• What’s up freaks? I know that last week I said I’d be taking a week off before returning to do this column every other week for the offseason, but the Play-In Tournament and the start of the NBA Playoffs have gotten me too jacked to stay away (I will be gone next week though, for real—try to stay strong). My crystal ball has been calling out for me to make some playoff predictions (yeah, some of the games have already been played but let’s not let that stop us from having a good time). Additionally, while there haven’t been a ton of games yet, there have been a ton of numbers, good and bad, and since the offseason will be a time when I’m mostly unable to give y’all The Anomalisticle in its fullest glory, I figured why not keep it going while we still can?  The Circus rolls forever onward!

    Predictions

    In the West

    First Round

    PHX vs. NOP: Suns in four. Head coaches Monty Williams and Willie Green are best friends and two of the more likeable guys in the league. Adding to the intrigue, the Pelicans resurgence has made them a feel-good story. But it ends here for them as Phoenix is superior in every way. Not even a return from Zanos would be enough to stop them.

    DAL vs. UTA: Mavs in seven. Luka will return from his calf injury eventually. Head coach Jason Kidd’s unheralded craftiness and Utah’s chemistry issues will cause another collapse. The Legendary Lord of Ljubljana, Luka Legend, lives on (for one more round anyway).

    GSW vs. DEN: Warriors in five. Nikola Jokić is a sublimely gifted player and he has the skills to singlehandedly snake one win from the Dubs. However, without enough complimentary talent this year, that’s all he will get.

    MEM vs. MIN: Grizzlies in seven. The Wolves are hungry and their size and versatility pose a tough matchup for Memphis but Taylor Jenkins will find a way to outduel Chris Finch in the end.

    Second Round

    PHX vs. DAL: Suns in six. Luka is great but not great enough to outlast CP3 and crew in what will be one of the more slowly paced, methodically executed but highly entertaining series of the whole shebang.

    MEM vs. GSW: Warriors in six. Curry will be fully healthy and the Warriors will have it working at full strength, all of which means Memphis will be forced to take another lump as they attempt to ascend the championship ladder.

    Western Conference Finals

    PHX vs. GSW: Suns in 6. Golden State will give it everything they’ve got but come up just short against a Suns team that’s too powerful down low and simply too determined to be denied a second straight NBA Finals appearance.

    In the East

    First Round

    MIA vs. ATL: Heat in five. Trae Young is clutch enough to keep the Hawks in most of the games but the Hawks are too dinged up and discombobulated to make it much of a series.

    PHI vs. TOR: Sixers in five. Nick Nurse will scheme his way to one win but Joel Embiid’s determination and dominance will prove to be too much for the scrappy but woefully undersized Raptors.

    MIL vs. CHI: Bucks in four. Chicago has been bad against good teams all year and the defending champs are a very good team. Also, as amazing as DeMar DeRozan was this season, his career playoff field goal percentage sits at just 41.4%.

    BOS vs. BKN: Celtics in six. The Celtics outstanding defense will be too stout against a Nets team that can’t guard anyone and requires that both Kyrie and KD have transcendent games for them to win.

    Second Round

    MIA vs. PHI: Sixers in seven. Somehow someway Joel Embiid will get it done in this instant classic of series that may even include a couple of clutch moments from the artist formerly known as Jimbo Slice.

    MIL vs. BOS: Buck in seven. The Celtics will put up a valiant effort but Giannis knows how to lock in come playoff time, Brook Lopez will be a difference maker on both ends down low, and Jrue Holiday will be able to disrupt Boston just enough for the Bucks to advance. And all this to say nothing of Jesus Khris Superstar lurking in the background waiting to cast his light on clutch situations far and wide.

    Eastern Conference Finals

    PHI vs. MIL: Bucks in six. Embiid will be a monster in the series but Harden will turn invisible (yet again) against all that length and the Bucks will move on, spelling the end for Doc Rivers in Philly along the way.

    NBA Finals

    PHX vs. MIL: Suns in seven. This will be a rematch for the ages with both teams at full health. Giannis won’t quite be able to replay his magical run to close out last year’s finals and the Chris Paul haters will have to eat crow forever, or at least they would if not for Devin Booker picking up the Finals MVP with a 27-6-6-ish line and hitting big shots in nearly every game. You heard it here first (unless it’s wrong, in which case I don’t know what you’re talking about)!

    The Anomalisticle

    1 – After this season, LeBron James now averages 27-7-7 for his career despite never having had a single 27/7/7 game.

    2 – In LeBron’s career, he’s faced every Eastern Conference team in the playoffs (excluding the Cavs) and has eliminated every team except for the Orlando Magic.

    3 – Believe it or not, Oshae Brissett finished the season as the Pacers’ leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

    4 – Dorian Finney-Smith (Doe-Doe if you’re nasty) has increased his scoring and 3-point accuracy in each of his five NBA seasons and is the first player in NBA history to increase both categories over any five-year span.

    5 – Zach LaVine ended his streak of 478 regular season games without a playoff appearance, leaving Buddy Hield as the current active leader with 468.

    6 – Before this weekend there had never been more than two players aged 22 or younger to score 30+ points in a playoff game on the same day. On Saturday, there were four: Tyrese Maxey (21, 38 points), Anthony Edwards (20, 36 points), Ja Morant (22, 32 points), and Jordan Poole (22, 30 points).

    7 – The Sixers had only three turnovers in Game 1 vs. the Raptors, setting the record for fewest in ever in a playoff game.

    8 – Trae Young averaged 24 points and five assists on 60/46/87 shooting in the second halves of the Play-In games.

    9 – In the last 30 years only five rookies have ever averaged 35+ minutes and appeared in 70+ games on a playoff team: Penny Hardaway (93-94), Tim Duncan (97-98), Carmelo Anthony (03-04), Derrick Rose (08-09), and Scottie Barnes (21-22). Fit the man for his HOF jacket already!

    10 – Last night, Chris Paul supplanted Steve Nash as the oldest player ever to record 30 points and 10 assists in a playoff game.

    11 – With last night’s 13-offensive rebound, 12-defensive rebound game, Jonas Valanciunas became the first player with a 12 & 12 rebound game since 1975.

    12 – The Suns are 137-47 since the bubble.

    13 – The Bucks have won 14 straight games over the Bulls dating back to 2017, a season which some might remember for the Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotić incident.

    14 – In last year’s playoffs, Devin Booker averaged 27.3 points and joined Dr. J (27.3 in ’77), LBJ (30.8 in ’06) and Ice Trae (28.8 in ’21) as the only players to average 27+ points (minimum 10 games) in their first playoff action.

    15 – Duncan Robinson’s Game 1 of 27 points on 9-10 FG, 8-9 3PT and 130.0 eFG% was the most points scored at that level of efficiency in NBA Playoffs history.

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