The Agony and the Ecstasy of the NBA Playoffs: Part 4

The Agony and the Ecstasy of the NBA Playoffs: Part 4

Since we delivered Part 3 the NBA Playoffs have moved onto the Conference Semifinals (remember, heavy emphasis on Semi – very American – bravo).

It’s time for more history to be made.

The agony and the ecstacy of these performances make them truly unique in the world of sports.

These are the moments and individual performances from the Conference Semifinals.


THE AGONY


BUCKS HELD TO THIRD LOWEST SCORING GAME OF THE SEASON

Matthew Wellington – Editor-in-Chief

The Boston Celtics held the Milwaukee Bucks to their third lowest scoring game of the season during the Game 1 upset (?) on Sunday night. Only twice in the regular season have the mighty Bucks been held under 91 points: one evening in February (Orlando) and another in December (Miami) of last year.

Boston’s defensive method? Harass Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo at virtually every opportunity. It’s practically the same gameplan Boston used to hinder the Greek Freak last season. Which makes it even more surprising that Milwaukee just didn’t seem prepared for it.

It’s also remarkably similar to teams’ tactics versus LeBron James between 2009-2012. LeBron eventually figured it out and became the player we know today. Let’s hope it doesn’t take Giannis that long.

Boston packed the paint with long help defenders and limited Antetokounmpo to just 22 points on 7-for-21 shooting. They enacted a kind of one man full court press, followed him up the court and closed him off with multiple defenders, hindering his ability to score at the rim and make passes to teammates. It’s most obvious to see in action on a Giannis fastbreak, where multiple Celtics defenders take advantage of his ropey handles to great success.

Not many defenses have been able to slow down Milwaukee’s top-ranked offense this season. The Celtics, however, well they have proven to be an exception to the rule.

SIXERS MIGHT HAVE TO ACTUALLY PAY JIMMY BUTLER

Huw Hopkins – Lead Writer

There must be few better feelings than when a player a GM went all-in on doubles your stack. When Elton Brand took over the Philadelphia 76ers front office duties ahead of this season, he knew the stakes, but it was time to cash in.

His first big gamble of the season was getting rid of the fabled depth the 76ers had built up under Sam Hinkie, and in some respects even Bryan Colangelo. He rolled the dice on Jimmy Butler, someone who was making a nuisance of himself in Minnesota, but when there were talks of him challenging head coach Brett Brown and calling out Ben Simmons half way through the season, Brand made some more splashy bets and landed a lucky draw by getting Tobias Harris from the LA Clippers.

The depth was apparently wiped out, though, players like Boban Marjanović, Mike Scott, James Ennis and even Greg Monroe are having moments during these playoffs, as they did Monday night.

The only problem is that the major hedge on the Butler bet (Harris) is being thoroughly outplayed. They both are due big contract offers this summer and the hope was that Harris could be the guy. Having scored just 14 points and 9 points respectively in the games against Toronto thus far, Harris is proving not worthy of an offer ahead of Butler.

After failed stints at Chicago and Minnesota, is Butler’s elite playoff performance worth a long contract? Or is the painful experience of this season and previous stints worth folding on?


THE ECSTACY


SUPERSTARS ASSEMBLE

Matthew Wellington – Editor-in-Chief

This past weekend was one of performances. I’m not talking the incessant whining between the Rockets and Dubs, I am in fact referring to the monster performances put on by the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Nikola Jokić and Kyrie Irving. That’s a pretty good fantasy team right there, perhaps they save the universe in Avengers Endgame… I mean I haven’t actually seen it, but I did see these guys.

Kawhi Leonard

The Klaw got the Semifinals underway with an impressive Game 1 performance on Saturday night, which actually tipped off at 1am on Sunday. Anyway, Kawhi Leonard… that man can play. This was his showcase, a chance to show to everyone that he may just in fact be the best player in the Eastern Conference, if not the game. He finished the evening with 45 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. He went 16-of-23 from the field, 3-of-7 from beyond the arc and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line.

Leonard’s 45 points tied a career high, set earlier this season in a game against the Utah Jazz. Raptors president Masai Ujiri took a risk in trading for Leonard last summer, with the star having played just nine games last season and able to leave Toronto in Free Agency this year. Right now, this trade looks brilliant.

Leonard also had 35 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in the Game 2 loss on Monday night. Yikes.

Kyrie Irving

Make no mistake about it, Kyrie Irving loves the postseason and Game 1 versus Milwaukee was just a mere reminder to us all that he and the Boston Celtics have as good a shot as anyone at dethroning Golden State.

Irving finished with 26 points, 7 rebounds and 11 assists as Boston embarrassed the Bucks on their homecourt. This was Uncle Drew on full display, making spectacular plays – morphing into Kobe Bryant with a back-to-the-basket fadeaway on more than one occasion – and getting his teammates involved early. Irving conducted this game and it’s tempo like John Williams with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Kevin Durant

In Sunday’s Game 1, Durant had 24 points in the second half to carry the Warriors home. He finished with 35, making that his fifth straight 30+ point game and he made it look effortless.

Right now, Durant is the best basketball player on the planet and even when he has an off night, he’s got a pretty great safety net around him. Teammates Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson aren’t exactly average, but Durant is making them look it.

Nikola Jokić

Monday night saw, European sensation Nikola Jokić explode during Denver’s Game 1 win versus Portland, totalling 37 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks, whilst shooting an insane 60% from the field and beyond the arc. Everything was going down for Jokić, who looked unguardable at times. He also went 12-of-12 from the free throw line, capitalising on every opportunity the Blazers game him to get buckets.

Damian Lillard

In the same game as Jokić, Lillard continued to add to his nomination for the – entirely made up – Outstanding Postseason Performance Award. Lillard battled against consistent double-teams all evening and led the way for the Blazers, finishing with 39 points, 3 rebounds 6 assists and a steal.


Feature photo –  Frank Gunn / Canadian Press / Getty Images / NBAE / Double Clutch illustration – Matthew Wellington