Injuries have dominated the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs so far.
The Suns take on the Pelicans in Game 4 in New Orleans without star Devin Booker, who is out with a hamstring injury. The Bucks were in the same boat with Khris Middleton, who missed Game 4 against the Bulls in Chicago with a sprained MCL. Both teams, who competed in the 2021 Finals, will likely miss their stars for the remainder of their first-round series.
The Golden State Warriors are moving full steam ahead after Steph Curry returned to the lineup, even if he’s coming off the bench. The Warriors are on the verge of sweeping Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets. They head into Game 4 in Denver with a 3-0 series lead.
No team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA playoff series.
Sunday’s action is rounded out by Game 4 in Atlanta between the Hawks and Heat, who are likely to be without Kyle Lowry following a hamstring injury. Miami leads 2-1.
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Denver All-Star Nikola Jokic scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first half against Golden State and helped the Nuggets to a63-52 halftime lead with their season on the line. Down 3-0 in the series, Denver had its best half of the series. Aaron Gordon and Bones Hyland each had 11 points for the Nuggets who shot 48.7% from the field and 41.2% on 3-pointers.
An oddity: Steph Curry – just 1-for-6 on 3s – missed consecutive free throws late in the second quarter. Andrew Wiggins had 14 points for the Warriors who shot 4-for-15 on 3s in the opening half. Golden State’s Klay Thompson (10 points) picked up his fourth foul with .5 seconds left in the half.
There had been some chatter that Brooklyn’s Ben Simmons would make his season debut in Game 4 against Boston. However, the Nets, who trail the Celtics 3-0 in the first-round series, ruled him out of Monday’s game with back soreness/return to competition reconditioning. The way the Nets are playing (not well), it also doesn’t make sense for them to put Simmons in that situation with their season on the line. That’s just too much pressure for a player who hasn’t played all season.
Toronto’s Fred VanVleet, a key piece to its success, is questionable for Game 5 against Philadelphia on Monday (8 p.m., NBA TV). VanVleet sustained a strained left hip in the second quarter of the Raptors’ 110-102 Game 4 victory on Saturday. The Raptors, down 3-1 in the series, have been battered by health issues in this series.
One team has Giannis Antetokounmpo and the other team doesn’t. The Bucks star had 32 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks, lifting Milwaukee to a 119-95 victory over Chicago in Game 4. The Bucks own a 3-1 series lead and can eliminate the Bulls Wednesday in Milwaukee.
The Bucks made use of the 3-pointer – primarily from Grayson Allen (playoff career-high 27 points) and Jrue Holiday (26 points.) Allen made 10-for-12 shots from the field, including 6-for-7 on 3s, and Holiday made 5-for-8 on 3s. With Khris Middleton out with an injury, Allen has stepped up. He had 22 points in Game 3 and is the first Bucks player to make at least five 3-pointers in consecutive playoff games.
Milwaukee is solid defensive team so credit where it’s due, but the Bulls made just 38.9% of their shots and just 25% on 3s. In three losses in the series, the Bulls didn’t reach 90 in two and didn’t get to a 100 in the third.
Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 24 points and 13 assists, and DeMar DeRozan added 23 points and Patrick Williams 20 points and 10 rebounds. DeRozan missed all five of his 3-point attempts.
Chicago has ruled guard Alex Caruso out for the remainder of Game 4, the team said. The Bulls said Caruso sustained a facial injury, and ESPN reported Caruso is undergoing an exam for a concussion. Alex Caruso did not start the second half and was not on the bench with the team. Caruso did not score in the first half but had four assists, four rebounds and a steal.
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers confirmed on Sunday that center Joel Embiid has a torn ligament in his right thumb but the star will play through it until the Sixers’ postseason is over. It’s likely Embiid will need surgery after the season.
It’s clear the thumb bothers him. “Obviously, he’s going to struggle with it a little bit,” Rivers said on Saturday. “He’s got to get used to it, too. He’s never played with it. I think we’re both going to learn a lot – what he can do and what he can’t do.”
Even without injured Khris Middleton, Milwaukee is trying to make quick work of Chicago in its first-round series. Up 2-1, the Bucks took a 56-41 lead into halftime of Game 4. Bobby Portis (11 points, five rebounds) and Grayson Allen (16 points, three steals) led the Bucks in the first half. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo had 12 points, six rebounds and three assists. Allen continues to make 3-pointers – he was 4-for-5 on 3, and the Bucks shot 47.4% on nine made 3s in the first half.
Zach LaVine had 12 points and Nik Vucevic had 11 for the Bulls, who were just 29.4% on 3s and did not shoot a free throw in the opening two quarters.
Miami guard Kyle Lowry (left hamstring strain) is listed on the official injury report as questionable for Game 4 against Atlanta on Sunday. The Heat own a 2-1 series lead but lost Game 3 where Lowry exited the game late in the third quarter and did not return.
This isn’t the first time Poole has decided the postseason would be his breakout party.
There’s the shot everyone remembers – his buzzer-beater 3-pointer that pushed the Michigan Wolverines past the Houston Cougars in the second round of the 2018 men’s NCAA Tournament. Poole, then a freshman, came off the bench with Duncan Robinson for a team that reached the championship game.
But Poole’s playoff poise actually traces its origin story to his freshman year of high school, long before his performances through three games of the 2022 NBA playoffs have helped the Golden State Warriors take a 3-0 series lead over the Denver Nuggets.
As a teenager at Rufus King — a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, public school powerhouse — Poole buried a shot from just inside the logo, sending the game to overtime. Rufus King won and advanced to the state tournament.
“He’s a winner,” then-coach Jim Gosz told USA TODAY Sports from Denver, hours before Gosz watched the Warriors punish the Nuggets for the third straight game. Poole had 27 points to complement Games 1 and 2 of 30 and 29, respectively. “Everywhere he’s gone, he’s won.”
— Chris Bumbaca