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Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics – Men’s Basketball Preview

The summer of basketball? While the 2021 NBA Finals end, the very next weekend will bring on a new basketball tournament. The delayed 2020 Tokyo games will open on July 23, 2021, and this summer will feature 12 teams in the basketball tournament. Need a guide for the basketball tournament? Here we are! The Tokyo 2020 – Men’s Basketball Preview.

Group A

Czech Republic

Following up its 2019 FIBA World Cup sixth-place finish the Czech Republic qualifies for the Olympics for the first time (well first time under the Czech Republic instead of former Czechoslovakia).

Current NBA talent: Chicago Bulls guard, Tomáš Satoranský

Projection: This team has limited talent from the NBA. The reality is in a group with a more superior France and the United States, it is hard to see them advancing to the bracket stage. However, the expectation for them to succeed in the qualifying was low as well and they ended up beating Canada as an underdog.

Iran

Iran is a country that is making repetitive appearances in major basketball tournaments. They are qualifiers of the FIBA World Cup tournament three times in a row now. They are also the lone Asian team in the tournament. This is a bit strange to say as China usually is a favorable team coming out of Asia. Iran has not qualified for the Olympics since 2008.

Current NBA talent: None at this time

Projection: Without any globally known talent, it is hard to see Iran coming out of this group. Their 2019 FIBA World Cup finish was at 23rd. A sneaky team in the group? Not even. Hard to say where Iran will fall in line but definitely not into the bracket stage.

France

The Frenchmen are a top team in the tournament. They’ve qualified for their third straight Olympics and finished third in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. This team shouldn’t be underestimated especially with the NBA’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert. They can build a starting five of NBA players and not many teams in the 12-team tournament can say that.

Current NBA talent: LA Clippers forward Nicolas Batum, Boston Celtics guard Evan Fournier, New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina and Brooklyn Nets guard Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot.

Projection: France has talent and they surely can give any contender a run for their money at the Gold Medal. The best part is that the United States appears to be a bit vulnerable in some early-preliminary games. Even with the world’s best basketball players, the USA team lost to Nigeria and Australia. It could be a moot point by the time the tournament tips off, however. France has the USA first on the list and could be beneficial to get an early win and hope the beast isn’t awakened by the bracket time if they have to face the USA to stave off elimination. For now, the third-best team in the world sounds good

United States

Pretty much the roster is sort of set? With Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton are still playing in the NBA Finals as Team USA takes on exhibition games this team is still star-studded. Kevin Love, Bradley Beal, and quite possibly Zach LaVine are out of the tournament due to various injuries or health and safety protocol.

Current NBA talent: The ENTIRE roster

Projection: World champs? They are the number one ranked team in the world and rightfully so. However, a few losses in exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia had everyone in the hysteria that the USA lost its touch. We shouldn’t be surprised if this team faces a little adversity in the Tokyo games. Other countries are on the rise with their own NBA talent. Globally the game of basketball isn’t just tied down to the USA having the best talent either.

Group B

Australia

Early smoking of Team USA in an exhibition game means not to take the Aussies lightly in the 2020 Olympic games. Ben Simmons decides not to play for his native team however, no worries they’ve got Patty Mills.

Current NBA talent: Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs) and Ingles (Utah Jazz) Aron Baynes (Toronto Raptors), Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum (Houston Rockets), Josh Green (Dallas Mavericks), and Matisse Thybulle (Philadelphia 76ers)

Projection: Should we fear this team being dangerous enough to win the Gold medal? Probably so. They are the third-ranked team according to FIBA rankings for the Men’s side. Now let’s talk about Group B because there is a little more competition with Germany and Nigeria despite them being ranked outside of the top 10 in the FIBA rankings. They should be favored as the Group B winner.

Germany

Every since Dirk Nowitzki retired the Germans has had a tough road rebuilding their basketball team to competing among the top teams. They haven’t been to the Olympics since 2008 and the best NBA talent they have to offer is Moritz Wagner (and Isaac Bonga) so a much inferior team likewise the Czech Republic.

Current NBA Talent: Mortiz Wagner (Orlando Magic) and Isaac Bonga (Washington Wizards)

Projection: They will be busy trying to chase Nigeria and Australia in this group. Don’t expect the Germans to make it past the group stage

Italy

This team enters its first Olympics since the 2004 Summer games and they actually won the Silver medal! This time around Italy qualifies for the tournament with three players currently on NBA rosters.

Current NBA Talent: Nico Mannion (Golden State Warriors), Danilo Gallinari (Atlanta Hawks), and Nicolò Melli (Dallas Mavericks)

Projection: Again, another team flirting with the idea that getting past the group stage is something possible. Can they steal one against Nigeria or Germany to shake things up in the group? That would be the only overachieving direction for this inferior team.

Nigeria

The excitement about this team is that it features seven players technically on an NBA roster. They also have beaten Team USA’s current roster in the first game of exhibition play in Las Vegas earlier this month. While they are currently ranked 22nd on FIBA terms, they clearly have a roster that can compete with the elite of the United States NBA stars.

Current NBA talent: Precious Achiuwa (Heat), Chimezie Metu (Kings), Jordan Nwora (Bucks), Jahlil Okafor (Pistons), Josh Okogie (Timberwolves), KZ Okpala (Heat), Miye Oni (Jazz), Gabe Vincent (Heat).

Projection: This team probably shouldn’t be taken lightly as in the group they have to compete with another team beat Team the USA. With that said, Nigeria should have no problem finishing in 2nd place in this group at the worse. They also should qualify for the bracket round. From there depending on matchups I wouldn’t favor this team over Spain, Australia, Argentina, or the United States. However, consider Mike Brown as the head coach and a little NBA flavor with the international rules can keep this team competing.

Group C

Argentina

The last star player in the NBA that also played for Argentina was Manu Ginobili. In 2004 Argentina captured Gold but after that was the wrath of the redemption of Team USA who has captured the Gold medal in everyone tournament since then. The history of Argentina basketball also includes a 2008 bronze medal.

Current NBA talent: Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Gabriel Deck and guard Luca Vildoza New York Knicks

Projection: Argentina isn’t just ranked fourth overall for any reason. They can be considered a contender for the Gold medal game easily. A familiar name is Luis Scola who at age 40 is still playing for this roster. If anything, Scola can teach the young bucks a thing or two, and perhaps which is why they are still a strong team in the world.

Japan

As the host country gets their free entry to the contest Japan features some NBA familiar names and also brings an opportunity that Japan has not seen since 1976. That’s right the last time they qualified for this event.

Current NBA talent: Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe and Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura

Projection: With Spain and Argentina in this group it is hard to imagine Japan securing a top-two spot here. Things don’t get better against Slovenia who features Luka Doncic.

Slovenia

Here is a team that has NEVER seen the basketball tournament in Olympics history. The unique 2020 games in 2021 right? Led by none other than Luka Doncic, he leads his country to their first-ever Olympic Games after knocking off Lithuania.

Current NBA talent: Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

Projection: Spain and Argentina make a fair case that this group is theirs respectfully 1A and 1B. However, adding Doncic to the mix here and a Slovenia team with the international experience already can set up for a nice winning combination. Doncic comes back to playing in the international waters where he spent as a young pre-NBA All-Star. I say expect Slovenia in the bracket tournament.

Spain

Where do we begin? The team that was always trailing Team USA and always on their heels at the finish line in Gold medal games. Spain finished with the bronze in 2016, and silver medals both in 2012 and 2008. The team will feature Pau Gasol who is currently playing for Barcelona and out of the NBA.

Current NBA talent: Marc Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers), Willy Hernangomez (New Orleans Pelicans) and Juancho Hernangomez (Minnesota Timberwolves), and Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Projection: Favorites to win the Gold medal? Absolutely! I give the nod to Spain winning Group C and perhaps along the way potentially seeing an upset by Slovenia or Australia if I had to put money on it.


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2021 NBA Finals: (2) Phoenix Suns vs (3) Milwaukee Bucks

2021 NBA Finals: (2) Phoenix Suns vs (3) Milwaukee Bucks

Baseline Times 2021 Summer Intern – Adam Kinberg previews this year’s NBA Finals at BaselineTimes.com

(2) Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns are coming off a very strong postseason run in which they beat some of the best teams in the western conference. Their playoff run began with a meeting with the heavily favored and defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. Both of the Lakers’ stars were banged up with injury but nobody was willing to bet against the tandem of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers ended up beating the Suns in Phoenix in game two and in LA in game four. It looked like the Suns were done, with their arena packed with “let’s go Lakers” chants and the team being smothered by the greatness of LeBron James. The Suns then showed their championship pedigree by winning three straight games to take down the scrappy and resilient Lakers in six games. The Suns then moved on to the Denver Nuggets.

The Suns made a very solid Nuggets team even without Jamal Murray look like a JV squad. The Nuggets were one of the best teams in the regular season and were thought to make a deep playoff run with their MVP in Nikola Jokic. Phoenix had other plans. “Suns in 4.” The Suns then went back to Staples Center to play the Los Angeles Clippers. Even without Kawhi Leonard in the lineup, the Clippers were still a very resilient and fierce team coming back from an 0-2 deficit in each of their last two series. The Clippers were known for making comebacks but Phoenix would have none of it. The Suns took care of homecourt in games one and two with the help of some Deandre Ayton heroics then took game four in LA. The Clippers were in the position that they loved to be in, counted out.

The Suns then dropped the possible series clincher at home but cliched the series in LA with a masterpiece of a game from Chris Paul in the arena and city he once called home. The Suns are going to the finals for the first time since 1993. Phoenix is now set to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA finals. The Bucks have not won an NBA championship since 1971 while the Suns have not won a championship in their team’s history. Phoenix and Milwaukee are both very well constructed teams with strong foundations. This series will come down to execution, defense, and veteran leadership. This series will be very entertaining and it will come down to a game six or seven. In the end, the Suns will be the 2021 NBA champions. The offensive tandem of Chris Paul and Devin Booker will overwhelm the Bucks. Chris Paul will be the factor that tips the needle in Phoenix’s favor. The veteran savvy that Paul provides will lift the Suns to their first championship.

(3) Milwakuee Bucks

The Milwaukee Buck is coming off a very successful playoff run in which they defeated the best teams in the east. They made the previous eastern conference champion in the Miami Heat look like child’s play sweeping them in four games. They then moved onto the Brooklyn Nets in which they came out victorious in a hard-fought seven games series that saw Milwaukee climb out of an 0-2 hole and a 3-2 deficit. They then moved onto the red hot Atlanta Hawks that featured an up and coming star in Trae Young. They took care of the Hawks in six games which saw many key injuries including the Bucks own Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Hawks’ Trae Young.

Khris Middleton was superb in this series showing that he is a worthy co-star for Giannis. He dropped a whopping 38 points in a must-win game three in Atlanta and 32 in the series-clinching game six in Atlanta. Both were very high stakes games and Middleton rose to the occasion. He also did not have the help of Giannis in game six as he was out with injury. The Bucks are now set to face one of the hottest and most well-balanced teams in the league in the Phoenix Suns. This matchup is one of the most intriguing in years as it does not feature a super team. Both the Suns and Bucks are teams that have built through the draft with smart free-agent signings.

The teams that usually win the championship are those that go all out on big names and stack their team as much as possible. Neither the Suns nor Bucks have done this. The Bucks duo of Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo Are set to face Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Both teams are very balanced and talented. It remains to be seen if Giannis will play but nonetheless, this will be a very entertaining series.

Top players to watch

Devin Booker – 2021 Playoffs

  • 27.0 PPG
  • 6.4 RPG
  • 4.8 APG

Giannis Antetokounmpo – 2021 Playoffs

  • 28.2 PPG
  • 12.7 RPG
  • 5.2 APG

Where should the money go?

SUNS IN 6!

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
PHX leads series 1-0

7/06

9:00 PM ET

ABC

Bucks - 105 
Suns - 118

Game 2:
PHX leads series 2-0

7/08

9:00 PM ET

ABC

Bucks - 108 
Suns - 118

Game 3:
PHX leads series 2-1

7/11

8:00 PM ET

ABC

Suns - 100
Bucks - 120

Game 4:
series tied 2-2

7/14

9:00 PM ET

ABC

Suns - 103
Bucks - 109

Game 5:
MIL leads series 3-2

7/17

9:00 PM ET

ABC

Bucks - 123 
Suns - 119

Game 6:
MIL wins series 4-2

7/20

9:00 PM ET

ABC

Suns - 98
Bucks - 105

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2021 NBA Playoffs Podcaster Bracket Challenge

Welcome to the second year of the NBA Playoffs Podcaster Bracket Challenge! We’ve partnered up with a few other NBA podcasts to share series predictions throughout the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Let’s see who knows the most about the sport they podcast about! The returning Champions George and Sami Jarjour from Pod That: Two Brother’s Talkin’ Sports Podcast return to defend their title!

This year’s tournament will feature the Shoot or Pass Podcast, The Close Up Magic, The Dime with Josh Rodriguez, and new contestant Ben Berry from Sixers Talk!

Each podcast has collectively chosen series winners and series lengths for each round up until the Finals, where they have predicted their 2021 NBA Champions. Some of the points are also earned for picking the CORRECT Play-in Tournament winners as well.

Follow along as each podcast team makes their picks, brings you some crossover content (and tons of trash talk) on upcoming episodes of the podcasts below!

*Each podcast with multiple hosts has agreed to collectively submit their picks as a team

Leaderboard

Current as of 7/06/2021

PodcastScore
The Close Up Magic2200
Shoot or Pass Podcast2050
Pod That2050
Sixers Talk2000
The Dime1850

The Contestants – Listen and follow!


Scoring System

Game RoundPoints
Play-In Tournament200 points for correct winner of each Play-in Tournament game
1 (First Round)100 points for each correct Series prediction (800 total points possible)
2 (Conference Semi-Finals Round)200 points for each correct Series prediction (800 total points possible)
3 (Conference Finals Round)400 points for each correct Series prediction (800 total points possible)
4 (Finals Round)800 points for a correct Series prediction (800 total points possible)
Series Length Prediction100 points for a correct Series Length prediction (1,500 total points possible)


Podcasters Brackets

Play-in Tournament Picks

Podcast

Pod That: Two Brother’s Talkin’ Sports

Shoot or Pass Podcast

Sixers Talk

The Close Up Magic

The Dime

Game 1 Winner

Game 2 Winner

Game 3 Winner

Game 4 Winner

Game 5 Winner

Game 6 Winner

Check out the 2021 NBA Playoffs Hub

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2021 NBA Playoffs Hub

Welcome to the Baseline Times 2021 NBA Playoffs Hub! Your go-to for all of the 2021 NBA Playoffs schedule, scores, and more from our dedicated NBA team here at Baseline Times.

The 2021 NBA Playoffs tip-off on May 22, 2021. The Play-in Tournament will run from May 18th – May 21st, 2021.

2021 NBA Finals – schedule, scores, and more

2021 NBA Playoffs – Conference Semifinals Series schedule, scores, and more

Conference Finals

Conference Semifinals Series

First Round Series

Conference Finals

Conference Semifinals Series

First Round Series

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Podcasts

Chris Paul – the career of bad faith but its time for a broken curse

Baseline Times Summer 2021 – Summer Intern Adam Kinberg shares his thoughts on Chris Paul’s best championship run this year.

Chris Paul is one of the greatest point guards of all time. His spectacular point guard skills and unmatched basketball IQ elevate every team he has ever played for. With his Phoenix Suns team making the Western Conference Finals, this is all the more apparent. He has been counted out time and time again. Fans and media members alike said that he was “too old” and “didn’t have it anymore. He is proving all the doubters wrong.

The Phoenix influence

Paul, at the age of 36 has elevated his team like no other player in the league. He has raised the Suns from a perennial bottom-dweller in the west to a bonafide contender. Out of the final four teams currently left in the playoffs, Paul stands as the best point guard remaining in the playoffs. His dazzling performance against the Lakers and Nuggets showed the NBA that the Suns are not just a young and up incoming team just happy to be in the playoffs. Paul showed that he can uplift a team no matter what the circumstance may be.

The guiding factor of winning

Not only has Paul done this with the Thunder and Suns, but with the Rockets and Clippers as well. The Clippers were a team marred by organization dysfunction and an ownership scandal. The Rockets were one win away from the NBA finals until Paul was injured. Both of those teams were uplifted by the presence of Paul. The failure to win a championship in both of those situations came down to factors that were out of Paul’s control. Take his performance in the 2019-20 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder as evidence. That Thunder team was projected to be one of the worst in the league. Despite this, Paul turned them into a playoff team. The leadership and skill that Paul provided boosted his teammates and turned that team into something special.

Paul now has the opportunity to win his first NBA championship. A career scared by missed opportunities now has the chance to become a feel-good comeback story. Paul is not washed nor is he too old to make major contributions on a championship-level team. He is an elite point guard in a league that values three-point shooting and athleticism over basketball IQ and fundamentals. Paul has found the perfect opportunity with a co-star in Devin Booker. It is time for Paul to prove everyone wrong. It is time for the Suns to win their first NBA title.

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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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More NBA coverage from Baseline Times Media



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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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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