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Last Night In The NBA: It May Be Time To Panic

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz - Game Three

Happy Sunday everybody and welcome to another edition of Last Night In The NBA where we catch you up on everything that went down from the night before in the Association. As a twist, we had 4 games instead of the usual 3, and unlike a few days ago where everything was a blowout, yesterday’s matchups were for the most part close and exciting, and some teams are definitely feeling the heat this morning. Given that it was a Saturday night I wouldn’t blame you if you were out and missed some of the action, that’s OK, here’s what happened.

Philadelphia 76ers 106 vs Miami Heat 102 (PHI leads 3-1)

It has to provide a level of comfort that the Sixers can play that poorly, and yet still own a 3-1 lead in this series as things return back to Philly. Offensively, this was one of the most careless games you could possibly have, as the Sixers finished with 26(!!!!) TOs and just 42/22% splits. Earlier in the series they won games by making a ridiculous amount of threes, the thought was maybe they wouldn’t be as successful once those threes stopped dropping. That thought would be wrong.

Despite the poor shooting PHI still had 6 players in double figures, Ben Simmons still put up another triple double with 17/13/10/4 on 8-13 shooting, and when he had to JJ Redick came up with big time buckets at key moments on the way to his 24 points.

As has been the case all series, the game was close until the final 12 minutes, where the Sixers not only put up their second highest point total, but also held MIA to their lowest of just 19 points. That is what good teams do in my opinion, they steal your soul. If I had to sum up what PHI has done in this series that would be it, they’ve stolen the spirit and soul of the Heat. Chances are Joel Embiid will not play that poorly again, and chances are they won’t turn it over nearly 30 times, so as you can imagine the Heat are in a bit of a pickle.

For MIA, look you were close, but this is the playoffs and close is not going to cut it.

This time even a vintage Wade performance couldn’t get the job done, and really they have no one but to blame but themselves. First, only scoring 30 points off 27 turnovers is a bit sad, and then going 13-25 from the FT line, including missing big ones late, I mean you can’t do those things and think you’re going to beat a team that’s better than you.

Sadly, getting absolutely nothing from Tyler Johnson/Olynyk proved to be an issuer, and so was the fact that MIA could not play defense without fouling. A total of 32 team fouls in 4 quarters? That’s pathetic. Now, given their 3-1 deficit, it’s not only time to panic, it’s time to start planning your summer vacations. At times it looking like maybe this would be a long series, now I’d be shocked if things got back to MIA.

Portland Trail Blazers 123 vs New Orleans Pelicans 131 (NO wins 4-0)

Raise your hand if you had NO as the first team to sweep a series during these playoffs? Exactly. While no one may have seen it coming, the Pelicans are the hottest team in the league right now winner of 9 straight and doing shit like this

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Just a quick 47 for AD and 41 for Jrue Holiday all while shooting 57% from the field as a team. Not only did they have no answer for those two, but the fact that the Pelicans made 32-39 FTs was pretty crazy. They made twice as many FTs as POR even attempted. The one thing this series proved is not only was POR severly outmatched in terms of talent and scheme, but that the Pelicans can beat you any way you want. You want a close game? They have the defense to make ley plays in key moments. You want to try and run? They have the athletes to get it done. You want to slow it down? OK good luck stopping AD/Holiday in a half court offense.

The NO/GS series now becomes must watch, and if GS thought they were just to cake walk all the way to the WCF, they are sadly mistaken. I don’t see one player on that roster that can stop this type of AD, and honestly defensively their guard situation isn’t that intimidating to Jrue Holiday I would imagine. Now they get to rest and take that time to figure out how they’re going to pull off yet another upset.

For POR, congrats on the good season, but boy was that disappointing to see them get worked like this. Their starters (outside of Dame) did everything they could to keep this series alive, but when you only get 6 points from your bench, that’s a problem.

As I talked about yesterday, barring some sort of surprise trade, this is really the team the Blazers are going to have again next season. Their cap situation is a mess in terms of how high it is and the end production it gives you. Dame to some degree was exposed by the Pelicans defense, and it’s clear that this team is one or two players away. They’re in a tough spot because I wouldn’t fire Terry Stotts, he’s better than any available coach out there, and I don’t think I’d break up Dame/CJ because in today’s market, what could you possibly get that brings you closer to getting out of the first round? Definitely a sticky situation up in POR.

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The good news is, they have a long time to figure it all out since they won’t be playing basketball anymore.

Houston Rockets 105 vs Minnesota Timberwolves 121 (HOU leads 2-1)

I think HOU would admit that they thought they were going to sweep this series. They had already beaten MIN 6 times in a row, and given how the first two games went I don’t think you could fault them. But here’s the thing, a game like last night is why the playoffs rule.

Now the momentum has sort of shifted. Once the Timberwolves got their first playoff win in 14 years under their belt, given how they did it, I would imagine they are a whole hell of a lot more confident for Game 4. As a team offensively they were great, finishing with 50/55% splits, 15 3PM which is insane given this is the worst 3pt shooting team in the playoffs, and they turned it over just 7 times. Dropping 121 on the Rockets is impressive, this is not the Rockets teams of old that can’t defend. In the first two games MIN struggled to even break 100, so this sort of explosion has to wake the Rockets up a little bit.

KAT was much, much better this time around with his 18/13, and his 13 FGA were the third most of any starter. That’s progress in the right direction. Teague/Wiggins/Butler did damage as well, with all three finishing with at least 20 points, and then you add DRose and what he did off the bench (17 points on 8-16) and Game 4 now becomes even more interesting. Can MIN actually beat HOU in back to back games? Has HOU lost back to back games all year? Even if you expect the MIN offense to regress, let’s not talk like they didn’t defend their asses off either. Holding just two HOU starters to double figures and giving Eric Gordon fits, finally we saw some defensive fire from MIN. They’ll certainly need that a few more times.

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For HOU, it’s mostly whatever. So you didn’t sweep, big deal.

Does it concern HOU fans that all of the past three champions swept their first round series? I guess it depends on who you ask. Personally if they get it done in 5 instead of 4, what’s the big deal. But this is where HOU fans are probably a little nervous given the playoff history of their two best players. This is the first time HOU as a team will face any sort of playoff adversity, and all year they wanted us to believe things were different, well, let’s see how they respond. Normally I would say it be silly to panic after just one loss, but that’s how fragile HOU is in my opinion. If they also drop Game 2, any Rockets fan that tells you they aren’t nervous is a liar.

The good news is their bench played well on the road, with three guys in double figures. If they’re going to steal one in MIN and Harden/CP3 are going to be held in check again, that bench production becomes extremely important.

Oklahoma City Thunder 102 vs Utah Jazz 115 (UTA leads 2-1)

This series was the trendy “upset” pick series and we saw last night why. I wouldn’t even really call it an upset because personally I think UTA is just as good as OKC, but in terms of seeding it would be an upset. The Jazz were 28-13 at home during the year, and last night’s game was a good example as to why. That is legit a home court advantage, and when you watch how inspired and locked in UTA played, OKC could be in for a world of trouble

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By now we all know the stat. When teams are tied 1-1, the team that wins Game 3 moves on 73% of the time. If UTA is going to get this type of offensive production from their starters, where guys like Mitchell had 22/11/2, Rubio a 26/11/10, Gobert 18/12 and Ingles 21 with 5 3PM, then I’m not sure how OKC beats them. Even if this was an outlier offensively, the Jazz defense was no joke and will continue to be amongst the best in the league.

It’s pretty clear that OKC needs to adjust how they are defending the Jazz, because they are made up of extremely unselfish players. They decided to make Rubio beat them, he did, and with that will have to come adjustments. Any time you can turn it over 19 times like UTA did and still win comfortably I think says a lot. The Thunder got 33 points from those turnovers and it still didn’t matter. That has to sting.

For OKC, they told us ALL YEAR that their regular season struggles didn’t matter, because they were built for the playoffs. They talked themselves up and honestly have not been able to back it up. I don’t want to sound rude, but 51 points from your Big 3 on the road in a big time playoff game is not acceptable. Not with that quality of talent.

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And sure Westbrook almost had a triple double, but he also had 8 TOs. Paul George went 7-16, and Melo only had 14 points. It felt as I watched them play that they were under the impression that UTA would just fold to them because they are the big bad OKC Thunder with all this All Star talent. Defense that has been their calling card at times was nonexistent, and then after their hot start in the first quarter, they fell asleep during the next two, ultimately putting them in this position.

Now facing a potential 3-1 hole before things even get back to OKC, it’s only right that OKC fans start to panic a little bit. That’s why dropping one of the first two was so huge. I don’t think OKC was ready for the type of environment that was waiting for them in UTA, and I also don’t think they were ready for the UTA guards to be playing this well consistently. This Game 4 is going to be so must watch I can’t even stand it.

And that’s it! You’re now all caught up on everything that happened last night in the NBA. We’re back today with 4 more games including BOS/MIL, GS/SA, TOR/WSH, and CLE/IND. I hope everyone has a great lazy Sunday and as always if you miss any of the action just check back tomorrow and I’ll fill you in.