The free preview is still going, and so is LPR!

VOL. 0 (4/14/20)
VOL. 1 (4/16/20)
VOL. 2 (4/20/20)
VOL. 3 (4/22/20)

So it seems that the NBA has quietly extended their free preview of NBA League Pass. That’s awesome news! I decided to check out three more random games and record my observations.

Game 10: Wizards at Raptors

December 20, 2019
Game 4/10 on the schedule
Coin flipped landed Heads: Raptors broadcast
(TSN: Matt Devlin, Jack Armstrong, Kate Beirness)

FINAL: Raptors 122, Wizards 118

The Raptors entered this matchup having lost three key players — Marc Gasol, Norman Powell, and Pascal Siakam — in their previous game. However, they got Fred VanVleet back, as he had missed their last four games. Toronto hosted a Wizards team with several ailing players (John Wall, C.J. Miles, Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant) of their own.

Toronto started off the game firing on all cylinders, unleashing a 40-23 first quarter on the visitors from the Nation’s Capital. But the Wizards stayed competitive and slowly chipped at the sizable deficit. Washington finally tied the game at 107 with 5:21 remaining in the fourth quarter. However, the Raptors got the reigns back just in time, making some key plays down the stretch to pull out the win.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the broadcasting duo of Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong in this game. They were occasionally grating, seeming to be more about themselves than the game on the floor. In the first quarter Devlin absolutely butchered Anzejs Pasecniks‘ name and initially called Troy Brown “Tony” (Though he isn’t alone in this faux pas).

Look, I completely understand the average NBA fan not being able to pick up on how to say Pasecniks’ name. But in the era of pronunciation guides, and just from a preparation standpoint, that’s an inexcusable mistake for a play-by-play announcer to make. Especially when it’s midseason and you’re essentially the voice of the NBA for an entire nation.

Devlin & Armstrong also really got into referee-policing in this game, which is another pet peeve of mine. You’re a broadcast crew, not the NBA Head of Officiating. I’m fine with broadcasters pointing out bad or missed calls for the most part. However, there’s a line for me as to how much is too much.

They crossed it quickly in the second quarter when Armstrong went on a rant stating the officials were “Reffing to the score”; the Raptors were up 10 at that point, so he felt the refs were giving more calls to the Wizards since Toronto had such a comfortable lead. Thankfully, Jack knocked that mess off in the second half. But Matt continued to over-investigate every 50/50 play that they got a replay for well into the fourth quarter.

Granted, there were plenty of moments where I enjoyed them, and there is certainly strong chemistry between them that’s fun to listen to. But, overall, I felt there were a number of moments that took away from the broadcast and I ultimately tuned out in the third quarter. The Wizards comeback bid was the thing to get me back into the game.

Game Awards

Gold Star: Ish Smith, Washington
I have to give Ish the Gold Star because he made every shot he took. 9-for-9 from the field, 4-for-4 from three-point range, and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Also throw in two assists, a steal, and a block, and you have a man that terrorized the Raptors’ second unit and contributed big to Washington’s comeback effort.

Silver Star: Kyle Lowry, Toronto
After that amazing first quarter, it was a pretty unflattering game for the Raptors. Sure, they were understaffed with injuries to three key players, but they still had the talent to make this a full-on blowout. In the end, Kyle Lowry made just the right plays down the stretch to help keep his team on the winning side.

Bronze Star: Bradley Beal, Washington
Beal fared much better in this game than he did in the last Wizards matchup I watched for LPR. He had a choppy second quarter, but was otherwise great: 37 points (game high), seven rebounds, six assists, one steal. I think his mostly-even play is what really kept the Wizards in this game, even if they came up just short.

Just-Not-His-Day Award: Davis Bertans, Washington
While Beal was a better version of himself in Toronto than in Charlotte, Bertans was the other way around. Davis was a brutal 3-of-15 from the field, including 2-of-12 from beyond the arc. When someone like Bertans has the greenlight, games like this tend to happen. Even two or three more makes could have swung this game in Washington’s favor. But, alas, he just couldn’t find his form.

Game 11: Bucks at Knicks

December 21, 2019
Game 5/9 on the schedule
Coin flip landed Heads: Knicks broadcast
(MSG: Mike Breen, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Rebecca Haarlow)

FINAL: Bucks 123, Knicks 102

After wrapping up Wizards-Raptors, the roulette wheel brought me to a game from the very next day. How weird is that!?

Even though I leave the scores hidden when I select games via, there was no doubt in my mind this was going to be a Bucks win. It was just a matter of how large the margin of victory was going to be.

I was very much looking forward to watching a MSG telecast, and especially a Mike Breen/Walt Frazier team-up (I would have been fine with Kenny Albert, too, but I was really pulling for Mike & “Clyde”). For the most part, I got what I wanted out of the broadcast. In fact, Frazier was even more insightful than I expected him to be. Behind the million-dollar words, quirky rhymes, and snazzy fits is a good basketball mind.

The lone down-point in the broadcast were a couple of instances where they also started nit-picking the refs. On two occasions they felt the refs missed a call, but on the replays I could see where the refs may have felt the call was justified. Considering that Breen is notoriously well-versed in the NBA rulebook, I wonder if it was just a matter of the duo not looking at their monitor close enough?

But other than those instances, I really enjoyed the broadcast. The game itself? Not so much. The Knicks stopped trying in the third quarter and so did I.

Game Awards

Gold Star: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee
Giannis messed around and got a triple-double: 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in 26 minutes of play. The Knicks rightfully focused on neutralizing his scoring early, thus the high assists numbers. But it’s hard to contain Antetokounmpo for too long, thus the fact he ended up scoring 20+ points anyway. All hail the MVP!

Silver Star: Brook Lopez, Milwaukee
Giannis is amazing, but a contender isn’t a contender without its role players. The older Lopez twin (by a minute) went 4-of-8 from beyond the arc and blocked seven shots! Surprisingly, those aren’t career- or season- highs. It just so happened to be a job very well done for Milwaukee’s starting center.

Bronze Star: Khris Middleton, Milwaukee
It’s almost comical just how often Middleton is overlooked as a legitimate All-Star. Despite his consistent output over the past few years, people look at him and simply don’t see a high-level player. In this game, he finished with a game-high 23 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a block. These are the exact type of numbers you need out a second-in-command on the best team in the league. But people continue to sleep…

Just-Not-His-Day Award: Sterling Brown, Milwaukee
Brown wasn’t able to contribute to the blowout as much as he likely would have wanted: Six points (1-of-7 from the field, 0-of-5 from three, 4-of-5 from the line), two turnovers, and two fouls in 20 minutes of play. Fortunately for Brown, his teammates had no problem picking up the slack in this win.

Game 12: Nuggets at Timberwolves

November 10, 2019
Game 1/8 on the schedule
Coin flip landed Heads: Timberwolves broadcast
(Fox Sports North: Dave Benz, Jim Petersen, Marney Gellner)

FINAL (OT): Nuggets 100, Timberwolves 98

First off, if you don’t learn at least one impressive thing from a Timberwolves broadcast, you had the game on mute.

For me, it was the fact that Andrew Wiggins, at least at the time, was the league’s second-leading scorer in clutch situations.

Dave Benz and Jim Petersen are a very informative duo. Their preparation is very apparent in every word they say. I applaud them for their dedication to research and their ability to convey it to the audience.

Sometimes, it did feel like a little too much information (Miss a fact? Don’t worry! There’s 15 more coming in the next minute!). On top of the numbers they would give you, then Petersen would have his own X’s and O’s insight (thanks to eight years in the NBA and eight more as an assistant coach for the WNBA’s Lynx) to throw into the mix. I think that’s a great problem to have, because at least I know I’m going to learn something during this game, even if every tidbit doesn’t stick in my brain.

This game had an uneven flow, so I appreciate Benz & Petersen for keeping me engaged throughout. I also appreciate these early-season Timberwolves refusing to give up late in the game. They were down 90-74 with 6:43 left in the fourth, but reeled off a 16-0 run to go to OT then scored the first basket of the extra period. Effort is always entertaining, so I’m glad they didn’t choose to pack it in.

Minnesota almost covered up for the fact they finished 6-of-45 (13.3 percent) from beyond the arc. That is, in fact, the worst long distance shooting performance in franchise history for games where they attempted at least 20 three-pointers.

Game Awards

Gold Star: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota
Despite a rough game beyond the arc (3-of-14), KAT had a really good game. He finished with 25 points, going 5-of-9 inside the arc and 6-of-8 at the line, 16 rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and a steal. He was engaged on both ends of the floor in all 41 minutes he played, and defended Nikola Jokic very well throughout the game. He was basically draping him on the Jokic’s turnaround jumper that gave the Nuggets the win, it just happened to go in anyway.

Despite the loss, a performance like that is commendable. It’s just unfortunate that Towns would go on to miss 29 of Minnesota’s remaining 55 games. We’ll see if the Timberwolves’ roster reshuffling that brought best friend D’Angelo Russell to the Twin Cities will be enough to turn the franchise’s fortunes around.

Silver Star: Nikola Jokic, Denver
Jokic stepped up when his team needed him, hitting a heavily-contested turnaround fadeaway jumper with three seconds left in overtime. That proved to be the shot that would win the game for Denver.

However, I’m reluctant to give him the Gold Star because he had a rough game leading up to that point. Jokic shot 1-of-7 from three, 1-of-3 from the line, had four fouls, and rarely hustled or showed consistent energy. I think he’s one of those players that “plays into shape” each season, and it showed here.

Still, he gets a Silver Star because he still found a way to make an impact in this game. He came away with 20 points, seven assists (on zero turnovers!), six rebounds, a steal, and a block. Nikola Jokic’s game is very uncanny, but it seems to get the job done for the Nuggets.

Bronze Star: Josh Okogie & Robert Covington, Minnesota
Minnesota’s top two defenders really came through at different points in the game, and I wanted to give them both commendations for their work.

For Okogie, it was a 42-second sequence in the second quarter where he knocked down a three-pointer, missed his second attempt which led to a fastbreak, hustled down-court for a chasedown block, and came back down court to knock down his third three-point attempt. It’s great to see a young player like Okogie quickly become such a defensive factor, even for a struggling franchise.

Covington, meanwhile, came away with two blocks and two steals, including a key swipe late in the fourth. He also made the layup in overtime to tie the game at 98. It’s a shame that Minnesota had to let him go, but at least he can compete for a title in Houston. Also, casual fans can finally get a better understanding of what makes him such an impactful player.

Just-Not-His-Day Award: Mason Plumlee, Denver
I actually had to dig for this, as everyone’s game was at least a little janky. Plumlee came away with fewer points (two) than fouls (three) or turnovers (four). He missed his lone field goal attempt and shot an unflattering 2-of-5 from the line.