The Toronto Raptors went up 3-2 on the Milwaukee Bucks with their best game of the playoffs, the Warriors completed their first-round sweep of the Blazers, and the Atlanta Hawks squared their series with the Washington Wizards. Here;s what we learned from Monday’s three-game slate of NBA playoff basketball.
The Toronto Raptors are for Real
Over the weekend, the Boston Celtics evened up their series vs the Chicago Bulls, somewhat vindicating their regular season record in the East, but after Watching the Raptors run rickshaw over the Bucks 118-93, there’s little question that they’re the team that can challenge LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the conference.
Toronto played at the top of their game and it was formidable sight. Norm Powell led the Raptors with a team-high 25 points in his first start of the series, while power forward Serge Ibaka was dominant at both ends of the court, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, while adding six rebounds and three blocked shots. Guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combined for 34 points between them to balance out the attack.
The Warriors are still the Warriors
With the Warriors leading the Portland Trail Blazers 3-0 in the series, one might have expected a let down game, however it was clear that this years Warriors are not going to take their foot off the gas. Golden State jumped to a 22-3 lead while setting a franchise playoff record for points in a first quarter with 45. They led by as many as 33 points on the way to a 128-103 win on the road to complete the first-round sweep.
Atlanta Hawks Peaking
The Wizards seemed set for an easy first-round victory after finishing six games ahead of Atlanta in the regular season standings, considering the Hawks limped to the finish line during the regular season thanks to Paul Millsap missing 10 of the final 14 games due to injury, however on Monday in a must win home game it was the Hawks that cruised to a 111-101 to even the series at two games apiece.
The easy win had us asking if the Hawks be peaking at the right time. Dwight Howard who often looks disinterested was looked strong and finished with a team-high 15 rebounds and scoring 16 points, while Jose Calderon added a needed spark off the bench. Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer finally got his equal-opportunity style of offense to work as every Hawks player seemed to find a meaningful way to contribute to the win.