1. Jordan Poole, I.C.G. champ
Jordan Poole now officially holds the Irrational Confidence Guy (I.C.G.) championship belt. The Sports Guy Bill Simmons defined the I.C.G. as “the guy who isn’t one of the team’s best players, but he’ll have stretches in which he THINKS he is.” That’s Poole in a nutshell.
No, I still don’t think he’s the third Splash Brother. If Poole were cryptocurrency, my take on him would be as warm as Warren Buffett’s. But he’s having himself a postseason like Jason Terry had one helluva playoffs in 2011.
It’s been a tough past half-decade for irrational confidence guys. J.R. Smith was washed and turned into a student-athlete. Dion Waiters’ irrational confidence extended beyond the court. The best we had last year was Tim Hardaway Jr. So, yeah, the NBA definitely needed someone like Poole to take the belt.
2. Why the Suns aren’t a great comeback team
Dallas made it a series after winning Game 3 against the top-seeded Suns and spoiling Chris Paul 37th birthday. The big story was how Luka Doncic’s supporting cast finally showed up, with Jalen Brunson scoring a game-high 28, and Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber all chipping in with at least 14 apiece.
This was the Suns’ third loss this postseason and one common theme in all those losses is that Phoenix has been unable to make a comeback whenever their opponents had at least a three-possession lead in the fourth quarter (i.e., at least seven points). In their wins, the biggest fourth quarter deficit they’ve faced was three in Game 6 against the Pelicans (though New Orleans le by as much as ten in the first half). In Game 3, the Mavs took the lead midway through the first quarter and never looked back.
One reason why the Suns have had difficulty making up deficits is because the team doesn’t take many threes. Among the eight teams remaining in the playoffs, the Suns rank dead last in terms of both attempts and makes (27.1 and 9.9). They were bottom third in both categories too in the regular season, so it’s not unusual for the Suns. Three is more than two, and math tells us that it’s more difficult to cut into the lead if you’re only getting two points at a time.
In the previous round, I remember Steve Kerr shrugging off an eight-point deficit against the Nuggets like it was nothing during an in-game interview before the start of the fourth quarter. He was proven correct as the Warriors quickly erased the deficit. The Suns don’t have that same ability, which leaves them vulnerable against a team that gets hot.
The silver lining for the Suns is that it’s the playoffs and their opponents would need to shoot the lights out for four games. After all, in the NBA’s 75-year history, the only jump-shooting team to have won the title was the 2015 Warriors (the KD Warriors were a different animal). So it’s not really a cause of concern for the Suns, but more of a curiosity. Can’t wait for the WCF.
3. Debate about the Bucks’ endgame strategy
The Bucks escaped with a Game 3 win and the controversial call at the end has renewed discussions whether the team up by three should take a foul to send the other team to the line for two free throws. Jrue Holiday looked to have intentionally fouled Marcus Smart with 4.6 seconds remaining; the refs called it on the ground but the Celtics felt that Smart had already started his swinging motion and should have been awarded three free throws.
It worked out in the end for the Bucks—barely, because they couldn’t secure the defensive rebound. It’s difficult to create a universal rule whether a team should foul or not in those instances. I’d say it depends on the opponent and the specific situation. If you’re playing against the Warriors, take the foul because they have at least three guys capable of tying the game. But the Celtics aren’t the Warriors and the ballhandler was Smart, a 33% three-point shooter for the season and has only made 1-of-4 for the night. I’d have taken my chances with Jrue, an all-world defender, playing him straight up.
4. Throwback video of the week
Twelve years ago, the then reigning I.C.G. champ Jason Terry splashed a career-high and then-NBA playoff record-tying nine 3-pointers in 25 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers. Terry outscored the Lakers in the second quarter, 17-16, as the Mavs led 63-39 at halftime. That was the Mavs’ 8th win in the 2011 playoffs, which was retrospectively an important milestone as it marked the halfway point of their magical 2011 title run.