Around the Association: Chef Curry is Cooking, Sixers in Command, Jalen Brunson Erupts, Marcus Smart Wins DPOY, More

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Around the Association: Chef Curry is Cooking, Sixers in Command, Jalen Brunson Erupts, Marcus Smart Wins DPOY, More

Chicago Bulls

Steph Curry is cooking out west, Philly is firmly in charge of their series with the Raptors, and Jalen Brunson did his best Luka Dončić impression on Monday night as Dallas evened things up with Utah. All that and more as the NBA playoffs roll on.

Sixers Take 2-0 Lead over Raps

Philadelphia is cruising in their first-round series with the Toronto Raptors, and Tyrese Maxey is playing a massive part in their hot start to the NBA postseason. The 21-year-old guard erupted for 38 points in the 76ers 131-111 Game 1 victory over the Raptors and added 23 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists as Philadelphia rolled over Toronto 112-97 on Monday night. 

Maxey, the 21st pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, averaged 17.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists during the regular season but has outplayed his regular-season numbers in the first two games of the Sixers series with the Raptors. 

Joel Embiid scored 31 points and 11 rebounds in the Game 2 win over the Raptors and logged a 19-point, 15-rebound double-double in the Game 1 win over Toronto. James Harden scored 22 points, 14 assists, and five rebounds over the Raps in Game 1 and added 14 points, six rebounds, and six assists in the victorious effort on Monday night. 

Philly appears to be on cruise control in their series with the Raptors as the series shifts to Toronto for the next two games. The way the Sixers are playing right now, this series might not make it back to Philly with Toronto in grave danger of being swept out of the opening round. 

Embiid had some words for Raptors head coach Nick Nurse during the closing seconds of Monday night’s game in Philadelphia:

Embiid said after the game that he respects Nurse and all of his accomplishments, but he told him, “respectfully, stop b******* about calls.” 

Strong words from the Sixers big man as his team took a commanding lead in the series. Even if Nurse doesn’t take Embiid up on his request, the time for Nurse to bellyache over calls in this series looks to be running short.

Brunson, Mavs Even Series with Utah

No Luka Dončić, no problem? Well, not exactly, but Jalen Brunson did his best to step up and fill the shoes of the injured Dallas superstar on Monday night. Brunson scored 41 points and logged eight rebounds, five assists, and a pair of steals while draining six shots from range as the Mavericks evened-up their series with the Utah Jazz with a 110-104 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

The Mavericks also got strong games from Maxi Kleber (25 points, six rebounds, and three assists) and Spencer Dinwiddie (17 points, four rebounds, six assists). Donovan Mitchell’s 34 points weren’t enough to help the Jazz take a 2-0 lead and steal home-court advantage from the Mavs with a game two win. Instead, the series will shift to Utah even at a game-a-piece on Thursday night.

Luka Dončić has missed Games 1 and 2 with a strained left calf suffered last week. On Monday, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said that Dončić has been doing some light shooting and sees that as a step in the right direction despite the star’s status for Game 3 still being up in the air. The Mavs and Jazz have two nights off before the series resumes in Salt Lake City on Thursday, which is also good news for Dallas and their hopes to get Luka back for Game 3. 

Warriors in Control in Series with Denver

After a mediocre (by his standards) performance in Game 1 (16 points, three rebounds, and four assists in 22 minutes of action), Steph Curry was back to his usual self in Game 2 on Monday night. Curry dropped 34 points on 12-of-17 shooting and tallied four assists while hitting five triples for the Warriors’ Game 2 victory over the Denver Nuggets. Curry and the Golden State Warriors now own a commanding 2-0 lead over the Nuggets as the series shifts to Denver. 

Like Philly in their series with the Raptors, Golden State is cooking with back-to-back double-digit victories over Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets. Jokić scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the losing effort on Monday night but was the only Nugget with 20-plus points. Jokić posted a 25-point, 10-rebound double-double in Saturday night’s loss to Golden State.

Jokić has been a machine all year, but the Warriors, especially with a cooking Steph Curry, might be too much for the injury-riddled Nuggets. 

A Trio of Game 2’s on Tuesday Night Slate

We’ve got a trio of Game 2’s on the slate tonight as the opening round of the NBA playoffs march on:

⇒ (1) Miami vs. (8) Atlanta (MIA leads 1-0): Duncan Robinson was lights out (27 points, 9-of-10 from the floor, 8-of-9 from three) as Miami rolled over Atlanta 115-91 in Game 1. Jimmy Butler added 21 points, six rebounds, and four assists in the Miami victory. Trae Young had an absolutely miserable night shooting the basketball for the Hawks, going 1-of-12 from the floor and 0-for-7 from range as the Atlanta star finished with just eight points in the losing effort. 

⇒ (2) Memphis vs. (7) Minnesota (MIN leads 1-0): Can Minnesota steal home-court advantage from the Grizzlies by taking the first two games in Memphis, or will Ja Morant and the Grizz even the series up before it shifts to Minnesota. The Game 1 win for Minnesota was fun, and they did it by beating Memphis at their own game, but there’s very little chance that the Timberwolves can parlay that victory into anything more than a fun story that will fade as the series rolls on. 

⇒ (1) Phoenix vs. (8) New Orleans (PHX leads 1-0): Phoenix topped New Orleans on Saturday night with Chris Paul (30 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds) and Devin Booker (25 points, eight assists, and four rebounds) leading the way in a 110-99 victory. Don’t expect much to change there.

And Ones … 

•   Jordan Poole drilled five three-pointers and scored 29 points for the Warriors in their Game 2 victory over the Denver Nuggets:

•   Poole’s 10 made three-pointers through his first two playoff games is the most three-pointers made in a player’s first two playoff games in NBA history:

•   Steph Curry said that he had a little pep in his step on Monday night:

•   Dallas’ 22 three-pointers were good for a new franchise record for made three-pointers in a playoff game:

•   Marcus Smart becomes the first guard since Gary Payton (1995-96) to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award:

•   Gary Payton himself delivered the news to Smart:

•   Here’s where things stand in the opening round of the NBA playoffs:

•   The top-10 plays from Monday night’s action:

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.