July 24, 2021

NBA Playoff Weekend Takeaways: August 21-23, 2020

The playoff marathon continues. Here are some of my thoughts on the weekend that was…

Process Error

Philadelphia’s 110-106 defeat to the Boston Celtics made the 76ers the first team to be eliminated from the 2020 NBA Playoffs. Admittedly, part of me is glad that they’re gone, that they were chronologically the first team to go, and that they were swept.

I felt that this team had the talent to make an extended playoff run — I even picked them to win the East — but whenever they actually stepped on the court this season, something felt off in my spirit.

From Hinkie’s Process, to the petty Colangelos, to Elton Brand’s questionable signings, this franchise has always had a shaky foundation. A culture of excellence was never fostered around the talent that was acquired.

As result, this was a team that was bad on the road, has a cast of inconsistent role players, has one superstar that refuses to shoot beyond the paint, and another superstar that doesn’t have the conditioning to play extended minutes.

My guess is that Brett Brown will be fired and then Elton Brand will fix the roster around the edges. Personally, I want the Process Era to be over; for Brand to completely tear down this team and then actually build one up like a franchise with self-respect would. But however things unfold, this needs to be an offseason of self-reflection and self-improvement for everyone in the organization.

Requiem for the Nets

The Brooklyn Nets conceded 150 points in their elimination game, yet I still have more respect for them than I do for the 76ers.

No one expected the Nets to win a single game in the Bubble, but they went 5-3 in the reseeding round. Unfortunately, they were rewarded for their efforts with a date with the well-oiled Toronto Raptors machine. However, I appreciate that they never gave up, even when the points kept piling on.

Shoutout to Caris LeVert and Joe Harris for attempting to hold down the fort in the absence of all the other starters. Also, shoutout to former Bull Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. He earned his way onto the team earlier in the year, and used the Bubble to assert his self as a rotation-caliber player. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.

I only hope that the Bubble Nets’ perseverance carries over to next season, when this becomes KD & Kyrie’s team. I don’t want this franchise to lose its way just because they have superstars now.

But until then: Well done, Nets! You did your best. Rest up, and we’ll see you next season!

Luka Unleashed

Sometimes I wonder if we even deserve to watch the type of performances Luka Doncic has put on in the Bubble. Every bit of the 31.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 9.8 assists he has produced in this postseason has been fun to watch. Not to mention he has done this while power through an ankle injury.

I must say that even though I expected Luka do be great in the NBA, I still don’t think I expected this type of production so soon. But I’m glad he’s out here proving the doubters wrong. The tricky part is that the Mavericks are going to need plenty more “Luka Magic” if they want to pull off the first round upset.

Problematic P

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Clippers swingman Paul George has been mad buns in this series. Specifically, he has struggled over the last three games.

Now most of the time, George is a highly productive, All-Star caliber player. The problem is that he always seems to talk a big game at the weirdest times. He then proceeds to not back up the big talk, and ends up looking foolish.

The Gatorade commercial ahead of the first round swweep tot he Cavs in ’17. Coining the “Playoff P” moniker before being bounced by the Blazers in ’19. The continued war of words with Damian Lillard a couple of weeks ago. It feels like PG falls short whenever he lets his bravado get in the way. Just play ball, man!

Also, since we’re discussing him, here are some quirky stats from PG13 in this series. Despite his overall struggles, George has yet to miss a free throw. He’s currently 13-of-13 from the charity stripe. Additionally, he has had four fouls in each game of this series, and two turnovers in each of the last three games.

Jazz Music Intensifies

Utah’s 129-127 win over the Denver Nuggets Sunday gives them the 3-1 advantage in the first round series. I admit I am very surprised by this turn of events.

Entering the series, I figured that the absence of Bojan Bogdanovic was a huge blow to their chances for an extended playoff run. Also, with Mike Conley having his share of struggles during the regular season, I figured they would continue in the postseason.

Throw in Gobert potentially being outplayed by Nikola Jokic, and a lack of bench depth, and I assumed Denver would handle business in five games. I was wrong.

For one, Donovan Mitchell has been phenomenal! Two 50-point games in a series to is some real elite superstar energy. I thought that Spida had fallen victim to the sophomore slump during the season, but he has definitely broken out of it in this series!

Also, Mike Conley has returned to the Bubble and been a great prsence. As many a broadcaster have joked, perhaps it’s the Fred VanVleet Effect! But regardless of what it is, he is stepping up and being the point guard that Utah expected him to be when they signed him.

Now, the Jazz have a dynamic backcourt duo that is out-matching Jamal Murray and the 2-Guard-by-committee they’ve had to employ in light of Gary Harris’ absence.

I had low expectations for the Utah Jazz in the Bubble, but they have come alive in this series. Now they have the opportunity to close things out in Game 5. We’ll see if they can get the job done on Tuesday.