Cats in the NBA
Former Kentucky Players in the NBA
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.
Good afternoon, folks. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is ballin’ in the postseason. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(4) Celtics – 110 @ (5) Pacers – 106 (BOS wins 4-0)
- We have our first sweep of the 2019 playoffs, courtesy of the Boston Celtics. It took four games for the Celtics to sweep the Indiana Pacers, winning all of them by an average margin of 7.5 points per game. Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 22.5 points and 7.8 assists per game while shooting over 43 percent from deep.
- Game 4 was close throughout and the Pacers found themselves leading for a good portion of the day. But a well-timed run by Boston late in the fourth quarter resulted in a series sweep.
- ”They got hot,” Pacers forward Thaddeus Young said. ”They started making shots and we stopped making shots. That’s one of the biggest thing that’s haunted us through this whole series.” The Pacers shot 40.1 percent from the field in this series. They shot over 47 from the field in the regular season. Victor Oladipo being out really put his value to the team on display.
- Boston will take on the winner of Milwaukee-Detroit… Which means they’ll be facing the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
(1) Warriors – 113 @ (8) Clippers – 105 (GSW leads 3-1)
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played his best game in these playoffs by far during Game 4. The Clippers may have lost – and now find themselves in a 3-1 hole – but SGA was awesome. He posted 25 points on 9-15 shooting, including 3-5 from deep, in addition to two boards and two assists. His first quarter was particularly special, as he started the game 5-6 from the field for 14 points. He was scoring inside and out, slithering his way into the paint for shots that only appear difficult but are actually routine for him. He was comfortably getting to his spots early and knocking down the long ball. It didn’t matter if it was Draymond Green or Andrew Bogut in front of him, he was determined to get to the rim and finish. Unfortunately, when Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both go for 30-plus, it doesn’t matter how well you play, sometimes the talent will simply overpower you. The Clippers even held a lead in the third quarter and were playing beautifully before eventually being overrun by the two-time defending champs.
- The good news is we get at least another game of this series. And while the Warriors will almost undoubtedly win (although they do love fumbling away games whenever they’re even remotely related to the numbers 3 and 1), watching SGA grow up right in front of my eyes on the biggest stage has been a lot of fun. The Clippers as a team are just thrilling television.
(2) Raptors – 107 @ Magic – 85 (TOR leads 3-1)
- The Orlando Magic should count themselves lucky that they snuck out a win in Game 1 because that’s as close to any taste of victory they’re going to get. The Raptors smacked the Magic in Game 4 behind 34 points from Kawhi Leonard. There really isn’t much more to say about this series. Jodie Meeks is hardly playing. Toronto is just eons above this Orlando squad.
(3) Trail Blazers – 111 @ (6) Thunder – 98 (POR leads 3-1)
- The most exciting first-round series did not disappoint in Game 4 (unless you’re a Thunder fan). Remember how Damian Lillard dropped 25 points in the third quarter of Game 3? Well, he added another 15 in the third of Game 4. Lillard was awful to start this game, to say the least. He missed his first six shots and didn’t connect on his first field goal until the first half was nearly over. But when that third quarter began and he got his first look to fall, the buzz in the arena began to build. Everyone knew he was about to pop off. And man… did he pop off.
- Steph Curry has desensitized the super deep three. The shot where he takes it right on the edge of the logo, over 30-feet out from the basket. If it wasn’t for Curry, Lillard’s shots from near half court would be a must-watch spectacle. They still are, however, we’ve seen it before. But even still, when Lillard rolls around a screen and he’s got enough space despite standing 30-feet from the basket, you just know it’s going in. That’s what Lillard’s third-quarter was like on Sunday. It didn’t matter where he was on the court, if the shot went up, everyone in the building knew it was going to drop in. And he did.
- Enes Kanter didn’t have a massive impact on this game like he did in games 1 and 3, but still contributed eight points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes. Nerlens Noel registered a solid 11 minutes for OKC, recording two points, one rebound, one steal, and a block.
- The series now heads back to Portland where Russell Westbrook and Paul George will look to avenge their subpar performances in Game 4.
- Check out the full stat sheet below.
|Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LAC)||105-113 L vs. GSW||25||9-15 (3-5)||2||2||1||0||2||-1||30|
|Enes Kanter (POR)||111-98 W @ OKC||8||2-4 (0-0)||10||3||2||1||2||+16||30|
|Nerlens Noel (OKC)||98-111 L vs. POR||2||1-3 (0-0)||1||0||1||1||1||+4||11|
|Jodie Meeks (TOR)||107-85 W @ ORL||0||0-1 (0-0)||2||0||0||0||0||+1||5|
|Skal Labissiere (POR)||111-98 W @ OKC||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Patrick Patterson (OKC)||98-111 L vs. POR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Hamidou Diallo (OKC)||98-111 L vs. POR||DNP-Elbow||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)||113-105 W @ LAC||DNP-Quad||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
8:00 (TNT): Bucks (Bledsoe) @ Pistons (MIL leads 3-0)
10:30 (TNT): Rockets @ Jazz (HOU leads 3-0)
By Eli Mitchell on ©April 21st, 2019 @ 10:00pm
Anthony Davis made headlines at the end of the regular season by wearing a ‘That’s All Folks’ shirt in what was probably his last game as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Today, Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr showed up to his pre-game press conference in a ‘Spiritual Gangster’ shirt telling reporters that it was just a “yoga phrase.”
Kerr then took a playful shot at Davis, telling reporters he almost wore his own ‘That’s All Folks’ shirt, but he doesn’t actually pick out his own clothing – just like AD.
Wearing a “Spiritual Gangster” t-shirt, Warriors coach Steve Kerr quips at Anthony Davis’s expense: “I was going to wear my ‘That’s all, folks,’ shirt. I don’t pick out any of my own clothes.” pic.twitter.com/8kZPovmLRK
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 21, 2019
Kerr is obviously joking, but it is interesting to see the turn that AD’s image has taken since he requested a trade from the Pelicans a few months back.
With the Pelicans hiring of David Griffin there is certainly a chance that AD could be convinced to stay but I personally would not bet on that. The bottom line is that AD wants to play with other superstars, something that the Pelicans realistically will not be able to acquire any time soon.
By Eli Mitchell on ©April 21st, 2019 @ 7:00pm
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is playing like a ten-year veteran in his first career playoff series as the rookie finished Game 4 as the team’s leading scorer with 25 points.
In 31 minutes of action the former Kentucky point guard scored 25 points on 9-15 shooting which included 3-5 from long range. The performance sets a Clippers franchise record for most points scored by a rookie in a playoff game.
The fearlessness that Gilgeous-Alexander played with is something to marvel at, especially considering the match up against the back to back defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
Unfortunately, the Clippers dropped their 2nd straight at home as the Warriors were able to squeak by with a 113-105 victory. Golden State now leads the series 3-1 with a chance to close out at home on Wednesday.
Looking ahead there’s no doubt that Gilgeous-Alexander’s play down the stretch will play a role in making the Clippers an intriguing free-agency destination this summer.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) April 21, 2019
By Zack Geoghegan on ©April 21st, 2019 @ 1:00pm
Good afternoon, folks, and a Happy Easter. Jamal Murray has led his Nuggets to a tied series heading back to Denver. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(3) Sixers – 112 @ (6) Nets – 108 (PHI leads 3-1)
- Jared Dudley continues to be the focal point of this series and I would just like to know how the hell we got to this point four games into an NBA playoff series in 2019. The Brooklyn Nets forward has been beefing with Ben Simmons since the series began but on Saturday it was Dudley and Jimmy Butler who got ejected. Joel Embiid fouled Jarrett Allen hard in the third quarter, which Dudley did not appreciate and responded by bumping Embiid. Butler then shoved Dudley – and consequently referee Ed Malloy – into the stands along with Ben Simmons. D’Angelo Russell, of all people, came in to play peacemaker. Butler and Dudley were quickly ejected and Embiid was hit with a Flagrant 1 despite doing his best to immediately removed himself from the situation.
- The scrum was the highlight of the event, but the game itself ended in tremendous fashion. Mike Scott buried a go-ahead triple with under 20 seconds left as the two teams went back-and-forth down the stretch. Embiid finished with 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and six blocks for Philly while Caris LeVert dropped in 25 points, five rebounds, and six assists for Brooklyn. The Sixers now take a commanding 3-1 lead heading back home.
(2) Nuggets – 117 @ (7) Spurs – 103 (Tied 2-2)
- Well, well, well. Would you look at that? Jamal Murray played his best game of the series by a mile and the Nuggets outclassed the Spurs in San Antonio. The other day, I wrote about how Murray had to take his game to the next level if the Nuggets wanted to proceed in these playoffs. He did just that in Game 4, pouring in 24 points on 8-14 shooting in addition to six assists and just one turnover. Derrick White was limited to only eight points on 3-8 shooting for the Spurs.
- The game kicked off with San Antonio building a 12-point first quarter lead and thoughts of “here we go again…” bounced around my brain. The Nuggets were missing solid looks and making the tough ones, which ironically kept them in the game. It wasn’t until the second quarter when they finally hit a groove for the first time all series. Denver would outscore San Antonio 69-45 in the second and third quarters combined. Nikola Jokic posted 29 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists. It was the Nuggets first win in San Antonio since 2012. We got ourselves a series.
(1) Bucks – 119 @ (8) Pistons – 103 (MIL leads 3-0)
- Blake Griffin made a surprise appearance for the first time this series after it was initially thought he would miss the entire first round. The Bucks still beat the Pistons by 16. Griffin managed 27 points, seven rebounds, and six assists for Detroit but the game was already decided by the second quarter. Milwaukee is just an absolute juggernaut right now. There isn’t a thing Griffin or Andre Drummond or the ghost of Tayshaun Prince can do to save them. Giannis Antetokounmpo was even in foul trouble for the majority of the afternoon but 20 points from Khris Middleton and another 19 from Eric Bledsoe results in a 3-0 series lead for the Bucks.
- This has been the only non-competitive series of the playoff so far. Can we just skip Game 4?
(4) Rockets – 104 @ (5) Jazz – 101 (HOU leads 3-0)
- James Harden began this game missing his first 15 shot attempts. He still finished with 22 points and a 3-0 series lead over Utah.
- The Jazz employed the same tactic to defend Harden as they had in the first two games: ride his back, force him right, and make him shoot in the middle of the floor. It resulted in the MVP candidate shooting 3-20 from the field and 2-13 from deep. It was one of the worst shooting nights of his career, but he made up for it with 10 assists, six steals, and – most importantly – the win. 14 of his 22 points came when his team needed them the most, in the fourth quarter. Utah executed it’s game plan as best as it could and still lost at home.
- Check out the full stat sheet below.
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||117-103 W @ SAS||24||8-14 (3-5)||2||6||0||0||1||+15||33|
|Eric Bledsoe (MIL)||119-103 W @ DET||19||8-19 (0-4)||6||5||2||0||4||+7||29|
|Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)||117-103 W @ SAS||0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||-1||1|
|Trey Lyles (DEN)||117-103 W @ SAS||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TODAY IN THE NBA
1:00 (ABC): Celtics @ Pacers (BOS leads 3-0)
3:30 (ABC): Warriors (Cousins-out) @ Clippers (Gilgeous-Alexander) (GSW leads 2-1)
7:00 (TNT): Raptors (Meeks) @ Magic (TOR leads 2-1)
9:30 (TNT): Trail Blazers (Labissiere, Kanter) @ Thunder (Diallo-out, Noel, Patterson) (POR leads 2-1)
By Zack Geoghegan on ©April 20th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
Good afternoon, folks. The Blazers and Thunder are both in full-on petty mode. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(2) Raptors – 98 @ (7) Magic – 93 (TOR leads 2-1)
- The Orlando Magic gave themselves a few different opportunities to snag a win in Game 3, but Pascal Siakam had other plans. The Most Improved Player of the Year favorite posted a playoff career-high of 30 points to go along with 11 boards.
- The Magic were able to take a brief lead halfway through the third quarter (its first lead since the first quarter) before Toronto rattled off a 16-0 run to break the game wide open. The Magic were able to widdle that lead back to three with under 45 seconds left thanks to some insane shot making from Terrence Ross, but Siakam and the Raps held off the Magic down the stretch.
- Orlando’s lack of playoff experience really exposed itself in the final minute of this game. They had several chances to tie the game up but some unforced errors and lack of attention on a Kyle Lowry offensive rebound with 12 seconds left doomed them in the end.
- Jodie Meeks played only two minutes for Toronto and did not get up a shot.
(4) Celtics – 104 @ (5) Pacers – 96 (BOS leads 3-0)
- The Boston Celtics defense has become an impenetrable wall through these first three games and the Indiana Pacers have still yet to find a way to break it down. After scoring 61 points in the first half and actually leading by two, the Pacers offense melted into the hardwood int he second half. Remember the infamous eight-point third quarter the Pacers put up in Game 1? Well, they apparently weren’t satisfied with their own ineptitude and rivaled that with a 12-point third period in Game 3. A mere 23-point fourth quarter followed and the Pacers stood no chance.
- The Pacers also registered a 12-point quarter in the final period of Game 2, quickly ending any chances of stealing that game. A trend is forming…
- This is where missing Victor Oldaipo is killing them. When the offense stalls, they don’t have that “go-to” player that can get them a bucket no matter what. Teams can skate by in the regular season with incredible depth and excellent team play, but in the postseason, you need a superstar to take over games and bring you out of the mud. Myles Turner is too young. Tyreke Evans is too erratic. Thaddeus Young isn’t that kind of scorer. Darren Collison… Well, if Darren Collision is your team’s closer, then that’s a problem within itself.
- But props to Boston. Kyrie Irving is toying with his defenders on half of the possessions he controls the ball and Jaylen Brown finally woke up for 23 points on 8-9 shooting.
(3) Trail Blazers – 108 @ (6) Thunder – 120 (POR leads 2-1)
- Oh boy, this series just keeps getting better and better. We’ve got Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder (wait, Dennis Schroder? Yes, Dennis Schroder) mocking Damian Lillard. It started with Westbrook doing his signature “rock-the-baby” move after scoring on Lillard, which Lillard responded with by exploding for 25 points in the third quarter alone. Schroder waited until the game was already decided to start mocking Lillard because I think that even he knows he doesn’t have the juice to do such with the game still in balance (seriously though, Dennis Schroder?). Paul George disrespected the living hell out of all of Portland with an emphatic dunk right as the buzzer sounded. This is the level of petty I am here for.
- But the type of petty I’m not here for? Westbrook and George blatantly ignoring questions in the postgame press conference.
After Game 3 win over Blazers, Thunder’s Russell Westbrook with another round of “next questions” pic.twitter.com/iLa12KEfEG
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 20, 2019
- Now I don’t care one bit about the history between Russ and the reporter. It shouldn’t matter. These are softballs. Just answer the damn question, man. And why does George feel the reason to comply with Westbrook? But these are the types of things that make Westbrook so polarizing. If you didn’t like him barking at Lillard at the end of the game then you sure as hell aren’t going to like what he did in the postgame. But some will love it. Personally, I believe it’s part of the job for NBA players to answer these questions. And yes, I understand that I say that as someone who asks questions in post-game press conferences. But that’s why there are press conferences. This isn’t about Westbrook’s personal vendettas, it’s about him being able to fully project his words to a fanbase that wants to hear what he has to say and he’s cheating them out of that experience. Although, I suppose, in reality, it ultimately doesn’t matter. The pettiness is what makes Russ the person that he is. It blends into his game and how he talks and acts. And when you can back it up by posting 33 points and 11 assists, then why not embrace your own persona?
- Now back to the game… Enes Kanter’s bruised right hand didn’t seem to bother him too much in Game 3 as he posted 19 points and five rebounds on 9-14 shooting from the field. If it wasn’t for Kanter’s fourth quarter, this game wouldn’t have even been as close as the final score indicated. Lillard and McCollum were cold in the last quarter – the Thunder wouldn’t even let McCollum breath whenever he touched the ball. Which meant the offense had to come from somewhere and Kanter was willing to supply it. The only bad part? The Thunder were attacking Kanter every possession on defense. There was a stretch in the middle of the fourth where Kanter scored six straight points for Portland to keep the game within striking distance. But on those three trips up and down the court, Kanter was burned on defense in the pick-and-roll every time. Kanter giveth the points. And then Kanter taketh the points away. My reaction was the basketball equivalent of this gif.
- Nerlens Noel contributed another fantastic 13 minutes for the Thunder. He turned the ball over three times but made some timely plays on defense while adding four points and three rebounds. Noel has done a terrific job of soaking up backup center minutes whenever Steven Adams is on the bench.
- Check out the full stat sheet below.
|Enes Kanter (POR)||108-120 L @ OKC||19||9-14 (0-1)||5||1||0||0||1||-13||29|
|Nerlens Noel (OKC)||120-108 W vs. POR||4||2-2 (0-0)||3||0||0||1||3||-6||13|
|Jodie Meeks (TOR)||98-93 W @ ORL||0||0-0||0||0||1||0||0||-3||2|
|Skal Labissiere (POR)||108-120 L @ OKC||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Patrick Patterson (OKC)||120-108 W vs. POR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Hamidou Diallo (OKC)||120-108 W vs. POR||DNP-Elbow||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TODAY IN THE NBA
3:00 (TNT): Sixers @ Nets (PHI leads 2-1)
5:30 (TNT): Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt) @ Spurs (SAS leads 2-1)
8:00 (ESPN): Bucks (Bledsoe) @ Pistons (MIL leads 2-0)
10:30 (ESPN): Rockets @ Jazz (Hou leads 2-0)