Cats in the NBA
Former Kentucky Players in the NBA
By Drew Franklin on ©May 06th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
By now you have probably seen Jamal Murray’s over-the-backboard bucket early in Denver’s Game 4 win last night. If not, here it is:
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 5, 2019
It was a crazy shot and this photo makes it even crazier when you see the degree of difficulty from Murray’s viewpoint behind the basket. But Kentucky fans know it is not all that uncommon for Murray to hit shots no one else can. When Murray was at UK, Coach Cal often talked about how Murray has a knack for attempting and hitting improbable shots. One time Cal said, “If he’s falling down, he throws one over his head, it may go in now.”
Another time Cal got on him in practice for throwing up an off-balanced shot with the opposite hand. Cal told him it wasn’t a good shot, to which Murray pointed out, “But it went in.” When Cal said he may only make one of those, Murray told him, “Coach, you haven’t seen me play enough.”
This one was a pretty tough one too:
— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) February 24, 2016
But in an actual game, a PLAYOFF GAME, Sunday night’s is his best work to date:
Good morning, folks. Jamal Murray was playing – and winning – a game of H.O.R.S.E. on Sunday night. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(2) Raptors – 101 @ (3) Sixers – 96 (Tied 2-2)
- So this Kawhi Leonard dude might be even better than everyone thought. Leonard posted 39 points on 13-20 shooting against the Sixers to go along with 14 rebounds and five assists. With Pascal Siakam coming in as a game-time decision due to a calf injury, someone from Toronto was going to have to step up. And who better to do so than a top-5 player in the league. Leonard has been the best player in this year’s playoffs not named Kevin Durant. Here’s a rundown of the four games he’s played against Philly so far.
- Game 1: 45 points on 16-23 shooting.
- Game 2: 35 points on 13-24 shooting.
- Game 3: 33 points on 13-22 shooting.
- Game 4: 39 points on 13-20 shooting.
- Now how is that fair to anyone? AND he plays better defense than 99 percent of the NBA? Seriously, that’s cheat code status. But the Sixers have still been damn good and Ben Simmons has actually done a terrific job when he’s guarded Leonard.
- What plagued Philly in Game 3 was whatever sickness was plaguing Joel Embiid before the game. The Sixers star center played through an illness and scored only 11 points on 2-7 shooting. 29 points from Jimmy Butler kept Philly in the game, but Leonard proved to be too much down the stretch.
(2) Nuggets – 116 @ (3) Trail Blazers – 112 (Tied 2-2)
- Game 4 stuck to the intended amount of game time and avoided another four-overtime affair deep into the early hours of the following morning. Behind 34 points from Jamal Murray, the Denver Nuggets secured a road win to even up the series as it heads back to Colorado.
- Murray shot 10-20 from the field and made three of his seven attempts from deep. He also registered five rebounds, four assists, and several highlights plays ranging from behind the backboard shots to right-handed flushes over the defense. This is the best version of Murray we’ve seen in the playoffs – and maybe all season long. He opened up the game making his first five shot attempts and connected on all 11 of his free throw attempts throughout the evening. After a rough opening series against the San Antonio Spurs in which it took Murray about 4-5 games to finally find a groove, he’s been in a rhythm ever since. The former Kentucky guard is averaging 26.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists through four games against the Blazers on shooting splits of 44.7/36.4/100. The right thigh injury and coming off of 55 played minutes in the previous game didn’t appear to bother Murray in the slightest.
- It hadn’t even been 48 hours since the conclusion of the fourth overtime from Game 3, but that didn’t stop Nikola Jokic from producing his second straight triple-double. The first half was back-and-forth but a 27-14 third-quarter advantage favoring the Nuggets gave them the edge heading into the final period. Portland nearly crawled all the way back with under a minute left, but clutch free throw after clutch free throw from Murray led his team to victory.
- Portland was led by 29 points from CJ McCollum and another 28 from Damian Lillard but received only five points from Enes Kanter. Kanter played 29 minutes and dealt with a bit of foul trouble to pile on top of the fact that he played 56 minutes not even two days beforehand and has now twice separated the same shoulder. I’m not even sure how he made it onto the court. But Portland needs Kanter to win this series. He might not be the ideal option to put on Jokic, but he’s the best one they have and a proven scorer on the block. The status of his shoulder is going to be critical for what is now a best-of-3 series.
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||116-112 W @ POR||34||10-20 (3-7)||5||4||0||0||2||+10||37|
|Enes Kanter (POR)||112-116 L vs. DEN||5||2-5 (0-0)||10||0||0||1||4||-11||29|
|Jodie Meeks (TOR)||101-96 W @ PHI||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Trey Lyles (DEN)||116-112 W @ POR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)||116-112 W @ POR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Skal Labissiere (POR)||112-116 L vs. DEN||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
7:00 (TNT): Bucks (Bledsoe) @ Celtics (MIL leads 2-1)
9:30 (TNT): Warriors (Cousins-out) @ Rockets (GSW leads 2-1)
By Maggie Davis on ©May 05th, 2019 @ 9:45pm
The Nuggets had to grind out a win over the Portland Trail Blazers, and Jamal Murray stole the show. The former Cat finished with a game-high 34 points, while adding five rebounds, four assists and just two turnovers. He was 10-20 from the floor, 3-7 from behind-the-arc and 11-11 from the free-throw line. The series is now tied at 2-2.
Along with his 34 points, Murray had a few extra-impressive shots. For example, this slam:
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) May 5, 2019
And this over-the-backboard bucket:
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 5, 2019
His first-half outing kept the Nuggets in the game (17 points on 6-9 shooting), while his second-half performance helped seal the deal for Denver in their 116-112 victory.
Murray’s post-season stats are as strong as they’ve ever been. He’s averaging 20.5 points in just over 35 minutes per game, while shooting 44.4 percent from the floor, 34.4 percent from deep and 83.9 percent from the charity stripe.
Fellow Cats Jarred Vanderbilt and Trey Lyles did not play in Sunday night’s game for the Nuggets. Skal Labissiere did not enter the game for the Trail Blazers.
DeMarcus Cousins may be back on the floor sooner than we all thought.
In round one of the NBA Playoffs, Demarcus Cousins tore his left quad muscle – his second leg injury in just two years – and everyone was immediately doubtful for his return to the basketball floor in this year’s playoffs.
DeMarcus Cousins left the floor after suffering a non-contact injury. pic.twitter.com/f2gblEK4HJ
— KNBR (@KNBR) April 16, 2019
But, after a few weeks of rehab, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Cousins could possibly come back this postseason after all.
“He’s coming along pretty well,” Kerr told reporters. “It’s just wait-and-see.”
Steve Kerr said it’s possible DeMarcus Cousins (quad) and Damian Jones (pectoral muscle) could return in the playoffs. Jones will be cleated for contact work I’m coming days: pic.twitter.com/aNt5aV9O9B
— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) May 5, 2019
After a detrimental injury in 2018, Cousins went to Golden State to build himself back up to look more appealing to other NBA teams come contract time, all en route to winning a championship. All of that seemed to be at risk once his quad blew out in the first round, so hopefully, Cousins will return and play a big role in what would be Golden State’s fourth championship in five years.
The respective injuries to Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray and Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter have raised several questions regarding the series between the teams of these two former Kentucky players. The Trail Blazers currently holds a 2-1 lead over the Nuggets with a pivotal Game 4 taking place in Portland on Sunday night.
Murray (right thigh) and Kanter (shoulder) have been dealing with injuries since the series began, both reaggravating them sometime during the round. Here are the updates on both players as of Sunday morning.
Jamal Murray is dealing with a right thigh injury from the first round series against the Spurs that he reaggravated in Game 2 against the Blazers. He played 55 minutes in the four-overtime Game 3 death match that saw Portland sneak out with a win, much of it through significant pain.
He was noticeably exhausted towards the end of Game 3 – along with everyone else on the court – and could barely get his feet under his shot. Playing that many minutes on a sore thigh while trying to hoist up 25-footers cannot be an easy task. Odds are Murray isn’t going to be playing at 100 percent health any time soon, but that won’t keep him out of the game.
“I always play through pain,” Murray said after Game 2, according to the Denver Post. “It’s something I’ve always done. I always put myself through more and do more than I can. Playing through pain is just another challenge for me. I’m gonna do it regardless of the stakes. Just try to be smart about it, obviously. If it’s something I can play through, it’s what I’m gonna do.”
Murray is expected to play in Game 4.
Enes Kanter’s injury is a bit more significant – especially since he keeps making it worse. Kanter played a career-high 56 minutes on Friday night and reinjured his already separated shoulder during the first overtime.
“First overtime, I think I separated my shoulder more,” Kanter said postgame, according to ESPN. “I had to tuck my arm into my jersey because I couldn’t carry my arm. I’m glad we got a win, man. Whatever it takes. You’ve got to sacrifice everything. I’m proud of my teammates.”
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) May 4, 2019
Kanter originally separated the shoulder during Game 5 of the Blazers’ first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder and was listed as questionable to begin the second round, but has played massively important minutes for a Portland team desperate for his production. He’s averaged 19.7 points and 10.3 rebounds through the first three games.
I’m not a huge fan of Kanter snitching to the NBA because he doesn’t like how Nikola Jokic is trying to box him out in a playoff game, but I do get why he’s doing it. Jokic did make contact with Kanter’s shoulder, but also, c’mon, this is the playoffs. Bully him back if you don’t like it. The referees aren’t going to call that.
Kanter also apparently injured his right elbow during Game 3, as well. He was icing both his shoulder and elbow after the win. There was a point during the game where Kanter said he could no longer feel his shoulder. I’m no doctor, but that sounds bad.
“I hope I can play,” Kanter said. “But I’ll be fine.”
Game 4 tips off at 7:00 p.m. on TNT in Portland.
By Kindsey Bernhard on ©May 05th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
The Portland Trailblazers tried their hand at some Turkish phrases.
Spoiler alert: They failed miserably.
Good in basketball ?
Terrible in Turkish ?
?? ?? ??
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) May 5, 2019
Kanter is right… good in basketball, terrible in Turkish.
You can see Kanter and his non-speaking Turkish teammates tonight in Game 4 (Portland leads 2-1) against the Denver Nuggets. Tip-off is at 7:30 pm o TNT.
Good afternoon, folks. Stephen Curry missed a breakaway dunk at the end of overtime and then his entire team immediately gave up. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(1) Warriors – 121 @ (4) Rockets – 126 (GSW leads 2-1)
- Normally we don’t cover NBA games without any former Kentucky players, but this series is an exception – and DeMarcus Cousins is still technically a member of the Golden State Warriors. Plus, the game was just so damn good. The Houston Rockets have finally made this a series by winning Game 3 in overtime. James Harden posted 41 points and drilled an absolute dagger with under a minute left to put the game away while Kevin Durant continues his reign of playoff terror for the Warriors with 46 points on only 31 shot attempts.
- But the real story was Warriors guard Steph Curry and the basketball abomination he put on display Saturday night. Curry shot 7-23 from the field and 2-9 for deep, registering only 17 points in addition to three turnovers. It was one of, if not the worst, playoff game of Curry’s Hall-of-Fame career. He missed a couple of routine layups in overtime that he typically hits with ease and then was sent back by the rim on a breakaway dunk with the Warriors down five and time running out. Once the rim stuffed Curry and sent him back to Oakland, the rest of the Warriors just threw their hands up in a collective waving of the white flag.
Damn Steph ? pic.twitter.com/ySlUdd6cmd
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) May 5, 2019
- Look at how much time is left after Curry missed the dunk. Klay Thompson almost wanted to foul but seemingly pulled himself back at the last moment. It was kind of awkward, actually. Everyone in the arena was confused while the Golden State players slowly paced around for the last ticks of the clock. Down five with 20 seconds left is more than enough reason to foul and extend the game. But the Warriors gave up. There’s no other way around it. Curry was awful. Durant was spectacular. The Warriors just don’t seem to be putting in the same amount of effort that they have been in previous playoff runs. They appear tired of each other at this point. The Warriors can’t be the Warriors with just Durant. They need Curry to play at a high level and he has to do that through the first three games.
- But hey, at least we have a series now.
|DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)||121-126 L @ HOU||DNP-Quad||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TODAY IN THE NBA
3:30 (ABC): Raptors (Meeks) @ Sixers (PHI leads 2-1)
7:00 (TNT): Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt) @ Trail Blazers (Labissiere, Kanter) (POR leads 2-1)
By Zack Geoghegan on ©May 04th, 2019 @ 3:00pm
Good afternoon, folks. Did anyone else suffer through four overtimes of basketball well after midnight? Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(1) Bucks – 123 @ (4) Celtics – 116 (MIL leads 2-1)
- Another dominant third quarter from the Milwaukee Bucks earned them a 2-1 series lead as Game 4 stays in Boston. The Bucks put up 40 points in the third period and outscored the Celtics by nine. If you remember from Game 2, Milwaukee pummeled Boston 39-18 in the third period that ultimately allowed them enough wiggle room to win the game. Game 3 was no different, as the Bucks came out of halftime looking aggressive behind Giannis Anteotkounmpo – who finished with 32 points on only 14 shot attempts (he shot 16-22 from the free throw line) to go along with 13 rebounds and eight assists. Unlike the first two games, where Antetokounmpo’s drives were met right at the rim with brick wall like sturdiness, he was shiftier and working in transition more often to draw the fouls he needed to be effective.
- Eric Bledsoe had a rough shooting night, knocking down only four of his 15 shot attempts for nine points. He shot 1-6 from deep, posted only four assists, and turned the ball over another four times. If it wasn’t for George Hill’s brilliant performance in the second half, Bledsoe’s poor night would have been a bigger deal.
(2) Nuggets – 137 @ (3) Trail Blazers – 140 (4OT) (POR leads 2-1)
- This game was pure madness. For us suckers who live on the East coast, this one didn’t even end until 2 a.m. and at one point I just wanted the damn thing to end. And after four extra periods, the Trail Blazers pull out a massive win to take the series lead with the Nuggets losing a heartbreaker.
- Nikola Jokic played 65 minutes. Jamal Murray added another 59. C.J. McCollum also hit 60 minutes and Damian Lillard topped out at 57. Even Enes Kanter – hobbled by several injuries – saw the court for 56 minutes.
- Rodney Hood hit the go-ahead game-winning shot with under 20 seconds left in the final overtime period to put the Blazers ahead in the series. Rodney Hood. Of all people (Hood has actually played exceptionally well in this round). Jokic finished with 33 points, 18 rebounds, and 14 assists while Lillard and McCollum combined for 69 points.
- Murray was great to start the game. He ended with 34 points – most of them coming in the first half – and played with incredibly active hands on defense. A slew of misses towards the end destroyed his field goal percentage (14-32 on the night) and he – along with 80 percent of the players on the court – was visibly exhausted once we hit multiple overtimes. However, he didn’t appear fazed by the right thigh injury he sustained in Game 2.
- Kanter, on the other hand, was hampered by injuries all game. The shoulder was bothering him early and you could tell from his squinting facial expressions he was in significant pain for a good chunk of the game. Near the end of the regulation, he was even walking with a noticeable limp. It also didn’t help that he was bodying with Jokic all game, who does not shy away from off-ball contact. The fact that Kanter made it all the way to 56 minutes is a borderline miracle. He posted 18 points and 15 rebounds.
- He said after the game that his shoulder is still in serious pain.”I will just go home and get some rest,” Kanter said. “I don’t know if I can play the next game but I will do my best to be out there with my teammates.” Game 4 will stay in Portland and tips off on Sunday.
- Check out the full stat sheet below.
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||137-140 L (4OT) @ POR||34||14-32 (4-12)||9||5||1||0||4||+6||55|
|Enes Kanter (POR)||140-137 W (4OT) vs. DEN||18||8-16 (1-1)||15||0||3||1||2||+2||56|
|Eric Bledsoe (MIL)||123-116 W @ BOS||9||4-15 (1-6)||1||4||0||0||4||-9||27|
|Trey Lyles (DEN)||137-140 L (4OT) @ POR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)||137-140 L (4OT) @ POR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Skal Labissiere (POR)||140-137 W (4OT) vs. DEN||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
8:30 (TNT): Warriors (Cousins-out) @ Rockets (GSW leads 2-0)
By Zack Geoghegan on ©May 02nd, 2019 @ 1:00pm
Good afternoon, folks. Jamal Murray was sidelined for the final 53 seconds with a reaggravated thigh injury. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(3) Trail Blazers – 97 @ (2) Nuggets – 90 (Tied 1-1)
- Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was forced to the sideline during the fourth quarter when he seemingly reaggravated a right thigh injury he sustained in round one against the San Antonio Spurs. Murray initially bruised his right thigh after colliding with Spurs center Jakob Poeltl and then another collision during Wednesday night’s Game 2 forced him to the bench. Murray suffered the injury late in the game and you could immediately tell he was sporting a noticeable limp. He did his best to stay in the game, but he was literally hobbling around out there when the Nuggets were trailing down the stretch.
- “Those screens hurt,” Murray said, according to ESPN. “It is what it is. It hurt for the rest of the game. Couldn’t move, obviously, and coach [Michael Malone] had to take me out. I’m just going to get treatment and just be ready for Game 3. It was definitely hurting.” Murray is expected to undergo treatment for the next 48 hours.
- Murray still posted 15 points and seven assists but shot only 2-8 from beyond the arc. He is also dealing with a shoulder injury, as well. You don’t have to play sports at a high level to know that experiencing any type of excessive force striking into your thigh leaves you feeling like your leg has just been paralyzed. To have that happen twice in such a short amount of time probably means Murray woke up sore as all hell this morning.
- As for the game, the Blazers were able to steal a road win to tie the series heading back to Portland. Despite both Damian Lillard (5-17 shooting) and C.J. McCollum (8-20) struggling from the field, the Blazers were able to spawn enough offense to sneak out with a win where two high-scoring teams failed to top 100 points. Enes Kanter went for 15 points and nine rebounds on 5-10 shooting and did a much better job against Nikola Jokic than in Game 1. Granted, Jokic wasn’t anywhere near as aggressive as he was in Game 1, which was a massive reason why Denver could never get into a groove. He attempted only one shot in the first period and finished the first half with only six points and his Nuggets trailing 50-35. Jokic shot 7-17 from the field overall for 16 points – although he also added 14 rebounds and seven assists – and refused to take over the game and abuse the pick-and-roll against Kanter much as he did in Game 1. The Nuggets as a team shot under 21 percent from three (6-29).
- At one point in the third quarter, the Nuggets trailed by 17 points and managed to cut that lead all the way down to five with under a minute left in the game, but the injury to Murray and some missed open shots give us a tied series. Denver corralled an insane 14 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter but missed at least 10 of those potential putback scores that came as a result of those second-chance opportunities.
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||90-97 L vs. POR||15||6-18 (2-8)||7||1||1||0||1||-6||35|
|Enes Kanter (POR)||97-90 W @ DEN||15||5-10 (0-0)||9||1||2||2||2||+6||31|
|Trey Lyles (DEN)||90-97 L vs. POR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)||90-97 L vs. POR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Skal Labissiere (POR)||97-90 W @ DEN||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
8:00 (ESPN): Raptors (Meeks) @ Sixers (Tied 1-1)
By Zack Geoghegan on ©May 01st, 2019 @ 9:00pm
De’Aaron Fox’s second-year breakout season as the point guard of the Sacramento Kings has earned him his first taste of the sneaker industry.
According to Fox’s Twitter account, the Nike Air Max 1 “SWIPA” will be released on May 31.
Air Max 1 “Swipa” May 31st pic.twitter.com/F1LvImsK3P
— De’Aaron Fox (@swipathefox) May 1, 2019
The design features two mismatched shoes; one consisting of blue, red, black, and white and the other blue, orange, pink, black, and white. The tongue displays the number “5” in reference to Fox’s jersey and the back of each shoe reads his moniker – “SWIPA”
Nike Air Max 1 “SWIPA” ? @swipathefox
May 31st pic.twitter.com/DO24aUqMbN
— J23 iPhone App (@J23app) May 1, 2019
There is currently no listed price.
Fox took a massive leap in production from his rookie season to year two. His numbers skyrocketed across the board and he led the eternally dysfunctional Kings to a 39-win season and a near playoff appearance in the Western Conference. It probably won’t be much longer until Fox is prepping for the release of his first “signature shoe”.
He can go ahead and add the SWIPA to his already extensive collection.
Good afternoon, folks. James Harden scored 29 points while blind. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(4) Celtics – 102 @ (1) Bucks – 123 (Tied 1-1)
- Game 2 of this series looked oddly familiar to Game 1, but with the scores switched. Milwaukee was on the receiving end of a blowout loss to open up this series after they were thoroughly outplayed by Boston and it’s incredible defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, in Game 2, Milwaukee was the team rolling out the beating.
- After shooting a poor 7-21 from the field for 22 points in Game 1, Antetokounmpo roared back with a much more aggressive approach leading to 29 points and 10 rebounds on 7-16 shooting from the field. On top of that, Khris Middleton drilled seven triples to help the Bucks break its franchise record for most made threes in a playoff game with 20.
- The game was actually about even at halftime. Milwaukee led by four but it felt like they were on the verge of blowing the game wide open. A 39-18 third-quarter advantage favoring the Bucks did just that and they were able to coast to victory and a series knotted at one game apiece. Eric Bledsoe posted 21 points, three rebounds, and five assists for the Bucks.
- Game 3 will head to Boston.
(4) Rockets – 109 @ (1) Warriors – 115 (GSW leads 2-0)
- We were able to make it through a Warriors-Rockets game without an unnecessary amount of petty criticism! You see, playoff miracles do come true! Golden State snuck out another tight win at home after leading for the majority of the second half. Kevin Durant continues to be the best player in these playoffs and Draymond Green has turned the clock back three years – he damn near put up another triple-double.
- But it sure doesn’t help Houston when its best player and MVP candidate James Harden is legally blind for over half the game. The Rockets star spent some time in the locker room after Green incidentally swiped Harden across the face in the first quarter, poking both of Harden’s eyes and caused the blood-shot redness you see below.
— Jason Bristol (@JBristolKHOU) May 1, 2019
- He still finished with 29 points and gave Houston a chance to come back in the end. Even Steph Curry was forced to the locker room at one point in the game after he dislocated the middle finger on his non-shooting hand. There was a moment when both Curry and Harden were receiving treatment in the back at the same time. But Golden State maintained home-court advantage and won both games with the series heading to Houston. Now the real fun can begin.
|Eric Bledsoe (MIL)||123-102 W vs. BOS||21||7-12 (3-5)||3||5||0||2||4||+23||26|
|DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)||115-109 W vs. HOU||DNP-Quad||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
9:00 (TNT): Trail Blazers (Labissiere, Kanter) @ Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt) (DEN leads 1-0)
With the NFL Draft almost a week behind us, it’s time to turn our attention to the Wildcats who will be featured in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Even though we’re less than two months away from the big night, we still will not know the draft order for two more weeks. In spite of the uncertainty, there’s a new NBA mock draft worth your time.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie provides depth you find in few others. In his third NBA mock draft, three Wildcats are in the top 20. P.J. Washington is the first off the board and the last in the lottery at No. 14, immediately followed by Tyler Herro, who is one spot ahead of Southern Indiana’s beloved Romeo Langford. The most intriguing portion fo the post is his analysis of Keldon Johnson at No. 20 overall.
Johnson is another player who drops a bit on this mock draft in comparison to last time. NBA evaluators wonder about the skill/athleticism combination right now. He’s not an elite athlete. His full-season 38 percent mark from 3 was good, but it dropped substantially down to 32.7 in tougher SEC play this season. His handle is strong, but largely resigned to only a straight line. Defensively, he has a great mindset, but can occasionally struggle to stay in front of guys that are quicker. Despite being a good passer at youth levels, that part of his game didn’t really show up within Kentucky’s offense.
Still, Johnson is a young, attack-oriented wing with potential to play on both ends of the floor if he can keep working on his footwork. And at the next level, if the shooting translates at the full season number, there should be more space for him to attack in a straight line off of heavy closeouts. Plus, he has a great frame at 211 pounds already, and would be able to put up with the physicality of the NBA. I’m still relatively a fan of Johnson, but he’s definitely more of a role player prospect than a potential star right now.
All of these projections are subject to change once we learn the draft order at the May 14 lottery in Chicago. As for now, it’s good to know generally where each player falls before they are scrutinized at the NBA Combine, one day after the NBA lottery.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©April 30th, 2019 @ 1:15pm
Good afternoon, folks. Jamal Murray and Enes Kanter combined for 49 points in Game 1. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(3) Sixers – 94 @ (2) Raptors – 89 (Tied 1-1)
- Joel Embiid was dealing with “the shits”, as he phrased it, but his teammate Jimmy Butler came through to save the day and tie the series. Embiid finished with only 12 points as he dealt with an apparent bug but it was Butler’s 30 points and 11 rebounds that allowed Philly to steal a game on the road before heading back home.
- Toronto did not have a great shooting night, going into halftime with only 38 points and trailing by 13 points. Pascal Siakam was not nearly as hot as he was in Game 1, shooting only 9-25 from the field while Kawhi Leonard popped off for the second game in a row, recording 35 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
- Jodie Meeks appeared for only one minute, missing his only shot of the game. I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings when I say this, but Meeks has been quite unplayable in the playoffs so far.
(3) Trail Blazers – 113 @ (2) Nuggets – 121 (DEN leads 1-0)
- What a fantastic way to kick off a series. This game was so much fun, I had to watch it again this morning. The Denver Nuggets secured the first victory of this round behind 37 points, nine rebounds, and six assists from Nikola Jokic, who went head-to-head with Portland center Enes Kanter. Kanter posted an impressive stat line of 26 points and seven rebounds on 11-14 shooting, but that hardly tells the entire story of how this battle went down. To phrase it *lightly*, Jokic torched Kanter throughout the entire game. Jamal Murray – who finished with 23 points on 8-15 shooting to go along with eight assists and two steals – and Jokic ran pick-and-rolls on practically every other possession with Kanter as their bait. And man, did he bite hard.
- Kanter had no chance at defending Jokic when he was in a pick-and-roll setting. He dared Jokic to fire from deep a few times (I suggested the best scheme to defend Jokic would be to sag off and let him shoot) which ended with the Nuggets big man converting on three of his five attempts from deep. Kanter sunk deep into the paint on nearly every pick-and-roll, which gave players such as Murray or Gary Harris more than enough time and space to get off uncontested shots. Kanter couldn’t seem to ever read the play correctly and Jokic put up massive numbers because of it. And it sure wasn’t difficult for Murray to score when Kanter was begging him to get to his favorite mid-range pull-up spot. It was the third quarter specifically where Jokic popped off for 15 points and broke this game wide open in favor of Denver. He had Kanter looking like a deer in headlights. Jokic was bodying him as if Kanter were half his size. It could be a long series for the former Kentucky big man on the defensive end.
- But if we want to look on the bright side for Kanter, he missed only three of his 14 shots. Outside of one baseline jump shot he drained over Jokic, his shots came exclusively at the rim as a roll man. Once he got into position on the block, he was near impossible to stop from getting a shot up. Jokic isn’t enough of a rim protector to prevent Kanter from bullying him inside and it showed all game. But Kanter’s 26 points are hallow compared to Jokic’s 37. The Nuggets double-teamed the living hell out of C.J. McCollum and especially Damian Lillard, forcing them to feed a rolling Kanter for easy scores. Jokic initiated everything for Denver and was responsible for the majority of the team’s offense.
- I’ll take six more games of this series on the fly, please.
|Enes Kanter (POR)||113-121 L @ DEN||26||11-14 (0-0)||7||0||0||0||1||-10||33|
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||121-113 W vs. POR||23||8-15 (3-6)||0||8||2||0||1||+18||33|
|Jodie Meeks (TOR)||89-94 L vs. PHI||0||0-1 (0-1)||0||0||0||0||1||-4||1|
|Skal Labissiere (POR)||113-121 L @ DEN||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Trey Lyles (DEN)||121-113 W vs. POR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)||121-113 W vs. POR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
8:00 (TNT): Celtics @ Bucks (Bledsoe) (BOS leads 1-0)
10:30 (TNT): Rockets @ Warriors (Cousins-out) (GSW 1-0)
By Zack Geoghegan on ©April 29th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
Enes Kanter is about to face the toughest challenge of his basketball career. Not against the known elites such as Joel Embiid or Rudy Gobert, but a playoff newcomer. A plush, feathery basketball mind decades ahead of his time: Nikola Jokic.
The Portland Trail Blazers is about to embark towards Denver, where the team will take on the Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals. The winner of the best-of-seven series will advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in at least a decade. Denver hasn’t been since 2009. Portland since 2000.
Damian Lillard is the superstar of the series. Jokic is not far behind him. Jamal Murray and C.J. McCollum are the secondary stars. Both teams are littered with above average role players. But Enes Kanter is going to have to play at an entirely different level – and do so on a bad shoulder. This isn’t anything like it was when Portland took down the Oklahoma City Thunder in round one. Steven Adams is a respectable center for OKC, but one known for his rebounding prowess and brute strength. Jokic is redefining what it means to play the center position in the modern era.
Kanter averaged 13.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in five outings against the Thunder. He shot over 57 percent from the field and connected on 80 percent of his free throw attempts. His offense, however, has never truly been the issue for him. Most of his made buckets were assisted on and he shot 65 percent at the rim – a respectable, albeit still low, shooting clip (for reference, Adams shot 72 percent at the rim during the series). Kanter dominated the glass on both ends of the court and even outplayed Adams in that department. Overall, the Blazers posted a plus-6.2 net rating when both Kanter and Adams were on the floor. Alongside McCollum and Lillard, Kanter’s offense didn’t necessitate anything extraordinary. He just needed to finish the chances his lead guards were feeding him. Which he did.
The calling card against Kanter has always been his defense. But when playing the Thunder, he wasn’t anywhere near the liability he has been in the past. If anything, he was exposed more in one-on-one situations than when he was defending the pick-and-roll. Check out this defense in Game 1 on Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder targeted Kanter in the pick-and-roll consistently throughout the series, and while he didn’t defend every shot exactly like this, his strategy was the same. He carefully sunk back on defense and waited for Westbrook to attack him instead of meeting Westbrook head-on, insisting the ball handler make the mistake while he uses his size to contest shots. The Thunder attempted and made fewer shots at the rim and in the short mid-range with Kanter on the court compared to when he was on the bench, according to Cleaning the Glass.
There were several instances, especially at the beginning of the series, where Adams would simply post up on the block (usually without much pushback from Kanter), demand the ball, and flail his way to the basket where he’d toss up an easy hook shot. Adams finished with a true shooting percentage of 64.8 percent against Kanter on only five fewer shots in the series.
However, Jokic is going to be a whole different kind of beast. Denver loves to run a flurry of dribble hand-offs and pick-and-rolls with Jokic/Murray. Sometimes Murray will act as the ball handler with Jokic as the roll man, but where they really confuse teams is when they inverse it with Jokic as the ball handler and Murray the roll man. How Kanter and the Blazers defend this will be a huge indicator of how Denver runs its offense in this series.
Jokic often times has a reluctance to shoot the ball, something that should help Kanter. While Jokic can beat any defense with his elite passing ability, if he isn’t making Kanter work on defense then it’s a wash. But the always scanning eyes of Jokic will test how much awareness Kanter is paying at all times. Jokic can burn teams with endless backdoor cuts and outlet passes. And if he isn’t firing from deep, Kanter needs to sink back similar to how he did against the Thunder and dare them to attack him.
I’m curious to see how Kanter defends a Jokic-Murray pick-and-roll where he has to defend Jokic with the ball in his hands. Jokic isn’t exactly quick enough to beat Kanter off the dribble and to the rim, but he can manipulate and bend a defense until everything is set up perfectly for him. Jokic runs an offense like he’s the only one controlling the pieces to the puzzle and the Nuggets are damn hard to stop because of it. It’s going to be up to Kanter to try and muck things up without getting himself out of position. Because even when he’s defending the ball, it’s more than just staying in front of Jokic. You have to read his eyes. Jokic’s brain is already two possessions ahead. Kanter can’t gamble.
I honestly can’t decide if I’d rather have Jokic post up on Kanter or run the offense. Both outcomes don’t supply me with a confident ending favoring the Blazers. If Jokic recorded just a few more assists, he would have averaged a triple-double for the entire Spurs series. At 23-years old, there isn’t much he can’t do on offense. Kanter’s best bet might just be to sag all the way off; Make Jokic shoot it from deep (he was 33 percent from three against the Thunder and 30.7 percent in the regular season) while trying to disrupt anything he might try to run through the paint.
The Blazers likely won’t run much directly for Kanter on offense. They didn’t do it that often in round one against Adams, and while Jokic is probably a better matchup for Kanter on that end, Lillard and McCollum will receive the bulk of the scoring duties (as they should). Kanter wasn’t even all that efficient against the Thunder. Most of his shots came right at the rim – which he barely made at an average clip – and 48 percent of his made shots were assisted, a number that ranks in the 100 percentile among big men in the playoffs, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Kanter’s two best games in round one uncoincidentally happened when he stayed out of foul trouble. 20 points and 18 rebounds in Game 1 then 13 points and 13 rebounds in Game 5 were sandwiched around subpar, foul-riddled outings in Games 2 and 4. He also picked up five fouls in the lone loss of the series in Game 3. Kanter’s best attribute right now is his availability. Without him, they have to turn to a second-year player not yet ready for the moment in Zach Collins or the 7-foot-1 Meyers Leonard. The Blazers need Kanter on the floor as much as possible. He’s currently listed as questionable for Game 1. The team needs his shoulder to cooperate. He’s the team’s top rebounder and the only big man they have with quality playoff experience.
Game 1 featuring the Trail Blazers and Nuggets tips off on Monday night in Denver at 10:30 p.m. on TNT.
Good morning, folks. The Bucks were trounced by the Celtics in Game 1. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(4) Celtics – 112 @ (1) Bucks – 90 (BOS leads 1-0)
- Soooo that was a bit unexpected. The Boston Celtics went into Milwaukee and slapped the Bucks right across the face to open up the series. Al Horford and Aron Baynes made life a living hell for the likely MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Horford and Kyrie Irving might as well have been Stockon/Malone out there. Three of the Bucks starters – Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, and Sterling Brown – shot a combined 3-17 from the field. Bledsoe took way too many uncharacteristic, contested jumpers. Milwaukee looked stunned. Like they had no idea that Boston was going to pack the middle against Antetokounmpo and force the action to the perimeter… I don’t expect that trend to extend beyond Game 1, however, and the Bucks should be much more locked in once Game 2 arrives, but this was not an ideal start for the top overall seed.
- I’m still sticking with my original prediction of Bucks in 6
(4) Rockets – 100 @ (1) Warriors – 104 (GSW leads 1-0)
- It isn’t officially a Rockets-Warriors series until we have a massive controversy, which means we are right on schedule. The Golden State Warriors snuck out a Game 1 win over Houston thanks to another scoring outburst from Kevin Durant – who posted 35 points. But it wasn’t the play of KD or the near triple-double from Draymond Green or James Harden shooting 9-28 that grabbed the headlines. Rather, it was the officiating.
- I’m someone who tries to complain about officiating as little as possible because I understand how difficult the task is. Games aren’t decided by one or a few bad calls, but the entire scope of the game from tip to the final buzzer. The game is won within the confines of the hardwood by the players. Sure, bad calls can shift momentum, but one bad call doesn’t change what has already occurred on the court by the players. With all that being said, the officiating from Game 1 is going to be a hot topic all the way up until the tip for Game 2.
- The Rockets love to shoot threes. We know this. The Warriors know this. And the Rockets damn sure know this. They generate a ton of potential four-point plays off constant ball movement wildly shifting and confusing defenses along with James Harden’s finessing abilities in isolation situations. A recent point of emphasis within the rulebook has been allowing shooters a spot to land where the defender doesn’t put his leg/foot underneath the shooter’s landing point. Ever since a similar play knocked Kawhi Leonard out of the 2017 NBA playoffs, the rule has been spotlighted for safety reasons. In Game 1, there were about 3-4 instances where a foul could have been called on the Warriors for stepping in the landing spot of a Rockets shooter. James Harden said in the postgame he just wants “a fair chance” (which is kind of hilarious) and that the refs should “call the game how it’s supposed to be called and that’s it, and I’ll live with the results,”. Twitter blew up over all of this. And now officiating is distracting everyone from an otherwise entertaining game. But the Rockets do have a point. The referees have called this a foul all season long and now Houston is being punished because they take advantage of it more than any other team? Get ready to see this foul called immediately and regularly in Game 2.
|Eric Bledsoe (MIL)||90-112 L vs. BOS||6||1-5 (0-4)||2||4||2||0||1||-12||25|
|DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)||104-100 W vs. HOU||DNP-Quad||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
8:00 (TNT): Sixers @ Raptors (Meeks) (TOR leads 1-0)
10:30 (TNT): Trail Blazers @ Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt) (Tied 0-0)