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Moving to the Second Round

With all teams (sort of) in the same spot, let’s get caught up

LA Clippers v Dallas Mavericks - Game Six Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Being in the Orlando Bubble has produced quite a few “firsts” for us, but one of the weirder nuances to the whole thing has been how playing every other day has effected series. Tonight, for the first time, all second round series will have started. The funny part is that Miami and Milwaukee will be playing Game 3, while the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets will just be tipping off Game 1. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to re-set and look at where every team is at.

Miami Heat vs Milwaukee Bucks

Heat lead 2-0

Oh man, I did not see this coming. I thought Miami had the talent to give Milwaukee a real test, but I didn’t see it resulting in a 2-0 lead. The Bucks now find themselves in desperation mode, as going down 3-0 is a death wish. The problem for the Bucks is that none of what the Heat is doing is unsustainable. Sure, Jae Crowder is shooting it well, but it hasn’t been a big enough outlier yet that you can completely count on it slowing down. Milwaukee had probably identified Crowder as someone they were okay letting shoot 3s, and that has backfired to a certain extent.

As much as this is about Miami, this is much more about the Bucks, and so far the evidence is pretty damning. Mike Budenholzer is a great regular season coach, but his allergy to extending his stars minutes and inability to adjust to schemes on-the-fly is sinking his team’s chances. Miami is taking full advantage of Mikwaukee’s refusal to do anything other than play “drop” coverage, and Bud refuses to adjust. I’ve also began to wonder if Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to go down with Budenholzer. I’m starting to think that because Giannis likes and trusts Bud so much, that he’s unwilling to challenge the coach and suggest adjustments. That’s just my opinion, though. Like, how hard would it be for Milwaukee to switch screening actions that don’t involve Brook Lopez or Kyle Korver?

The bottom line is this — if Milwaukee doesn’t figure it out RIGHT NOW, they will suffer a catastrophic loss with just a year remaining on Giannis’ contract.

Celtics vs Raptors

Celtics lead 2-1

Boston was so, so close to closing this series out last night. They took a late lead after a brilliant dump-off pass from Kemba Walker to Daniel Theis that left just 0.5 seconds on the clock, only for OG Anunoby to inexplicably be left wide open in the corner for a buzzer-beating game-winning three. Boston still is very much in control, but they had a chance to put the nail-in-the-coffin last night. You don’t want to gift a team as great as Toronto a win. The longer this series goes on, the more I would tend to trust Toronto.

This series now has the potential to be the classic that we hoped it would be. Boston matches up incredibly well with Toronto, but if Kyle Lowry performs anywhere near that level for the rest of the series, this could get dicey. I also have a good amount more trust in Nick Nurse than I do Brad Stevens, for whatever that’s worth. I think that advantage widens the longer this series drags on.

Clippers vs Nuggets

Clippers lead 1-0

I think it’s safe to say Denver was a bit tired last night after their grueling 7-game series with Utah. The Nuggets actually performed well in the first quarter, but it was all Clippers after that. This has the looks of a short series, and LAC is surely glad to not see Luka Doncic on the opposing sideline anymore. I’m sure Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray will play well enough for Denver to steal a game, but I’m not confident this series goes past 5 games.

Lakers vs Rockets

Game 1 tonight, 8pm CST

If James Harden ever really wants to repair his postseason reputation, this is his chance. The Lakers are the better team, though the Rockets are not severely at a talent deficit, if they are at all. The way that Denver slowed down last night doesn’t bode particularly well for a Houston team that has been notoriously bad at the end of games anyways. Los Angeles doesn’t have a Lu Dort to hassle Harden with all series, though, which leaves him a chance. He has a chance to take down LeBron James and the mighty Lakers, and some have even argued they SHOULD win this series. I don’t have any sort of trust or faith in that actually happening, though.

The real story here is how different these teams are. Houston is going to go super, super small, as they have all year, while the Lakers love to play big. I know Anthony Davis is allergic to playing center, but you absolutely have to do it in this series unless Javale McGee or Dwight Howard absolutely pulverize the offensive glass. They will otherwise be mostly unplayable. The thing is, LA should look to play Davis at center more anyways. The spacing that playing Davis at the center provides makes a LeBron James-Anthony Davis pick-and-roll virtually impossible to stop.

If you view this series as more of a tune-up before the mega-WCF with the Clippers, LeBron and AD could do worse to get ready for Kawhi and Paul George than dealing with Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker all series long. As a last note, I’m already upset about the first time Anthony Davis tries to post-up James Harden on a switch, which is quite literally the only place James Harden is not a bad defender. With all that said, Lakers in 5, I think.