Cats in the NBA
Former Kentucky Players in the NBA
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)
By Kindsey Bernhard on ©April 28th, 2019 @ 8:30pm
The Memphis Grizzlies have promoted Tayshaun Prince to Vice President of Basketball Affairs.
The announcement came via Twitter Saturday:
JUST ANNOUNCED: Grizzlies have promoted Tayshaun Prince to Vice President of Basketball Affair.
Details ? pic.twitter.com/UqrdQuibEF
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) April 27, 2019
“We are excited to establish Tayshaun as a core member of our front office,” Executive Vice President of Basketball Operation Zachary Kleiman said. “His knowledge of the game is exceptional and we are thrilled he will continue providing valuable contributions to the organization on a day-to-day basis,” Kleiman said.
Congratulations to a Kentucky legend, Mr. Tayshaun Prince!
In typical fashion, since the season’s end five Kentucky basketball players have declared for the 2019 NBA Draft. Two of which in freshman EJ Montgomery and sophomore Nick Richards are leaving the door open to return to Kentucky if the desired feedback is not received during their time testing the draft waters.
As for sophomore PJ Washington and freshmen Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro, they have confirmed they will not return to Kentucky, so we turn our attention to their journey & path to the draft on June 20th.
Today’s focus is on PJ Washington – the sophomore forward, who after a solid freshman campaign in 2017-18, had a chance to be drafted in the second round. Instead, he made the decision to return to Kentucky and bet on himself & his ability to capitalize on lottery pick potential in 2019.
PJ achieved what he set out for in his return. At the same time it provided Coach Calipari with exhibit A for players in upcoming years that are facing similar situations and would value hard evidence of what returning for an extra year with the right mindset can provide.
As a 2019 prospect, PJ Washington’s is currently projected highest at No. 11 overall (via Sports Illustrated) as well as No. 15 overall (via ESPN). With the draft combine approaching, lets take a look at the profile PJ Washington will display and work on improving in the upcoming months.
Height/Weight: 6’8 / 235lbs
Age/Position: 20 / Power Forward
Athletically, PJ has the length and natural strength to withstand NBA level physicality. The progress on his footwork and agility is key to his overall improvement and directly attributable to his ability to get his preferred shot from various spots on the floor. His length & athleticism also allows him to rebound and make plays above the rim, and in his second year he displayed an improved court vision and passing ability out of the post.
The most notable improvement is his ability to stretch out and score from all three levels. He’s shown that he can step out and shoot consistently at the elbow and three point range as his three point percentage increased from 23% to 42% from his freshman to sophomore season. The percentages speak for themselves but from a technique perspective, his shot mechanics are excellent with a high release point that is a key attribute that NBA Scouts are looking for.
Areas of Improvement
PJ has given us glimpses of what his role could be on an NBA lineup, but his role is far from defined. Finding the right fit will be the biggest question surrounding PJ Washington in the draft and the early part of his career. He lacks the prototypical size for power forwards in the NBA, and although he is a good athlete, he lacks elite athleticism that can make up for the shortcomings of size at his position.
Offensively, He has significant work to do in further refining his moves in the post. During two seasons at Kentucky, he was able to succeed with a one dimensional post strategy in his signature jump-hook. To sustain success in the NBA he will need to further develop his inside game, and more importantly build on his consistency from mid-to-three point range.
Lastly, his motor. Don’t read to much into this being in the “weakness” section, but see it more so as an area that has already significantly improved and is paramount to his NBA success. Unlike height, this something that each player can control on a daily basis, and if PJ can continue to build on the motor he showed the last three quarters of this season, it could force a coach to keep him on the floor because of the spark he provides to a team.
There is still uncertainty and events that must transpire before we know the most accurate draft projection for PJ. The future will be clearer after the lottery order is set and the combine is completed. In the meantime, I can give you three possible destinations. There’s some variety as three separate mock drafts have him going to the Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets, or the most intriguing: San Antonio Spurs.
Of course we’d love to see PJ drafted as high as possible, but a pick by the Spurs would require a fall just outside of the lottery. Putting that aside, I could see this being a great fit for PJ to start his career. San Antonio has drafted guards each of the last three years and so 2019 would likely be the year they draft with intent of filling a hole in the front court left by Pau Gasol, who is likely to retire soon. This would allow PJ to learn under an all-star in LaMarcus Aldridge without the constant pressure to perform that a rookie drafted as the future franchise player would face.
PJ would have the opportunity to develop under a legendary head coach and organization, and of course while enjoying that first NBA contract free of state income taxes. Hopefully he achieves his goal of being a lottery pick, but if that doesn’t happen, a spot on the Spurs would be a favorable consolation.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©April 28th, 2019 @ 7:30pm
The Golden State Warriors needed a few more games than initially thought to knock out the Los Angeles Clippers in round one of the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
The series went six games and featured a 31-point comeback in Game 2 from the Clippers, but was ultimately won by Golden State in six games. The Warriors noticeably lazed through these games, but still advanced because of the pure talent advantage they have. Kevin Durant was unstoppable. Steph Curry was great as well. It’s damn near impossible to stop two of the game’s three greatest players without a superstar to stop them. The Clippers no longer have that superstar.
At least not right now.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s first-round performance for the Clips showcased exactly why the franchise is so keen on keeping the former Kentucky guard for the long term future. He might just be the budding superstar they need, one they won’t have to sign to a max deal in the offseason.
Against the Warriors in round one, SGA averaged 13.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while playing nearly 29 minutes per game. He finished the six games with shooting splits of 46.7 (FG%)/50.0 (3PT)/85.0 (FT%) and also posted a career-high 25 points in Game 4. To quickly sum it up, SGA looked like anything but a rookie in his playoff debut. That it came against the best basketball team formed in recent memory makes it easy to see why everyone is jumping on the SGA bandwagon. And if you haven’t already, it’s why you should too.
The Clippers started both SGA and former Wichita State guard Landry Shamet as its backcourt duo. Two rookies in their first ever playoff appearances going up head-to-head with Curry and Klay Thompson – and they stepped up on the biggest stage as overwhelming underdogs.
Not every game from SGA was perfect. He shot a combined 3-12 from the field in games 2 and 3 for only 11 points and went for a mere six points in Game 5. Sharing defensive responsibilities guarding Curry, Thompson, and Durant resulted in more open shots than desired. But he more than held his own against the top players on the planet.
When SGA was in a rhythm, he would get to his spots with ease and pop in mid-range jumpers. Along with his career-high 25 points in Game 4, he also registered an 18-point outing in Game 1 and a 22-point effort in Game 6. Half of his 18 three-point looks found the bottom of the net and he turned the ball over only five times in over 160 minutes.
What stood out the most when watching SGA zip around the court was the confidence he did it with. He’d hesitate here and there with taking a semi-contested jumper, but more often than not, Gilgeous-Alexander looked like a comfortable five-year veteran rather than a first-year novice.
He wasn’t scared guarding any of the Warriors stars because he knew he could stay in front of them. He showcased his insane wingspan and ability to remain under complete control no matter who was handling the ball. Sometimes he’d get a bit over eager when attacking the basket on his own but was calm in the pick-and-roll and reading what the defense was giving him. Overall, he was probably the third best player for the Clippers in the series behind Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams. He did this at only 20 years old.
But now his season is over and the Clippers have a ton of questions to answer. First off, who are they going to go after in free agency? Will they gun for a Durant or Kawhi Leonard? Is Jimmy Butler on the table? If they strike out, are they going to keep the core they have now and run it back? Could they trade for Anthony Davis? That last question is particularly interesting because it could directly involve SGA. The Clippers have the potential cap space to go after two max free agents and they’ll absolutely try to at least inquire about Davis. The big debate will be whether or not the Clippers want to include SGA, which is a legit question to be asked at this point.
If L.A. has one asset they should view as “untouchable” it should be Gilgeous-Alexander. With how the Clippers have successfully tanked while also staying competitive, they have acquired plenty of assets for future deals. SGA is long down the Clippers’ list of assets they’d want to trade. Williams, Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Shamet, and draft picks all come before SGA.
It’s only a matter of time before SGA turns into an All-Star level player. Denying his potential at this point is neglectful. But will that actualized version arrive next season? Can he undergo a De’Aaron Fox-like transformation from year one to two? He doesn’t necessarily have to (and the two are on incredibly different career paths), but the Clippers could very easily fast track this rebuild (although unlikely considering how patient they’ve been thus far) if things don’t go as planned in the summer and the individual improvement isn’t noticeable early. Because at this very moment, SGA is the Clippers point guard for the long term future and they appear content with allowing him the time and room to grow.
If Gilgeous-Alexander’s first ever playoff appearance against the two-time defending champs doesn’t open your eyes to how good he can be, then perhaps his trade value this summer will make it more apparent. It won’t be crazy for the Clippers to deny potential deals for star players because they don’t want to include SGA. Instead of Gilgeous-Alexander guarding Durant, imagine them playing side-by-side next year.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shined in his first ever playoff series and the Clippers are an even more attractive free agent destination because of it. His best is still a long ways away.
Former Kentucky and current Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter is currently uncertain if he will be healthy and ready to go when the Blazers take on the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Monday.
Kanter is dealing with a separated left shoulder that he sustained in the series-clinching Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to ESPN.
“I think the Blazers are doing a very good job taking care of it. But, I mean obviously, I’m not going to lie, it hurts pretty bad,” Kanter said, according to ESPN. “I mean I’m having a hard time changing my shirt or eating food. So it’s a process. We’re just taking it day by day, see how it feels.”
Not only is the shoulder a problem, but Kanter also dealt with a bruised right hand he suffered in the first half of Game 2 against the Thunder.
Kanter was a vitally important piece in the Blazers advancing over the Thunder in five games. His defense was some of the best he’s ever played and he averaged 13.2 points to go along with 10.2 rebounds in those five games.
Damian Lillard is the star for Portland, but they desperately need a healthy version of Kanter if they want to make it to the Western Conference Finals.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©April 28th, 2019 @ 12:30pm
The once burning feud between Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe and Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier could potentially rekindle itself when the two teams meet in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Sunday.
If you don’t remember, Bledsoe and Rozier engaged in a hilariously petty beef during last year’s NBA playoffs which included Rozier accidentally referring to Bledsoe as former New England Patriots quarterback “Drew Bledsoe” and continued once Bledsoe responded by saying he didn’t even know who Rozier was – despite Rozier putting up 23 points on Bledsoe in the game prior.
This year, the circumstances are different for each team, but the beef should be renewed according to Rozier.
“It’s just two competitive guys,? said Rozier after practice Friday afternoon at the Auerbach Center. “I’m pretty sure it’ll carry over. That’s sports. That’s what the fans want, they need. I think it’ll spice it up and make it a lot of fun.”
“Me and him, we’re two competitors. No matter if we get cool outside the lines, whatever happens in the summer, we see each other, whatever. We get between the lines, we’re two guys who want to win for our team. It’s going to be there, the bad blood’s going to be there.?
Unlike last season’s series, Rozier likely won’t be playing nearly as much as he did and without as much dependability. Celtics star Kyrie Irving was sidelined during the postseason in 2018 due to a knee injury and Rozier was asked to step up – which he did in spectacular fashion. The former Louisville guard averaged 17.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6.7 assists in seven playoff games against the Bucks last season and played the most minutes among any of his teammates. He was a massive reason why the Celtics were able to take down the Bucks and make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But Bledsoe wasn’t his usual self in that series. His entire season was overshadowed by that series. Because in reality, Bledsoe played outstanding all of last year, averaging nearly 18 points per game as a first-year Buck, but he was thoroughly outplayed by Rozier in the first round. This year, the entire situation has done a 180.
The Bucks are no longer coached by Jason Kidd, rather a basketball genius in Mike Budenholzer, who has propelled – along with the likely MVP Giannis Anteotkounmpo – this team to the best overall record in the NBA and the top seed in the playoffs. The scheme is entirely different now. The Bucks run everything through Antetokounmpo and surround him with capable shooters/scorers, which has resulted in a top-5 offense.
The Celtics were seen as a playoff Cinderella of sorts last season due to a flurry of injuries but eventually flamed out against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now fully healthy, the Celtics have struggled to hit the ground and find the balance they need to consistently compete against the top teams. They needed seven games to beat the Victor Oladipo-less Indiana Pacers. The Bucks, on the other hand, look like world-beaters, sweeping the Pistons and winning by an average nearly 24 points per outing.
Back in January, Bledsoe told ESPN how “It was my fault we lost the Boston series,”. This is his shot at redemption. The near All-Star selection this season was nice. His four-year, $70 million extension was even nicer. But this series is what he’s been working towards ever since last April. Everything else means nothing if he doesn’t go out and play the way he has all season.
Bledsoe posted averages of 19.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in four round one games against the Detroit Pistons on shooting splits of 52.5 (FG%)/31.6 (3PT)/81.8 (FT%) in nearly 28 minutes per game. Rozier played under 20 minutes per game and averaged fewer than eight points in those outings against the Indiana Pacers in round one.
At this moment, Bledsoe is playing better basketball than he has in his entire life. Rozier is struggling to shoot 40 percent from the field.
The Bucks are on a path much larger and more significant last season. There is belief they’ll make it to the NBA Finals (I am one of those believers) and that they could even challenge Golden State if the Warriors don’t get its act together in time. Antetokounmpo will lead them there, but they need everything they can get from Bledsoe. If that means forgoing any/all beef with Rozier in order to focus on the big picture then so be it. Bledsoe needs to show up in this series. And he can’t do that if he’s tangling with Rozier for no reason. Remember what just happened with Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook? It’s time for Bledsoe to show up Rozier and Boston with his play.
Game 1 tips-off on Sunday at 1 p.m. on ABC.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©April 28th, 2019 @ 11:30am
Good morning, folks. Jamal Murray has never lost a playoff series. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(3) 76ers – 95 @ (2) Raptors – 108 (TOR leads 1-0)
- The second round kicked off on Saturday in the Eastern Conference with the Toronto Raptors edging out the Philadelphia 76ers to win Game 1. Kawhi Leonard posted a playoff career-high 45 points on an efficient 16-23 shooting while his teammate Pascal Siakam was nearly perfect, adding 29 points on 12-15 shooting for the Raps. The victory was the first in a Game 1 for Toronto since 2008 when they beat the Washington Wizards in the first round. The win also brings the franchise’s all-time record in Game 1’s to 3-14.
- One thing has become abundantly clear about this Toronto team compared to teams of old. Kawhi Leonard is just better than everyone else. These aren’t the DeMar DeRozan Raptors anymore. Leonard is a legit superstar.
(7) Spurs – 86 @ (2) Nuggets – 90 (DEN wins 4-3)
- Speaking of DeRozan, the team Toronto traded him to in the offseason – the San Antonio Spurs – fell in Game 7 against Denver. The Spurs were plagued by its own spotty shot selection all game and it resulted in them scoring only 86 points. The Nuggets will now advance to take on the Portland Trail Blazers in round two.
- Jamal Murray helped close out the Spurs with 23 points on 9-19 shooting to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Nikola Jokic carried the Nuggets with another triple-double, but it was Murray’s clutch shot-making down the stretch that led the Nuggets to its first series win in a decade. Murray ended this series on a strong note after frustrating inconsistency through the first few games. The Nuggets as a team shot only 2-20 from beyond the arc and it was Murray who was penetrating and hunting down open looks in the paint to open up other looks for his teammates.
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||90-86 W vs. SAS||23||9-19 (0-2)||5||4||0||0||1||+1||32|
|Jodie Meeks (TOR)||108-95 W vs. PHI||0||0-1 (0-0)||1||0||0||0||0||-9||4|
|Trey Lyles (DEN)||90-86 W vs. SAS||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)||90-86 W vs. SAS||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
1:00 (ABC): Celtics @ Bucks (Bledsoe)
3:30 (ABC): Rockets @ Warriors (Cousins-out)
By Zack Geoghegan on ©April 27th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
Good afternoon, folks. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s first run in the postseason is officially over. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(1) Warriors – 129 @ (8) Clippers – 110 (GSW wins 4-2)
- The Golden State Warriors finally sent the pesky Los Angeles Clippers into the offseason after winning Game 6 in L.A. Kevin Durant exploded for a playoff career-high 50 points – 38 of them coming in the first half alone, tied for the second-most points in the first half of a playoff game in NBA history. Draymond Green posted a triple-double, as well. The Clippers made a few second-half runs that made the game somewhat interesting, but the end result was never in doubt. Durant was on fire and the Clips couldn’t get enough from Lou Williams to have a chance.
- In the final outing of his first ever NBA playoffs, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander recorded 22 points on 8-14 shooting (2-4 from three) in addition to five rebounds, six assists, and zero turnovers. He was also the only Clippers starter to post a positive plus/minus, finishing plus-6 in 34 minutes. SGA looked like anything but a rookie during this series alongside fellow first-year guard Landry Shamet (of Whicita State fame). Outside of a few over-aggressive drives to the rim, SGA put on a great performance in Game 6. He’s been tasked with guarding Durant, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry throughout the entire series and did a respectable job. How many rookies are pouring in 20 points while guarding the best shooters on the entire planet at the same time? The future is bright for the former Wildcat.
- Short recap today, but there are two exciting games on Saturday, ending with a Game 7 featuring Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets. The Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup between TOR-PHI should be one of the most exciting of the entire playoffs.
|Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LAC)||110-129 L vs. GSW||22||8-14 (2-4)||5||6||0||1||0||+6||34|
|DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)||129-110 W @ LAC||DNP-Quad||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
7:30 (TNT): Sixers @ Raptors (Meeks)
10:00 (TNT): Spurs @ Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt) (Tied 3-3)
Good morning, folks. Denver really doesn’t want to win this series. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(2) Nuggets – 103 @ (7) Spurs – 120 (Tied 3-3)
- Game 6 was neck-and-neck for the entirety of the first three quarters. Then the Spurs broke in the fourth quarter with a 22-4 run that the Nuggets had no chance of overcoming. All game it felt like Denver was down five points. If San Antonio managed to balloon the lead to double-digits, Denver quickly trimmed it back down. And on the flip side, if Denver ever got too close to overtaking the lead, LaMarcus Aldridge would come in and nail a timely fadeaway jumper. Denver shot only 6-24 from deep after combining to shoot 44-93 from three in games 4-6.
- Jamal Murray finished with 16 points, three rebounds, and six assists on 7-18 shooting, but also racked up three of Denver’s seven total turnovers. At one point in the third quarter, he came up hobbling after running into a Jakon Poeltl set screen. Murray took a knee to the thigh and needed a moment to collect himself before appearing to be okay and remaining in the game. Nikola Jokic added 43 points – 27 of them coming in the second half – to go along with 12 rebounds and nine assists. Luckily for the Nuggets, Game 7 will be back in Denver, where the team posted the best regular season winning percentage at home this year.
- We’re reaching that point in the season where the games are going to be fewer and further in between. Now that round one is almost decided and with round two kicking off this weekend, there’s going to be some nights where no games will be played. Which means we are officially nearing the end of my first full season covering the BBNBA and I just wanted to thank everyone who has read even one of my recaps this season. We’re still going to be cheering on players such as Eric Bledsoe, Enes Kanter, and hopefully Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the recap posts just won’t be as frequent. I plan on using that free time to dedicate more efforts to watching film and trying to breakdown what members of the BBNBA did good/bad this season. Kanter is my primary subject at the moment and I plan to have something on him soon and his excellent round one series. But just because the season is almost over doesn’t mean you won’t be hearing from me. I’ll continue to cover the NBA all the way through to the Finals so you can experience the joy ride that is the NBA postseason along with me. I’ll be back tomorrow to discuss the 40-point game that SGA is about to drop on the Warriors during Game 6 Friday night in L.A.
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||103-120 L @ SAS||16||7-18 (1-5)||3||6||0||0||3||-10||34|
|Trey Lyles (DEN)||103-120 L @ SAS||0||0-3 (0-1)||1||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)||103-120 L @ SAS||0||0-0||1||0||0||1||0||0||1|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
10:00 (ESPN): Warriors (Cousins-out) @ Clippers (Gilgeous-Alexander) (GSW leads 3-2)
By Zack Geoghegan on ©April 25th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Good afternoon, folks. The Clippers are auditioning for Kevin Durant while playing against him. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(5) Jazz – 93 @ (4) Rockets – 100 (HOU wins 4-1)
- The Utah Jazz’s wonky defensive scheme on James Harden finally met its inevitable doom. Utah managed to limit Harden to only 21-65 shooting from the field (32 percent) in games 3-5, but could never muster up enough offense of its own to take advantage of the quirky defense it employed.
- Through the first two games, Utah’s strategy was massacred in the form of 61 combined points courtesy of Harden, but they slowly adapted. They proved in the last three games that the idea of forcing Harden into the middle could work, but ONLY if you have a 7-foot Defensive Player of the Year candidate manning the middle. Golden State can’t replicate that. Neither can any other remaining team from the West. The Bucks might be the only team left that could possibly try it out if they somehow meet in the Finals.
- In the next round, whoever matches up with Houston will likely guard Harden straight up. Well, there definitely won’t be a defender riding his back and giving him a literal wide-open lane to the basket. The double-teams will be in full force, though.
(8) Clippers – 129 @ (1) Warriors – 121 (GSW leads 3-2)
- So let me get this straight… Six of the eight teams moving on to the second round have already been decided and the two-time defending champs aren’t one of them? Well, we can thank the heroics of Lou Williams (33 points and 10 assists) and Montrezl Harrell (24 points on 11-14 shooting) for that. The Clippers managed to hold off several late charged from the Warriors to steal a win at Oracle and force a Game 6 back in L.A. Patrick Beverley somehow pulled in 14 rebounds. Kevin Durant poured in 45 points. It was a weird game.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finished with six points, three rebounds, and three assists for the Clips.
- In actuality, this win was bigger for Houston than it was for the Clippers. As much as I would love for the Clippers to somehow steal two more wins and complete what would be the greatest comeback/upset in the history of, not just sports, but the entire recorded history of earth, that likely won’t be happening. But what forcing a Game 6 does do is give Houston an extra two days off. Since they finished off the Jazz Wednesday, Golden State still has to play again on Friday, giving more rest for Harden and especially Chris Paul. And if L.A. can force a Game 7? Then you’re gonna have one tired – and likely annoyed with each other – Warriors team going up against a fresh Rockets squad. Sign me up for seven games of that, please and thank you.
|Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LAC)||129-121 W @ GSW||6||2-3 (0-1)||3||3||0||0||1||-6||19|
|DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)||121-129 L vs. LAC||DNP-Quad||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
8:00 (TNT): Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt) @ Spurs (DEN leads 3-2)
Good Damian Lillard, folks. Damian Lillard. Let’s talk Damian Lillard.
(7) Magic – 96 @ (2) Raptors – 116 (TOR wins 4-1)
- The Toronto Raptors joined the Celtics and Bucks as the third team to advance in the playoffs after easily taking down the Orlando Magic in Game 5. The scores might not have indicated it, but this was actually a fun series, especially watching a budding Magic team experience its first taste of the postseason in a while. Toronto was just the superior team in the end and controlled the games down the stretch much like a potential NBA Finals team should.
- Jodie Meeks posted five points and three rebounds for the Raptors on 2-8 shooting. More Raptors = more Meeks.
(6) Nets – 100 @ (3) Sixers – 122 (PHI wins 4-1)
- Soon after, the Sixers became the fourth team to make it to the second round. This series was closer than the ORL-TOR one, but still, the better team ultimately won in convincing fashion. Even with Joel Embiid battling injury and an instigating Jared Dudley in the corner, the Sixers remained calm after dropping Game 1 and quickly buried the Nets.
- The Sixers and Raptors will face each other in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
(7) Spurs – 90 @ (2) Nuggets – 108 (DEN leads 3-2)
- Now we get into the fun stuff. Jamal Murray’s last two games have been a complete 180 from his first three. After posting 24 points in a Game 4 win, Murray added another 23 in Game 5 to go along with four rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. This is the Murray we’ve all been waiting for. The Murray that can lead this Nuggets team deep into the playoffs. Nikola Jokic is the team’s best player, but they need this version of Murray to do some actual damage. Watching Murray-Jokic work in the pick-and-roll truly is a work of basketball art. The Nuggets used an 11-point third quarter advantage to pull away in the second-half and take a commanding 3-2 lead with the series heading back to San Antonio.
(6) Thunder – 115 @ (3) Trail Blazers – 118 (POR wins 4-1)
- So. Damian Lillard, huh? While you were sleeping, Lillard set the Internet ablaze with a series-winning dagger three-pointer shot from the moon over a Defensive Player of the Year candidate’s outstretched arm. The memes are spectactular.
Damian Lillard waves goodbye to the team that swept them in the regular season….
Blazers beat the Thunder 4-1 in their first round series ? pic.twitter.com/Yih5glrEEH
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) April 24, 2019
Dame’s face while being mobbed by his teammates……Ice Cold ?? pic.twitter.com/RBe0Iyqc2L
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) April 24, 2019
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) April 24, 2019
- I would just like to go ahead and apologize to my entire apartment complex if they were awakened by my murderous screams at one in the morning on a Wednesday but they can blame the real killer that is Damian Lillard. Seriously, that is one of the ballsiest, most badass – yet also uniquely petty – shots I have ever seen someone take and make.
- This isn’t the first time Lillard has ended a series with a game-winner, he did it against the Houston Rockets a few years back. He’s the only player in NBA history to have multiple series-winning, walk-off game-winners. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but there is not a more exciting player in the NBA right now than Damian Lillard. The scary part? He’s still getting better. I really hope Denver advances to round two. Could you imagine Murray and Lillard exchanging 30-foot daggers late in a Game 7? Grind that up into a fine powder and sell it to me on the corner of the street, please.
- Also, massive credit is due to Enes Kanter, who played another great game on Tuesday night. Kanter dropped in 13 points and 13 rebounds to go along with four assists and some all-around solid defense. The deeper into the playoffs the Blazers go, the more important Kanter is going to be. He held his own against Steven Adams, let’s see what he can do against Jokic/LaMarcus Aldridge. I’ll try to go more in-depth on Kanter’s play later in the week.
- Nerlens Noel’s last game of the season resulted in only two points and two boards in eight minutes. Noel had an excellent recovery season though and should be a sought after target once free agency hits.
- Check out the full stat sheet below.
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||108-90 W vs. SAS||23||9-16 (4-9)||4||7||2||1||2||+33||27|
|Enes Kanter (POR)||118-115 W vs. OKC||13||6-9 (0-0)||13||4||0||1||0||+2||32|
|Jodie Meeks (TOR)||115-96 W vs. ORL||5||2-8 (0-3)||3||0||0||1||0||-15||13|
|Nerlens Noel (OKC)||115-118 L @ POR||2||1-4 (0-0)||2||0||0||0||1||+1||8|
|Trey Lyles (DEN)||108-90 W vs. SAS||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)||108-90 W vs. SAS||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Skal Labissiere (POR)||118-115 W vs. OKC||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Patrick Patterson (OKC)||115-118 L @ POR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Hamidou Diallo (OKC)||115-118 L @ POR||DNP-Elbow||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
8:00 (TNT): Jazz @ Rockets (HOU leads 3-1)
10:30 (TNT): Clippers (Gilgeous-Alexander) @ Warriors (Cousins-out) (GSW leads 3-1)
By Zack Geoghegan on ©April 23rd, 2019 @ 6:45pm
The No. 1 overall seed Milwaukee Bucks completed a 4-0 series sweep of the Detroit Pistons in round one of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. The Bucks won all four games by at least 16 points and outscored the Pistons by a total of 95 points. Even with Blake Griffin in the Detroit lineup for last two games, there was nary a thing the team from Michigan could do to overcome the dominance that is the 2018-19 Bucks.
When you have a 6-foot-11, 24-year old unicorn in Giannis Anteotkounmpo, it surely makes life a hell of a lot easier. The Greek Freak could have smacked the Pistons all by himself. He posted 41 points in a closeout Game 4 and averaged over 26 for the series while shooting 52 percent from the field. He is the heart and soul of this Bucks team and they go as far as he takes them – which could very well be to the NBA Finals.
Milwaukee looks to be the best team in the playoffs at this very moment. Some of that has to do with the fact that the Warriors have dropped a game against the Los Angeles Clippers – who could probably sweep the Pistons, as well – and the Bucks played a team that was overmatched before the series even began. But let’s not take away from the beating the Bucks handed the Pistons. Milwaukee has a real shot at making it to the NBA Finals and a sliver of a shot to win the whole thing that gets a bit bigger with every passing game. However, there is one player for Milwaukee that is necessary for a Bucks title run. The X-factor, if you will. And that is Eric Bledsoe.
Aside from Anteotkounmpo, the former Kentucky guard has been the Bucks most reliable player through the first round of the playoffs. I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to imply that Bledsoe has outplayed his other All-Star teammate, Khris Middleton, as well.
Let’s quickly rattle off Bledsoe’s averages in round one: 19.3 points per game, 4.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.8 turnovers per game on shooting splits of 52.5 (FG%)/31.6 (3PT)/81.8 (FT%).
He was unstoppable heading towards the rim. His ball handling was the tightest I’ve ever seen it. He was locking down opponents on every possession. This is the best version of Eric Bledsoe that anyone – including himself – has ever seen, and he’s showing up at the perfect time.
Without starting two-guard Malcolm Brogdon due to injury – an extremely reliable shooter and solid defender – Milwaukee was going to need someone to step up and assert themselves. Brogdon has been out since mid-March and his return is still up in the air. Sterling Brown did a solid job of replacing him, but Bledsoe went into All-Star mode.
Of the 26 players who have averaged at least 10 drives per game during these playoffs, Bledsoe posts the third highest field goal percentage (61.9) behind only Pascal Siakam and Derrick White. That number is higher than James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Kawhi Leonard. But unlike some of those players, such as Westbrook and Harden, Bledsoe isn’t passing out of these drives. He’s just bulldozing through opponents with sneaky euro steps and forearms thicker than most defender’s heads.
According to Cleaning the Glass, Bledsoe has attempted 43 percent of his shots at the rim in the playoffs and has converted on an impossible 83 percent of them. Both numbers rank in the 100 percentile among guards in the playoffs. Just for reference, Antetokounmpo made 74 percent of his shots at the rim. Whenever Bledsoe was able to draw a foul while in the act of shooting, he converted on exactly half of those attempts for an and-one, which also ranks atop the list of playoff guards.
After watching the four games between Milwaukee and Detroit, you could easily make the argument that Bledsoe has been a better finisher at the rim than the elite finishing guards such as Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving. Hell, if you even wanted to compare him to the 7-footers of the NBA world, Bledsoe would still rank higher than them. That’s how good he’s been when attacking.
But it goes further than just scoring for Bledsoe. He’s avoided even the tiniest whiff of foul trouble, has tortured opposing guards for offensive rebounds, and kept the turnovers to a bare minimum.
The Bucks posted an offensive rating of 120.5 and a defensive rating of 95.0 with Bledsoe on the floor against the Pistons. That 95.0 defensive rating is what stands out to me more than the offensive rating. Whenever Bledsoe was on the floor against the Pistons, he accounted for 40 (FORTY) percent of the team’s overall steals. And that’s with a defensive juggernaut in Antetokounmpo manning the middle.
Facing the Celtics in the second round will be completely different than round one. Boston is built on defense. Even when its offense struggled mightily throughout the season, they could always fall back on defense. It happened in the team’s sweep of the Indiana Pacers, too. Boston’s 95.8 defensive rating currently leads all playoff teams. But along with having the third-best defense in the playoffs, the Bucks couple that with the top offense of the postseason and the highest net rating by a considerable margin.
Bledsoe had the pleasure of going head-to-head with the likes of Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith in round one. Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier won’t be as simple a task to keep at ease. Defending Irving is like trying to stay in front of a hurricane inside of a black hole. But Rozier has struggled this postseason, especially compared to what he did last year, and Marcus Smart is still out with a torn oblique. His status remains undetermined.
The Bledsoe-Irving matchup will be must-watch television. Both are playing the best basketball of their respective careers. The Celtics are miles ahead of the Pistons, but will absolutely struggle to put up points against the Bucks brick wall defense. Boston averaged only 99.3 points per game against the Pacers in round one. Milwaukee averaged over 121 per game and limited Detroit to a mere 98 points per game. I’ve seen several different predictions sending this series to seven games, but I think Boston would be lucky to even make it to a Game 6.
Eric Bledsoe is having the most efficient and effective season of his eight-year career at age 29 on the most dominant team he’s ever played for. Milwaukee is poised to make a run to the Finals. Antetokounmpo will lead them to the promised land, but they can’t get there without this version of Bledsoe.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©April 23rd, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Good afternoon, folks. Eric Bledsoe and the Milwaukee Bucks are moving on. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(1) Bucks – 127 @ (8) Pistons – 104 (MIL wins series 4-0)
- We finally have our second sweep of these playoffs. The Milwaukee Bucks made light work of the Detroit Pistons in the second half of Game 4 to easily advance to the second round, where they will face the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
- With Blake Griffin back for the second straight game, the Pistons actually got out to an impressive start in this one. They were even up six at halftime behind 20 first-half points from Reggie Jackson. But a 17-3 Bucks run to end the third quarter put the closing stamp on both this game and the series. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 41 points because why the hell not? We’re witnessing what looks to be the early stages of the prime of a future Hall-of-Famer. Milwaukee won every game by at least 16 points and outscored Detroit by 95 through the four games. This wasn’t just any ole sweep… This was an ADVANCED sweep.
- I’ll have plenty more to come on Eric Bledsoe’s performance in Game 4 – and the entire series – later on, but just know that he posted 16 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block on 7-12 shooting from the field. He is easily one of the best rim finishers in the playoffs right now, maybe even better than his superstar teammate, Antetokounmpo (okay maybe that’s a stretch).
(4) Rockets – 91 @ (5) Jazz – 107 (HOU leads 3-1)
- The Utah Jazz was not trying to meet the same fate as the Pistons, avoiding a sweep by taking down the Houston Rockets in Game 4 at home. Donovan Mitchell poured in 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter and Jae Crowder added 23 for the Jazz. Utah was able to limit Houston to a 12-point fourth quarter to pull away late. Up until that final period, the game was actually going back-and-forth. Utah would build a 10-plus point lead only for James Harden and Chris Paul to quickly bring the game back. A 15-1 Jazz run to start the fourth blew this game wide open and left the door open for Utah to make this thing a series. I’m not calling an unrealistic comeback or anything, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Utah managed to steal two more games and force a Game 7. Houston has been known to choke in the past and the defense on Harden was much improved from the first two games. Although, now that I’ve spoken it into existence, Utah will probably lose Game 5 by 25.
|Eric Bledsoe (MIL)||127-104 W @ DET||16||7-12 (1-3)||3||5||2||1||2||+13||27|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
7:00 (NBATV): Magic @ Raptors (Meeks) (TOR leads 3-1)
8:00 (TNT): Nets @ Sixers (PHI leads 3-1)
9:30 (NBATV): Spurs @ Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt) (Tied 2-2)
10:30 (TNT): Thunder (Diallo-out, Noel, Patterson) @ Trail Blazers (Labissiere, Kanter) (POR leads 3-1)
By Drew Franklin on ©April 22nd, 2019 @ 3:30pm
Will Shai Gilgeous-Alexander draw top free agents to Los Angeles?
A writer over at Complex Sports believes so.
Adam Caparell thinks it could be Gilgeous-Alexander, not LeBron James, bringing more star power to L.A. this summer. He believes Gilgeous-Alexander’s play in the Clippers’ playoff series with the Warriors is catching the eye of some of the NBA’s soon-to-be available stars. In this excerpt I am about to share with you, Caparell names Kevin Durant as a potential L.A. teammate, in addition to saying the former Wildcat is a better young point guard option than the other guy in L.A.:
You think Durant isn’t taking notice of what the 20-year-old kid just did? KD, of course, is the No. 1 free agent this summer and definitely has made mental notes about SGA. While Durant hates it when we speculate about his future and his headspace, a drastically improved SGA and Durant would be a helluva duo. Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, or any other top level free agent could just as easily fit in alongside the smooth and silky point guard and thrive. It’s not crazy talk to say SGA’s ceiling appears to be higher than that of the second year player from UCLA who plays for the Clippers’ crosstown rival.
For sure, there are things that Lonzo Ball does better than SGA—like rebound, rack up assists, and make the highlight passes. But you can easily contend Gilgeous-Alexander had a better overall rookie campaign than Ball, considering he played way more games, helped get his squad to the playoffs, shot markedly better from the field and free throw line, and, you know, actually played. Plus, SGA doesn’t bring a boatload of hype or hoopla with him like Ball. [more]
I recommend reading the whole thing. It’ll make you proud of that four-star point guard who came to Kentucky as a projected backup, and left after one season as a lottery pick.
By Drew Franklin on ©April 22nd, 2019 @ 2:05pm
Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery each threw their name into the NBA Draft before Sunday’s deadline, but both left open the option of returning to Kentucky. The assumption is they will return once they get all they need out of the process, although crazier things have happened. We won’t really know until they say it, whenever that day comes in the next month.
In the meantime, we can see where Richards and Montgomery fall on the CBSSports.com NBA Draft Big Board, updated Monday afternoon. And it’s not good for their immediate NBA dreams.
Neither Richards nor Montgomery ranked within the top 100 prospects on the new big board. The top hundred. Only their three early-entrant teammates in the draft — PJ Washington, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson — made the list. Reid Travis also missed the cut.
Washington ranked the highest among the UK guys, coming in at No. 11. Johnson and Herro are at No. 18 and 22.
To see the full list, click here.
And even though Montgomery and Richards aren’t ranked, they did the right thing by taking advantage of the new rule.