April 23, 2017, 6:32 am
When Mike Conley became a free agent there was a lot of speculation surrounding where he might end up, and we all know in the end that he received a five year $153 million dollar contract that only the Grizzlies could give him and which made him the highest paid player in basketball. It still seems crazy that anyone not named LeBron James could end up justifying that kind of salary, especially a second tier point guard that played for one of the league’s smallest markets. As anyone who follows the Grizzlies knows though Mike Conley is a very very good basketball player, and he’s showing the entire league why. The weirdest thing to me though is how incredibly Spurs like his demeanor and his game is, and what he could mean to that Spurs team if he were on it right now. Instead he’s forcing them to at least a game six and exposing some of their glaring weaknesses as a team.
But we can talk about that a little bit more when we get to their game. It’s been a great playoffs so far and one of the more intriguing first rounds in years so it’s been a lot of fun. Let’s dive into the Dish!
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Raptors 87 Bucks 76
The big story line from this game was Dwayne Casey inserting Norman Powell into the starting lineup over Jonas Valanciunas, something he likely should have done the previous game. Powell scored 12 points with four rebounds, four assists, a block and hit three 3-pointers and was a +15 in his time on the court. Cory Joseph simply doesn’t have the length to guard anyone on the Bucks and Powell is a superior offensive player. DeMar DeRozan put on a clinic as he scored 33 points with nine rebounds, five assists, and four steals while hitting 12-of-22 shots and he went 9-of-9 from the line. The Raptors are a different team when Serge Ibaka is at center to create more space and DeRozan is successfully playmaking.
Kyle Lowry scored 18 points with four rebounds and four assists, but it’s hard to believe he’s still quite right from his injury which has plagued him in nearly all of his postseason efforts. Serge Ibaka scored 10 points with eight rebounds, two steals, and blocks and could have had a much better game if he went better than 4-of-16 from the field. P.J. Tucker played 28 minutes and barely registered anything in the boxscore, but still managed end up a +7 while on the floor because he’s just that helpful defensively.
Giannis Antentokounmpo struggled in this game going just 6-of-19 from the field for 14 points with nine rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocks and a whopping seven turnovers. Tucker and DeMarre Carroll played him well and the Raptors defense is at a different level when they’re matching up small with Ibaka at center. The Bucks response may well be to start Greg Monroe, who’s been fantastic this series. Monroe played 24 minutes off the bench and scored 14 points with nine rebounds, two steals, and a block in that time, if he can hold up defensively against the Raptors then his scoring and rebounding could make a huge difference without Jonas Valanciuns on the flor.
Khris Middleton had a very bad game as he shot 4-of-13 from the field for 10 points with 11 rebounds, three assists, a steal and four turnovers, and though the box score isn’t awful Middleton didn’t look involved in the game, made poor decisions, and spaced out on defense for stretches of times. Tony Snell scored 19 points with five rebounds, three assists, and five 3-pointers and he’s been remarkably solid after a nonplussed regular season. Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon combined to score nine points, but there’s no doubt that these two young players will have moments of brilliance and rookie mistakes.
Wizards 98 Hawks 116
John Wall was the lone bright spot for the Wizards as he scored 29 points on 10-of-12 shooting and added four rebounds, seven assists, a steal, a 3-pointer and shot 8-of-10 from the line. He struggled defensively, but the entire Hawks team just walked through the Wizards tonight in the end. Bradley Beal shot 6-of-20 from the field and ended with 12 points, five rebounds, and a block while going 0-of-6 from downtown and getting scorched on defense. Otto Porter scored just seven points in 23 minutes and only registered two rebounds and a steal on the stat sheet, he had some really clear lack of effort plays while on the court which is likely what limited his minutes. Markieff Morris scored nine points with six rebounds, a steal, and two blocks and he’s going to be seeing nightmares of Paul Millsap bullying him up and down the court.
Marcin Gortat managed just two points on 1-of-4 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds and wasn’t a factor the entire night on either ends. The Wizards ended up going 12 deep and this team barely has seven or eight playable guys during the regular season. I can’t remember the last time I even saw them go nine deep, even in a blowout.
Paul Millsap dismantled the Wizards on his way to scoring 29 points with 14 rebounds, five assists, a steal and two blocks while shooting 12-of-20 from the field. He did all of his work close to the basket as he brutalized anyone the Wizards could throw out to play power forward. Dennis Schroder has had a really up and down season but tonight was up as he scored 27 points with nine assists and three 3-pointers and shot 10-of-22 from the field. He still turned the ball over three times and couldn’t do a thing to stop John Wall but this is progress from the inconsistent young guard. Tim Hardaway Jr. drew the start again and scored just eight points on 3-of-9 shooting with one 3-pointer, it was an off night for him but he’s been a consistently solid player for nearly three months now. He’s going to be a restricted free agent so these playoffs are going to linger in the minds of general managers around the league and where he ends up will determine how good he is in fantasy.
Taurean Prince looks like a keeper though as he scored 16 points with four rebounds, a steal, and two 3-pointers while shooting 7-of-10 from the field and playing excellent defense. Prince hasn’t looked like a rookie in these playoffs and it’s becoming pretty clear he’ll be starting for the Hawks next year. Dwight Howard scored just five points but he polished the glass with 11 rebounds and made the Wizards night miserable on defense, and in the end that’s all that matters for Howard. Atlanta is down 2-1 in this series but it looks like it should be competitive as it winds down.
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Spurs 108 Grizzlies 110
This was undoubtedly the most fun game of the playoffs to watch so far as both teams put on a terrific show in what was unexpectedly a high paced game. Kawhi Leonard was just absurd as he scored 43 points with eight rebounds, three assists, six steals and drained seven 3-pointers while shooting 14-of-30 overall from the field and 8-of-8 from the line. In the series so far Kawhi has 130 total points with 75% true shooting and 33% usage rate while hitting all 40 of his free throw attempts. Tony Parker scored 22 points on 9-o-19 shooting and added four rebounds and five assists, but he got absolutely smoked all night on defense which has been the norm for much of the series. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 13 points with just two rebounds and two steals in 42 minutes and flat out needs to be better if the Spurs are going to threaten the Warriors in the West.
David Lee got the start at center and played 33 minutes but scored just eight points with five rebounds and a steal and getting toasted on defense for much of the night. Lee has played better than anyone had though for the Spurs this season and can clearly have a role on a playoff team, but 33 minutes is a lot of time for him to be on the court and still hold up defensively. Dewayne Dedmon (illness) missed this game, but even so the Spurs have other options. Danny Green scored just five points and couldn’t make an impact on the defensive end when he guarded Mike Conley. Pau Gasol scored eight points with 11 rebounds in 21 minutes while Patty Mills scored six points with four assists in 23 minutes, and the Spurs could definitely have used a bigger bump from their bench.
Mike Conley was unbelievable and continues to be one of the most underrated players in the entire NBA as he’s carried this Grizzlies teams for long stretches this year. Conley scored 35 points with nine rebounds, eight assists, a steal and four 3-pointers while going 13-of-23 from the field and 5-of-7 from the line and came up with multiple clutch efforts down the stretch to keep the Grizzlies on top. Zach Randolph started this game and scored 12 points with 11 rebounds in 35 minutes and actually had the highest plus/minus on the team at +14, but that probably won’t happen again if the Spurs aren’t playing a defensive front court that involves 54 minutes between Pau Gasol and David Lee. Marc Gasol had a funky running hook shot in overtime that was the go ahead score and left the Spurs with just .7 seconds left on the clock to try and come back. Gasol scored 16 points with 12 rebounds and four assists, and he even hit a buzzer beater 3-pointer in his brother’s face as the the game went to half.
Vince Carter is old but he can still play and he scored 13 points with three rebounds, two assists, and three 3-pointers in his 32 minutes on the court. JaMychal Green came off the bench to score 14 points in 26 minutes and James Ennis started but scored just seven points while turning the ball over four times. It was a great victory for the Grizzlies, but Ennis and Randolph are likely not the answers to their problems as the Spurs desperately missed Dewayne Dedmon’s presence tonight. The Grizzlies have a chance to make it a series but on the road in San Antonio is likely going to end poorly.
Warriors 119 Blazers 113
Kevin Durant was questionable entering this game but did not end up playing, which lead the way for Patrick McCaw to start. McCaw scored 11 points with five rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a block in 28 minutes but it was a deceiving stat line as he still ended up a team worst -14 on the night, due in large part to his lapses on the defensive end. Stephen Curry played well as he scored 34 points with four rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block while adding five 3-pointers and hitting 9-of-10 free throws, though he did struggle from the field as he shot just 10-of-25. Klay Thompson scored 24 points on 8-of-21 shooting (four 3-pointers) and grabbed two rebounds and three steals as he played just a solid all around game in 40 minutes. Draymond Green scored just nine points but grabbed eight rebounds with seven assists, two steals, and a whopping six blocks and kept the Warriors afloat for much of the game on the defensive side of the ball. He played a lot of center in the Warriors small ball lineup which helped them balance out McCaw’s lack of ability on the defensive end and gave them a much needed scoring edge. Zaza Pachulia only played 10 minutes because he was a -11 in that time and was getting killed on defense, which paved the way for everyon’s favorite 16 minutes in playoff basketball: JaVale McGee.
The Warriors were actually down 67 to 54 going into the half, and I am not joking when I say McGee was one of the biggest turning points of the game. He only played 16 minutes but was a team high +24 in that time and scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting with four rebounds and he created absolute chaos on the defensive end for the Blazers. Andre Iguodala got a lot of run as the Warriors went small and scored 16 points with even rebounds and three assists, and could have had an even better game if he didn’t struggle with his outside shot as he was 0-of-6 from the beyond the arc. It was a weird game for the Warriors.
Jusuf Nurkic returned for this game but played limited time as he got in just 16 minutes and clearly didn’t have his legs after missing some time. Nurkic made a large impact in his time however as he scored two points but grabbed 11 rebounds and dished four assists and created general chaos in the paint for the Warriors. It could have been a much different looking series if he were healthy and the Warriors were missing Durant. Damian Lillard scored 31 points with seven rebounds, four assists, and four 3-pointers while hitting 10-of-23 shots but he struggled mightily on the defensive end all night. C.J. McCollum scored 32 points with six rebounds and two steals while hitting six 3-pointers and he ate up the Warriors when subs were coming in and out. Evan Turner started and scored 17 points with eight rebounds, three assists, a steal, two blocks and a 3-pointer in a team high 40 minutes, it was as good of a performance as he’s ever had in a game.
Al-Farouq Aminu came off the bench to score 14 points with nine rebounds, two assists, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer in 31 minutes while Noah Vonleh played 25 minutes and scored 10 points with seven rebounds, three assists and a block of his own. Mo Harkless started and played 20 minutes but struggled with fouls and his shot as he went 0-of-4 from the field. The Blazers are down 3-0 to the best team in basketball but they’ve played some good games and with a healthy Jusuf Nurkic this is a completely different basketball team that will be a fun watch next year.
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