NBA Playoff Discussion; The Bulls Are Doing It, Bucks Could Create an Upset, MVP Battle Taking Place

The NBA Playoffs are well underway, and we are truly being treated to some great series’. LeBron James is back to being his playoff dominant self, but the Pacers are still fighting hard, led by Paul George. The Jazz are trying to figure out a new strategy against the Clippers now that Rudy Gobert is down indefinitely. Even the Blazers are fighting against the heavy firepower squad in Golden State, fuelled by their incredible back-court, who are an incredible scoring night in Game 1. But there’s a few playoff series which carry more weight than the rest. The 8th seed Bulls have something to prove with their experienced backcourt, and the Celtics are out to show they deserve that 1st seed place. The young Bucks squad are trying to show that they are not to be messed with, while Kyle Lowry returns to fuel DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors. And the MVP battle continues as Russell Westbrook and James Harden duel it out, trying to prove they both deserve that MVP award by progressing to the second round.

The Chicago Bulls are putting in work in the post-season, despite their 8th seed place in the regular season, and are showing the 1st seed Celtics that placement doesn’t mean a thing when you’ve got players like Jimmy Butler on your squad. And what’s funny is, a lot of people predicted this upset when the match-ups were set, because the Bulls have the ability to beat most teams in the league, although their regular season record shows otherwise. If I had to bet on an upset at the beginning of the playoffs, I would have put my money on Chicago taking down Boston, and for many reasons. Al Horford is pretty much diminished by Robin Lopez, Isaiah Thomas is slowed down relatively by Jimmy Butler, while he puts up anywhere between 20-40 points at the other end. Rajon Rondo is showing up for the first time this season, being just 1 rebound off a triple double, and tying the Bulls record for most assists inn a playoff game. For the first time, we’ve seen the Bulls’ “Big Three” show some chemistry and work together, which is why they’ve got a 2-0 lead heading back to Chicago. I’ve got to give a ton of credit to Isaiah Thomas for playing those first two games, despite the tragic loss of his sister Chyna in a car accident just a few days previous. It’s probably one of the hardest things a player will ever have to do – playing through grief, so respect to IT for showing up. And there’s a lot of people of Twitter saying it’s due to Thomas’ grief that the Celtics are unable to win, but I don’t think that’s the case. I mean, it’s awful what happened to Chyna, and if Isaiah was to play poorly, it would be understandable. But IT is still playing fantastic, I mean, he put up 33 in Game 1, only a day after Chyna’s death, so the blame cannot fall in Isaiah’s hands by any means. If you want to play the blame game, throw it at Al Horford and the rest of the Boston squad. Horford’s on a $110 million contract, yet he’s practically invisible while on the court, and is having little to no impact in the paint with the presence of Bulls mascot bully, Robin Lopez. So, despite the tragedy and grief he’s obviously playing with, IT is still showing up with a desire to win, but the rest of the Celtics are playing like a real 8th seed team, and not the kings of the East, and that’s why they’re heading to the Chicago 2-0 down, with a big mountain to climb. The way I see it, the Bulls could quite easily sweep the struggling Celtics, if they’re stars and supporting cast continue to play as they have been. A repeat of last night’s performance from Rajon Rondo, combined with another 20+ point game for Flash, and a typical night from Jimmy Buckets, could mean a swift exit from the playoffs for Boston, crushing Isaiah Thomas’ season-long effort.

I’m just going to say it now; Giannis Antetokounmpo is a freak in the playoffs. I mean, obviously he’s a freak all season long, hence the nickname – “The Greek Freak” – but he’s even more incredible when games truly matter. The Bucks, led by this freak of nature, are tied with the Toronto Raptors after last night’s narrow loss, thanks to huge games from Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. But they are tied, and heading to Milwaukee for Game 3, and Giannis is showing no signs of slowing down. He genuinely does everything on the court, hence why he led the Bucks in every major statistic during the regular season. But despite his incredible performance, the Bucks fell just short of a 2-0 lead heading home, as Ibaka and Lowry led the Raptors to this narrow victory, with Kyle hitting a clutch game winning two to seal the deal, and Serge hitting some important threes and defending the paint against an eager Bucks’ squad. Ibaka even swatted one of the Greek Freak’s attempts to get to the basket, which just seemed to drive him more, to be quite honest. The Bucks have surprised many watchers, including myself, who believed the Raptors would steamroll to a 4-1/ 4-2 victory over the inexperienced squad. But I’ve changed my mind, following their performance in Game 1 and 2, and am starting to think the Bucks could advance to the second round, or at the very least, force a Game 7. It’s probably the closest match up, second maybe to the Clippers – Jazz without Rudy Gobert, and is proving to be one of the most exciting to watch. I mean, they’ve held the Raptors to one loss and a very, very narrow win, a set of circumstances which I would never have forseen, even with my love for the game of Giannis. Maybe they can force an upset here, if Middleton and Thon Maker step up for some big performances. But, in saying that, the Raptors could easily throw the Bucks to the curb, if these big games from Lowry, DeRozan, and last night’s Serge Ibaka continue for the rest of the series, especially DeRozan has one of his many 40 point games. Ibaka defended the paint extremely well last night, even forcing Antetokounmpo to hesitate, and even avoid the paint, while he stood there, ready to swat anything that came nearby. It’s quite a pity that Jabari Parker is struggling with that knee injury, as adding an extra slasher to the mix would make this playoff series even more exciting than it already is. One thing’s for sure, though; if this series carries on the way it has for the initial two games, we’re in for the one of the closest first round matchups in recent history, fuelled by huge performances from the respective stars of each squad.

Russell Westbrook, James Harden, or Patrick Beverley. Who is the most important player in that series? Obviously, Pat Bev shouldn’t be in that conversation, by any means, but my God, he locked down Russ so bad. Going into that Game 1, I was expecting a 50 – 15 – 15 game from Brodie, and anything less hadn’t even crossed my mind. Then I remembered that rivalry that started between Pat and Russ that instigated two years ago when Westbrook and Beverley clashed knees, forcing Russ to sit for the rest of the series. I also remembered that Pat is one of the toughest defenders in the league. But I had never imagined that he’d agitate Westbrook so much, holding him to less than 25, and preventing a triple double (it’s odd how I expect a triple double from Russ, I realise), which has gotten my hopes up for a better performance from the other MVP candidate, that lad, James Harden. A poor first-half shooting performance was made unapparent by continuous drives to the basket and superb passing, as well as cooking up Enes Kanter that one time, leading to an outstanding 37 point outburst. And as important as The Beard will be throughout this playoff series, Pat Beverley will be equally as important in locking down Russell Westbrook, preventing those amazing 40/50 point triple doubles we’ve almost become accustomed to seeing from the Brodie. He antagonised Westbrook to an extreme extent in Game 1, and will prove to be a vital tool in stopping the league’s most explosive player. It’s hard not to see that Beverley’s tough, almost illegally aggressive, defense is getting to Westbrook, as that screen which completely levelled Pat, from Steven Adams was clearly a shot in retaliation for Beverly locking down and getting into the head of Russ on several occasions. His defense aside, Pat had a breakout game in terms of shooting, putting up a great 22 points on 4 buckets from downtown, proving that he can be a force on both ends when he’s feeling it. Coming from a Houston fan, this probably sounds biased, but after that thirty point blowout in Game 1, I’m starting to believe Di’Antoni’s Rockets can blowout the Thunder, but their performance in Game 2 tonight will be important in finalising my thoughts on the match up.

ANNOUNCEMENT; End of Season Awards, Plans for the Playoffs

The regular season of the 2016-2017 NBA season is coming to a close in less than two weeks, 13 days, to be exact. Before the playoffs begin and each team begins to steamroll the talent they’ve been building for the duration into the season, into winning the all-glorious NBA Title, very certain players will be awarded with various individual acknowledgements for their hard work for the year. These awards include Most Valuable Player (MVP), Most Improved Player (MIP), the Jamal Crawford Award (Sixth Man of the Year), and Defensive Player of the Year (DOPY). For the end of the regular season, I’ll be acknowledging who I feel deserves these awards, as well as a few other various awards, such as Coach of the Year, Most Surprising Team, Biggest Tanking Team of the Year, and the Teams Who Should’ve Tanked. These will be taking place over the duration of the next two weeks, bringing us up until the end of the regular season and the official awards handed out by the league. So keep an eye out for those!

Also, when the playoffs begin, I plan to give a decent amount of game reviews. These will mainly consist of close games, series comebacks, huge individual performances and series that reach Game 7. So watch out for those two!

NBA Discussion; Let’s Talk About Kevin Durant – 24th March 2017

*photo via (insidehoops)

We’re getting deep into the final stretch of the NBA 2016-2017 season, and Kevin Durant’s knee injury almost a month ago is still haunting Warriors fans, and getting the hopes of Cavs fans up to a limit they haven’t seen since they pushed the Finals to Game 7 last year. For a while, directly after KD’s injury, Golden State looked broken, they looked like a completely different team, compared to this terrifying group of scoring machines who could put up 120 points on any given night, against any given team. Steph and Klay had awful games, night after night, with Curry even going 0-11 from deep in one game, the worst of his career. But recently, it appears as though the Warriors are getting back on track, which is probably the best news they could hear other than KD’s early return, as San Antonio have caught up to them considerably in terms of winning record, and even passed the former Champions for a brief period. Steph is back to being Steph, and Klay is hitting shots consistently again, and it seems that what was potentially the worst case for the Warriors in Durant’s injury, is secretly, on some deeper level, a light at the end of the tunnel, as Steve Kerr can now see how he can fit Matt Barnes into the team, and change the roster around so that they can actually win games without their recently added scoring monster in KD, a back-up tactic which probably hadn’t been on his mind when he first made the trade for Durant. But what does the Warriors’ ability to win without Durant, mean for the man himself?

Every man and his dog have heard various insults regarding Kevin Durant being a ‘cupcake’ for leaving NBA one-man army Russell Westbrook and the OKC Thunder, so his performances for the Warriors on a nightly basis had to be freakishly good as a way to back to his decision to leave Russ. Let’s say the Warriors were to win the title this year with the help of Kevin Durant led by Kevin Durant, his decision to leave the Thunder would be justified to the same level as LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland to join the Miami Heat in search of a title. KD was third in line to win the MVP award, according to the #KiaMVPRace on the NBA Facebook page, but his recent injury obviously takes him out of the equation to win the league’s most acknowledging individual award, especially when you look at the season being played by his former teammates, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. But now that the Warriors have shown that they can win regular season games with Kevin Durant, at least in a recent showing, KD’s justification in leaving Oklahoma is almost non-existent. Imagine a scenario where KD’s injury is longer than expected (hopefully not), and the Warriors have to advance through the playoff rounds without his help; they take on the Thunder in the first round, as is the current playoff picture, a team they’ve already destroyed without Kevin Durant, so we can imagine they’d take them down in a seven game series, especially if Curry continues to show up. Then they play the Rockets and, while it would be an extremely tough match-up, they could win by taking the series to 7 and just out-scoring Houston from deep. Finally, they somehow beat the Spurs in the conference finals and face the Cavs in a 3peat NBA Finals match-up. Even if they don’t win the Finals, the Warriors show they can win without Durant, and his justification to basically abandon Russ is now non-existent and the hate he’s already receiving multiplies by 10. And let’s say they somehow take down the Cavs and win the chip for the second time in three years; the Warriors win the first ring for Durant, he plays no part in earning the jewellery he’ll wear on his finger, and the hate he’s receiving still multiplies by 10. Basically what I’m saying is, the Warriors new-found ability to win without KD is the best case for Warriors’ fans, but it’s the worst case scenario for Kevin, as it shows that he’s not a vital member in their squad, while he’s still an important part of the roster, he is replaceable.

Let me know what you think of Kevin Durant’s current position with the Warriors down below, and follow my blog for more NBA Discussions. I’m back by the way, school got a bit hectic there, but I’m back to writing now. Follow my Twitter for just general shite posting. Enjoy your day!