May 9, 2022, 8:08 pm
Greetings, my hoop-headed freaks and die-hard numerophiles! I had hoped to drop this update last week but seeing as how I was out of commission due to my own stint in the COVID protocols, I hope y’all will forgive me. The first round of the playoffs was filled with action galore and, so far, the second round has been more of the same with both the Mavs and Sixers taking a cue from yours truly and coming with the resurgence. Almost none of my predictions came out perfectly for the first round in terms of nailing the exact number of games played, but I was able to correctly predict the winner in every series. Yes, it was chalk all the way, but a win is a win, right? In any event, let’s dig a little deeper into those matchups.
In the first round of the Western Conference, I had the Suns sweeping the Pelicans and while the series was far more competitive than I thought it would be, the Suns were able to handle their business in the end. Pelicans fans have to love what they saw and the future is looking bright in the Big Easy. Herb Jones, Jose Alvarado and Larry Nance look like a defensive nightmare moving forward although it will be fascinating to see how Zion’s return affects the whole squad.
I had the Mavs overcoming Luka’s injury to take the Jazz (and their chemistry issues) in seven but they overperformed slightly and got it done in six. As a die-hard Mavs fan, I cannot tell you how much fun it was to watch Jesus Brunson put Rudy Gobert in the blender over and over. Mark Cuban better pay that man. I think he will, in fact I’m relatively certain that the Kristaps Porzingis trade was all about trying to create an easier path to re-sign the Villanova legend.
I had the Warriors winning in five and they won in five. Anybody with their head screwed on straight should have seen this coming. Nikola Jokić is a force of nature but the Warriors are playing with several forces of nature at the moment and are looking like legitimate title contenders.
I thought Memphis would have a tough matchup in Minnesota and that proved to be the case, although the Wolves succumbed to the Grizzlies in six games rather than the seven games that I foresaw. The Wolves had a legit chance to win the series and you have to wonder what all those blown leads will do to their mentality heading in to next season.
In the Eastern Conference’s first round, I had Miami taking it over the Hawks in five due mainly to the Hawks’ injuries and lack of cohesive play. The Heat won in five and made me look good while displaying their knack for making other teams look bad. They’re deep and talented and should be pretty terrifying to the whole league at this point. But can Butler and Lowry stay healthy?
I had the Sixers in five but a scrappy Raptors squad pushed them to six before giving in to too much Joel Embiid. Too bad the Sixers also had a few too many Embiid minutes of their own as my bracket may have gotten busted right along with the big fella’s orbital bone. Still, they have the high-end talent (if they can act right) that it requires to rally and are already looking like they may do just that.
I had the Bucks sweeping the Bulls and while that didn’t happen, the Bucks are looking every bit the part of defending champions, even displaying the potential to overcome the Khris Middleton injury along the way. I couldn’t understand why many experts were fading them before the playoffs and I stand firm in my belief that they have what it takes to make the Finals again.
Like many, I thought the Celtics would win a tough series with the Nets based on their outstanding defense and the Nets’ complete lack thereof. Destroying KD’s soul was not even on my bingo card, however, and while it hasn’t done enough to make me rethink my predictions for the rest of Boston’s run, it has made wonder if the title window has snapped shut for Brooklyn (if indeed it ever was truly open).
My second-round predictions (and beyond) remain unchanged despite everything we’ve seen thus far because what the heck would be the point of that?
In the West, I still like the Suns over the Mavs (despite my status as a MFFL) and I still like the Warriors over the Grizzlies. I picked the Suns to beat the Warriors and while I’m less confident about that now, I’m still 100% confident that it’s going to be tremendous to watch unfold.
In the East? I’m a little less confident about the Sixers but, as I said before, they still have plenty of time and plenty of talent. I have zero faith in Doc Rivers though, and if Embiid is unable to be a difference maker that’s going to be all she wrote for Philly. The Bucks are doing an excellent job of exposing the depth and physical limitations of the Celtics and they have far and away the best player in the series so I still feel pretty good about that and, again, I still feel good about their chances to get out of the East.
As far as the NBA Finals are concerned, there’s nothing I’ve seen thus far that’s made me feel too nervous about my Suns-in-seven prediction and I still think Devin Booker will bring home the MVP trophy if they do win it all. A lot could change between now and then and the Warriors are looking pretty dang ferocious but, all in all, as a basketball fan, the rest of the season has the potential to be a classic.
*If this week’s list seems a little scattershot to you, just know that it does to me as well. What can I say? That’s what happens when you try to compile statistics while under the influence of a full viral load.
1 – In Game 1 against the Pelicans, Jae Crowder became the first playoff starter ever to record a quadruple-one (heretofore know as a ‘Crowder’), recording one point, one rebound, one assist and one block in 28 minutes. He was also a plus-11.
2 – The Suns’ Game 2 loss to the Pelicans dropped Chris Paul to 0-14 in playoff games with Scott Foster as a referee.
3 – It wasn’t all bad for CP3, as he also registered his sixth career playoff game with at least 10 assists and zero turnovers. That’s two more than any other player in the 45 seasons since individual turnovers have been tracked.
4- Brandon Ingram posted 55 points, 16 rebounds and 13 assists over his first two NBA Playoff games, a mark bested only by the Big O, Oscar Robertson.
5 – In Game 5 against the Pelicans, Mikal Bridges joined LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter as one of only six players to ever record a playoff stat line of 30-plus points, four-plus 3-pointers and four-plus blocks.
6 – In the same game, Bridges took and defended the same amount of shots, shooting 12-of-17 while only giving up 3-of-17 to his opponents.
7 – Even more impressive, the man some call Noodles, and others The Warden, did all that while looking like the love child of all four original members of The Pharcyde.
8 – Jose Alvarado forced Chris Paul into consecutive games (Games 4 and 5) with an 8-second violation which may or may not have led to this nonsense.
9 – Trae Young’s 25 field goals against 30 turnovers was the first time in the 3-point era that a player has ever had fewer buckets than turnovers in a single postseason.
10 – The Grizzlies’ rallies against the Wolves made them the first team in NBA history to have multiple wins in a single series after trailing by double-digits to start the 4th quarter. The 2020 Heat are the only other team to even hit that mark two times in a single postseason.
11 – In their 88 games this season, the Wolves blew three double-digit 4th quarter leads. All of them were to Memphis and all were by 13 or more points.
12 – While non-playoff related, this season the magic and the Thunder became the only teams ever to attempt 3,000 or more 3-pointers while making fewer than 1,000 of them.
13 – Through his first 15 career playoff games, Luka Dončić posted 499 points, 137 rebounds and 133 assists. The only other player to ever reach even 450-plus, 125-plus and 125-plus is the aforementioned Oscar Robertson.
14 – Prior to Round 1 against the Jazz, Jalen Brunson had never scored 20 points in a playoff game. He did it in all six games against the Jazz.
15 – In that series, Jesus Brunson scored 167 points against only four turnovers, the most all time in a playoff series by a player with less than five.
16 – Game 1 between the Warriors and Grizzlies was the first playoff game ever in which three players aged 22 or younger each had 30+ points (Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jordan Poole).
17 – It also marked the most combined Js hit by players with at least one J for an initial (I made this up).
18 – Ja and JJJ joined Brandon Ingram/CJ McCollum, Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson as the only duos to score 30+ points in the same game this postseason. All of them lost.
19 – Kyrie Irving is 11-11 in career playoff games without LeBron James. In those games he has averaged 21.9 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 43% from the field and 34.7% from deep.
20 – Anthony Edwards scored 151 points in his first playoff series. That’s the most ever by a player aged 20 or younger in NBA History.
21 – Joel Embiid has had a string of bad luck in his post season career. 2018: Fractured left orbital bone. 2019: Lingering left knee injury. 2020: Ben Simmons knee surgery. 2021: Torn right meniscus. 2022: Torn ligament in right thumb, concussion and a fractured right orbital bone. Sheesh.
22 – The Grizzlies led the league in rebounding and points in the paint during the regular season but are currently being beaten by the Warriors in both categories.
23 – Chris Paul’s 33 points on 14-for-14 shooting in Game 6 vs. the Pelicans was the most ever by a guard without a miss. The next five players on that list are as follows: Tony Allen (27, 12-for-12), Ish Smith (26, 9-for-9), Bobby Jackson (25, 9-for-9), Nick Van Exel (24, 9-for-9), and THE GOD TONY SNELL who had 24 perfect points on a faultless 9-for-9 from the floor.