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Roundball Round-Up: The two former Buckeyes in the NBA playoffs are struggling mightily

We detail how the first two games of the NBA playoffs started for the two former Ohio State basketball players still left standing.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Minnesota Timberwolves David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

After the regular season saw five former Ohio State Buckeyes playing at different locations in the NBA, the Buckeye alumni left for the playoffs has been more than halved, as all that are left are Utah guard Mike Conley and Minnesota’s D’Angelo Russell. Even though their teams have seen some interesting action in the first two games of the playoffs, the play from Conley and Russell has been anything but inspiring. Hopefully that will change with both players headed home after starting the playoffs on the road.

Mike Conley

The Utah Jazz missed a golden opportunity to put a stranglehold on their series against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. After defeating the Mavericks 99-93 in Dallas in the first game of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on Saturday, Utah fell to Dallas 110-104 in the second game of the series. The Mavericks were without star guard Luka Doncic for both games, as Doncic is battling a calf injury.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Utah Jazz v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Former Ohio State guard Mike Conley did a lot of what was expected of him in the first game of the series against the Mavericks, finishing with 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while adding six rebounds and three assists. Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic were the stars for the Jazz in the series opener, scoring 32 points and 26 points, respectively. What Conley provided for the Jazz was a veteran third option that could hit shots when his number was called.

The Jazz actually had a good shot to take a commanding 2-0 series lead back to Salt Lake City, but they couldn’t make a seven-point halftime lead stick. Utah again got key contributions from Mitchell and Bogdanovic in Game 2, with Jordan Clarkson also becoming a factor in the game, scoring 21 points off the bench.

Early on it looked like Mike Conley might have suffered an ankle injury on Monday night, but he just needed to get his ankle retaped. After sitting out the final 8:53 of the first half, Conley started the second half. Unfortunately for Conley, nothing was going his way in the game, as he missed all seven shots he attempted, finishing with no points in the game. Conley has appeared in 69 playoff games in his career, with Monday night being the first time he has failed to score a point in a playoff game.

Conley and the Jazz can’t dwell on Monday night’s loss too much, as they’ll be back in action tonight, playing their first home game of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. There’s no question that the Jazz are a better team at home, so they should be able to put Monday’s poor performance in the rearview mirror pretty quickly. The x-factor the rest of the series will be if Doncic is available to play for the Mavericks, and if so, how effective will the Slovenian sensation be? If Doncic is able to get back on the court, expect Conley and company to pick up their efforts, since they know they’ll be trying to keep one of the best players in the NBA in check.

D’Angelo Russell

Much like Mike Conley, D’Angelo Russell’s team is headed home with their series with the Memphis Grizzlies even at 1-1. While Russell didn’t have a goose egg in the scoring column in one of the first two games of his series, the former Buckeye guard has been really struggling to find his shot early in the series, which is a big surprise considering how well he played against the Grizzlies during the regular season.

The Timberwolves shocked a lot of people when they went into Memphis on Saturday afternoon and won the first game of the series 130-117. Many were expecting the series between the Timberwolves and Grizzlies to be entertaining with some of the best young players in the NBA, but not many were predicting Minnesota to pin an early loss on the team with the second-best record in the league this year.

Much like the last six weeks of the regular season, Russell has had a problem finding his shot in the first two games of this series. In Game 1 on Saturday, Russell’s poor shooting was offset by big games from Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, who combined to scored 65 points. The Timberwolves also got key contributions off the bench from Malik Beasley and Jaden McDaniels. Even though Russell was just 2-of-11 from the field, he was able to get to the free throw line five times, as well as dish out nine assists.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Minnesota Timberwolves v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Game 2 on Tuesday night was a completely different story for Minnesota. After a first quarter where the Timberwolves made it look like Memphis was in for another tough game, the Grizzlies started to assert their dominance in the second quarter, taking a 60-49 lead into halftime, and coming out of the break on a 10-2 run to put Minnesota in a hole they wouldn’t be able to dig out of.

Instead of combining for 65 points like they did in Game 1, Towns and Edwards scored just 35 points on Tuesday night. The only constant for Minnesota seemed to be Russell’s poor shooting, with the guard going just 3-of-11 from the floor. With Minnesota failing to run their offense effectively, Russell only had four assists in the game, and finished with a -26 when he was on the floor. Dating by to his only other trip to the playoffs in 2019, Russell has now scored 11 points or fewer in each of his last three playoff games.

Minnesota will now hope to get some extra juice when they return to Minneapolis for Game 3 tonight. This will mark the first home playoff game for the Timberwolves since 2018. If the play-in game against the Clippers was any preview of what the Minnesota crowd will be like tonight, Timberwolves fans are going to do everything they can to make the atmosphere a living hell for Ja Morant and the Grizzlies.