1. Blowouts and blowing leads have been the theme
Here’s something we’ve witnessed in each conference finals game so far: one team holding a double-digit lead at one point. What does it mean? Not much, because we’ve seen both blowouts and comebacks.
In the East, Miami won Game 1 by 11 points thanks to a huge third quarter, though Boston also held a double-digit lead for much of the first half. The Celtics responded in Game 2 with a 25-point blowout. The Heat retook homecourt advantage with a wire-to-wire win in Game 3, but they almost blew a 25-point lead after Jimmy Butler missed the second half due to a knee injury.
Out West, Golden State gave Dallas a 25-point drubbing in Game 1. The Mavs held a 19-point lead in Game 2, only for the Dubs to mount a big second-half comeback.
Some leads are safe, some are not. Nothing makes sense, that’s why I’ve been off with my predictions this postseason. All I know is I prefer to watch 48-minute nip and tuck games than blow jobs: blow outs and blown leads.
2. Dallas is in bigger trouble than people would like to admit
We all like to make comparisons. The Mavs went down 2-0 against the Suns and managed to win the series. So going down 2-0 against the Warriors is familiar territory, right? Not quite. Dallas managed to build big leads in their four wins against the Suns. But as I mentioned in this column before, the Suns weren’t a great comeback team because they don’t take and make enough threes. The Dubs are synonymous with three-point shooting and we just saw how they erased a 19-point lead and won by nine.
The Mavs are all Luka, all the time, and as we saw in the first round with Nikola Jokic, the Dubs do a good enough job defensively to prevent one player from beating them. The Mavs have more offensive weapons compared to the depleted Nuggets, but the ones Dallas have don’t offer enough offensive variety. They shoot threes and, apart from Jalen Brunson, don’t do much else. When the three-ball stops falling, they have difficulty manufacturing points. That won’t cut it in the conference finals.
You know what the Mavs are missing right now? A lob guy who can run pick-and-rolls with Luka and catch easy alley-oops and crash the offensive board. You know, someone like the guy they ran off the floor the previous round, Deandre Ayton.
3. What’s up with Steve Kerr’s facemask
The mask mandate has been lifted in California for quite some time now, yet Kerr still shows up to work wearing one. He recently tested positive for Covid and was probably being cautious. But he pulls it down whenever he talks, which makes zero sense.
Is he trying to infect Jason Kidd or doesn’t he know how masks work?
4. Rant on the new crop of NBA-players-turned-studio-analysts
One thing I dislike about the current sports media landscape is this trend of current/ex- NBA players of a certain generation (those born after 1980) gaining prominence as analysts in big networks. The new breed is different from the Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith types, who may be irreverent (Chuck) or articulate (Kenny) but entertaining. Most of these new guys take themselves too seriously and also happen to be politically correct woke hacks. They think they’re better than everyone else and act as if they are entitled to monopolize the discussion–basketball and beyond–just because their CV includes an NBA career.
TNT signed Draymond Green to a lucrative contract and he went after Bill Simmons a couple of weeks ago when BS said “f— Jalen Green” in his podcast in reference to Jalen’s inclusion in the All-Rookie Team. Draymond took to Instagram to question Simmons’s qualifications to have an opinion on Jalen. He asked, “What work has [Simmons] done in this life that qualifies him to have a say in an NBA players salary?” Um, he’s a sportswriter FFS. One of the most successful ones in the last 20 years. Of course, Dray’s subtext is that since Simmons didn’t play in the NBA, he should have no say. I’m just sick of this narcissism and gatekeeping. First of all, Draymond went to Michigan State, which isn’t even close to being the best school in the state of Michigan in terms of academics (that would be University of Michigan, which is ranked some 60 places ahead of MSU in the U.S. News rankings). Second, from a purely basketball perspective, he isn’t that guy. As Charles Barkley said, he’s the least famous person in the boy band. He’s Howie Dorough (thanks, Google). More importantly, the biggest reason why the NBA has thrived in the social media era is because fans can talk about players and teams freely. Sure, it can get toxic, but people are engaged and that translates to billions of revenues for the NBA. And Dray wants to exclude us fans? Go f— yourself, Dray.
You know who else felt the same way about Draymond? Stephen A. Smith’s new sparring partner at First Take, “Mad Dog” Chris Russo. Neither Stephen A. nor Russo played in the NBA, so of course the third wheel, ESPN’s newest Mr. Smartest Guy In The Room, JJ Redick, had to pull his white guilt, virtue-signaling, race-baiting schtick. JJ might be surprised to learn that it’s not just people of a certain color who are sick of listening to Dray. But of course, ESPN is a sucker for that type of content and they’ve rewarded Redick with tons of media exposure this postseason. His tandem with Mark Jones is the absolute worst. And why the hell does he sound like Jay Bilas? Is that a Duke thing?
But what got me really riled up is when Redick compared Bob Cousy’s era to “firemen and plumbers.” Really? Is that the breadth of your “expert” analysis that you wished to share on national TV? Frankly, that take was about as insightful as a typical Twitter LeBron stan living in his mother’s basement.
Such an idiotic and disrespectful barbershop take. The problem with many of these cross-era comparisons is that they don’t bother to adjust for the benefits of the modern era. So they’ll time machine someone from today’s game and say, “oh, he would have dominated the 60’s.” Okay, but the skills of today’s players are built on the evolution of the game. So if you want to plug a modern NBA player back to the 60’s, the fair thing to do is strip that player all the benefits of evolution. You can’t simply “time machine” him; the question should be, “what if he were born in that era?” It’s a bit like sending a physics graduate from a second-tier university to the 17th century. He’ll have more knowledge than Isaac Newton, because of course he does. Newton’s works made all that knowledge possible.
The same logic applies if you want to bring Cousy to the modern game. You can’t take that snapshot of him and say that he’d have played the same way we saw on film. You must give him the same advantages that people born in the modern era enjoyed. Youth competition, analytics, conditioning techniques, the whole shebang. If you give Cousy these benefits, it’s more likely that he would have been like Steve Nash rather than Dan Dickau.
Anyway, I loved how Cousy responded to Redick’s asinine take. The 93-year-old former MVP, 13-time All-Star, 12-time All-NBA, and 6-time champ said, “People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people and hopefully getting some attention and perhaps increasing their credibility.” Got that right, Cooz. Redick was a one-dimensional player with as many All-Star games as championships: zero. In that way, he’s not much different from us “normal” fans. Cousy then defended the “plumbers and firemen” of his era, such as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West, among others. That ought to shut JJ up.
5. Throwback video of the week
Speaking of disrespect, last week marked the 28th anniversary of one of the most disrespectful dunks of all-time. Scottie Pippen served up a facial on rival Patrick Ewing and walked over him for good measure. If you thought Allen Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue was insolent, this was ten times worse. Pip practically shoved his balls to Ewing’s face.