September 7, 2020, 1:22 am
Labor Day Weekend and that means exactly what you think it means. More playoff basketball tidbits from yours truly. Come back to sit by one of the last campfires of the year for what I hope aren’t hoop horror stories.
Brent Rambo Player of the Night
Here are a couple of players you may or may not have drafted for this sweet Bubblicious flavor of b-ball played who well enough on Sunday to warrant an emphatic opening credits thumbs up.
Bam Adebayo, C, Miami Heat – 44 minutes, 26 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, one steal, 10-of-13 FG, 6-fo-6 FT.
I don’t normally hype up a player on the losing side of the game but Miami is still up 3-1 in this series so I just want to put some respect on Bam Adebayo’s name. Not like he needs any further unless you’re an absolutely know-nothing like Colin Cowherd but Sunday’s Game 4 was a demonstration on why Bam is a star in this league and that he only has room to grow.
I’ll just call out that when Bam Adebayo has the ball at the elbow or top of the key, good things happen for the Miami Heat. The motion in the offense creates so many good looks for shooters like Duncan Robinson, Jae Crowder, Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic because Bam is so adept and finding them in rhythm. It’s a bit surreal that Erik Spoelstra was able to turn him into another Nikola Jokic despite not being a full-time player prior to this season. The next step for Bam could easily be taking a step out into 3-point territory and given how smooth his mid-range jumper looked today, is well within the realm of possibility for the big guy.
And about that one other knock on Bam’s game, he’s been shooting 85% from the stripe this postseason. There shouldn’t be any more questions about whether or not Bam can replicate his breakout season. You should wonder just how high he can be taken in next year’s drafts.
LeBron Yelling at J.R. Player of the Night
Break out your favorite facepalm gifs and eye roll emojis to let out all of your playoff time frustrations.
There’s no real need for me to harp on what we already know any further. Russell Westbrook is doing to live and die by getting to the basket and you can understand why he might be a little gun shy these past couple of games. After all, LeBron has been making it a habit of making his life miserable with some very disrespectful blocks already in this series.
But the Lakers are too good defensively to let Westbrook beat them that way. So they switched up a bit and allowed Russ all the open looks he could handle. I think there may be such a thing as being too open because Westbrook apparently can’t handle all of that daylight.
This was an awful shooting night for Russ and the problem is he can’t have too many of these. Harden is going to get his and sure, Eric Gordon, Robert Covington and PJ Tucker will all chip in from deep. But the difference in this team pulling off an upset will be Westbrook, the guy that they brought in to be the second star on this team, figuring out how to start knocking down more shots from deep. Russ has always been an inefficient player so the Rockets need to hope a small sample of deep shooting can swing back the other way quickly.
The Draymond on Steven Adams Report
Any injury that happens during the playoffs is going to be a kick in the nards for those of us who have horses still in this race. For those of you reading and wondering if any of your team’s players are on here, I hope you’re wearing a cup.
We begin with the saga of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who, going into the do-or-die game, was a game-time decision. We didn’t think there’d be any chance that Giannis would go down without a fight and sure enough he came out swinging. But the basketball Gods seemingly saved their cruelty for the Bucks mighty Zeus and he reinjured his ankle and was unable to return in Game 4. The Bucks were able to hold off a sweep but we have to believe that Giannis will be extremely questionable to play in Game 5. We shall see if there’s one more Herculean effort in him and his ankle can withstand further punishment.
Kelly Olynyk returned to the Heat lineup despite dealing with a knee injury. He only played 10 minutes but the Heat will happily welcome back a big part of their scary depth.
Nikola Jokic popped up on the injury list with a wrist sprain and we don’t even want to know what could happen to the Nuggets without their franchise player against the Clippers.
Patrick Beverley is still being hampered by his calf injury and will be on a minutes limit for the Clippers in Game 3.
Anthony Davis briefly left Sunday night’s game after a fall but wasn’t out for very long and returned to terrorize the Rockets.
Dion Waiters left the game with a groin pull which I guess makes him a not-so-Iron Island. Waiters wasn’t getting much run this postseason so we may not see him much anymore but then again, what is dead may never die.
JaVale McGee also left Game 2 due to an ankle injury and with Dwight Howard being relegated to the bench, the Lakers wound up inadvertently matching the Rockets’ small ball. Markieff Morris wound up getting a ton of minutes off the bench and it could end up being the difference in this series.
No single item to really draw at as we start to wind down the season so here are some quick hitting thoughts on what is going on around the league.
– I love the Steve Nash hire. Yes, I always caveat this with I am a brazen Nets homer but Nash is one of the greatest of all-time. He was a revolutionary guard and if you’re going to have a team with a couple of will-be and could-be Hall-of-Famers, it carries weight when there’s someone of that caliber calling the shots. Regardless, this hire doesn’t happen without Kevin Durant’s say so, so if Nash was chosen by one of the greatest to ever lace them up, then I am all in on my basketball idol being the lead man on the sidelines for this team.
– I’ve been saying that Nash’s biggest challenge won’t be getting buy-in from KD and Kyrie. Those two wanted to play together from the get-go and they’re offensive geniuses so they were going to be fine no matter who was picked to be in charge. No, Nash will need to figure out how to make sure Caris LeVert remains the third star everyone believes he can be. LeVert won’t nearly get the kind of usage he got while in the Bubble so the question is what will Nash do to make sure he stays involved and makes defenses pay when they become too focused on the Big Two.
– Props to Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe for getting far more aggressive offensively after Giannis departed. It was a big shift from them waiting for Giannis to create offense to them creating it on their own. Middleton has still been excellent but we’ve been waiting for Bledsoe to have a game that mattered and he finally did. If there’s any chance of the Bucks not being sent home far earlier than anyone expected, Bledsoe needs to keep playing like this for another three games.
– That said, this Bucks team is showing its age. This team looks like a team that has a core in their 30s trying to keep up with a younger, deeper and more aggressive team and they’ve barely been able to. The whispers are getting louder about a potential Giannis departure and the construct of this team might be enough to question whether these aging deer in headlights are the right supports to help Giannis to win a championship.
– Rajon Rondo really bounced back in Game 2 and I enjoyed the Rondo, Caruso, James, Morris, and Davis lineup. Given the injuries, trade deadline, and pandemic, it’s a lineup that the Lakers haven’t used much if at all before, but it really was the difference maker so far in the series.
– We know Kemba Walker will take more than nine shots and we know Jaylen Brown won’t go 4-for-18 again but will that be enough for the Celtics? It’s amazing how quickly the narrative can change and now we need to see if Jayson Tatum is up to the challenge of taking over.