2021 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals – (3) Milwaukee Bucks vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

2021 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals – (3) Milwaukee Bucks vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

(3) Milwaukee Bucks

All credit where it’s due and with a little fate the Bucks are in the Conference Finals for the first time since 2019. Thankfully, Kawhi Leonard isn’t on the other side (2019 – Toronto Raptors). The Greek Freak is growing up and proving that it’s not about the individual player awards this year, it’s about winning a championship. The Bucks survived Kevin Durant potentially eliminating them from the playoffs and while Kyrie Irving wasn’t available for the later part of the series you have to give credit where it’s due.

Moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals this year, the Bucks should be regarded as the superior team in the series, and rightfully so. They swept the first-round series against the Heat with no issues. After a close OT win in Game 1 against the Heat it was nothing but the Bucks winning by double digits from Game 2 to Game 4. The stepping stone point for the Bucks here is that they didn’t lay down to the “superior” super team Brooklyn Nets.

Defensively, Milwaukee has been one of the top teams in the regular season and the playoffs. The biggest x-factor here is Jrue Holiday who will have his attention on slowing down Trae Young. Now, Holiday isn’t Ben Simmons so how can we discuss this? Certainly, Holiday has NO PROBLEM shooting the ball or being an offensive threat for Milwaukee. Advantage Milwaukee if he can do a lot better than Ben Simmons.

(5) Atlanta Hawks

Listen, if you don’t know why the Hawks are here or the fact that this year’s roster has NO All-Star? Read the breakdown! Technically, Trae Young was snubbed from the All-Star roster this season but still not considered an All-Star this season! However, he’s not just an All-Star but a franchise-changing player coming up in big moments. He silenced Madison Square Garden and took a bow. What’s next? The Eastern Conference Finals!

Atlanta is definitely proving the naysayers wrong all season long. Giving them a hard time because Nate McMillan‘s previous playoff history included him going 0-7 in the first-round series prior to this season. However, he’s turned the team around and they are winning! My advice to anyone curious enough to check on the General Manager for the Hawks and tell me that a Golden State Warriors replica isn’t in the works.

Kevin Huerter joins the starting lineup for the Hawks in the last four games against the 76ers. With that move, it kind of proved McMillan’s adjustment right? Right? Huerter is the prime example of the next-man-up mentality. In a CLOSEOUT game where Trae Young obviously was feeling the defensive pressure, Huerter drops 27 points to lead the Hawks. The biggest deal for the Hawks in this series is getting some consistent bench scoring. You’ll need a combination of Trae Young plus the bench giving some support on nights that the Bucks may be clamping down defensively on the starting unit.

Top players to watch

Giannis Antetokounmpo – 2021 Playoffs through Conference Semifinals

  • 28.8 PPG
  • 13.6 RPG
  • 5.1 APG

Trae Young – 2021 Playoffs through Conference Semifinals

  • 29.1 PPG
  • 2.7 RPG
  • 10.4 APG

Where should the money go?

BUCKS IN 5

I know ATL is going to come for my head should they win. However, I trust the defense that defended Kevin Durant for 7 straight games better than I do of the 76ers and Knicks. A much different animal Atlanta is going up against in the Greek Freak. The Milwaukee Bucks will roll into the Finals!

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
ATL leads series 1-0

6/23/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 116
Bucks - 113

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1

6/25/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 91
Bucks - 125

Game 3
MIL leads series 2-1

6/27/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Bucks - 113

Hawks - 102

Game 4:
Series tied 2-2

6/29/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Bucks - 88

Hawks - 110

Game 5:
MIL leads series 3-2

7/01/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 112
Bucks - 123

Game 6

7/03/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Game 7:

If Necessary

7/05/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

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Shoot or Pass Podcast – 2021 NBA Playoffs Conference Finals with Ben Berry

Chevy has been spending time hanging with the enemies of the 2021 NBA Podcaster Bracket Challenge at Baseline Times. Last weekend he spent time on the Sixers talk podcast with Ben Berry. This week Mr. Berry joins the episode to share his NBA Mood now that the 76ers are out of the playoffs (3:15). The duo discusses if Ben Simmons is untradable at this time (7:10), where the best coaching vacancy is (9:30), who the BEST player is left in the playoffs (14:40), and which of the final four teams have dynasty potential (23:20). The Conference Finals x-factors are discussed as Ben and Chevy share their series predictions (26:00). The fellas review their STUDS and DUDS from the second round (32:35) and share their ALL-TIME NBA CHOKE teams (39:10).

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No All-Star? No problem for the Atlanta Hawks

Surprise! The Hawks are in the 2021 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. No All-Star? No problem? That’s right, even with Trae Young on the roster this season he technically wasn’t an All-Star in 2021. Sure Trae may have been a snub but the remainder of the team? Atlanta is also here because of the supporting cast around.

They’ve arguably beat superior teams to them in the Playoffs. The Knicks and 76ers were among the top defensive teams in the NBA this season. No problem for Atlanta. Respectively winning each series to get to the Eastern Conference Finals and you can’t hate on it. The underdogs that everyone loves here are your 2020-2021 Atlanta Hawks at this point.

Ice Trae – Guard – 3rd Year

Trae Young‘s 2020-2021 season didn’t show any signs of regression or the direction he wasn’t cut out to lead a team. He was available for 63 of the 70 games scheduled for the Hawks as well. While he averaged 25.3 points per game in the regular season his overall game has elevated in the 12 playoff games prior to the Eastern Conference Finals. Below you can see the proof.

In case you haven’t watched Ice Trae in the Playoffs his antics started right from Game 1 of the Playoffs. His first appearance was asking to lead the Hawks in a noisy Madison Square Garden. The Knicks haven’t been to the playoffs since 2013 and post-pandemic arenas were getting the luxury of filling out the seats again. While winning Game 1 and eventually the series 4-1, Young’s silencing act in Game 1 continued on as he would take a bow in Game 5 while the Hawks were on the way to eliminate the Knicks. Just in case you missed a few of these golden moments, embrace the villain. While technically he’s not an All-Star this year, Trae Young has exceeded expectations getting the Hawks into the Eastern Conference Finals. Arguably, facing all superior defensive teams in the Playoffs, Ice Trae wasn’t phased.

Supporting cast

Kevin Huerter – Guard – 3rd Year

Ever heard of Kevin Huerter? The 6’7 shooting guard is Trae Young‘s backcourt mate who started four games in the playoffs so far. He’s the man that scored 27 points, which led the Hawks in Game 7 vs the 76ers. Now Huerter isn’t coming out with any shooting outbursts such as connecting on 5-7 threes in a game but so far in the playoffs the most three-point shots he’s connected on in a game is three. 11.6 points per game on 48-percent shooting is a solid way to support your star Trae. Considering that he also started less than half of the games in the 2021 Playoffs his scoring off the bench has helped Atlanta. However, Nate McMillan decided to start Huerter the last four games of the series against Philadelphia, and here are we still talking about the Hawks. That adjustment alone is a good sign for Huerter.

John Collins – Forward – 3rd Year

Atlanta’s season didn’t look too promising when the rumors about Collins’ issues with Trae Young having the ball primarily and he declined a contract extension. The report hit around early January of 2021 and the Hawks were 5-6 through January 15, 2021. Lloyd Pierce was still the Head Coach. Collins still played 28 minutes per game and that’s just about his average for the season (29 MPG technically). Fast forward to the 2021 Playoffs and he’s arguably the second-best player on the Hawks this season averaging 17.6 points per game and rebounds per game. He’s shooting the ball 54-percent from the field in nine attempts per game in the Playoffs.

Bogdan Bogdanović – Guard – 4th Year

After a weird scenario this past offseason where Bogdanović wasn’t too fond of heading to the Milwaukee Bucks (and in retrospect maybe a bad thing?) he’s proven that he should be highly sought after for a playoff team. While he was the third-highest scorer for the Hawks in the regular season he’s officially averaging 13.8 points per game through the first two rounds of the 2021 Playoffs. His ability to knock down three-point shots especially in transition is key to Atlanta’s offensive firepower behind Trae Young. Should teams decide to double-team or trap Trae on the perimeter it’s been helpful to have Bogdan right next to him. However, in the last four games of the playoffs, he’s shooting 19-percent from the three-point line but we have to wonder if that was due to right knee soreness which almost kept him out of Game 7. A healthy Bogdan is a good thing for the Hawks and luckily, since playing Sunday night against Philadelphia, they get Monday, Tuesday, and will start the series on Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

Clint Capela – Center – 7th Year

Atlanta’s most skilled big man is Capela who is in his 6th year has some experience with playoff runs especially in the wild west with James Harden early in his career. He’s in Atlanta and he’s doing work! This season he’s averaged 14.3 rebounds (career-high) in 63 games. Could he be a poor man’s Rudy Gobert? He’s averaging 15.2 points per game on 59-percent in the regular season. His 1.2 blocks per game provide a little reinforcement in the paint.

De’Andre Hunter – Forward – 2nd Year

Honorable mentioned here. Hunter is one of the youngest Atlanta players who started the first 18 games for the Hawks before sustaining a knee injury. In those 18 games, he averaged 17.2 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, and shot the ball 51-percent from the field. He was also emerging as one of the better perimeter defenders for the Hawks. Currently, he’s sidelined with a knee injury and will not play in the playoffs. Unfourante series of events but obviously, the next man in Atlanta mentality has opened up opportunities for guys like Huerter and Bogdanović to play more minutes.

Nate McMillan

He’s a familiar name in the NBA Head Coach pool but didn’t have too much success winning a playoff series. McMillan was a miserable 0-7 in the first round of the Playoffs of teams he’s coached from 2008 until now (Portland, Indiana). The audacity that people brought this up as a reason why the Hawks might not be able to progress themselves farther than the first round! Shoutout to Nate for not just winning ONE series but TWO!

Roster honorable mentions

Believe Atlanta believe!

The odds and basketball media will lead you to believe the Bucks have the superior advantage. I’m not here to justify that Atlanta is going to win this series but should we really just give the credit where it’s due. This team has built a team from the draft, added Bogdan, and letting Trae Young become their star player. A coaching change midseason does not always put a team in the best direction especially into the Conference Finals this year. Kudos to the Hawks front office and staff for getting this young of a team in the right direction to be a winning ball club.

Here I leave you with a hot take and you take it how you like. I know Trae gets the Stephen Curry comparison over and over. But could you be mad if the Hawks attempt to build a similar team as the Golden State Warriors? Could this be that the Warriors blueprint can be replicated? Travis Schlenk is the General Manager and President of operations in Atlanta. If you’re not sure then Google him. His background includes being a part of the process that put the Golden State Warriors dynasty together. He’s already on the move in Atlanta since 2017 when he took over. It’s now 2021 and four years later with his star player in year three, the Hawks are heading in the right direction.


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2021 NBA Playoffs – Final four teams most likely to become a dynasty

The NBA Playoffs is down to four teams, the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Atlanta Hawks. Each team has not won a championship since the NBA and ABA merged back in 1976. So by default, a new champion crowned this summer will end a dreadful drought. The NBA hasn’t seen a back-to-back winner since the Warriors last won in 2017 and 2018. The trend continues in 2021 as the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t make it past the first round.

If you’re just tuning in to the NBA Playoffs you will not see any of the following players. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokić (the NBA’s MVP!), and Luka Doncic. However, is that a bad thing? We’ll let you decide but this is year could be the start of an opportunity for a new star player to start a new winning way for a franchise that has been dying for it. The final four teams most likely to become a dynasty based on this season? Let’s rank ’em!

The idea here is that each of the four teams left in the 2021 NBA Playoffs will have to WIN the championship this season to start the dynasty run. In the scenario each team won the championship, I will break down why they could possibly become the NBA’s next dynasty at the start of a new decade.

Phoenix Suns

Let’s face it whether you knew about or just learning about Devin Booker it’s fair to say he’s certainly unstoppable in these 2021 Playoffs. Was there any doubt out there that he would struggle against the Clippers WITHOUT Chris Paul in the line-up? How’s 40 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assist sound in Game 1? This also was a year some folks thought Paul should be an MVP candidate. However, at age 24 Booker is playing in his first playoffs and effectively a force when he’s on the floor. What makes this team a dynasty threat?

The young age of their core including Booker (24 years old), is DeAndre Ayton (22 years old), Mikal Bridges (24 years old), Cameron Payne (26 years old), and Cameron Johnson (25 years old). Jae Crowder, Chris Paul, and Torrey Craig don’t seem to be a part of this team long-term but in the next 2-3 years? Certainly. This team has the possibiltiy to stick together to run it back whether they win or lose the Finals this season.

Winning a championship for the first time in Phoenix can pop the top for this team to possibly see itself in the NBA Finals quite frequently over the next 3-5 seasons. Would we complain about getting to watch Devin Booker elevate his game and carry a franchise to the Finals repeatedly?

Are there any signs that the Suns are headed towards a dynasty now? Probably not and they could just be a single winner of the championship of the decade however, banking on the fact that Devin Booker is on the verge of elite stardom this is part of the forumla to stay winning in the NBA. Lastly, James Jones is the Suns General Manager and just won Executive of the Year. His leadership and basketball mind comes with being a part of elite chamipionship teams (including the only one to ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship in 2016). If this guy is at the top assembling a team with Booker leading, I’m buying in!

Milwaukee Bucks

We have to give Giannis Antetokounmpo his credit where it’s due. His mindset is to win and we give him a hard time if he doesn’t. However, outdueling Kevin Durant and the “super team” Nets is still something we shouldn’t just take lightly. Even if James Harden played on one leg and Kyrie Irving was missing for the later part of the series. The Bucks to me were ready to leap into the Finals in 2019. A few bounces and the ball going through the net sealed the deal for the Raptors to face the Bucks in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals. Running into Kawhi Leonard during a true underdog run left the Bucks coming up short yet again.

Milwaukee has spent the last 4 seasons losing in the playoffs. Let’s take a look back at the last four seasons. The Greek Freak has won two MVP awards (2019, 2020), a Defensive Player of the Year award (2020), and the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2017. Clearly, he’s on track to prove in the NBA that he’s a legit superstar that demands respect. However, no NBA Finals games under his belt and that is yet to be determined.

Should Giannis take the Bucks to the NBA Finals this year AND win it? Adding a championship adds tremendous value to his resume, however, there is the feeling that the Bucks aren’t done there. Milwaukee signed Jrue Holiday to a contract extension earlier this year. Khris Middleton is in year two of a five-year deal which he wouldn’t be able to opt-out of until after the 2022-2023 season. This could be a new “big 3” to fear in the next few seasons and demanding respect especially if Giannis puts a ring on the Bucks franchise. If the Bucks win this season free agents have to believe in Giannis and his leadership to get them to the next level.

Hmm, I remember a trio that stuck together while a generational star joined them in 2017. Not saying the Bucks will attract or have the cap space remotely close to affording that but it allows for other veteran players to come and go likewise the Warriors rotating from Igoudala, Zaza Pachulia, Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Shaun Livingston, and Harrison Barnes. These vets served for the Warriors over their short span from 2016-2017 and adding Durant was the insurance that significant need for role players wasn’t necessary. Today’s NBA will need Donte DiVincenzo and Bryn Forbes to stick around, knock down shots and play defense.

Los Angeles Clippers

Anytime you have two of the top players in their prime on one team there has to be an easy consideration for being a contender but also a dynasty. I’m sure Paul George and Kawhi Leonard just magically didn’t show up to the Clippers to win one ring. A franchise in desperate need of a championship and also one that’s dubbed as LA’s “b-team” needs more respect than that. This dynasty could be very short-lived, however, but nonetheless, there is a possibility that we’re looking at the team with the most potential to win now and be back in the Finals next year without question.

Assuming that Kawhi Leonard agrees to a max deal and stays a Clipper for the next 4-5 years and the Clippers win the championship this year, the Clippers will still have a bug in their ear. The Lakers are still the storied franchise of the city and a real big deal is across the hallway. LeBron James will most likely wrap up his legacy and career as a Laker with the last of the prime he has.

I rank the Clippers above the Hawks here because the decade could start off with George and Leonard as the front runners who prove they can win when it’s their time too. Los Angeles made the coaching change and opted for Tyronn Lue who clearly is working harder without Leonard in the lineup during the most critical time, the playoffs. He’s worked with a star before (LeBron James) and obviously making enough adjustments (and Terance Mann) to keep the Clippers relevant in this year’s playoffs.

The Clippers have the best potential to be that team becomes a one-and-done champion (Raptors 2019, Pistons 2004, Mavericks 2011) most likely pending the decisions Leonard will make after this season with this contract. For now assuming the roster wins a championship it will be hard to see Kawhi leaving town anytime soon and rehabbing his way back to help his team win another one the next season.

Atlanta Hawks

Underdogs! The Hawks have turned into the underdog story that everyone besides Knicks fans can appreciate. Trae Young is dubbed “super villain” but clearly a young star that wants to win at all costs. Usually midseason coaching changes means a team is headed in a totally different direction. However, Nate McMillan took over for the Hawks Head Coaching position on March 1, 2021 and since then the Hawks haven’t looked a direction in the wrong way.

Are the Hawks ready to be a dynasty if they get to the Finals and win it this season? The problem is here that it’s truly hard to see the Hawks winning the championship this season but also the fact that Giannis still will be roaming the Eastern Conference until he decides he’s done with basketball at this rate. The odds are that the Hawks may not peak just yet and Trae Young, while he is elite now, also may need another All-Star next to him. The winning formula is slowly brewing in Atlanta.

Young and the Hawks also have a dilemma on the John Collins contract as he’s a restricted free agent after the season. This season, however, will be telling the story that Young is building in his short career. It’s already off to a good note that he’s won TWO series against teams arguably better defensively in the NBA and the Hawks (Knicks and 76ers). If the Hawks fall short of a title this season we’re probably not going to slander Trae but appreciate he’s got a brought future ahead.

It is very unlikely the Hawks win the championship this season but if they do, the likelihood of them winning again next season or the next 2-3 years also is unlikely. The good sign is Atlanta has most of their young core signed until the end of the 2022 season. With a little bit of space clearing that summer, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul are free agents (as of now) and the remaining players with Player Options are John Wall, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Julius Randle, and Kawhi Leonard. Should any of these players opt-out and get curious Atlanta SHOULD be on their agenda.


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Injuries are not an excuse for the Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets’ excuses began almost immediately and were entirely valid.

Kyrie Irving sprained his ankle and James Harden was playing on a bad hamstring, leaving Kevin Durant as the lone healthy member of the Nets’ “Big Three.”

“I’m not trying to be a hero out there,” Durant said after his dazzling 49-point Game 5 performance. “I know I can’t win a ballgame by myself.”

But to beat the Bucks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and avoid elimination, Durant needed to prove himself wrong and win entirely on his own. His failure to do so unmasked the one fatal flaw of an NBA superteam: injuries happen, and they are not an excuse for a loss.

Injuries are a part of sports. They are a challenge to overcome, not a narrative to fall back on. To say that a healthy Nets team would have beaten the Bucks is akin to saying that a higher-scoring Nets team would have beaten the Bucks. Sure, it’s almost certainly true. But what’s your point?

Like it or not, contrary to Durant’s opinion, basketball is all about winning on your own. Modern day greats like LeBron James and, yes, Giannis Antetokounmpo were their own superteams. Players so transcendent that the ability of their teammates was completely irrelevant.

The irony is that no recent superteam has proven capable of reaching that level of individual dominance, and Durant was involved both times. Stephen Curry could not will the Warriors to a 2019 Finals win with Durant and Klay Thompson sidelined. And now, even Durant’s 48 points in Game 7 were not enough to beat the well-rounded Bucks.

Make no mistake: Durant was nothing short of incredible during this series and was literally a big toe away from changing the outcome of the series. But to build long-term success, the Brooklyn Nets will need to find a better strategy than haphazardly stringing together All-Stars and hoping they are healthy for the playoffs.

2021 NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Finals – (2) Phoenix Suns vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers

West Conference Semifinals: (2) Phoenix Suns vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers – Series preview

(2) Phoenix Suns

The luxury of a sweep is sitting around and enjoying who gets to run themselves down for the next round. In this case, it’s even better the NBA is scheduling the Western Conference Finals to start less than 48 hours for a MIDDAY matinee from when the Clippers last played? The Suns should rightfully earn the respect of being favored in almost every moment here on out (fully healthy of course). They survived the defending champs Los Angeles Lakers (at the expense of Anthony Davis’ injury). They spoiled Nikola Jokić’s MVP year and swept him out of the playoffs. Chris Paul’s legacy gets a positive boost while the world is finally getting to see how good Devin Booker really is.

Now the bad news for Phoenix. Paul’s status for Game 1 remains up in the air due to health and safety protocol. It is assumed he is the only player who tested positive for COVID-19 since the NBA reported last week. There is no real indication of CP3’s turnaround time to return back to the court. Due to the fact the NBA is scheduling the series to start as quickly as possible, this gives Phoenix no leeway in buying more days for Paul to be in the lineup for Game 1. Assuming that once the mandatory quarantine period has passed, Paul should be available for the series in the later parts should the series go longer than 4 games.

What favors Phoenix is that they have proven so far teams led by star players without much of a supporting cast aren’t an issue (see LeBron without Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokić without Jamal Murray). The luck of the draw not facing teams at their best? Ok ok, I like to give credit where it’s due, and Phoenix still flexed pretty hard in those games instead of folding under pressure when the opposition made runs.

(4) Los Angeles Clippers

Most people figured at this rate we would FINALLY see the battle of LA? The Lakers vs the Clippers, Kawhi, and PG13 vs LeBron and AD. What a let down right? In all fairness, no matter how you feel about the Clippers they’ve worked themselves into the Western Conference Finals. Finding out the news mid-series that Kawhi Leonard is officially out with a knee injury is devastating news if you’re a Clippers fan. The worse part is that the news is feared to be an ACL injury and he’s out indefinitely.

Maybe another man can save the Clippers’ season? That man is Terance Mann. I spoke about him in the preview of the Semifinals series slowly emerging with his extended minutes. But let’s be real, did anyone see a Terance Mann scoring 39 points in a close-out game against the UTAH JAZZ? Probably not right? Credit is due and man, quite frankly he had one of the best jerseys in the NBA bubble last season. His jersey phrase was “I Am A Man”, followed by his surname, Mann.

Anyways, back to gloating but Mr. Mann clearly loves close-out games because he becomes better and better each time. In Game 7 against Dallas, he scored 13 points on 50-percent shooting. A whole series later he’s dropping 39 points on 71-percent shooting in Game 6?!? Since Game 1 against Dallas in the first round, Mann’s production is quickly rising as more minutes become available to him. Here is the baffling part. Before Game 6 against the Jazz, Mann had only taken 13 three-point field goals the entire playoffs and connected on four of them. All of a sudden in Game 6 he takes 10 and knocks down seven of those attempts? Overall, he’s shooting 54-percent from the field in the entire 2021 Playoffs.

Top players to watch

Devin Booker – 2021 Playoffs

  • 27.9 PPG
  • 6.8 RPG
  • 4.8 APG

Paul George – 2021 Playoffs

  • 26.1 PPG
  • 9.2 RPG
  • 5.3 APG

Where should the money go?

It almost feels like we have to put a disclaimer here should an injury occur in this series at some point. It is unfortunate that the Playoffs have resulted in some top All-Star players injured and of no availability.

Los Angeles’ defense will have to consistently be aware of the shooters like Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, and Jae Crowder. That means Terance Mann, Paul George, Reggie Jackson, and Nicolas Batum have some work to do. Should Chris Paul be out for Game 1 this favors the Clippers as some of these Suns players reap the benefits of a playmaker like Paul setting them up.

The Clippers are also at a disadvantage when it comes to size. DeAndre Ayton sits down in the paint for the Suns and continues to show as a 22-year old former 1st pick in the 2018 Draft that he’s ready for the big moments. His last two series saw parts of Anthony Davis and directly matching up against the NBA’s MVP this year, Jokić.

However, Ty Lue found a way to beat the league’s best big man on the defensive end, Rudy Gobert. Can the small ball continue to be successful for the Clippers? At times Paul George and Nicolas Batum listed at 6’8 each would be the tallest players on the floor for the Clippers. Can they alienate Ayton away from the floor and force Monty Williams to go small as well? We are either in for a battle of the role players and Booker against George, Mann, and their role players.

This is where I worry for the Clippers as the Suns have the next-man-up mentality too. Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, Torrey Craig, and Dario Saric all make up the bench players that Monty Williams has in his bench rotation. It’s almost daring for the Clippers to go small because the Suns have the depth to combat any type of lineup they may face. My other concern for the Clippers is the fatigue (but we could argue Phonix being rusty especially without Paul early in the series). I haven’t even touched on Devin Booker but quite frankly unless PG13 gives us a series to remember the advantage works in Booker’s favor.

With that being said, the Phoenix Suns are going to the 2021 NBA Finals in 6 Games!

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
PHX leads series 1-0

6/20

3:30 PM ET

ABC

Clippers - 114
Suns - 120

Game 2:
PHX leads series 2-0

6/22

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Clippers - 103
Suns - 104

Game 3: PHX leads series 2-1


6/24

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Suns - 92 Clippers - 106

Game 4:
PHX leads series 3-1

6/26

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Suns - 84
 Clippers - 80

Game 5:
PHX leads series 3-2

6/28

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Clippers - 116
Suns - 102

Game 6:
PHX wins series 4-2

6/30

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Suns - 130
 Clippers - 103

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Kevin Durant – don’t question greatness

Today I thought I’d have to jump on the internet and write loudly say DON’T QUESTION KEVIN DURANT’S GREATNESS IF he lost Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks. After an amazing performance, however, there is a mum of questioning his greatness after the 21-point fourth-quarter Durant displayed. But still, there is a series that has to play out as the Nets are only up 3-2 against the Bucks in the 2021 Conference Semifinals.



Most people who believe in KD probably aren’t shocked by the performance. Well, maybe Shannon Sharpe might be shocked as prior to Game 5 he had this to say:

What about that time in 2013?

Fast Forward to post-Game 5 of the series and Shannon Sharpe still isn’t satisfied over one game but I will share a time where Kevin Durant had to play at a higher level lonesome. Let’s turn the clock back to the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Kevin Durant was then with the Oklahoma City Thunder at age 24. His sidekick was Russell Westbrook and the season following their 4-1 Finals lost to the Miami Heat.

Westbrook was injured in Game 2 of the First Round against the Houston Rockets. A torn meniscus and out of the rest of the playoffs, Durant was in charge of leading the Thunder to another Finals attempt HIMSELF! But here is the thing here are the numbers the 24-year old put up in two series that year AFTER losing Westbrook. The end result was the 2012-2013 Memphis Grizzlies was too much for the Thunder and sent Durant home in the Conference Semifinals.

Source: Baseketball-Reference.com

He’s always been good, so what?

Now some people will say well, Durant’s numbers have always been good right? I’d say yes, but the beauty of looking back here is that we find out that KD never averaged over six assists per game in the regular season (counting all 13 seasons through 2021). My point here is that his numbers, in nine games, of course, are showing some pretty elite games. KD has always been a playoff performer and has delivered. So, to say he’s never been “asked” to come forth to rise to the occasion in 2021 is a bit ludicrous. Are we purposely not counting Durant’s pre-superteam days to push a narrative? Weird.

Now Mr. Sharpe is right about one thing, in the last five years, yes Durant has never been asked to do this at HIS luxury. But isn’t that why some NBA fans were a little upset? Because we (just me?) believed KD could legit carry a team to an NBA Finals himself àh la Kawhi and LeBron in the modern era of the NBA. So go to that small market team or stay loyal to Oklahoma City. Don’t give into a 73-9 team with some of the game’s greatest shooters ALREADY! Really KD?!?

The underlying point

I am not here to bash KD though. On June 8th, 2021 he left us with this Tweet and then, hasn’t said a word on Twitter. We respect his focus on the series and not tweeting facts like this. I think if I worked my ass off for 13 NBA seasons as of today, why ignore and discredit I’ve done this since I was a young 24-year old?

Carry on KD, carry on.

2021 NBA Playoffs: West Conference Semifinals – (1) Utah Jazz vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers

West Conference Semifinals: ((1) Utah Jazz vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers – Series preview

(1) Utah Jazz

One of the most promising things about the first round for the Jazz is that they saw Donovan Mitchell return in Game 2. After losing Game 1 and some discrepancies on whether or not Mitchell was ready for that game there wasn’t any questioning his health after Game 2. Call it the old gentleman’s sweep, the Jazz wrapped up the series 4-1 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Utah arguably won this series by hitting the three-point shot consistently as they made 16.8 three-point field goals in five games against Memphis. When the Grizzlies only hit 10.4 three-point field goals in the five games that’s at most 48 points of a difference in scoring that favors Utah. We get it the Jazz take a lot of threes and make a lot of threes! But the Grizzlies lost each game by an average margin of 9.6 points. Memphis truly held their own and just couldn’t compensate for the Jazz’s offensive shooting from the deep ball.

Up next is the bigger challenge defensively against two All-Stars in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Is the Jazz the best defensive team? I think questions could be answered as their perimeter defense will have to prove that the big man in the middle, Rudy Gobert, isn’t overwhelmed at the basket (or ending up in foul trouble).

(4) Los Angeles Clippers

It seems that the Clippers are just truly the NBA’s roller coaster of emotions of a team. First, they lose the first two home games of the 2021 Playoffs to the Dallas Mavericks (and mostly due to Luka Dončić). The questioning on if this team is worth even considering to win this series, followed by Kawhi Leonard in a Miami Heat jersey photoshop, and well Wayoff P is back? But hold the phone, after each team didn’t win a home game until Game 7 that was the true deciding factor in that series.

So, the Mavericks have a guy but also so do the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard entered the chat in Game 6 and 7 facing elimination. Leonard averaged 36.5 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and shooting the ball 70-percent from the field! Sheesh! Kawhi clearly said I am the best player in this series and I will show you why. The 45 points in Game 6 came down to The Klaw putting away the game with a 5-of-5 effort in the 4th quarter and two big three-point shots in the last 3 minutes.

Paul George is a little overshadowed by Leonard’s heroics in the last two games of the last series. However, can he finally earn the name Playoff P? 23.6 points, 9 rebounds, and 5.7 assists isn’t a bad way to backup Kawhi Leonard at all. George is clearly right behind his right-hand man. The Clippers next best effort against Dallas was Reggie Jackson averaging 15.4 points per game.

Top players to watch

Donovan Mitchell – First Round vs Memphis

  • 28.5 PPG
  • 3.0 RPG
  • 5.8 APG

Kawhi Leonard – First Round vs Dallas

  • 33.0 PPG
  • 7.9 RPG
  • 4.6 APG

Where should the money go?

I know you’re awaiting my prediction right? I gotta be honest as the most objective basketball analyzer in the world. I’m rolling with faith in Kawhi Leonard this series. Partially, the Clippers are the most battle-tested and coming into this series with greater confidence. Again, another young guard in the Western Conference is across the court in Donovan Mitchell and I’m sure Kawhi Leonard make take offense should Mitchell start to outplay him.

The Clippers will have the same issues as Memphis. Don’t try to outscore Utah, try to stop them from shooting the three-point ball. In their five games against the Grizzlies, the Jazz shot 207 three-point field goals. The Clippers attempted 252 in SEVEN GAMES. At this rate, the Jazz would pace to take 300 three-point field goals in a series if it played out to a Game 7.

I know the new thing is to show some love to the next generation of stars. They’ve arrived like a Donovan Michell. However, the Clippers proved with Dončić that they are still the better team with a better roster. Los Angeles will still need assistance from Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris defensively as well. We know that the Jazz has the Sixth Man of the Year, Jordan Clarkson. To combat him will be Terance Mann, who had his best game of the series in Game 7 against Dallas. Mann scored 13 points on 50-percent shooting.

I will still commit my trust in the veterans like Leonard and George at this point. Clippers in 6 games.

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
UTA leads series 1-0

6/08

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Clippers - 109
Jazz - 112

Game 2:
UTA leads series 2-0

6/10

10:00 PM ET

ESPN

Clippers -111 Jazz - 117


Game 3:
UTAH leads series 2-1

6/12

8:30 PM ET

ABC

Jazz - 106
Clippers - 132

Game 4:
Series tied 2-2

6/14

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Jazz - 104
Clippers - 118

Game 5
LAC lead series 3-2

6/16

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Clippers - 119

 Jazz - 111

Game 6:
LAC wins series 4-2

6/18

10:00 PM ET

ESPN

Jazz - 119
Clippers - 131

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2021 NBA Playoffs: West First Round – (4) Los Angeles Clippers vs (5) Dallas Mavericks

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
DAL leads 1-0

5/22/21

4:30 PM EST

ESPN

Mavericks - 113
Clippers - 103

Game 2:
DAL leads 2-0

5/25/21

10:30 PM EST

NBATV

Mavericks - 127
Clippers - 121

Game 3:
DAL leads 2-1

5/28/21


9:30 PM EST

ESPN

Clippers - 118
Mavericks - 108

Game 4: Series tied 2-2


5/30/21

9:30 PM EST

TNT

Clippers- 106 Mavericks - 81

Game 5:
DAL leads 3-2

6/2/21

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Mavericks - 105
Clippers - 100

Game 6:
Series tied 3-3

6/4/21

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Clippers - 104
Mavericks - 97


Game 7
LAC wins series 4-3

6/6/21

3:30 PM ET

ABC

Mavericks - 111
Clippers - 126

West First Round – (4) Los Angeles Clippers vs (5) Dallas Mavericks – Series preview

(4) Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have had a quiet season by their finishing 4th in the West. They made quick work of the Mavericks in the playoffs including two blowouts for a 4-2 series win. This season they are in the top 10 in both offense and defense and look to right the wrongs of last season’s debacle. Paul George has been sharp all season while Leonard suited up only 51 times. The area of exploitation where the Clippers can excel is the interior if Zubac was a bit more consistent. The Mavs are a rotating door of big men who each possess a certain skill while none exhibit anything remotely complete. Getting Serge Ibaka back after an extended layoff from back issues would prove clutch. This is the Clippers’ series to lose which they might if Doc Rivers was still on the bench. 

(5) Dallas Mavericks

Beating the Clippers by 51 points in January and winning the season series with both Leonard and George playing is a huge confidence booster. Dorian Finney-Smith, shot 39% from 3 this season, and Maxi Kleber at 41% which kept defenses honest defending Luka. Kristaps Porzingis was also effective against the Clippers when healthy averaging 16 & 11 in two meetings this season. However, the playoffs are where the Clippers need Porzingis to be at his best with his size. Luka was the sole reason that Dallas won any playoff games vs the Clippers last season. He is toughness was often tested by Marcus Morris that lead to some intense moments. Hard to read this Mavericks team overall as they tend to play to the level of competition good or bad. 

Top players to watch

Luka Doncic: 2020-2021 season

  • 27.7 PPG
  • 8.0 RPG
  • 8.6 APG

Kawhi Leonard: 2020-2021 season

  • 24.8 PPG
  • 6.5 RPG
  • 5.2 APG

Where should the money go?

The 4 seed for the Clippers is a bit misleading as they are better than their record indicates. Let’s not forget that the Mavericks struggled to claw their way back up into the playoff picture after flirting with the possibility of the play-in tournament. 

CLIPPERS 

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The New York Knicks Are Just Getting Started

Deep down, New York Knicks fans knew that this would be the outcome.

They knew that Julius Randle was not good enough to be the No. 1 player on a championship team. They knew that R.J. Barrett would not suddenly blossom into a superstar come playoff time.

But briefly, for a fanbase ravaged by a brutal pandemic and by years of boring basketball, none of that mattered. The 2021 Knicks were, and will be remembered as, superhuman. A blowout loss to the Atlanta Hawks does not change that fact.

Everyone knows by now that Vegas oddsmakers projected the Knicks to win 21 games this year, a total they nearly matched in April and May alone. But what those outside New York might not realize is that most fans did not even bat an eye when they heard that prediction. There was no reason to expect anything besides mediocrity. 

Instead, a fairytale developed at Madison Square Garden. While Kevin Durant — who Knicks fans were once certain would be wearing blue and orange by now — lit up the scoreboard in Brooklyn, the Knicks hung with the league’s best using a ragtag group of second-tier players united only by the fact that they did not reject New York. They were the exact opposite of a superteam in an era where no other strategy has relevance. 

“There is no other place like this,” Tom Thibodeau said after yesterday’s season-ending loss. “It was great to experience, even when we had 2,000 fans it felt like 19,000. From the players to the coaches, we all felt it. … And hopefully we gave them something to be proud of.” 

That is why things will only get better for New York in the coming years. The most important thing about this season is that it reminded fans and players what the Knicks are supposed to represent. No other New York team has such a strong impact on the mood of the city. When the Knicks lose, New York City loses. And when they win — well, did you hear how loud Madison Square Garden was?

So as Randle was showered with cheers, not booing, while dribbling out the last seconds of blowout Game 5 loss, it was obvious that a rebirth had taken place. The Knicks are no longer a once-great franchise whose only virtue is playing in a famous arena. Instead, speculation about a potential Damian Lillard trade is already starting. (Without any factual basis, but that is not the point). Whatever happens this offseason, Knicks fans are done reminiscing on past glory.