The NBA couldn’t have predicted these three series they shuffled over onto Friday night would have been the best three, but they might have had an idea. The night starts with Bulls-Celtics, moves onto Thunder-Rockets, and closes with Jazz-Clippers.
After Russell Westbrook shot 4-of-18 in the fourth quarter in Game 2, he has been leading the hot take train for an entire 48 hours. Everybody has an opinion about the mercurial Thunder point guard, who is likely headed for a MVP trophy and seemingly a first-round exit, too. But Oklahoma City is back home now, and they don’t call it Loud City for nothing. Trust me, I’ve been there and they take that nickname very seriously.
A basketball purist may complain how Westbrook marred the fourth quarter, but those two teams dueling was peak entertainment. When you’re dealing with the two players who have ostensibly had the two best seasons (since they’re presumably going 1-2 for MVP), that’s what you’re looking for. The NBA is entertainment, and we all want high stakes, something Rockets-Thunder Game 2 provided for us.
It’s the same with Celtics-Bulls. The series itself hasn’t been great, but a No. 1 seed falling to a No. 8 seed is wonderful drama. It does feel like Boston is the victim of their own fantastic regular season, but this is still an upset, no matter how you look at it. The pressure — and the intrigue — now falls on Chicago, to see if they can complete the upset.
As for Jazz-Clippers, the series has been dampened by Rudy Gobert’s absence. He’ll miss Game 3 again, but Utah did prove they can win without him thanks to Joe Johnson’s game-winning floater in Game 1. Now back at home, the question is whether they can steal another one and buy time for their potential Defensive Player of the Year to get back on his feet and into this series.
Here’s how you watch a fantastic three-game slate of games.
Times, locations and channels
All times Eastern
Celtics vs. Bulls: 7 p.m., United Center, ESPN
Rockets vs. Thunder: 9:30 p.m., Chesapeake Energy Arena, ESPN
Clippers vs. Jazz: 10 p.m., Vivint Smart Home Arena, ESPN2