Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Pro Hogs roundup: Gafford shines in 1st playoff start
Washington Wizards center Daniel Gafford (21) hangs from the rim after a dunk next to Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (12) during the second half of Game 4 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Four former Arkansas basketball players are on rosters in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Here is an update on their play in the first round:
Daniel Gafford — Washington Wizards
Facing elimination on their home floor Monday, the Wizards made a lineup adjustment in Game 4 of their first-round series with Philadelphia that paid dividends.
Former Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time in the series, and he took full advantage, playing a key role in Washington pulling out a thrilling 122-114 win. He finished with 12 points on 4 of 4 from the floor, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 5 blocks in 26 minutes.
The five blocks are his most in a game since Dec. 13, 2019.
Gafford had only two scores through the first three quarters, but he added a pair of critical buckets down the stretch. With 6:39 to play, Gafford tip-slammed a three-point miss by Bradley Beal to give the Wizards a 103-99 lead.
Later in the quarter, he threw down a dunk after a making a tough catch on a pass from Russell Westbrook. The score broke a 110-110 tie with 2:07 to play.
“I thought he was great,” Washington forward Robin Lopez said. “I thought he was a huge deterrent at the rim, obviously. He made his presence felt on the boards, he was moving his feet. I thought he was so good for us.”
According to NBA tracking data, all of Gafford’s scores came within one foot of the rim.
For the game, Washington was plus-9 with Gafford in the lineup. He was solid on the defensive end, blocking two shots — both on 76ers wing Tobias Harris — in the second quarter and three in the third, including one apiece on Ben Simmons and Dwight Howard. Opponents shot 6 of 15 (40%) when defended by Gafford.
“He came back in the second half and he kind of relaxed like a lot of young players do in their first start in a playoff game,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.
In Game 2 of the series, a 120-95 loss, he finished with 11 points on 3 of 4 shooting and 5 of 9 at the free throw line, 6 rebounds and 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block in 20 minutes. Back in Washington for the next game, Gafford scored 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting, and had 6 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in 22 minutes in a 132-103 loss.
His 16 points were third most on the team behind 26 from Westbrook and 25 from Beal. For the series, Gafford is averaging 13 points on 83.3% from the floor, 6 rebounds and 1 block over nearly 21 minutes per game.
Game 5 is set for Wednesday at 6 p.m. on NBA TV.
Bobby Portis — Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee made quick work of the Miami Heat in the teams’ first-round series and is moving on to the conference semifinals.
Bobby Portis and the Bucks handled Miami 113-84 on Thursday and 120-103 on Saturday to advance. In Game 3, Portis pitched in 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting, including 1 of 2 from three-point range, and 9 rebounds in 17 minutes.
His nine rebounds were good for second most on the team and one shy of matching a playoff career high.
Portis knocked down three jumpshots, including a three-pointer from the top of the key in the first quarter assisted by Jrue Holiday that put the Bucks ahead 19-8. And as he did a number of times in the series, he added a score in the final minute of a quarter, tipping in a PJ Tucker miss in the lane.
In the closeout game, Portis finished with 13 points on 5 of 10 shooting — 3 of 7 from three-point range — 3 rebounds and 1 assist in his 18 minutes in the lineup.
His first score came on a turnaround hook shot right of the lane, then he added a left-corner three with five seconds remaining in the first quarter off an assist by Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Portis then buried right-corner threes in the third and fourth quarters, each assisted by Antetokounmpo. The former Razorback put up 10.8 points on 58.6% shooting and 46.2% from three-point range, and 5.3 rebounds in fewer than 18 minutes per game in the series.
Milwaukee will face Brooklyn in the next round.
Patrick Beverley — Los Angeles Clippers
After dropping two home games against the Dallas Mavericks to begin the postseason, the Clippers have clawed back to tie their first-round series with convincing wins on the road.
Former Arkansas guard Patrick Beverley’s role in the turnaround has been minimal as he has been replaced in the starting lineup by guard Reggie Jackson.
Following a Game 2 performance in which he scored 3 points on 1 of 4 shooting in 23 minutes, the guard has played a total of 10 minutes in the last two games. Beverley pitched in 2 points and 1 rebound in Game 3 and 3 points in Game 4 in Dallas.
He is averaging 4.5 points per game in the series and has been a net negative in three of four games, including minus-13 in Game 1 and minus-11 in Game 2. Defensively, Mavericks players are 5 of 7 shooting against Beverley when inside 10 feet, according to NBA tracking data.
Game 5 is set for Wednesday at 9 p.m. on TNT.
Isaiah Joe — Philadelphia 76ers
After not playing in Game 1 of the series, Joe made his playoff debut in Game 2 against the Wizards. He finished 0 of 2 from three-point range with one assist in three minutes, 20 seconds on the floor.
Joe played three minutes, 36 seconds in Game 3 and did not record any statistics. He did not play in Game 4 on Monday.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.