Top-ranked Suns and Heat play as playoff favorites | Sports News


By DAVID BRANDT, AP Sports Journalist

PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat are the top seeds in the NBA playoffs and at the moment they look like it, putting in impressive performances.

Both have a chance to take a 2-0 lead in their respective series on Wednesday and are big favorites to get there, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

In the Western Conference, the Suns are on a 10-game winning streak against the Dallas Mavericks, counting regular season games, heading into Game 2. Deandre Ayton scored 25 points, Devin Booker added 23 and Chris Paul in had 19 in Game 1 in a balanced game. and most dominant performances.

The Suns gained 21 points in the fourth quarter before a Mavs rally made it a two possession game in the final minutes. Phoenix held on for a 121-114 win and said the game taught them a valuable lesson.

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“Just break the gas pedal, that’s all, break it,” Ayton said, referring to whether Phoenix lost focus with the big lead.

As for the Mavericks, they need someone to help Luka Doncic, who scored 45 points, had 12 rebounds and eight assists in Game 1. Coach Jason Kidd said others need to “join the party” if Dallas wants to make this a competitive series. .

“We’ve been here before,” Dallas forward Dorian Finney-Smith said. “Don’t overreact. We have to go back to the drawing board. We know how they play us now, so we have to adjust.

In the Eastern Conference, the 76ers used plenty of lineups against the Heat in Game 1 and will continue to search for the right mix without league champion and NBA MVP runner-up Joel Embiid – who will be missing. Game 2 with an orbital fracture and concussion.

Going small has sometimes worked for Philadelphia. When Miami got the counter, the game moved away from the 76ers. But some elements worked.

“The biggest adjustment for us is taking care of the darn ball,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday. “It’s being organised, being in the right places, managing your attack correctly. … Going into the game and letting that pressure get us out of it, it’s not daunting but really unsettling.

And a Game 1 loss certainly didn’t hurt Philadelphia’s confidence. Backup center Paul Reed made that clear after the game.

“Honestly, I think we can definitely beat this team,” Reed said. “I think we go out there, get more physical than them and play more aggressive and keep them on their heels, they go to bed.”

Miami leads 1-0. Game 2, 7:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.

— NEED TO KNOW: Miami’s Bam Adebayo was 8 of 10 from the floor in Game 1, Tyler Herro recovered his shot and the Heat won without a big night out from Jimmy Butler (15 points). But the 76ers found things they liked; the zone defense worked to some extent, although it exposed Philadelphia a bit on the offensive glass. Tobias Harris — who was excellent against the Heat in the regular season — had a game-high 27 points. “He killed us. We didn’t handle it well,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Philadelphia G James Harden. Just four shots and four points in the second half (okay, he didn’t play much of the fourth quarter) isn’t enough right now for a 76ers team without Joel Embiid. Harden doesn’t have to take 35 shots, but he and the 76ers need to find ways for him to try to score more.

– INJURY ALERT: Embiid (orbital fracture, concussion) remains absent, despite taking the first steps to evade concussion protocols. “He feels much better. I don’t want to give false hope either, so I’ll stop there,” Rivers said. Miami PG Kyle Lowry (hamstring) hasn’t played since Game 3 of the opening round series against Atlanta and won’t play Wednesday. Butler had an excused absence Tuesday, but is no longer on the heat injury report.

— THE PRESSURE IS ON: Miami. All the Heat have done is win a game at home. If Philadelphia steals Game 2, they get home-court advantage for the series. That, combined with the possibility of Embiid returning at some point, would be a huge boost for the 76ers.

Phoenix leads 1-0. Game 2, 10 p.m. EDT, TNT.

— NEED TO KNOW: The Suns were dominant for most of Game 1, looking much more like the team that led the NBA with 64 regular season wins. Deandre Ayton scored 25 points, Devin Booker had 23 and Chris Paul added 19. The Mavs are hoping they can take some confidence from a late-game run that made the score quite close in the last possessions. Mavs goaltender Luka Doncic was phenomenal with 45 points but needs help as Dallas gets a road win.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Dallas G Jalen Brunson. Arguably the biggest reason the Mavs are still playing in this playoff is Brunson, who had some big games when Doncic missed the first three contests of the Jazz Series with a strained calf. Brunson struggled in Game 1, scoring just 13 points on 6 of 16 shooting. He will have to play better.

– INJURY WATCH: Dallas forward Maxi Kleber took a hard fall in the fourth quarter, landing on his upper back and neck after finishing a dunk. He stayed in the game to shoot his free throw but looked shaken. Kleber was a big contributor in Game 1, scoring 19 points and making five 3-point shots. Suns guard Devin Booker appeared to be at full strength in his second game after a strained right hamstring, but he will always be watched closely.

— THE PRESSURE IS ON: Dallas. The Mavericks have lost 10 straight games to the Suns, including regular season games. Doncic – as usual – has been fabulous but if the Mavs can’t get him some help, it could be a short streak.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.

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AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this story.

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