What a week of NBA basketball!! There is nothing better than playoff basketball. At least to me there isn’t. I understand if you aren’t watching and if that is indeed the case here is what you’ve missed.
Mike Budenholzer and the Atlanta Hawks part ways
Last week I suspected Budenholzer had coached his last game for the Hawks. This week it was confirmed that he and the Hawks did indeed part ways. This past week Budenholzer took his name out of the running for the Phoenix Suns vacant job but with so many coaching vacancies it shouldn’t be long before he finds another gig.
The Memphis Grizzlies Hire a New Coach
Well, technically they did when they removed the interim tag from J.B. Bickerstaff Thursday when they named him as their new coach. Seems strange the Grizzlies never interviewed anyone else yet waited this long to officially hire Bickerstaff. He did coach 65 games for the Grizzlies this past season and led them to the second-worst record in the NBA. In his defense, he didn’t have much to work with so it will be interesting to see if the Grizzlies can have a bounce back 2019 campaign.
Westbrook and Vulgar Fans
OKC Thunder one-man show Russell Westbrook wasn’t all that happy with the fans in Utah.
Then again he has the same trouble in Los Angeles
Let’s not forget the fans in Denver
And if you needed further convincing, here’s the video of the fan Westbrook slapped yesterday.
Jazz fan reacts to Russell Westbrook slap
EXCLUSIVE: You’ve seen the clip of Russell Westbrook slapping at a Utah Jazz fan’s cell phone last night. That fan is sharing his side of the story with KSL 5 TV, AND the video he recorded too. Caitlin Burchill has the story. #UtahJazz #takenotePosted by KSL 5 TV on Saturday, April 28, 2018
Westbrook also has trouble with referees racking up 101 career technical fouls and six career ejections. That’s because he is so nice and sweet towards referees and others he doesn’t like.
Fans scream at players all of the time. They drink alcohol and say stuff they probably wouldn’t say to an athletes face. Most of these fans probably don’t sweat when they masturbate and probably have little right to rag on a pro athlete. They also yell at referees and talk about their families and say all kinds of vulgar things to and about them. You rarely if ever hear of referees confronting fans, do you? For that matter, it’s rare to see pro players go after fans and even rarer for a player to have multiple incidents like Westbrook has.
The NBA can’t do much about vulgar fans except have them removed when they cross the line. What they can and should have already done is deal with Westbrook. He has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of self-control and it’s the responsibility of the NBA to protect their fans before Westbrook goes too far and actually hurts someone. Or he himself gets hurt.
Houston Eliminates Minnesota
Houston dropped the hammer on the Timberwolves and that Game four fifty point third quarter they put up was something. The Rockets took it to them in Games Four and Five and they looked frightening doing it. James Harden averaged nearly 30 points per game and Clint Capela averaged a double-double. The Timberwolves were probably a bit unlucky to have to play the Rockets in the First Round but their HUGE Game Three victory demonstrated they did indeed belong in the playoffs and probably will return next season.
Golden State Eliminates San Antonio
If not for some Game Four heroics from 40-year-old Manu Ginobili it would have been a sweep. The Warriors took them out in five games. Spurs fans can’t blame Zaza Pachulia as he didn’t play a second in this series. The Spurs have a crazy summer ahead with uncertainty surrounding All-Star Kawhi Leonard and possibly Head Coach Gregg Popovich as neither could return to the Spurs in 2019. The Warriors were missing Stephen Curry but they still have Kevin Durant so they easily took care of business behind his 28 points per game and 22 from Klay Thompson.
Philadelphia outlasts Miami
This was a brutal series and Philly knocked them out four games to one. Ben Simmons may not be the unanimous Rookie of the Year but he demonstrated why he’s the overwhelming favorite finishing the series one assist shy of averaging a triple-double. Veterans J.J. Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova also played a HUGE role in the 76er victory. Heat veteran Dwyane Wade turned back the clock with a couple of strong performances and Justice Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, and Josh Richardson showed us a glimpse of what could be a bright future in Miami.
Toronto Eliminates Washington
Toronto advanced in six games over Washington. It wasn’t pretty but they did it with a Game Six road clincher. The Raptors also did most of it without Sixth Man of the Year candidate Fred VanVleet. VanVleet missed all but three minutes up until Game Six and with him on the floor their second unit is top ten in the league. Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan continued his assault on the Eastern Conference and Jonas Valanciunas averaged nearly a double-double and Delon Wright averaged 2.4 steals per game off the bench to send the Wizards packing. Washington ended another underachieving season. It will be interesting to see what that franchise does this offseason because something is very “off” about that team.
Boston Eliminates Milwaukee
This was a pretty good series that probably could have gone either way however Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens decision to place Semi Ojeleye on Giannis Antetokoumnpo probably won series for Boston. Ojeleye didn’t stop him but he made him work for everything he got. Al Horford had a fantastic series as did Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris. The Bucks had a decent season despite seeing their Head Coach Jason Kidd getting the ax. It will be interesting to see what the Bucks do in terms of a new coach and perhaps strengthening their bench.
We heard they were a “super team”. We heard they felt like a “championship team”. The excuse used for winning just one more regular season game than the season before? They were built for the playoffs. Friday night the Thunder and their “built for the playoffs big three super team” ended their season the same way they did last season with a first-round defeat at the hands of a lesser known Utah Jazz team four games to two. The final Thunder possession sums up all you need to know about this team and their “big three”.
Screw the Blunder. I’d rather talk about how Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell dominated the “super team” on both ends of the court. Ricky Rubio went down in Game Six with a hamstring injury but he was a thorn in the super team's side throughout their series. Rudy Gobert averaged a double-double with two blocks per game. Joe Ingles finished the series with a plus/minus of +11.8. Derrick Favors chipped in with a plus/minus of +9.5 averaging 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds. The Jazz might not be a “super team” but they are a better basketball team with a better coach and SUPERIOR organization that did their fan base proud.
Adios Thunder and good riddance.
Game Seven in Cleveland on Sunday
The Indiana Pacers simply won’t go away. Nor will Victor Oladipo. Oladipo recorded the first postseason Triple Double of his career in Game Six to force a Sunday do or die scenario in Cleveland. Cleveland has been awful defensively the entire season and their 106.8 defensive efficiency rating this series is atrocious. Their offense is worse than their defense. Indiana has dominated this series and if it weren’t for a few bad breaks and a couple of missed calls the Pacers win this series easily. If the Cavs are to move on they will need LeBron James to carry them as Kevin Love has been nonexistent these playoffs. For that matter outside of Kyle Korver, the entire Cavaliers team is MIA. Indiana needs to keep doing what they are doing, maybe get something out of nonexistent Myles Turner, perhaps a break or two goes their way and they beat Cleveland Sunday.
Western Conference Semifinal Preview: Utah vs Houston
This could either be a tremendous series or it could become a Houston rout. Either way, I think this one will be fun to watch and it begins Sunday at 3:30 pm Eastern.
· The matchup between James Harden and Donovan Mitchell should be fun. I’m especially interested in how the rookie Mitchell defends Harden. If the refs let them mix it up a bit Harden might be in for a huge shock.
· Rudy Gobert against Clint Capela is a key matchup. Both players are averaging a double-double for the playoffs. Both are athletic shot blockers. Both are solid rebounders. Gobert has more stamina. Should be a great battle and who wins this will play a huge factor in determining the series winner.
· Ricky Rubio hurt his hamstring in Game Six against the Thunder. His status at this time is undetermined but you can bet if he can walk he will play. Healthy is difficult against Chris Paul; injured and that’s another matter altogether.
· The Jazz bench is ranked 14th in both offense and defense during the playoffs. The Rockets bench is third in offense and seventh in defense. They have a huge edge here.
· Mike D’Antoni is one of the most innovative offensive coaches we’ve ever seen. Quin Snyder knows how to coach what he has. I call this a tossup.
Prediction: The Jazz probably shouldn’t be here and that’s okay. The Rockets are supposed to be here. I say the Rockets win this series in seven games.
Eastern Conference Semifinal Preview: Philadelphia vs Boston
This is going to be a fun series between two young teams and perhaps the beginning of an exciting rivalry. I’m looking forward to Monday night.
· How Boston deals with the 76ers Joel Embiid will probably determine this series. I see plenty of Aaron Baynes and maybe Greg Monroe in Embiid’s future.
· Boston has done a fair job of defending shooting guards. The 76ers J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli each had a big series against Miami. They will need to do the same against Boston.
· Ben Simmons nearly averaged a Triple Double against Miami. He’s going to be a handful for the Celtics. He will have to do this again against a very experienced Al Horford.
· For Boston, it’s really about Horford. If he rolls out his “A” game there is little Embiid can do to stop him.
· Boston is going to have to get physical with this young 76ers team. The 76ers didn’t blink when Miami tried this approach but maybe the Celtics vets like Monroe and Marcus Morris can intimidate these young fellas.
· Stevens has done an incredible job but so has Brett Brown. I give the edge here to Stevens.
Prediction: This 76ers team has plenty of swagger. They are also deeper than the Celtics. I say the 76ers in six games.
Enjoy the NBA this week!!