NBA playoffs scores, takeaways: Lakers sent home packing by Nuggets, Thunder sweep the Pelicans

The 2024 NBA playoffs were back in action Monday with three games on tap. The Celtics kicked off the night with a 102-88 win over the Heat to push their series advantage to 3-1. However, Boston may have to clinch the series without the services of big man Kristaps Porzingis. He exited Monday's clash late in the second quarter with calf tightness and will undergo imaging on Tuesday

The Thunder dominated Games 2 and 3 of their series against the Pelicans, and it was no different in Game 4 as Oklahoma City moved onto the next round with a 97-89 win over the Pelicans. 

In the nightcap, the Lakers' rally fell short as the team dropped a 108-106 game to the Nuggets to lose the series 4-1. The defending champs will move onto the second round, while Los Angeles will head home having led much of the series but with nothing to show for it.

NBA playoffs scores: Monday, April 29

  • Game 4: Celtics 102, Heat 88 (BOS leads 3-1) -- Recap
  • Game 4: Thunder 97, Pelicans 89 (OKC wins series 4-0) -- Recap
  • Game 5: Nuggets 108, Lakers 106 (DEN wins series 4-1) -- Recap

Here are the biggest takeaways from Monday night's action:

The Lakers died as they lived

Here's a sobering stat from this series: the Lakers led all five games at halftime. Entering Game 4, the Nuggets had only led for 21.4% of game time, a trend that held up in Game 5. It didn't matter. The Nuggets didn't need to lead for most of the minutes. They dominated the most important ones.

The Lakers and Nuggets played 11 clutch minutes during the 2023 Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets won those minutes by 15 points. They played seven clutch minutes against one another during the regular season. Denver won those minutes by 17 points. The Lakers led Game 5 by eight points with 5:10 remaining and lost. They led with 1:33 remaining in Game 5 and lost again. The "why" of it changes every game. Sometimes D'Angelo Russell gets hunted off the floor defensively. Sometimes Nikola Jokic bullies Anthony Davis at the rim. If you're looking for culprits today, the easiest would be Darvin Ham (for running out of timeouts with over three minutes remaining) and Rui Hachimura (for neglecting to help at the nail on Jamal Murray's game-winner).

But the end result is the same as it always has been. The Lakers didn't lose this series in five games. They lost it in the same five-minute intervals that they lose every matchup against the Nuggets within. A key run in the third quarter here, a crunch-time meltdown there, and suddenly 35 to 40 minutes of excellent work go down the drain.

The Heat can't execute the upset formula

The Celtics won Game 1 in a runaway by making 22 3-pointers. It wouldn't be fair to say the Celtics do that often, but that is their typical winning formula. They're the best shooting team in basketball. The Heat borrowed that formula in their Game 2 win by making 23 3-pointers of their own. They tied the series in doing so.

For Miami, this wasn't as a stylistic decision baked into their entire season as it was the union between desperation and variance. Making 3's is how you generate upsets in basketball. It's how the Heat reached the Finals a year ago. After watching it happen again in Game 2, the Celtics finally decided they'd had enough. They limited the Heat to only 61 3-point attempts in Games 3 and 4. Unsurprisingly, the Heat lost both games and were held below 90 points in both.

The Heat have a bit more stylistic flexibility with Jimmy Butler healthy. He can get to the line and help you win ugly. But he's out and the Heat have no alternative to firing off 3's. Once Boston realized that and adjusted their defense, the Heat had no chance.

Everything's coming up Thunder

The Thunder became the youngest No. 1 seed in NBA history when they won their season finale earlier in April, and while few expected them to lose in the first round, they were hardly a common championship pick. At the very least, they trailed the Nuggets and Clippers in terms of Western Conference odds entering the playoffs, and they were neck-and-neck with the Timberwolves and Mavericks.

Well, let's take a look at where the Thunder stand tonight. They've not only advanced beyond the first round, but completed a sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans. Their second-round opponent will be either the Clippers or Mavericks. They are currently tied 2-2 and dealing with injury issues. At the very least, the younger Thunder will have time to rest up for the second round. The Nuggets, meanwhile, are dealing with leg injuries for all three of their top guards, Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson. Even the Celtics, a possible Finals opponent, had a meaningful injury on Monday, though Kristaps Porzingis appears optimistic about his prospects.

It's way too early to suggest that the Thunder should be favored to reach or win the Finals, but every year, the bracket tends to break just right for a surprising team. This year, at least for now, it looks like that team will be the Thunder. Nothing comes easy in the postseason, but the stars are aligning for the youngest No. 1 seed ever.

Link copied

FINAL: Nuggets 108, Lakers 106

The Denver Nuggets have sent the Los Angeles Lakers home for the season for the second consecutive year in a row. It was a tight battle all the way until the end, but the reigning NBA champions pulled out the win behind Jamal Murray's clutch go-ahead basket, his second such of the series. For the Lakers, who led much of the series but were never able to close it out, it begins a long offseason with tons of questions swirling. For the Nuggets, a match with the Minnesota Timberwolves is on the horizon.

Link copied

FINAL: Thunder 97, Pelicans 89

The Oklahoma City Thunder have advanced to the second round of the playoffs after defeating the New Orleans Pelicans 97-89 and completing their 4-0 series sweep. The youngest No. 1 seed in NBA history showed little trouble in their first playoff series as a group. The Pelicans kept Game 1 close, but the Thunder won Games 2 and 3 comfortably and were able to finish off the job on the road Monday. They now await the winner of the series between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers, which is currently tied 2-2.

April 30, 2024, 3:02 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 11:02 pm EDT
Link copied

FINAL: Celtics 102, Heat 88

The Celtics took a bit of a scare in Game 2 when they lost at home to the Miami Heat, but they've come back strong in both road games. The Celtics took a 3-1 series lead with a 102-88 victory on Monday, and Derrick White stole the show with the best playoff game of his career. His 38 points hits a new career-high, and he made eight 3-pointers in the process, coming one shy of tying the Heat for the game. Hanging over the proceedings, though, was the loss of Kristaps Porzingis to a leg injury. Only time will tell how serious that injury is. Imaging will be done on Tuesday, and the Celtics will just have to hope he can make it back soon.

April 30, 2024, 2:00 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 10:00 pm EDT
See New Posts
Link copied

The biggest review of the series

The Lakers challenge the foul call on Anthony Davis, an enormous risk as they were down to their final timeout. Fortunately for the Lakers, the contact was deemed marginal, and with imminent possession, the ball is theirs. The bad news? They are now out of timeouts for the remaining 3:05 of this game.

April 30, 2024, 4:21 AM
Apr. 30, 2024, 12:21 am EDT
Link copied

This feels like Game 2 all over again

Stop me if you've heard this one before: the Lakers control the early game. Denver fights back late. Jamal Murray gets hot and neither side can miss down the stretch. This is game the Nuggets and Lakers have played before, as recently as last week. Denver has a meaningful advantage in this setting. They're used to the altitude. They're younger. The Lakers are on the back foot. 

April 30, 2024, 4:14 AM
Apr. 30, 2024, 12:14 am EDT
Link copied

Can LeBron do this solo?

LeBron James leads the Lakers with 24 points. Anthony Davis has 17, but he is very clearly still dealing with the lingering effects of his arm injury. No other Laker has more than 13. If the Lakers are going to win this game, it's probably going to have to be on a superhuman performance from James.

April 30, 2024, 4:03 AM
Apr. 30, 2024, 12:03 am EDT
Link copied

Now LeBron is dealing with some pain

It looked like LeBron James just twisted an ankle on that missed layup, and he was down on the floor in serious pain. He's staying in the game, but now the Lakers have watched their two best players deal with injuries in this game. The Lakers are playing at altitude. They're the older team. There's only so much they can take here.

April 30, 2024, 3:50 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 11:50 pm EDT
Link copied

With Davis in pain, the Nuggets have regained control

Welp, we've seen it so many times between these two teams. The Lakers lead at the half. The Nuggets make a run in the third quarter. Darvin Ham refuses to stop it with a timeout. Now Denver holds a 74-71 lead, and it doesn't look like the Lakers are going to get much out of the one-armed Anthony Davis the rest of the way. Denver has all of the momentum, and if the Lakers don't fix this fast, we're headed for a series-ender for the Nuggets.

April 30, 2024, 3:47 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 11:47 pm EDT
Link copied

Anthony Davis staying in the game despite injury

The good news for Anthony Davis is that he was able to walk off the court under his own power and that he is seemingly staying in the game. The bad news? He seems to be dealing with pain to his neck and arm. Davis has been the best Laker so far tonight and really, in this series. They need him close to his best if they're going to make a meaningful comeback attempt.

April 30, 2024, 3:28 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 11:28 pm EDT
Link copied

Halftime: Lakers 53, Nuggets 50

As has been the case in the four previous games in this series, the Los Angeles Lakers lead the Denver Nuggets at halftime. This time, it's a 53-50 edge that the Lakers owe to a stellar, 16-point half from Anthony Davis. Of course, the Nuggets hold a 3-1 lead in this series. They've taken these early punches from Davis and the Lakers before and proven capable of bouncing back. The pressure is very much still on the Lakers in this elimination game.

April 30, 2024, 3:09 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 11:09 pm EDT
Link copied

Lakers exploiting Denver's coverage

Steve Jones made a great point on Twitter. Look at the way the Nuggets are defending the pick-and-roll. Nikola Jokic is coming up to the level of the screen, which puts more pressure on the ball-handler... but that ball-handler is LeBron James. He can make quick passes out of doubles, and when your low-man in help is a guard (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), basically your only hope of slowing down Anthony Davis here is gonna be with a strip. The pass isn't angled for one, so two easy points. Whatever the Nuggets choose to do defensively, this doesn't look like the answer.

April 30, 2024, 2:56 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 10:56 pm EDT
Link copied

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope questionable

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a left ankle sprain and is questionable to return. Jamal Murray was questionable entering this game due to a calf injury. Reggie Jackson is dealing with an ankle injury. The champs are running out of guards. They only need to win one more game to finish this series, but this is a very precarious position for Denver.

April 30, 2024, 2:32 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 10:32 pm EDT
Link copied

It's a nail-biter in New Orleans

Pelicans 71, Thunder 70. Nobody is scoring in the Big Easy tonight, and Brandon Ingram is 1-of-10 from the floor for the home team. This is Oklahoma City's first playoff run. They're learning firsthand just how tough it can be to close out a series. The Pelicans are going to make them earn it tonight.

April 30, 2024, 2:28 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 10:28 pm EDT
Link copied

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope turns an ankle

Oh boy. This is the absolute last thing the Nuggets needed. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is really limping having seemingly turned an ankle on that missed layup attempt. Jamal Murray is already playing through a calf injury, and the Nuggets have pretty minimal guard depth. If this injury proves significant, the Nuggets have to really start worrying about this series. A loss tonight sends the series back to Los Angeles.

April 30, 2024, 2:26 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 10:26 pm EDT
Link copied

Quick challenge pays off for Darvin Ham

It's always a risk to use your challenge in the first quarter, but it pays off for the Lakers there as a three-shot foul on Austin Reaves gets waved off upon replay. The contact is deemed marginal, jump-ball, and Ham gets another challenge to use laster in the game.

April 30, 2024, 2:14 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 10:14 pm EDT
Link copied

Nuggets at Lakers Game 5 info

We're minutes away from tip-off in Los Angeles. Here's how to watch Game 5.

  • Date: Monday, April 29 | Time: 10 p.m. ET
  • Location: Ball Arena -- Denver
  • TV channel: TNT | Live stream: TNT app
  • Odds: Nuggets -7 | O/U 216.5
Getty Images
April 30, 2024, 1:55 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 9:55 pm EDT
Link copied

Flagrant foul on Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo was just assessed a flagrant foul for this push on Jayson Tatum, which came on a jumper after the whistle. Tatum appeared to roll his ankle on the play, but is thankfully still in the game and took his free throws. This is the second time this series that a Heat player has committed an ugly foul on Tatum, as Caleb Martin did so in Game 1. 

April 30, 2024, 1:48 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 9:48 pm EDT
Link copied

Halftime: Thunder 44, Pelicans 43

It's a slugfest between the Thunder and Pelicans in this possible elimination game. The two sides are a combined 7-of-38 from 3-point range, and Jalen Williams is the only scorer in double figures with 13. The Thunder have dominated the last two games, but the Pelicans aren't going down without a fight at home tonight.

April 30, 2024, 1:44 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 9:44 pm EDT
Link copied

Jarred Vanderbilt is available to play for the Lakers

Well here's a bit of pleasant injury news for the Lakers: Jarred Vanderbilt, a starter last season who has not played since Feb. 1, is available for Los Angeles tonight. The Lakers likely won't over stress him, but he is the best point of attack defender on the roster, and that is an area in which the Lakers are sorely lacking. 

April 30, 2024, 1:36 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 9:36 pm EDT
Link copied

Pelicans getting experimental

Jordan Hawkins had played eight minutes so far in this series entering tonight. The Pelicans are giving him real run here in the second quarter,  and it's not hard to tell why. They've made two 3-pointers all night and badly need a scoring infusion. In an elimination game, you're willing to try just about anything. Even a rookie with exploitable defensive weaknesses.

April 30, 2024, 1:24 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 9:24 pm EDT
Link copied

The Derrick White show continues

Derrick White scored 16 first-quarter points, added six in the second and has scored 11 more here in the third quarter as the Celtics rout is on. His 33-point total is three off of his playoff career-high of 36, and if the Celtics give him any fourth-quarter minutes, he should have a reasonable chance of reaching it. 

April 30, 2024, 1:17 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 9:17 pm EDT
Link copied

Jamal Murray expected to play tonight

Jamal Murray was listed as questionable tonight due to a left calf injury, but the TNT broadcast just informed us that he expects to play in Game 5 as the Denver Nuggets attempt to close out the Los Angeles Lakers. He warmed up with a heavy wrap on that calf, and he has struggled in this series outside of that incredible ending to Game 2, but the Nuggets will at least have their star guard on Monday.

April 30, 2024, 1:12 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 9:12 pm EDT
Link copied

Good news on the Porzingis front

Calf injuries are so scary because a) the calf is so physically close to the Achilles tendon, and injuries there can be career-altering and b) minor injuries to the calf often precede major injuries to the Achilles. Fortunately, the early indication, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, is that this is not an Achilles injury for Kristaps Porzingis. Boston is heavily favored to win this series and would almost certainly remain favored to win their next one too. They can rest Porzingis and get him back to full strength if this injury isn't serious. Getting the news that it likely isn't an Achilles injury is their first positive indication.

April 30, 2024, 1:07 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 9:07 pm EDT
Link copied

Kristaps Porzingis is doubtful to return

Kristaps Porzingis left the second quarter with an apparent leg injury, and now, the Celtics are calling him doubtful to return to tonight's game. Calf injuries are tricky, especially for someone with as long an injury history as Porzingis. Boston will be cautious with him. The Celtics can get through this series without him, and maybe the next one too. They need him for the final rounds.

April 30, 2024, 12:54 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 8:54 pm EDT
Link copied

HALFTIME: Celtics 53, Heat 36

The Heat have lived and died behind the arc in this series. They made 23 of them when they won Game 2. Tonight? They're 3-of-16. That's why they're trailing 53-36 after two quarters tonight. Well that, and Derrick White's 22-point explosion for Boston. The Heat are doing everything in their power to remain competitive with Jimmy Butler injured. Now, though, the talent gap is proving too wide for Miami to overcome.

April 30, 2024, 12:36 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 8:36 pm EDT
Link copied

Kristaps Porzingis exits with an apparent injury

Kristaps Porzingis just limped off of the floor having seemingly hurt his foot or ankle. He was already listed as questionable tonight, and this is the last thing Boston needed in this game. The Celtics lead by 16 as of this writing, so this game is probably safe. But the Celtics only have two big men that play major minutes: Porzingis and Al Horford. If Porzingis is hurt, that could prove meaningful later on in the playoffs.

April 30, 2024, 12:32 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 8:32 pm EDT
Link copied

"They can't score without making a lot of 3's"

Those words were just spoken by Stan Van Gundy, and they were the essence of what is going wrong for Miami tonight. The Heat have now gone more than three straight minutes scoreless. They're 2-of-15 from 3. Without Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier, this roster cannot pressure the rim. That means their only path to reliable offense is 3's, and the Heat aren't making them tonight.

April 30, 2024, 12:31 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 8:31 pm EDT
Link copied

Derrick White headed for an all-timer

Entering Game 4, Derrick White had scored 22 or more points in only five career playoff games. Well tonight, he's reached 22... with 3:57 remaining in the first half. Boston leads by 16 at 47-31, but if this game remains competitive, we might be well on our way to White's first playoff 40-piece.

April 30, 2024, 12:26 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 8:26 pm EDT
Link copied

Thunder at Pelicans Game 4 info

We're minutes away from tip-off in New Orleans. Here's how to watch Game 4.

  • Date: Monday, April 29 | Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Paycom Center -- Oklahoma City
  • TV channel: NBATV
  • Odds: Thunder -4.5; O/U 206.5
April 30, 2024, 12:25 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 8:25 pm EDT
Link copied

It's the Derrick White show after one quarter

The Heat seem to have found a bit of juice on offense with 24 first-quarter points, but unfortunately, they've been outdone by Celtics guard Derrick White. Boston's unsung hero has 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting through one quarter, and the Celtics hold a 34-24 lead. The Heat seemed to correct some of the shot-selection issues they had in Game 3 with seven quick 3-point attempts, but the Celtics put the clamps down as the quarter progressed, and now they take a double-digit lead into the second quarter.

April 30, 2024, 12:06 AM
Apr. 29, 2024, 8:06 pm EDT
See More