April 30, 2018, 4:07 pm
The first round is finally done after a pair of Game 7s and the second round has already kicked off out west.
In the West, we’ve got two heavy favorites against two surprise teams being lifted by superstar efforts. In the East, there are two highly anticipated matchups featuring what could be the greatest player of all-time playing at the peak of his powers having just eked out a series victory taking on a familiar foe and a couple of young guns looking to make a splash in their first playoff experience against an undermanned but tough-as-nails squad with a winning pedigree.
This could be four very entertaining series all transpiring at once. Let’s have some fun:
Eastern Conference – Celtics vs. Sixers
This week’s schedule:
Monday: Game 1 in Boston
Thursday: Game 2 in Boston
Saturday: Game 3 in Philadelphia
The Celtics survived one of the NBA’s many unicorns, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Bucks with an easy Game 7 win in Boston on Saturday. Their reward? A matchup with a pair of unicorns. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid dispatched the Heat in five games and are now 20-1 since March 13. Boston has homecourt advantage for the series, which certainly came in handy in the first round, winning each of their four games. But Philly is a different animal, having won every road game they’ve played since March 8. The Sixers have a clear talent edge with two of the best youngins the league has seen in quite some time. The key to this series is how much of a chess match Brad Stevens can turn it into. Can he come up with a scheme that forces Ben Simmons into jumpshots, almost eliminating him offensively? That could be the only way that the Celtics take four of these seven games.
Eastern Conference – Raptors vs. Cavs
This week’s schedule:
Tuesday: Game 1 in Toronto
Thursday: Game 2 in Toronto
Saturday: Game 3 in Cleveland
This is the moment all of Canada has been waiting for. The Raptors earned the 1-seed in the East with what could be their best team in franchise history. Awaiting them in round two is the team that sent them packing the last two seasons. But this isn’t the Cleveland Cavaliers of previous seasons. This, much like a decade ago, feels like a one-man team. How hard could it be to beat one guy? Toronto should ask the Pacers who saw LeBron James drop 34.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks with 55/35/82 shooting splits over seven games. You have to wonder if the existence and threat of LeBron is enough to get in the heads of the Raptors after he averaged 36 points per game in last year’s second round sweep of Toronto. That said, it honestly could be the Raptors best strategy to let James have whatever he wants and make absolutely sure that nobody else contributes. If Toronto can limit the Cavs’ shooters, especially when they have their LeBron plus four shooters lineups, the Raptors can position themselves well. At that point, with Toronto’s efficient offense, stingy defense and strong depth, LeBron may need to average 50 per game to get the job done. The scary part is – if anybody can do it, it’s him.
Western Conference – Warriors vs. Pelicans (GS leads 1-0)
This week’s schedule:
Tuesday: Game 2 in Oakland
Friday: Game 3 in New Orleans
Sunday: Game 4 in New Orleans
This became a hot matchup to talk about after the Pelicans’ impressive first round showing where they demolished the Blazers in a sweep. Helped by the fact that the Warriors didn’t exactly look like the Warriors in their five-game first round win over the Spurs, people began to whisper about what Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo could do to the defending champs. We’re only one game in but those whispers already feel like an overreaction. The Warriors used their offensive avalanche to dismantle New Orleans in Game 1 and that was without Stephen Curry who could be back as soon as Tuesday night for Game 2. If Curry isn’t quite healthy, the Pels shouldn’t be counted out just yet. It was the typical perfect Golden State storm as Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined for 53 points while Draymond Green tossed up a triple-double. The biggest key though – Green’s defense on Davis and Durant taking defensive duties on Holiday. The Pelicans need to get Durant switched off of Jrue as often as possible in these next few games and Holiday showed a versatile offensive attack in the Portland series that can be a major help in this one. If Curry’s side-to-side quickness isn’t quite up to snuff yet, that’s who the Pelicans need to get Jrue in front of. While there are strategies that exist that favor New Orleans, if Steph is 100 percent and good to go, none of it really matters. We saw the Warriors flip the switch on Saturday. If the Pels can’t find a way to turn the switch off, this series could be over before week’s end.
Western Conference – Rockets vs. Jazz (HOU leads 1-0)
This week’s schedule:
Wednesday: Game 2 in Houston
Friday: Game 3 in Salt Lake City
Sunday: Game 4 in Salt Lake City
It may not be fair to judge the Jazz for their 110-96 loss in Sunday’s Game 1 against Houston. They were less than 48 hours removed from a highly-emotional series clincher at home against the Thunder and the Rockets are one of the two most difficult teams to prepare for in the NBA. Luckily for Utah, they have some time to get ready for Wednesday’s Game 2 but that still may not be enough time to come up with a way to stop James Harden who poured in an easy 41 points in Game 1. Utah’s defense is strong but one of their strong suits is forcing guys to take deep 3-pointers. The Rockets are the worst possible team to take that approach against. If the Jazz force Houston to drive to the rim where the best defensive player in the league, Rudy Gobert, awaits, Harden and his crew are salivating at the thought of getting the Stifle Tower in foul trouble. This Jazz team is feisty and among the toughest in the league and that comes from head coach Quin Snyder. But Snyder is looking at his toughest task yet. This series has the makings of a long story but Houston’s versatility and all-around math problem could make life miserable for Snyder’s Jazz.
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) is doubtful for tonight’s Game 1 tilt with the Sixers. Brown did tell Brad Stevens that he felt better this morning and Stevens said, “He’ll go through whatever he can in shootaround and then, if he can play, he’ll play,” so Brown shouldn’t be fully ruled out for this one.
Stephen Curry (knee) is expected to play in tomorrow night’s Game 2 against the Pelicans.
Ricky Rubio (hamstring) missed Game 1 of the series with the Rockets and is likely to miss Game 2. The original report suggested that Rubio could miss10 days or more with this injury.
May 27, 2020, 9:06 pmAndre IguodalaSF, Miami Heat
Andre Iguodala returned to South Florida after living in California since the NBA season was suspended.
Iguodala returning to the market where his team is could mean that he believes team workouts will begin soon. However, there is no official timetable on when team workouts will begin and Jimmy Butler has yet to return to Miami.
Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter
May 27, 2020, 7:52 pmZach LaVineSG, Chicago Bulls
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls were cleared by the Governor of Illinois and are in talks with city officials to open practice facilities on Friday for voluntary workouts that would follow the NBA guidelines.
The NBA's guidelines currently state that a maximum of four players are allowed in the facility at any given time and there can only be one player per hoop. The Bulls are currently eight games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls may not play again this season given how far behind they are in the standings and the recent reports of proposals to not continue the regular season.
Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter
May 27, 2020, 7:08 pmLuka DoncicPG-SF, Dallas Mavericks
Marc Stein of the New York Times has reported that the Mavs plan to open their practice facility on Thursday.
This news would make the Mavs the 23rd team to have their facilities open for "voluntary and socially distanced player workouts". Continue to monitor the wire as we should learn more about the potential of the league resuming in early June.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
May 26, 2020, 10:07 pmKawhi LeonardSF, Los Angeles Clippers
On Tuesday afternoon, AmicoHoops reported (via Twitter) that an unidentified NBA GM told them the league has seriously discussed resuming the current NBA season on Wednesday, July 22.
Nothing has been officially announced, by any means, and this is the first we've heard of specific target date(s) from anyone. It's looking like the continuation of the season will occur in Orlando at Walt Disney World at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which has accommodations for at least some of what the NBA has planned for a resuming activity. As we have relayed numerous times recently, the next week or two seem to be a likely window for some decisions from Adam Silver and Co. at the NBA league office to start to come down. Stay tuned, hoops fans.
Source: AmicoHoops on Twitter
May 26, 2020, 8:47 pmDamian LillardPG, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard announced on Tuesday evening that, in the event of a continuation of the NBA season, he would not be participating if the Blazers are scheduled to play 'meaningless games' with no shot at making the playoffs.
"If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team. But I'm not going to be participating," Lillard told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday morning. It's hard to blame him, as it is quite easy to see the potential situation from his point of view. There have been countless scenarios tossed around by the league office during the pandemic period, but nothing is set in stone so far. Lillard, for his part, is only interested in returning to action if there exists a legitimate shot for his Blazers to reach the NBA Finals. Fair enough.
Source: Yahoo! Sports
May 26, 2020, 8:34 pmJoel EmbiidC, Philadelphia Sixers
The Sixers, who have their practice facility located in nearby Camden, NJ, will allow voluntary player workouts at the facility beginning on Wednesday, raising the number of NBA teams who have been able to do so to 22.
The Celtics, Knicks, Bulls, Pistons, Wizards, Mavericks, Spurs and Warriors are the final teams remaining who are unable to return to their practice facilities. The NBA seems to be inching ever so close to, at the very least, announcing a plan for a continuation of the current season. This next week or two should be very eventful on that front.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
May 26, 2020, 8:26 pmClint CapelaC, Atlanta Hawks
Hawks GM Travis Schlenk indicated on Tuesday that Clint Capela (right heel, plantar fasciitis) could very well play in the event of an NBA restart.
"Clint [Capela] says he's feeling better, and there's a possibility that we can get him back on the court," Schlenk said in a phone interview with ESPN. "Practicing and playing five games would be valuable to us." Capela has yet to see the floor for the Hawks since he was acquired at the deadline from the Rockets, and one would have to surmise that he would be under a heavy minutes restriction if the league resumes and if the Hawks deem him healthy enough to give it a go. Still two big "ifs," but this is obviously positive news for the Hawks and potentially for fantasy owners who have managed to stash Capela in an injury slot this long.
May 26, 2020, 8:17 pmMohamed BambaC, Orlando Magic
Magic center Mo Bamba said on Tuesday that he's spent the quarantine period bulking up, self-proclaiming that he's put on close to 30 pounds of muscle.
Bamba said of his time off, ""I’ve worked my tail off during this quarantine. This is going to sound weird, but I put on probably about 28 pounds since quarantine (started)." He laughed and added that only about 2.5 percent of the weight he's put on is body fat. Bamba, along with many other NBA players, "can’t wait to get back out there and work" which is a great sign for the Magic and their fans. Jonathan Isaac is becoming more and more of a potential option for the team when/if the season is resumed as the days pass, so his presence would limit Bamba's chances on the offensive end of the floor. The team has yet to decide whether or not they want to play Isaac at all the rest of the season, regardless of the rumblings about a restart from the league office. However, this bulk-up on Bamba's part is nonetheless pretty impressive and is certainly noteworthy.
May 25, 2020, 3:16 pmTerry RozierPG, Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are the latest team to re-open their facilities, with the Novant Health Training Center set to open up on Tuesday.
With this, there are only eight teams left to open their practice courts back up, though nobody has been able to engage in any sort of team work yet. Individual workouts are better than no workouts, however, and the league appears to be getting its ducks in a row in terms of returning to play. There's still no firm timelines but things do appear to be heading in the right direction.
Source: Charlotte Hornets
May 25, 2020, 3:13 pmJon LeuerPF, Milwaukee Bucks
Jon Leuer has announced his retirement from basketball.
Injuries completely destroyed Leuer's career, as he played in a combined 49 games over the previous two seasons with zero appearances in the 2019-20 campaign. Leuer's high point came with the Suns, where he averaged 8.5 points to go with 5.6 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and a 38.2 mark from deep. His eight-year career comes to an end, with Leuer saying that his body simply won't let him play at a high level anymore.
Source: Jon Leuer on Instagram