Another 2 game slate today. We start off with Milwaukee and Miami in game 1 of their second round match up and we close with game 6 of the OKC/Houston series.
We open with a moments silence to honour the memory of former Georgetown coach, John Thompson. A legendary coach and an even better man. I’m sure basketball fans and those around the world are proud of all you accomplished, on and off the court. R.I.P.
I have a lot to say about this game. I’m not going to talk about the officiating, but do they have to spend so long reviewing out of bounds plays? It was such a great game of basketball and they just dragged the last two minutes out. It sucked all the momentum out of watching it. It’s important to get the right call, but it didn’t need to take so long each time. That’s all I’m going to say. Otherwise, this was a very enjoyable game of basketball (well officiated too). Milwaukee made a statement in the first quarter and Miami answered right back in the second. It felt like neither team really had an edge throughout the remainder of the game. Anytime one would get ahead, the other would bring it right back. After the first quarter, in which they allowed 40 points, Miami’s defense was astonishing. They only gave up 64 points for the remaining 3 quarters, helping them to pick up the 115-104 victory.
I want to talk about Giannis first. I could be looking into this too much, but I think he looked gassed early on in this game. It was only a little over a minute into the game and Giannis was at the line to shoot a couple of free throws. He looked to be breathing very heavily for such an early part of the game. He was subbed out after about 5 minutes. It’s not super unusual for coach Bud to use a lot of substitutions, but to me it seemed like something might be off with Giannis. He was terrible at the free throw line and even air balled one, usually a sign of exhaustion. It might be worth keeping an eye on him for the rest of this series. Defensively, it was easy to see when he was on the bench. Miami seemed to score with relative ease inside the paint. A couple of plays Giannis was out there though and he just remained out of play and let the paint go unguarded. Again, maybe I’m looking into it too much, but I did notice it a few times. There were also some plays when it seemed like Adebayo was just having his way with Giannis. It’s not often you see Giannis overpowered, especially inside. He had a few big plays in the game, especially out in transition? He’s basically unstoppable on the break. He moves with such speed and plays so smart. It’s almost a guaranteed bucket. He will either score, get fouled or find an open shooter because everyone collapses on him. He almost had a triple/double (18/10/9) but I rarely felt his impact in this game. I know it was in part due to Miami’s defense, but Giannis just wasn’t himself out there today.
Every time I criticise someone and say they won’t have an effective series, they are determined to prove me wrong. First it was Vucevic. It looks like it might be Middleton’s turn to make me look stupid. He scored the ball very well in this game and was aggressively looking to get involved. He finished on 28 points on 50% shooting, both from the field and from deep. Lopez also shot the ball well, he finished with 24 points on a very impressive 80%, including going 4 of 6 from the three point line.
It was the classic one-two punch for Miami. The dynamic duo of Butler and Dragic struck again. My man Jimmy G Buckets had a game for the ages, especially late. Talk about clutch. He was unstoppable in the fourth. Butler lead Miami with a very impressive 40 point game. Dragic seemed to score with ease, especially in the paint. He finished with 27 points.
I can’t give all the credit to those two though, it was a very impressive team effort (like always) from the Heat. Bam had another double/double (12/17) but his best work won’t show up on the stat sheet. He was so pivotal in just about every play in this game. He would screen well and his presence alone was enough to make an impact on Milwaukee’s offense. He is also such an effective passer. Crowder hit some important shots early. If he can make Milwaukee’s defense suffer for leaving him open, it’ll make it hard for the Bucks to prevent Miami scoring. The rookie Tyler Herro had another solid game. He doesn’t look like a rookie out there. His numbers don’t jump out, but we he needed to hit a 3, he did.
It was a great job by Miami to get this win. Milwaukee will have to be mad at themselves for losing this one. As great as Miami played, Milwaukee left a lot of free points at the line. They only just scraped over 50% at the free throw line, finishing 14 out of 26. You will not win a closely contested playoff game when you leave that many points behind. Just one another note. I already mentioned about Bud and his deep rotations. I know he substitutes a lot, but tonight felt like a hockey game. Guys constantly coming in and out of the lineup. I think it’s a good idea to shorten the rotation and increase the minutes of some of the guys. One thing I’ve consistently noticed about the Bucks so for is they are struggling to get into a rhythm. In think they might just need more court time and more consistent time on the court. I understand the appeal of playing more guys, but I think it’s hurting them more than anything.
We were lucky to get two good games today! OKC and Houston was an ugly and chippy playoff game. I think it’s fair to say no one expected these two teams to have a grind it out kind of game. There was a very large amount of turnovers in this game, they were both equally careless. It hurt Houston more in the end (I’ll get to that in a minute). It was a nail-biting finish, OKC managing to force a game 7 after grinding out a 104-100 victory. Let’s get into the recap, I have a few things I want to address.
Let’s talk about Westbrook and by default, the turnovers in this game. A lot of them seemed unforced. Poor passing, bad fouls, careless ball handling. This one had it all. Westbrook wasn’t the only culprit, but he was easily worse than anyone. He could not pass to save himself tonight. He is also had the single worse turnover of the night. On one of the final possessions tonight, down by 2, Westbrook throws it out of bounds. Game over. Rockets have to start the foul game and go on to lose. He was lucky to only have 7 turnovers in the end, so many more of his passes were off the mark. Westbrook could of easily ended up with 10 or more turnovers. Still, none of that really matters. He cost his team a chance at the win tonight.
Schroder seemed to be annoying everyone tonight. I don’t mean that as an insult, his was making his presence felt defensively. He even managed to annoy his own teammate, Steven Adams. At one point it seemed Adams wanted to have a conversation with the referee but Schroder didn’t want him to. It ended in a bit of shoving match and a bit of heated talking, but it didn’t seem to amount to anymore than that.
After a slow start offensively, Harden managed to get it going and hit some huge shots. He was so good in transition. So were all of the Rockets tonight. I don’t know why he is always so happy to settle for a three point shot though. Get inside! He moves so well in the paint and gets to the free throw line with ease. He was 3/11 from downtown tonight. In such a closely contested game, every miss really hurts. If you could trade just one of those misses for a lay-up, it’s likely a different result on the scoreboard tonight.
Let’s get to the MVP of the game, Chris Paul. Talk about clutch. Now that I bring that up, I actually want to go off topic a bit. When did “Clutch” become an actual statistic? I liked it better when clutch didn’t have a definition. You can watch a game of basketball and know what clutch is without actually quantifying it. You know a clutch play when you see one. It really annoyed me how BA kept saying “clutch is the final 5 minutes of bad game when the margin is 5 points or less”. I know its not his fault, he wasn’t the one to define it. I’ve heard that used for a while now. I just don’t like it. It takes the magic out of.
Anyway, back to Chris Paul. 28 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 0 turnovers and 3 huge three pointers. He was great in this one. Not much more to say other than he was CLUTCH. He has been such a good leader for OKC. I loved it when he drained the triple and then smacked Covington on the butt. Baller. One other thing, did he have to hit Westbrook downstairs? You couldn’t tell for sure if it was in the stomach or lower, but I’m not giving him benefit of the doubt on that. He hits too many guys below the belt. Stop hitting people in the nuts!
Steven Adams didn’t have a huge impact in this game but he did grab 14 rebounds. OKC out rebounded the Rockets by 10, they made them pay for their lack of size. OKC had 6 more offensive rebounds, so obviously the second chance points they had made a big difference in this one. OKC will need to utilise their size advantage again if they wish to advance, which I assume they do!
I also want to give a quick shout out to Gallinari, he shot the ball incredibly well tonight. It seemed like the game was about to be out of reach for OKC and he made shot after shot to give them a chance in this. Without him, OKC weren’t in this one at the end. Must of also been a relief for Dort to finally drain a couple of threes.
Finally, just quickly. Come on, refs! Was it really necessary to review the play early in the game when Schroder touched Harden’s hand? If you didn’t see it, go back and watch. My notes say it was with 2:52 seconds left, but I can’t remember if it was the first or second quarter. He literally touched his hand though and the refs went to review it for a hostile act. They used those words too. “A hostile act”. Thankfully, they didn’t call anything on it. I also felt that the technical fouls called in this game weren’t really warranted. I’ve seen way worse behaviour not get called before. I know it was a chippy game and they wanted to keep it under control, but nothing ever really happened. Besides, its the NBA playoffs. It’s supposed to be chippy. Stop reviewing everything!