After a three-day hiatus, the NBA Playoffs are back today. In case you live under a rock, let’s get caught up quickly about what’s gone on the past few days before we get to the actual basketball.
In response to Jacob Blake being shot seven times in the back by cops, the Milwaukee Bucks chose to boycott game 5 of their series against the Orlando Magic, which led to the rest of the games being boycotted/cancelled on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. There are various stories and rumors flying out of the “bubble”, but I’ll let you find and interpret those on your own.
In the end, the players were able to, among other things, make sure that every NBA arena will be opened up and used as a voting site for the 2020 Presidential Election. That’s the biggest thing in the present/immediate future, but I would guess they will be apart of other actions moving forward.
I don’t feel qualified to speak on much, but I thought that Zach Lowe’s most recent episode of The Lowe Post with ESPN’s Malika Andrews as well as William Rhoden of The Undefeated did about as good of a job of parsing through what is going on, and what the players want, as well you could ask for. I would encourage each of you to listen if you can spare an hour of your time.
Anyways, the playoffs are back in action today, so let’s get caught up with where things currently stand in each series.
Lakers vs Blazers
Los Angeles is up 3-1 in this one, and with Damian Lillard injured should close this one out in a neat and tidy five games. It took a few games, but the Lakers are back to looking like the championship contender that they are, in large part because of how great LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been, but it’s helped immensely that other guys started making shots. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in particular has started to hit some shots. The Lakers’ role players are going to be vital moving forward.
After taking the first two games, Houston has let Oklahoma City back into the series which is now tied at two games apiece. Russell Westbrook is set to make his postseason debut, which should give Houston a big boost. James Harden’s raw stats are good/fine, but hes been getting worn down and has struggled in the fourth quarters of games, which is to be expected when you carry as big of a load as he has against Lugentz Dort for 40 minutes a night. This is anybody’s ball game, but if Westbrook can get up to speed quickly enough he should push Houston over the top, setting up a must-see matchup with the Lakers.
This has somehow become one of the two most entertaining series of the entire first round, mostly due to the fact that Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray are cementing themselves as stars in the league. Both were promising young players who weren’t super consistent, but have been absolutely incredible in this series. If you want to talk about guys who are more valuable in a playoff setting than in an 82-game regular season, these are your guys. They’ve been creating at a high level all series and have been able to just carry their teams with ridiculous shot-making. The series stands at 3-2 in favor of Utah, but this would’ve been over a while ago if not for Murray.
Jamal Murray’s last two games:— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 26, 2020
⬜️ 92 PTS
⬜️ 35-57 FG
⬜️ 13-23 3PT
⬜️ 19 REB
⬜️ 15 AST
⬜️ 0 TOV
Coach Mike Malone: “Turning into a superstar on the biggest stage” pic.twitter.com/lwQDEZGTcl
This has been the best series of the first round so far, mostly due to the sheer star-power. Luka Doncic had his most memorable moment as an NBA player when he drilled a step-back three in game four to tie the series at two games apiece, but Paul George finally woke up and played like, well, Paul George in a game five blowout. With the series standing at 3-2, and Kawhi Leonard again looking like a different animal in the playoffs, Los Angeles will likely come away victorious, especially due to Kristap Porzingis’ injury sidelining him for the remainder of the series. We won’t soon forget Luka’s playoff debut, though. That kid is special.
Bucks vs Magic
This is the only first-round series remaining, and it should conclude shortly. Milwaukee is up 3-1 and has dominated the series since dropping game one. They just need to take care of business in order to set up a great matchup with Miami in the second round.
The NBA is moving full-steam ahead with the second round here, and man, I could not be more excited for this series. Assuming everyone plays, we are going to be so lucky to watch these two teams play each other. I’m guessing it’s a 7-game series. The talent and length at the guard/wing spots is tantalizing on both teams. The Celtics might have a slight talent advantage with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, and Jaylen Brown, but Toronto isn’t short on talent and Nick Nurse was the Coach of the Year for a reason. This is going to be an awesome chess match. If you made me pick one, I’d take Toronto, only because I think as a team they can do enough to bother Tatum and make him less efficient than Boston would like. This really is a coin-flip, though.