NBA play-offs: Philadelphia, Phoenix, Dallas in the semis, Paul sets a record

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James Harden des Philadelphia 76ers contre les Toronto Raptors en plays-offs de la NBA le 28 avril 2022 à Toronto (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP - Cole Burston)

Philadelphia, winner in Toronto, made an appointment with Miami in the Eastern Conference semi-finals of the NBA play-offs, as did Phoenix, guided by Chris Paul in record mode in New Orleans, and Dallas, scorer of Utah, who will end up in the last four in the West.

The fear in the stomach of finding themselves back against the wall, the Sixers? Nay, it was on the contrary with the bit in their teeth that they completed their series (132-97), dispelling the shadow of a doubt which hovered over their ability to finish the job, after having led 3- 0 then let Toronto come back to 3-2.

But to date, never a team that won the first three games has then lost the next four.

Philly, by not letting Toronto equalize, therefore avoided a game-breaker and this potential pitfall. What reassure Doc Rivers, appeared annoyed in recent hours when we came to remind him of his liabilities in this area, since he is the only coach to have experienced three eliminations after leading 3-1.

James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers against the Toronto Raptors in the NBA playoffs on April 28, 2022 in Toronto (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP – Cole Burston)

The mobilization was collective, in the wake of Joel Embiid. The strongman of the Sixers, who has suffered from a torn ligament since match N.3 and appeared diminished in the next two, was once again dominant inside (33 pts, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks).

But the Cameroonian pivot added a sore to his list, since he took an elbow above the right eye by his compatriot Pascal Siakam (24 pts, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 interceptions). A slight cut without too much damage.

– “CP3” at 100% –

Another reason for satisfaction for the 76ers, the solid performance of James Harden (22 pts, 15 assists) who heard Embiid’s call for him to play more aggressively. Tyrese Maxey also contributed greatly (25 pts, 8 assists).

Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns against the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA playoffs on April 28, 2022 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP - Chris Graythen)
Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns against the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA playoffs on April 28, 2022 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP – Chris Graythen)

All of these ingredients will be needed in Philadelphia against 2020 finalist Miami, guided by Jimmy Butler.

Mission accomplished also for Phoenix. The best team of the regular season had the last word (115-109), also in six matches, against the Pelicans and it was the inevitable Chris Paul who pronounced it.

Master of money-time during the regular season, to tip the matches in favor of the Suns when they were tight, “CP3” again demonstrated its know-how, scoring 10 of its 33 points in this period, to finish with a perfect 100% on shots (14/14) and 8 assists.

Before him, no player had ever scored so many baskets without missing one in the play-offs.

Devin Booker back, after three games away due to a contracture in the right hamstring, he struggled to find the right rhythm (13 pts, at 5/12). But his teammates were outstanding, with overall address hitting 60%.

– Doncic behind Jordan –

Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks against the Utah Jazz in the NBA playoffs on April 28, 2022 at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP - Alex Goodlett)
Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks against the Utah Jazz in the NBA playoffs on April 28, 2022 at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP – Alex Goodlett)

The Pelicans were not unworthy, like Brandon Ingram (21 pts, 11 rebounds), without however being able to build on their lead of ten lengths at the break. Enough to make their coach Willie Green shed a tear of emotion, consoled afterwards by his counterpart Monty Williams, whose assistant he was last year.

The Suns will face the Mavs, winners at the Jazz (98-96) and who finally pass the 1st round, for the first time since 2011, the year of their only title.

And it didn’t play out much, in this case a walk from Mike Conley, whose shoe moved too much on braking, to spoil a crucial possession, followed by a failed attempt behind Bojan’s arc Bogdanovic. One too many, since Utah, abusing the exercise, shot 25.7% from long distance.

What still frustrate Rudy Gobert. The Frenchman, who was able to play despite having been stung in the nose by a bee from his hive, was still underused (10 pts, at 3/6, 12 rebounds).

Dallas was more skilful, since led by 12 units at the break (53-41), he rained down the award-winning banderillas (8/12) in the only 3rd quarter to reverse the situation (77-72). And to hold the score until the end, in the wake of Luka Doncic (24 pts, 9 assists, 8 rebounds) passing the bar of 500 points in the play-offs in 16 matches.

Only Michael Jordan has done better, in 14 games.

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