Tag Archives: Stephen Curry

Triple Zeros: Playoffs, Baby! Playoffs!

 

Triple Zeros Ep. 108

Playoffs, Baby! Playoffs!

NFL

🏈Playoff Field Set
🏈Week 17 Lowlights

NBA

🏀Steph Has Awoken
🏀More Fire Starts
+More!
 

Triple Zeros Playoffs to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this.

This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this. This is text to act as filler. Filler as act to text is this.

With Friends Like James Harden, Who Needs Enemies?

Polarizing is a word that fittingly describes the kind of player James Harden is. Some view his style of play as innovative and unique; a skill set he has honed through practicing tough shots and understanding the rule book. Others would call it a detriment to the game. An abuse of poorly written and unevenly called rules. The amount of discussion coming from either side, though, shows just how high of a profile Harden has.

News broke on Wednesday that the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards had agreed to swap star point guards. Russell Westbrook to Washington and John Wall to Houston. It’s been reported that Harden and Wall have worked out and played in open runs together for some time now. The move has received all sorts of reactions, just like anything else Harden does.

Harden Running Out of Friends to Help Him

Okay, But Why?

Some say this is a move designed to keep Harden interested in staying in Houston. Recent attempts to get over the hump in the postseason have all fallen short. We can go back to the Dwight Howard experiment but let’s instead focus on Chris Paul’s time in H-Town. There was much consternation about how they would coexist being as ball-dominant as they are. They worked well enough for folks to hypothesize that if Paul doesn’t get hurt the Rockets might make some noise.

Well, Paul got shipped out after two seasons. One of which they lost to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in seven games. Injuries had always been a part of Paul’s history so an injury possibly derailing a playoff run is plausible. When Harden told reporters after they got bounced in 2018 that he knew what had to be done, the writing was on the wall.

Houston shocked the world again. They made another trade for what most considered an unmovable contract when they swapped CP3 for Russell Westbrook. After failing to click with the Point God, Harden now had his childhood friend for a running-mate. Unfortunately, Westbrook’s style caused the Rockets to change up their roster. They went with a small-ball approach. The tallest person on the floor for them often standing no taller than 6-foot-7. That ended with a five-game series loss in the second round. Again to the eventual champion, this time in the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now, even with Daryl Morey no longer in the fold, the Rockets have swapped unmovable contracts. The move is receiving mixed reviews. Some argue the Rockets won. On top of keeping Harden happy, they get rid of Westbrook whose style isn’t conducive to winning. Others will argue the Wizards won because of the off-the-court issues Wall has had as well as the complicated relationship with (and reaction to the team building around) Bradley Beal. Oh, and Wall, who hasn’t played since the 2018-19 season, is returning from serious injuries including a torn Achilles.

Same Difference

The tale of the tape is quite interesting. Wall is the bigger of the two and has the higher assist average. This is more than a little surprising given Westbrook’s three-year run of averaging a triple-double. But Wall had a three-year stretch where he averaged better than 10 dimes per game. The difference is Wall has never been the kind of shot-seeking scorer that Westbrook is.

Brodie has eight seasons (out of 12) averaging greater than 18 shots per contest. Wall, aptly nicknamed ‘Optimus Dime’, has but one. Westbrook is the more voluminous scorer too, but Wall takes the efficiency advantage everywhere but at the free throw line.

Perhaps ideally, in the mind of Harden and Rockets brass, is that Wall can be a happy medium between Westbrook’s explosiveness (a nice compliment to Harden’s lull-you-to-sleep style) and Paul’s pass-first mentality. That is if he is happy and focused. Going to a competitive situation in Houston after being in the tumultuous one in Washington will help. As will the singing of Demarcus Cousins; a friend of Wall’s going back to their day at the University of Kentucky.

We’re all missing the forest for the trees, though. It doesn’t matter if this will work for the Rockets (it won’t). Nor does it matter who won the trade (the blogosphere). No, what matters here is that Harden has cycled through a fair amount of friends for teammates and hasn’t figured out the right fit yet. At some point the question needs to be asked if building around him is worth it.

The Real Culprit

This isn’t an attack on his playing style, either, outside of his willingness to be complimentary. There aren’t many, if any, situations where Harden would be a second option but he could still benefit from being a better compliment on the floor to his team. Instead of standing in the corner watching the action when off the ball, become a better, more active cutter. Instead of dribbling out the shot clock on every possession, allow yourself to be more of a part of a system that get more guys involved.

Yes, star players are supposed to touch and shoot the ball more. Harden’s 36.3 usage rate in 2019-20 is second only to Michael Jordan’s ‘86-’87 season (38.3) in NBA history. With nowhere close to the hardware as ‘His Airness’, and a history of fading in the postseason, that number could stand to drop even if only a little bit. The last player to win a championship with a usage rate in the 30s was LeBron James in 2012-13 with the Miami Heat. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, two of the most efficient scorers in NBA history, haven’t even done it.

It’s a big deal that the Rockets and Wizards pulled this trade off. We just need to recognize what the real story is here: Harden is the problem, not his teammates. At some point, it is no longer everybody else, it’s you. We are seeing this response to Paul George who is implicated in reports of dysfunction in the Los Angeles Clippers organization and now taking thinly-veiled shots at former coach Doc Rivers.

Harden’s passing of the buck isn’t as blatant as George’s was. But, even with the statements before the CP3 trade, the constant cycling of supporting cast speaks volumes. Talking heads have just overlooked it because the Rockets keep putting together intriguing groups. This time though, with a move that might be best described as lateral, we might be reaching the end of this case study. It’s been theorized that the Wall and Cousins moves are independent of a decision to move Harden, though that seems unlikely.

Rough Being Friends with James Harden

We saw Harden slapping Paul’s hand away on the sidelines and read the reports that Harden and Westbrook had bumped heads on occasion. These incidents get viewed through the lens of isolated incidents or as the fault of the other guy. Maybe rightfully so, none of the aforementioned teammates were choirboys. But the common denominator, and dominator of the situation, is James Harden. As a player who has been vocal about his scoring accolades, he needs to be a leader and own up to and adjust his ways.

Unless, of course, he truly doesn’t care about winning

2019 NBA Conference Finals Primer

We were told these playoffs would be lacking. That due to the absence of Lebron James and the foregone conclusion of a Golden State Warriors three-peat, there would be no intrigue to the 2019 NBA postseason. All that has happened is an MVP-favorite guiding his team to its first Conference Finals since 2001, two teams showed us they might be capped as currently constructed, and a host of game-winning daggers. And there was the first buzzer-beater in Conference Semifinal history. But now, with only four squads left, we can expect to not only keep seeing the awe-inspiring moments but perhaps see more of them.

 

NBA Conference Finals Primer

Battle of the Backcourts

Golden State will kick off the Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. The two teams split their regular-season meetings at two apiece. There is postseason history here as well as the Dubs eliminated the Blazers in the Conference Semis in 2016 (five games) and swept them in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. There have also been comparisons between the two teams leading men, Damian Lillard, and Steph Curry. The nature of the series even has extra meaning for the Curry family as Steph and younger brother Seth get set to do battle, at least some of the time.

Golden State Warriors

Kevin Durant is set to miss at least the first game of the series as he recovers from a calf strain. That is no small loss as Durant is the leading per game scorer in these playoffs (34.2 PPG) and averaged 28.8 versus Portland in the regular season. They will look to Steph and, Splash Bro, Klay Thompson to pick up the slack much as they have since KD went down. Klay went for 27 points on 50 percent shooting and 7-13 from three while keeping the team afloat for three-plus quarters in the closeout game against the Houston Rockets. Steph was frigid to start that game, going scoreless for the first half only to finish with a team-high 33 points.

The Warriors also got some vintage performances from Draymond Green (13.2/10.7/8.2.) and Andre Iguodala (13.5 PPG, 48% from three) in the last round. Green should be able to keep it up after the Blazers allowed Denver’s Paul Millsap to average 17.4 points and 8.7 boards despite Portland’s bigs all being at least 6’9”. Iggy might have a tougher go of it. Will Barton, who fills a similar role for the Nuggets, averaged 10.1 PPG and shot 34.5 percent from long distance. The length of Portland could force Iguodala to do more of the other things that make him valuable.

 

Portland Trail Blazers

Portland was written off by some (*cough* me *cough*) when they lost center Jusuf Nurkic for the rest of the year to a gruesome injury at the end of March. They finished the season 7-2 without the Bosnian Beast and have gone 8-4 in the playoffs. His loss has been softened by the play of late-season acquisition Enes Kanter (averaging 12.9 PPG and 10.5 RPG in the playoffs) but could be felt if Boogie Cousins returns this series. The Blazers have to be hoping that Rodney Hood’s injury doesn’t linger; they will need the 14.7 PPG on 57 percent shooting and 50 percent from deep that he surprised with last round.

One of Maurice Harkless or Al-Farouq Aminu (or Sunday’s surprise contributor Evan Turner) will need to find whatever led to their outbursts from this postseason and do it every game. All conventional wisdom favors the Dubs so Portland will have to try to steal one, preferably the first one, to have a real chance. They allowed Jamal Murray (23.6/6/5.6) and Gary Harris (13.7/4.6/2.1) to put up numbers at or above their regular season outputs. As good as those two are, they are no Splash Bros. Dame (28.4/4.8/6) in the playoffs) and C.J. McCollum (25.6/5.8/3.4) will need to continue doing the heavy lifting even if the other Blazers contribute close to their playoff best.

 

Anomaly Meet Throwback

Our second Conference Finals matchup is anything but second fiddle. Featuring the two top teams in wins and two of the game’s top five players, Bucks-Raptors should more than live up to expectations. Milwaukee took care of the Boston Celtics in short order (five games) while Toronto needed seven games (and a Herculean effort) to advance. There is so much riding on this series and that is not considering the actual goal of winning a championship. Will the gregarious Giannis Antetokounmpo prevail? Or will the quiet, calculating Kawhi Leonard reinsert his name among the game’s best?

 

Milwaukee Bucks

The Greek Freak is the odds on favorite for MVP. And while it is a regular-season award, his performance in the playoffs has been in-line with the rest of the year. He is still leading his team in points (27.4) and rebounds (11.3) per game, and he only slightly trails Khris Middleton in assists in the playoffs. He is also averaging 12 free throws a game which would have led the league. Giannis is not flying solo, however. The Bucks have five players averaging double-digits in the playoffs, six averaged double figures last round, and seven reached the mark in the closeout game. That kind of effort will go a long way for Milwaukee; not only this round but perhaps in the NBA Finals.

The Bucks shoot a lot of threes; they came in second to the Rockets in attempts per game during the regular season and the playoffs. But their defense against the Cs should not be overlooked. They held Boston to 104.4 PPG, 41 percent shooting, and 35.8 from distance. That was down from their 112.4 PPG, 46.5 percent from the floor, and 36.5 from deep of the regular season. Now, the Celtics themselves played a large role in their own demise, but the Bucks did have the number-one defensive rating in the NBA. The return of Malcolm Brogdon could prove huge. Also in their favor is that Toronto is averaging roughly 11 points per game less in the playoffs than they did during the season (114.4 to 103.6) and shooting only 32.7 percent as a team from deep.

 

Toronto Raptors

Kawhi essentially dragged the Raptors to the finish line in game seven versus the Philadelphia 76ers. He dropped 41 points and grabbed eight boards with three assists and three steals. He shot poorly, as did most of the other Raptors. But he was also often the only one looking to score late. Leonard has drawn lofty comparisons over the last few weeks as he is averaging 31.8/8.5/3.6 and slashing 53.9/40.8/86.8 in the playoffs. Against the Sixers, it was 34.7/9.9/4 with the Klaw seemingly growing stronger as the playoffs have worn on.

There is only one way this could be going better for Toronto when it comes to Leonard and free agency. Serge Ibaka (17 points!) was the only teammate above 11 points. Kyle Lowry scored just 10 points, but he did have six dishes and six rebounds with only two turnovers. Pascal Siakam is either hurt or the moment is too big for him. He is averaging 20 points and 7 rebounds in the playoffs but was very passive on Sunday. Marc Gasol has been awful shooting the ball and his 102.7 defensive rating is the worst on the team. Danny Green hasn’t been much better as the entire team is shooting 32.7 percent from deep, well below their 36.6 from the regular season.

 

Priming the  NBA Conference Finals

There has been something for everyone in these playoffs and that should continue with the Conference Semifinals beginning Tuesday. Can Dame and CJ breakthrough? Plus, Curry versus Curry in what could be the last stanza for the Hamptons Five. The Greek Freak versus the Klaw as an MVP hopeful takes on a player reminding us of some of the all-timers. Will it take a ring to keep Leonard from running West? Can Giannis cap a potentially MVP-winning season with a shot at the Larry O? We get closer to finding all of that out Tuesday night.

Nba conference finals. nba conference finals