While we power through this rest period for the Philadelphia 76ers and parse every Joel Embiid update or non-update, three teams will take the court tonight at home looking to close out their series. All of Boston, Denver, and Phoenix are at least double-digit favorites tonight as of this writing, per DraftKings.
Of course, Sixers fans are likely most interested in the Boston-Atlanta game, because if the Celtics send the Hawks fishing tonight, Game 1 between Boston and Philadelphia will be on Saturday. If the Hawks pull off the upset, Game 1 of the second round would move to Monday.
The NBA makes official the scenario laid out yesterday: if the Celtics win Tuesday, the East semifinals will start Saturday in Boston. If Atlanta wins, Game 1 won’t take place until Monday.https://t.co/ad7yON4F3b— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 24, 2023
While we would love for Embiid to have a couple more days to heal his sprained knee, we’re not holding out too much hope for Atlanta. Let’s quickly set up tonight’s games.
Boston Celtics (3-1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (1-3) - 7:30pm ET - TNT
The Celtics are 13-point favorites for this contest, in part because Atlanta’s Dejounte Murray is suspended for tonight’s game for making contact with and verbally abusing an official at the end of Game 4. Not smart, Dejounte.
Sixers fans embodied the Pointing Rick Dalton meme because Jayson Tatum also made contact with an official during Game 4, but objectively, you can see the difference between what Tatum and Murray did.
Jayson Tatum pushes one ref and yell at another one but they focus on Trae Young ♂️ pic.twitter.com/z9TVkss2yS— Roy Harris (@Brotha2ThaNite) April 24, 2023
We all know Boston is light years ahead of Atlanta on the court. It was very surprising the Hawks were even able to pull off a win in Game 3. Trae Young’s playoff career-high is 48 points, which came in 2021 in the Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee. He’ll need to be in that ballpark for Atlanta to hang tight with the Celtics in Boston tonight.
Denver Nuggets (3-1) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (1-3) - 9:00pm ET - NBA TV
The Wolves showed some pride by winning Game 4 and avoiding the sweep, although allowing Denver to go on a 12-0 run to end regulation and force overtime is not exactly cause for celebration. The Nuggets are 10-point favorites, helped slightly by Minnesota’s Kyle Anderson being ruled out with an eye injury suffered in Game 4. Since struggling in Game 1 of this series, Anthony Edwards has been incredible, dropping 41, 36, and 34 points, which was still only enough to barely scrape by with one win. We are all Chuck right now.
Charles Barkley not a fan of Minnesota and only a fan of Mike Conley and Anthony Edwards pic.twitter.com/o0qhL448Cz— x - Alex (@Dubs408) April 20, 2023
Look for Nikola Jokic to pad some stats tonight and the Nuggets to advance to the next round.
Phoenix Suns (3-1) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (1-3) - 10:00pm ET - TNT
You have to feel awful for the Clippers, who have been competitive throughout this series despite getting no games from Paul George and just two games from Kawhil Leonard. Both stars are out again tonight with Phoenix sitting as 12.5-point favorites. Russell Westbrook has his stans crowing big time, as he has defied the doubters with at least 28 points in each of the last three games, shooting a more than respectable 54.4 percent from the field over that span.
Still, led by Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, timely moments from aging Point God Chris Paul, and terrific X factor play from Torrey Craig, the Suns have won three straight and look back on track to approach those lofty expectations post-Durant trade. The Clippers’ extreme small ball tactics have been fun and interesting, but I think it ends here tonight for them.