Greetings folks! We have officially gone through the first week of the NBA Playoffs 2020 in the Orlando Bubble! Hurray!
It has been an interesting week so far. The teams most people expected to get to the postseason completed their seeding and we are underway on witnessing the first NBA postseason in a global pandemic. That’s not exactly something that should be celebratory but it is something that none of us would ever expect in our lifetime. So far, most of the games have been extremely entertaining with a couple disappointments. There really isn’t a definitive favorite to reach the NBA Finals which I like because it makes the competition more interesting.
Before I proceed forward to analyze each game series, let’s wish a happy belated birthday to the late great Kobe Bean Bryant would have been 42 yesterday. Happy born day to the Black Mamba! Rest in peace to him, his daughter Gigi Bryant, John Altobelli, and the six other victims who tragically passed away in the crash.
So let’s break down the postseason games:
The pretenders have finally reared their heads
Well now that the playoffs are here, the teams that are competing for the title have turned it up a notch in terms of their offensive and defensive prowess. That means that the teams that have enjoyed a myriad of success playing in the Bubble are now realizing that they are out of their league against the legit competitors. The Brooklyn Nets, Denever Nuggets, Orlando Magic, and Indiana Pacers are good teams but no where near the high caliber teams that would put them above their competition. Nets got swept by the Toronto Raptors despite the excellent performance from Caris LeVert. The Magic had a solid opener against the Milwaukee Bucks but Giannis Antetokounmpo woke up in Game 2 so that series is pretty much a loss. It’s a shame because it would have been nice to see how the young core of Markelle Fultz, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Mo Bamba, and Jonathan Issac would have performed in the postseason but only two of those aforementioned players are playing and the rest are currently injured.
As for the Pacers, they sadly do not have Domantas Sabonis to support Malcolm Brogdon and All Star Victor Oladipo. Without a third scoring option, Brogdon and Oladipo have been essentially trying to carry the leg work for the Pacers against a tough Miami Heat team. It’s unlikely any of these teams are going to be here in Orlando any longer. It’s pretty much a wrap for them. The Nuggets have been extremely disappointing against the Utah Jazz despite the excellent play from Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. Nuggets were a game away to going to the Western Conference Finals last season. This year they are on the brink of being eliminated. The issue seems to be more of a matchup problem. Jazz have the Nuggets beat in terms of pacing and scoring. Jokic has been bad against them. He’s been a -4 whenever he’s on the floor and his defense has been poor against Rudy Gobert. Maybe things will change come Game 5 but right now things are bleak for the Nuggets.
Those Philly jawns really suck
Remember when I mentioned that the Philadelphia 76ers were such a wild card team because you weren’t sure what kind of team you were going to get on any given night? Well the Boston Celtics noticed the hodgepodge roster as well and have been taking them apart in these playoffs. The 76ers do not look good. Like…at all. They really stink. This isn’t due to the fact that Ben Simmons is currently out with an injury. That is part of it but that is not the main reason. The main reason — as I mentioned earlier — is that the roster isn’t built to complement each other.
Chris Herring of FiveThrityEight mentioned an interesting take on roster construction recently on a podcast he did with the Pod Strickland when discussing the New York Knicks and their woes on why players like RJ Barrett struggle. To paraphrase, he states that adding talent for the sake of adding talent without actually seeing if it fits can be detrimental to a team. If the players’ games don’t complement each other, it doesn’t matter how talented they are. The team is going to struggle. This is the case with the Sixers. They added players like Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Kyle O’Quinn, and brought back Tobias Harris. However, they limit the floor spacing for guys like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to do their thing and weakens the defense.
Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice wrote a bleak, scathing article discussing why the Sixers are doomed and how they desire to chase mediocrity has cost the team a chance to win a championship.
If you are what your actions say you are, the Sixers stink from the top down. They’re a bully-ball team that gets pushed around by teams filled with guards and wings, an analytics-heavy front office that forgot to keep shooters on the roster, led by a motivational coach who publicly demanded a three-per-game from his star player and couldn’t so much as get an attempt.
They are reaping what was sown.
So they are eliminated. They are leaving Orlando and returning to Philadelphia. Brett Brown is likely to get fired. Elton Brand will probably get a long leash for his follies this past offseason. The Sixers are currently stuck with the roster they have constructed. Horford and Harris have long standing contracts and are likely going to try to be moved. However, they are going to be costly and I can’t see the Sixers doing something drastic. Then again, they are desperate and desperation forces people to make rash decisions. So don’t be surprised if you see a radically different roster next season for the Sixers if it means they can save face.
The most exciting playoff series thus far
Leave it to the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks to bring playoff intensity and energy to Orlando in a mostly quiet NBA postseason. Since the Game 1 tipoff, both teams have been scrapping and jawing at each other. While most believe the Clippers will win the series, the Mavericks are not going to make it easy for them. Not to mention, if they managed to take a lead in this series, they are likely going to move on to the second round in a surprising upset.
Luka Doncic has been unreal throughout this postseason. He’s literally averaging a triple double and has been the best player on the floor rivaling Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers. Kristaps Porzingis has been a revelation as well. Their play has elevated their teammates. Tim Hardaway Jr., Boban Marjanovic, Seth Curry, and even Trey Burke have shined throughout the playoff series. If Doncic and Porzingis keep this up, then there’s no reason to believe that the Mavs can’t upset the Clippers.
As for the Clippers, what else can be said about Kawhi Leonard that hasn’t been said already? He’s clearly one of the best players in the world and this postseason shows. He’s been averaging 27.1 points and has been shooting nearly 50% from the field. Lou Williams struggled early on but seems to be finding his groove after being quarantined for nearly two weeks. The Clippers are missing Patrick Beverley and his defensive intensity on the wing since the Mavs’ guards have been having their way scoring the ball. Reggie Jackson has been servicable as a microwave scorer off the bench but he’s hit or miss when he’s playing. The same applies to Marcus Morris. He’s a reliable defender on the wing and on some bigs but his scoring prowess has dropped since he was traded from the Knicks.
Clippers may be going through the motions but they still have a chance to win the title. The series is far from over.
Where’s the so-called “Playoff P?”
That is the Clippers are not doomed until Paul George finds his groove again. George has been sucking ever since his infamous comments on Damian Lillard about being “sent home.” He’s been averaging 11.3 PTS, shooting 21% from the field, 16% from 3PT territory. It is an incredibly abysmal performance that he acknowledges he needs to better.
“To be honest, in hindsight, if I shoot the ball better this series would be a lot different,” George told reporters after the Clippers Game 3 loss.
Yeah. It definitely would be a LOT different.
You see folks Leonard is the primary scorer on the team. George is supposed to be the second All Star option. With George performing poorly, the Clippers have to rely on Leonard. This is where the Mavs take advantage and send double teams to hamper Leonard’s game. They are not worried about George since “Playoff P” is nowhere to be found. George better find his game soon otherwise he’ll be joining Lillard in Cancun (assuming the Trailblazers lose to the Lakers).
The Trailblazers will go as far as their starting lineup can take them
Game 1 between the Portland Trailblazers and the Los Angeles Lakers featured a surprise upset that allowed the Blazers to take the win to the surprise of many. Then the Lakers woke up and everything went downhill for the Blazers in Games 2 and 3. Despite the fantastic play from Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jursuf Nurkic, and Carmelo Anthony, the Blazers’ bench doesn’t have enough depth to matchup against the Lakers. It doesn’t help that the Lakers have LeBron James and Anthony Davis — two of the best players in the league — alternating their minutes between on the court and on the bench. This gives the Lakers options. Meanwhile the Blazers have to rely on Lillard, McCollum, Nurkic, and Melo to provide the scoring and some defense. Aside from Gary Trent Jr., the Blazers don’t have a reliable bench. That’s troubling and unless Blazers head coach Terry Stotts can figure something out, this series is a loss for the Trailblazers.
And that’s it! Be back for Part 4 as we discuss the semi-conference finals!
*additional content from ESPN, Bleacher Report, ESPN, CBS News, NBC Sports