Tag Archives: Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Stars Shining

Stars Rising (And Falling) During Playoffs

Playoffs baby, playoffs! With all four series through four games, the NBA Playoffs second round has only built on the excitement of the first. Three of the four series are all knotted up at 2-2, while the fourth is 3-1. In the East, we are watching the emergence of the Greek Freak to the pantheon of the NBA’s best. Kawhi Leonard is reminding us of why his name was being bandied about in that same conversation not too long ago. The West has pitted two assassins against each other in Damian Lillard and Jamal Murray. And the Houston-Golden State series is everything we had hoped it would be.

 

Buck Your Luck

The lone series not at 2-2, Bucks-Celtics has brought to light two budding truths. First, Giannis Antetokounmpo is good. Like really, really good. Averaging 28.4/11.8/4 in this postseason, he has upped it to 30.5/11.5/4.5. The boards are (ever so slightly) down, but are offset by the scoring surge and slight boost in assists. He is shooting better from deep and on free throws, going from 34.4 percent from deep and 66 percent at the charity stripe to 46.7 and 68.3 percent, respectively. His free throw numbers are especially astounding as he is averaging 15 for this series and 12.9 for the playoffs.

Boston is bizarro-Milwaukee at the moment. As the Bucks star has emerged, the Celtics have seen their guy go borderline-M.I.A. as they have fallen into a 3-1 hole without the benefit of home court. Playoff-Kyrie’s scoring is down about a point from the regular season and his rebounding has dipped a smidge. His assists are also up, but he is shooting (39.9/33.3/89.5 playoffs, 37.3/24/90.5) has been extremely suspect, especially from deep. The jokes about need a certain former teammate have inevitably arisen, but the biggest takeaway might be that Irving just doesn’t fit well in Brad Stevens’ team-first scheme.

 

Oakland, We Have a Problem

Last year the Houston-Golden State series went seven games. This year looks like we might get our first encore from last season. James Harden, who got dogged for running out of gas against the Dubs last year, is putting up 35.8/7.3/5 with 41.7/34/89.7 shooting numbers. Last year, he had 28.7/5.6/6 on 41.5/24.4/88.5 shooting percentages. A slight bump in drives (20.6 to 21) only partly explains his jump in free throw attempts from 7.4 in 2017-18 to 9.8 this postseason. He reportedly came into the season in the best shape of his career (surprise) and this series with the Warriors is testing that notion.

https://twitter.com/HoustonRockets/status/1125769758912143360?s=19

Golden State heads back to Oracle Arena for what they hope is not the last time this postseason. A thought that was a non-starter when the year began is now a distinct possibility. Kevin Durant has arguably been the MVP of this postseason but he is the only Hampton 5 member consistently producing. Steph Curry (21/4/5) and especially Klay Thompson (15/6/2) have been…bad. They have somewhat gotten passes because Curry is always one shot away and Thompson draws the toughest defensive assignment, but this more than any stress of the upcoming offseason, is hindering them.

 

North of the Process

No sooner had the proverbial ink dried on this piece about Durant’s ascension to NBA’s best did Kawhi put everyone on alert. He missed last year, including the playoffs, so it isn’t really surprising that people forgot how good he is. Well, averaging 38/9/4 (32.3/7.7/3.4 in the playoffs) will certainly get folks’ antennae up. Not only is he doubling the scoring output of his next closest teammate this series, but he is doing so on incredible efficiency. Leonard is slashing an inhuman 61.8/46.4/82.9 and taking seven threes a game. He will need more from his teammates but he is firmly placing himself in the ‘best player’ discussion.

Coming into the postseason, one might have wagered on the 76ers starting five against any other in the Eastern Conference. Warts that showed in the first round are still apparent. Ben Simmons has gone from 17.2/6.6/7.6 to 10/7/4.8 as his lack of a perimeter shot has opened him up to a slew of criticism. Joel Embiid has gone from 24.8/13.5/3.5 to 18/8/4.3 as he’s dealt with knee and an illness (more knee issues). The only one of the Philly Big 3 to step up their game has been Jimmy Butler, who has gone from putting up 15.8/4.8/4.6 in the opening round to 22.8/8.3/5.8 in the second.

 

Blazing Trails in Mile High

Damian Lillard has cooled from his scorching the Thunder to the tune of 33/4.4/6 down to 27.3/4/6.3 as this series is nowhere near as emotional. Lucky for him, and the team, C.J. McCollum is dropping 26.5/5.8/3.5 after putting up 24.4/5.4/4 in the last series. They have expectedly done the heavy lifting, but contributions from Enes Kanter and Al-Farouq Aminu have been huge. Even Rodney Hood has come up huge for Portland against Denver. If Maurice Harkless returns to the form he had against OKC and/or Seth Curry gets hot, look out.

Nikola Jokic might be the best center in the league. He has been the best in these playoffs. He is averaging 24.5/12.5/9.3 for the playoffs and 26.8/13.3/9.5 against the Blazers. The list of players to average that during the regular season in empty. He is not alone either. Jamal Murray is quickly becoming one of the league’s more feared scorers. He had 18.2/4.2/4.8 in the regular season up to 21.7/3.6/4.3 so far this postseason. Against the Blazers he has 26.5/5.3/4.5 while shooting 44.7 percent from the floor, 36.4 percent from three, and is perfect at the free throw line. This series should probably come down to the last shot.

 

Stars Rising (and Falling) to the Occasion

A round and a half into the playoffs and it is highly unlikely that anyone is complaining about the action on the floor. Even those who say the eventual champion is in any way a foregone conclusion have to be at least pausing for a moment. Of course, the boys in the Bay are still the favorites, but we see there is no shortage of players and teams looking to assert themselves as the NBA’s best. Who ultimately earns that distinction is anyone’s guess. But the juice, as they say, has been worth the squeeze during the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

 

All stats and information courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com, unless otherwise noted.

Bulls Balling, Bailing on Rebuild

Bulls Balling, Bail on Bombing

The Chicago Bulls beat the Philadelphia 76ers 108-107 behind 39 points from Zach Lavine. He also had five rebounds and four assists. Most importantly, he ended the game by blocking a lob attempt by the Sixers. Robin Lopez added 19 while Otto Porter and Lauri Markkanen had 15 and 11, respectively.

Late Season Surge

Chicago is 5-3 since the All-Star break. It is a modest total, but the team is gelling and can hang their hats on beating two of the top-five teams in the East. The Boston Celtics were at the start of their current slide, but Philly came in on a heater, having won four of six coming into their matchup at the United Center.

Zach is averaging 27-5-5 post-break and Lauri averaged 26 points and 12 boards for the month of February. The Bulls are also 7-3 with Porter (18-5-2) in the lineup. His efficiency (49.6% from the floor, 49% from three) and off-ball prowess fit so well with Lavine and Markkanen’s more ball-dominant styles. Lauri’s ball handling has been on display of late as well.

The Rub

These are all good things, undoubtedly. But there is still a bitter aftertaste from every win knowing it pushes them closer to locked in for the fourth slot in the lottery. They will still have a shot at the number one pick, but drop in probability is not insignificant. They also run the risk of a farther fall when the ping pong balls drop.

Of course, that depends on who the Bulls have their eyes on. There has been speculation that Murray State point guard Ja Morant would be the target, but Chicago won’t be able to get him after three (and possibly even number two). It was thought to be a foregone conclusion at the start of the year they would be selecting from the trio of Duke players Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, or Cam Reddish. Nbadraft.net, however, has them linked to Gonzaga‘s Rui Hachimura.

Silver Lining

At any rate, whomever they pick, they will have put an intriguing young nucleus together. Their ceiling is a complete mystery, but we know GarPax can put together competitive rosters. That Chicago has semi-pivoted on the tank is not a surprise. It is surprising that they held on to vets, namely RoLo. He is averaging 16 points, almost seven boards, two assists, and two blocks per game since All-Star weekend.

This space was used to lament the current status of the Bulls front office and their tendency to abandon rebuilds ahead of schedule. And how their press conferences and interviews are often standoffish. But the fact is they can identify and develop talent. The hope for Bulls fans has to be that that latter set of skills is what is most prominent going forward.

 

Bulls*** and the NBA Trade Deadline

Trade Deadline Reaction

The NBA trade deadline came and went yesterday with a flurry of activity. There were a few distinct winners and losers as well. Deals that were (and were not) made will have a significant impact on the playoffs. At least until the Finals, that is.

Bulls Treat Trade Deadline Like Free Agency

The Chicago Bulls traded forwards Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis along with a future second-round pick for forward Otto Porter from the Washington Wizards just a day before the NBA trade deadline. The move is an admission by the Bulls front office that they were never going match any serious offers to Portis, an impending restricted free-agent. Moreover, the organization acknowledged it has a diminished image in the eyes of free agents. It is a poor state of affairs for a franchise with their history.

One thing that has plagued them is the reluctance to fully commit to a rebuild since trading Derrick Rose. Moving Parker and Portis could (and should) have set up a chance for Chicago to embrace the tank. Instead, the trade for Porter makes them better. It is already a four-way battle for number one with the Bulls fourth on that list. The odds are similar to a top-three pick, but the floor is also lower. Chicago does have the second-toughest remaining schedule of the bottom four teams; behind the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In an interview on AM 670 WSCR in Chicago, Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson became defensive when faced with questions about the job security of he and GM Gar Forman. It was a standard line of questioning; to which Paxson was obstinate. Both Paxson and Forman have been around long enough to know, eventually, you run out of other people to fire.

Deadline Winners and Losers

Winners:

Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Milwaukee Bucks went out and flipped big man Thon Maker to the Detroit Pistons for wing Stanley Johnson. His cup of coffee ended when the Bucks shipped him out with Jason Smith to the New Orleans Pelicans for forward Nikola Mirotic. The Greek Freak is a legitimate MVP candidate and adding a sniper like Mirotic (shooting .368 from three this season) to lineups with Brook Lopez (.387) and Khris Middleton (.384) should create wide-open lanes.

Boston Celtics: Danny Ainge got his wish, at least for now. The Pelicans held on to Anthony Davis after their very public courtship with the Los Angeles Lakers. Boston was unable to be a bidder at this juncture, but Davis remaining in New Orleans means the Celtics will be allowed to participate in the A.D.-sweepstakes this summer. Whether or not they can retain him is another story entirely. Ainge is not worrying about that or Kyrie Irving‘s potential exodus, apparently.

Markelle Fultz: This is more of a humanitarian nod than anything. His career has been derailed without ever leaving the station by thoracic outlet syndrome. The Orlando Magic acquiring Fultz gives him a chance to recuperate out of the spotlight and with no pressure. No one knows how the draft or free agency will unfold. But if Fultz can recover – a big if at this point – the Magic may have found their point guard of the future. All of that comes after what figures to still be a lengthy recovery.

Losers

Bobby Portis: This should probably be the Bulls. As mentioned Portis went to Washington with Parker for Porter. That was a surprise to fans as well as teammates. Bulls guard Zach Lavine spoke highly of Portis, who is set for restricted free agency. Chicago was not going to match the kind of offers Portis is expected to receive. A claim that Portis did not seem to buy himself. The Bulls will miss his outside shooting (.375 from three) and his toughness.

Philadelphia 76ers: Alright, this one is kind of nitpicky. Philly made one if the best moves before the deadline in acquiring walking-bucket Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers. He immediately steps in to give the Sixers, perhaps’ the most talented starting five in the East. The rub is that Milwaukee and the Toronto Raptors also made moves to improve and remain deeper; as do the Celtics. Philly is not going to be channeling their inner Thibs, playing guys 48 minutes. Their sudden lack of depth is concerning for the playoffs.

Feelings: A couple of the biggest rumored deals on the actual day of the deadline did not get done. The Davis trade and trades that would have sent guard Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz or to Toronto (with former teammate Marc Gasol). All were very public (especially the Lakers-Pelicans talks) and now the healing begins. Players whose names were bandied about now have to use it as fuel. The Conley talks revolved around veteran point guards that have all been traded aside from Conley himself. But the Lakers are younger and still growing as players. The win last night over Boston helps even though it came down to a Rajon Rondo buzzer-beating layup.