It seems the Pat Riley culture continues to weave magic as protégé head coach Eric Spoelstra got the better of the equally talented Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. Miami has made the most of their big 3 in Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. The three stars are expected to continue leading Miami against the Lebron James and Anthony Davis (AD) superstar duo.
Fatigue was a factor in the Nuggets loss in the first game but game 2 was a closer match with LA’s Anthony Davis saving the Lakers with a game winning three point shot.
So what happened to the Clips? Is there any truth at all to the Clippers jinx? I personally find it surprising to see Kawhi Leonard struggle through the stretch. He typically shines in moments like these and is a very reliable closer. I expected him and Paul George to make the most of their series lead and close Denver out. Instead, Jokic muscled his way at will against Ivica Zubac and the Clippers never adjusted defensive stance. They alternate Zubac and Montezl Harrell in matching up against Jokic.
In a major upset, the Heat surprisingly pulled the rug over the regular season leaders Milwaukee Bucks 4-1 behind the solid play of backcourt tandem Goran Dragic and Jimmy Butler. It’s a totally different semifinal series for the Boston Celtics, however, as they had to go through the gauntlet in an exhausting 7 game stretch with the defending champions Toronto Raptors whose relentless winning culture kept them going despite the departure of last season’s playoff MVP Kawhi Leonard who is now leading the charge for the Los Angeles Clippers.
After being labelled a heavy favourite to make it to the NBA finals this season, the Bucks got outplayed in the first 3 games of the series. In the aftermath of a disappointing early playoff exit, the big question of WHAT IS NEXT for the Bucks will definitely take the front end in the days and weeks to come.
So what went wrong for the Pacers? Other than the fact that the Heat are playing one of their best basketball in recent years, I think Oladipo is still not 100% and young big man Myles Turner didn’t really step up when Sabonis went down. Granted that injuries were beyond McMillan’s control, the rest of the roster underachieved and pretty much-made things easy for the Heat and this may have caused management to make the painful decision to let the Pacers head coach walk.
With a roster stacked with the likes of Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid and Al Horford, expectations were high for the City of Brotherly love.
It was a battle of attrition and the Clippers had their hands full against the young Mavs but at the end, the steadying hands of veterans Kawhi Leonard (29 pts, 12 rebounds) and Paul George (27 pts) towed the Clippers to the W.
It seems like the Mavs’ move to trade for Doncic in the 2018 rookie draft is a gamble that’s starting to pay off tenfold. The blockbuster draft-day trade that sent Doncic to Dallas and sensational sophomore Trae Young to the Atlanta Hawks will boil down as one of the major draft-day trades in NBA history.
Keeping players confined in hotels inside the bubble packaged with stringent measures of testing, practice schedule blocks and team service routines allowed the 22 teams to get back in shape, complete the scrimmages and eventually restart the 2019-2020 season without a hitch.
The contenders look solid. The Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks look very sharp. The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers tune up also gave us a good glimpse of their playoff hopes.
I am wondering when our country will start seeing some semblance of strategic movement to the new normal. Yes, we understand that we need to apply social distancing, wear masks, even face shields, and to wash hands frequently but I personally feel that the mandate about regional quarantine levels being released in 2-week tranches is simply too short-sighted and show no promise of a strategic long term plan.