs’ perimeter attack is a puzzle the Jazz could never solve defensively. Dallas didn’t shy away from trying to put Rudy Gobert into action as much as possible defensively, as long as he was on the perimeter. Shoot it, force rotations from anywhere on the pitch, then swing the ball for open, rhythmic shots. It worked in every series, and it worked often in Game 6 when the Mavs closed out this one. Doncic had 24, Jalen Brunson scored 24 and Spencer Dinwiddie added 19 from the bench.

Key stat: 53.8 percent. That’s Dallas’ percentage of shots in this game that came from behind the 3-point line. The Mavs made 17 (39.5%) while peppering the Jazz with outside shots throughout the game. They lost the points battle in the paint by 18 points, but they outscored the Jazz by 24 points on the perimeter.

When it was over: When Bojan Bogdanovic missed the winning 3-point attempt. The Jazz would go down with a 3-of-two 3-point attempt, especially since they pulled Gobert off the floor on final possession. All perimeter options. Shoot the 3-pointer and see if you can extend your season. Miss, and it’s over. Bogdanovic looked great, but maybe a series of chases around Doncic and smaller guards left those legs a bit empty.

Game time: I think it was that final possession. It was a fascinating decision by Quin Snyder to keep Gobert — one of the league’s best screeners and a guy who hits 70% of his shots — off the floor in a two-point game. Donovan Mitchell was not the option for the Jazz on this play. Jordan Clarkson was not. They ran that fade to the weak side of the field for Bogdanovic. He was 3 of 5 deep at the time, and he’s a guy who wants those moments. But Snyder walked away from his main guys just ahead of what should be a busy jazz summer.

What’s next for the Jazz offseason? Lots of rumored changes could be on the horizon. Do they want to keep Quin Snyder as coach? Does Snyder want to stay there? Ryan Smith just bought the team not too long ago, and Danny Ainge just took over as head of the front office for the past year. How much do they change right away? Can they move forward with Gobert? Do they believe in Mitchell? Does Mitchell believe it? There could be a lot of changes here.

What happens in the second round for the Mavs? They’ll face the Suns, and that offense where they’ve targeted Mitchell and Gobert all the time in this series won’t fly against Phoenix. Their perimeter guys can guard. Their big man can defend in space. They have much better team chemistry than the Mavs’ last opponent. But that next step was absolutely necessary for the Luka era in Dallas, and they took it.


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(Photo: Rob Gray/USA Today)

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