Here are more observations from a trio of League Pass games I watched…

PREVIOUS VOLUMES:
VOL. 0 (THE INTRO) (4/14/20)
VOL. 1 (4/16/20)

Game 4: Magic at Kings

January 13, 2020
Game 6/7 on the NBA.com schedule
Coin flip landed Tails: Magic broadcast
(Fox Sports Florida: David Steele, Jeff Turner, Dante Marchitelli)

FINAL: Magic 114, Kings 112

This is another game that is forgivable to overlook. However, it ended up being the closest game in the NBA on that night. I’m telling you: there is still plenty of good basketball out there beyond the stars.

The broadcast itself was fine. It was a standard broadcast with the right amount of enthusiasm, insight, and banter to get you through tip-off to buzzer. I didn’t feel particularly strong about the broadcast, just a generally positive feeling coming out of it.

On the floor, I was encouraged by what several Magic players showed on the court in this game. I’m still waiting on Aaron Gordon to break out and become a superstar. But on this night he put up a serviceable 19 points and nine rebounds, finishing third on the team in scoring, and hitting to go-ahead bucket to win this game. And honestly, third-leading-scorer is probably the role Gordon is going to top out at, but I still believe!!

Markelle Fultz also played well in this game, notching 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, four rebounds, and two assists. I don’t think Fultz is a bust, I think that Philadelphia horribly mismanaged his situation. I’m glad he got out of there and has the space to finally grow as a player in Orlando.

Lastly, there’s Wesley Iwundu. He came off the bench and added eight points, including knocking down two three-pointers. I did a season review on him several years ago, so I can’t help but keep up with him as the years continue. Between the end of his rookie year and this point, I was happy to see him with a bigger role on the team and that he had improved his long-range shooting. I hope he’s able to keep growing as his career continues.

Game Awards

Gold Star: Evan Fournier, Orlando
The Magic had a 17-point lead at the end of the second quarter that ultimately evaporated as the second half progressed. However, when the time came for someone to step up, Evan Fournier was the guy to come through. In the fourth quarter, he had eight points, one steal, and one very timely assist to Gordon for the game-winner. Having a player that’s willing to make plays in tough situations is a great thing to have on a growing playoff team.

Silver Star: Nemanja Bjelica, Sacramento
Bjelica had quite a night, finishing with a game- and career-high 34 points. Most of that total came from his eight three-pointers on 10 attempts. The most intriguing part of this performance was how stoic Nemanja was as he torched the competition. While Davis Bertans was getting into every moment of his great night, Bjelica was mostly expressionless as each shot went down. The contrast tickled me.

Bronze Star: DeAaron Fox, Sacramento
Fox is another star on the rise in the NBA. Despite this loss, he still managed to show why he is still on his way to becoming a perennial all-star. Fox finished the night with 31 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, a steal, and a block. Orlando’s evaporating lead, especially in the fourth, was thanks in large part to Fox’s fifteen points in that frame.

He capped off his quarter by knocking down the And-1 free throw to give Sacramento a 112-111 lead with 15 seconds left. Unfortunately for him and the Kings, the Magic had one more big play up their sleeve. Still, Fox had a big game that deserves to be recognized.

Just-Not-His Day Award: Dewayne Dedmon, Sacramento
Dedmon played just 4:20 in this game, picking up two points (off of free throws, he went 0-of-2 from the field), three rebounds, and a foul. It was microcosm of how criminally underused he was in California’s capital. Why was the front office willing to pay Dewayne $40 million over three years to have Luke Walton only play him 15.9 minutes per game?

Dedmon has plenty to offer a team as a veteran stretch center that can block shots fairly well. When Sacramento signed him, I thought they understood that. Dedmon seemed to think that was understood that as well. But as the season progressed, it was clear they were on two different pages.

Luckily, Dedmon was traded back to Atlanta at the trade deadline. So he’s back in a city that appreciates his talents. If you compare his per 36 production between both of his stops this season, you can see he’s in a better place with the Hawks. Here’s hoping he can flourish in ATL again.

Game 5: Celtics at 76ers

October 23, 2019
Game 6/11 on the NBA.com schedule
Coin flip landed Tails: National broadcast
(ESPN: Mark Jones, Hubie Brown, Cassidy Hubbarth)

FINAL: 76ers 107, Celtics 93

My first nationally-televised game of this project, and my first game decided by double-digits. I’m not gonna lie, this was a pretty ugly game. It was the season debut for both teams, and they came out of the gate rusty. Both teams combined to shoot 25.5 percent from the three-point line and commit 63 fouls.

Still, it was nice to hear Hubie Brown analyzing the game. He’s still one of the most knowledgable broadcasters in the NBA, and he dispensed plenty of wisdom in this game. This included the best way to foul a player on a layup, why you shouldn’t assume a layup is going in on a fastbreak, and taking up for Enes Kanter against his reputation as a bad defender.

However, I do understand how some fans might not be as into Hubie. He does get rambly and mush-mouthed. He called Matisse Thybulle “Thumbull” three times, and referred to Semi Ojeleye as “Oljay”. So the diction isn’t there for Hubie these days, but the widsom definitely is.

I do want to point out that Gordon Hayward finished with a game-high 25 points, but didn’t attempt a single three-point shot. Hubie was picking up on the fact that the Sixers were willing conceding the pull-up mid-range shot to Hayward, and he really had a problem with that.

However, I fully understood what Philly was doing and why they did it. If Hayward is going to score, it’s better to go over a screen and let him make two points instead of constantly going under and letting him get three. The plan seemed to work out for Philly, as Hayward’s impact was limited despite the point total and they won the game.

Game Awards

Gold Star: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia
In a game that lacked flow, Simmons seemed to be the only player to maintain a consistent rhythm in this game. He finished the night with 24 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds.

Siver Star: Jayson Tatum, Boston
Tatum had 21 points (including four three-pointers), 10 rebounds, two assists, and two steals. While he didn’t lead his team in scoring, his overall game felt the most impactful for Boston. It was a so-so game, but his effect on the team was just a glimpse into the All-Star he would eventually become later in the year.

Bronze Star: Josh Richardson & Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia
I wanted to give special commendation to these two for the plays they made on the defensive end. Richardson finished with 17 points, but went 4-of-12 from the field (9-of-9 from the line). Thybulle had three points on 1-of-5 shooting. Defensively, however, Richardson had a steal and two blocks while Thybulle had two steals and two blocks. This tandem of wing defenders were real difference makers in this muddy matchup.

Thybulle, in particular, talked with Cassidy Hubbarth ahead of the game, telling her he considers himself a “defensive playmaker”. He said that he may not always lock down a player, but he will always end up making the right play (funneling a dribbler in the right direction, making the timely poke for the ball).

This declaration felt prescient, as he did just that throughout the game. It’s so astounding to see a rookie making smart defensive plays. As his offensive game grows, his play on the other end is what will keep him in the league for a long time.

Just-Not-His-Day Award: Kemba Walker, Boston
Kemba’s Celtic debut didn’t go well. He scored 12 points — shooting an ugly 4-of-18 from the field — and committed three turnovers and four fouls. Luckily, he would bounce back the next game. And in his third game as a Celtic he would kick off a streak of three consecutive 30-point performances. He would also go on to make his fourth straight All-Star Game. So in the long run Walker would be fine, but his first game in green was a big “Yikes!!”.

Game 6: 76ers at Bucks

February 6, 2020
Game 3/5 on the NBA.com schedule
Coin flip landed Heads: National SAP feed
(TNT: Jose Angel Medellin, Marcelo Godoy)

FINAL: Bucks 112, 76ers 101

The luck of the draw brought me to my first non-English broadcast. ¡Qué intrigante! I assume it is the feed you would get if you hit the SAP button on your remote, because this broadcast didn’t have any graphics tailored towards a Spanish-speaking audience. It was just Spanish commentary laid on top of the main video feed.

Despite taking multiple basic Spanish classes during my school days, I can’t really give an opinion on the depth of the commentary. However, this was the evening after the trade deadline had passed, and I could tell that much of the conversation in the first half seemed to be covering the trades that transpired earlier in the day.

This game, particularly in the second half, got old for me pretty quickly. The score doesn’t even lend itself to how much of a blowout it had become; Milwaukee led by as many as 17 points with 2:54 left in the fourth quarter. By a certain point, I was just waiting for the final buzzer to sound.

Game Awards

Gold Star: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee
Giannis ended the night with 36 points, 20 rebounds, six assists, and a steal. So…yeah…behold your 2020 NBA MVP.

Silver Star: Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee
While Giannis went on a rampage, Bledsoe was making an impact of his own in the backcourt. Eric had 14 points on shaky 6-of-14 shooting. However, he also had eight rebounds (second-most on the team), six assists (tied for most), and two steals (team-high). Antetokounmpo’s dominance garners a lot of the attention, but players like Bledsoe and Khris Middleton (20 points on the night) show that the Milwaukee Bucks are not a one-man show.

Bronze Star: Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia
Tobias Harris (25 points, five three-pointers) and Al Horford (15 points, five three-pointers) tried to keep the Sixers afloat in this game, but their overall performances didn’t jump out to me as star-worthy. Instead, I’m giving another star to “defensive playmaker” Matisse Thybulle. He only came away with five points in 24 minutes, but he still managed to pick up two steals and two blocks like in the last game I watched. Another electric game on the defensive end! However, his lack of offensive impact was sorely apparent in a game where his team needed more consistent scoring.

Just-Not-His-Day Award: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia
This was an absolutely brutal game for a man that would be making his third straight All-Star appearance the following weekend. Embiid went 6-of-26 from the field for 19 points, including 1-of-11 in the first half. He did pull down 11 rebounds and dish out six assists while only turning the ball over twice, but his shooting touch was non-existent for most of the game.

There was also a defensive possession late in the game that really stuck out to me. With 3:32 left in the fourth, Giannis found his way into an iso matchup against Embiid. As Antetokounmpo was sizing him up, he and Horford quickly switched assignments before Giannis could attack.

Now, in a league of switchable defenses, there could be a trillion good reasons why that happened. But that sequence floored me because it seemed like one team’s star player should be willing to take on another in a 1-on-1 matchup. Rather it was part of the defensive gameplan implemented by Brett Brown or Embiid feeling he was out of his element, it just wasn’t a good look to me at that moment in the game.