NBA Playoffs: Round 2, Game 1s Reaction

Two of the four conference semifinal series have tipped off. Let’s overreact!

  • I guess I jumped the gun in saying the Bucks are dead without Middleton–to say the least. The Bucks are for real. Obviously Middleton is huge for them, and I don’t think they can win the whole thing without him, but losing Middleton certainly isn’t an immediate death blow for them. As we saw, they easily took care of the Bulls without him, and they were in control all game against Boston.
  • Giannis had a triple double in Game 1. The difference between him and KD is that Giannis had a huge impact on the game even when Boston was keying on him. Giannis is so much more than a scorer. He plays defense, he passes, and he rebounds. The only thing KD does better than Giannis is shoot jump shots.
  • Giannis was 9-25 from the floor in Game 1 against Boston, but he was still a factor and his team was still able to win, because Giannis contributes so much more than scoring to his team. He had 12 assists and 13 rebounds. Give credit to his teammates for knocking down shots, but this game shows us that Boston will not be able to take the same approach to Giannis as they did with KD.
  • Overall, Giannis either made or assisted on 21 of the Bucks’ 37 field goals in this game. That’s what Giannis offers you–“hard carry” potential.
  • Sam Quinn brought up a good point about the Bucks:
  • Certainly Bucks GM Jon Horst deserves a lot of credit for building this roster, but this is the type of thing that happens when you have A. an all-time great superstar player on your team, and B. a great coach with a system that maximizes the talents of all its players and puts them all in the best position to succeed. The Bucks are like the Warriors now: everything they touch turns to gold. It’s not a coincidence that guys join the Warriors and the Bucks and suddenly begin playing the best basketball of their careers–it’s because those two teams have amazing systems that get the most out of their players. Couple this with the fact that their GM is able to acquire talent that fits the system, and the fact that Giannis makes life so much easier for everyone in that entire organization, and it should be no surprise that the Bucks have the Midas touch.
  • This is how the NBA works nowadays: it’s about fit rather than accumulating raw talent. Systems with great pieces that all fit well together win in today’s NBA. It’s not enough now to just roll out multiple superstars surrounded by veteran minimum guys–you have to have a system and players can can execute the system.
  • Quinn also brings up a great point about how winning on the margins is crucial in the NBA. It’s crucial in professional sports in general, but especially so in the NBA. I think we underestimate just how important it is to have role players that can contribute meaningful minutes in the playoffs. In virtually every Championship run, there is a role player who will make a difference. These performances often get forgotten as time passes, and we only remember the star players and/or the guys who win Finals MVP, but every year, without fail, there is some role player that steps up and delivers crucial buckets in big moments. Or maybe it’s not even buckets, but stops on defense, rebounds, steals, blocks, hustle plays–it could be anything.
  • Ron Artest hitting the dagger three in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. Jason Terry hitting all those huge shots in the 2011 Finals. Ray Allen’s shot in 2013. Think of all the big shots guys like John Paxson and Steve Kerr hit in the Finals for the Bulls in the 1990s. Robert Horry hit so many clutch shots deep in the playoffs throughout his career. I remember during the Lakers’ title run in the bubble in 2020, KCP hit a number of big shots and at times kept the team’s offense afloat during critical stretches. Bobby Portis went 6-10 from the field for 16 points in the deciding Game 6 of last year’s Finals. It just speaks to the fact that in the NBA playoffs, games are often won on the margins. The old axiom is that football is a game of inches, but basketball is as well. Sometimes games are decided by one or two plays, and it often all comes down to one guy stepping up at one crucial moment. That’s what winning on the margins means.
  • The Nets were overrated as hell. Wow. And we may have overrated Boston as a result.
  • However, I don’t think Boston is as bad as they looked in this game. Sure, Milwaukee’s defense is a whole different beast from Brooklyn’s, but Boston is not this bad.
  • I want to dig into the box score in order to illustrate the problems Boston is now running into in this series. Boston was just 28-84 from the floor overall in Game 1. That’s 33% field goal shooting. The crazy part is, they were 18-50 from three, meaning Boston shot 50 threes and only 34 twos. 18-50 from three is not terrible–36%–but if you’re only shooting 34 twos, and hitting 10-34 of them, then 36% from three is not going to be enough. And as you can see, Boston only finished with 89 points in this game.
  • And that’s the crazy thing: Boston was 10-34 on twos. If you’re only 10-34 on twos, you have to hit closer to 50% of your threes to still be scoring efficiently. They barely hit twos, and they barely even took twos. It’s like Milwaukee just said, “We will let you shoot all the threes you want, but you are not getting anything inside the arc.” It’s not often that a team attempts more threes than twos, but Boston shot 50 threes compared to just 34 twos. I know the NBA today is very three ball-centric, but it’s not as if the two is irrelevant. The two is just a higher percentage shot, and that still matters significantly. There are times when your three balls simply aren’t falling and you have to be able to manufacture buckets somehow, and twos are the only way to do it.
  • Milwaukee has the best net scoring differential in the paint this postseason. Boston needs to find a way to get easier buckets in this series or else they have no chance. I don’t think there’s a team in the league that can hit enough threes to win a playoff series where they only shoot 29% on twos.
  • Stan Van Gundy went even deeper into the numbers and found the real culprit for Boston:
  • So the Celtics were good in their halfcourt defense–again, Giannis only shot 9-25 from the floor. But Boston turned the ball over 18 times and was outscored by 20 on fastbreak points. The problem for Boston is that they can’t crack the Bucks’ defense. This is the difference between Milwaukee and Brooklyn: Milwaukee is vastly better on defense than Brooklyn was, and it is a major shock for Boston right now.
  • I don’t think Boston is completely screwed here, but they are going to be fighting an uphill battle. They’ve lost home court advantage, and they desperately need to win Game 2 and even this series up as it heads to Milwaukee. If Milwaukee takes Game 2, I’m willing to say it’s over. If you were to hear that Boston held Giannis to 9-25 shooting in a game where Milwaukee was missing Khris Middleton, you’d probably assume Boston won comfortably. Instead, they lost by 12. That’s concerning. But I think Boston is a great team–very deep–and they’ve got one of the shrewdest coaches in the league. I am not willing to count them out here just yet.

Now for the second game from yesterday afternoon:

  • The Grizzlies are way too young, erratic and emotional to beat this Warriors team.
  • Like come on, what is Ja doing here? He’s dancing mid-play.
  • Golden State, despite losing Draymond, still managed to come away with a win. This series is over. Memphis has no chance. They might steal a game or two, but Golden State is winning this series.
  • I just saw so many defensive lapses by the Grizzlies that led to easy Warrior buckets, mainly in the paint. Memphis would just let guys get under the hoop wide open, and of course the Warriors are going to find the open guy because they’re an elite passing team. You cannot win games in the playoffs allowing this many cheap buckets. It’s simply not possible to overcome long-term.
  • And the most surprising thing was how well Golden State was able to crash the offensive glass even after Draymond Green’s ejection. Golden State got 16 offensive rebounds, which was the same as the Grizzlies got, but the Grizzlies should have been cleaning up on the glass with Draymond out of the game, and they simply didn’t. In fact, the Grizzlies were out-rebounded 51-47 overall.
  • Memphis simply needed to win this game. They had home court advantage and Draymond Green was ejected in the first half. Klay Thompson shot 3-10 from three in the game and missed two huge free throws at the end that kept it a one-point game (although he did manage to hit the game-winner). This was a game Memphis needed to take, and they didn’t. They were close to winning, to be sure, but this ain’t horseshoes.
  • Golden State is not like Minnesota. Golden State will not blow 25 point leads. Now, Golden State almost did blow a double-digit fourth quarter lead after they started bricking everything in crunch time, but they managed to salvage it at the very end. Whereas Minnesota lost a series in 6 that it should have won in 5, Golden State is not going to squander winnable games.
  • Again, I just think Memphis is too young, too erratic, too undisciplined, and too inexperienced to win this series. Golden State is everything Memphis isn’t: the Warriors are veteran, they’re experienced, they’re steady, they’re disciplined and they’re grown-ups.
  • Regarding Draymond’s ejection, I think it was obviously a flagrant, but I’m not so sure it was a flagrant 2. Maybe by the book definition it was, but I just don’t think it rose to the level of malicious violence. When I think of a flagrant 2, I think of angry, violent attacks–think like when Jokic blindsided Marcus Morris. Not even close to a basketball play. I think the Draymond foul was one of those situations where his reputation preceded him and made it so he didn’t get the benefit of the doubt. It’s all part of the Draymond Green experience. He’s a guy who plays with a lot of intensity and vigor, and he’s often right up on the line, sometimes over it. Sometimes stuff like this happens.
  • The bigger problem for the Warriors is that there’s now the threat of suspension hanging over Draymond if he gets another flagrant 2 foul (or two flagrant 1 fouls). You get a “point” on your record for each flagrant foul, and once you hit four points, you get suspended for one game. Draymond’s flagrant 2 means he now has 2 points. And so he now has very little leeway going forward. Once you get your fourth point and get suspended the next game, and any additional points you accumulate after serving that suspension result in another one game suspension. So if you get 5 points, it would equal two one game suspensions. Draymond has said he’s not going to change the way he plays, so a possible Draymond suspension further down the road may end up being a huge factor in these playoffs.
  • However, I think Golden State will be fine in this series no matter what.

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