Let me get this out of the way first. I really don’t want to see the Nets vs. the Suns in the NBA Finals. Many Spurs fans agree: Only 3% of Spurs Nation wanted to see the Nets come out of the East, and only 14% wanted the Suns out of the West. The most painful part of a Nets-Suns Finals match-up would be having to root for Chris Paul and their Spurs-hating owner, Robert Sarver.
Luckily, we have three Spurs favorites standing in the way as of Saturday afternoon. With a throw-back defensive struggle, Coach Bud’s Bucks and Bryn Forbes stayed alive against the Nets Thursday night. The Bucks “out-scored” the mighty Nets 86-83, with both teams shooting under 38% from the floor and shooting 25% or less from three. Neither team reached double digits in made threes — wild for today’s NBA.
It looks like the winner of that series will probably play Danny Green’s 76ers, who lead the Atlanta Hawks 2-1 in their series. Of course, keeping with this playoffs’ theme of injury and blowouts, DG suffered a calf injury in Game 3’s sixteen-point win by the 76ers. In fairly typical Doc Rivers coach-speak, he opined about whether DG would play in the next game: “I’m not ruling Danny out, but I am pretty much ruling him out.” Thanks, Doc (which is NOT short for Doctor).
In the West, the Nuggets are looking at a likely sweep by the Suns. Has any team been luckier with opponents’ injuries than the Suns? Against the Lakers, the Suns went down 2 - 1 to the Lakers, only for Oft-Injured Anthony Davis (copyright pending) to hurt his (1) knee, and then his (2) groin. The Suns then got the Denver Nuggets, who are missing Bubble Playoff savant Jamal Murray and key reserve PJ Dozier, and starter Will Barton for Game 1 — with only limited availability thereafter. With the Suns’ luck, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell will get injured in the post-Clippers’ series celebration. Of course, this assumes the Jazz win the series. They will be leading either 3-0 or 2-1 after Saturday evening’s game.
I am rooting for the Jazz to finish off the Clippers, avoid injuries, and then take down the Suns. In my pre-playoff post, I gave the Jazz a very solid Spursian score of 8 out of 10:
The Jazz are an extremely Spursian team, with international talent, outstanding ball and player movement, and a strong defense keyed by likely Defensive Player of the year Rudy Golbert. Their coach Quin Snyder is from the Spurs coaching tree. As such, they are a solid 8 on the Spursian factors, and would be higher if they had an ex-Spur player on the roster. (Sixth man Jordan Clarkson is from San Antonio, so that helps.)
I have increased the score to a 9 after this perfectly Spursian quote from Coach Snyder about his team’s identity after Game 2 win:
“You create an identity by doing something over and over and over again, and that takes time.” Who else hears shades of “Pounding the Rock” in that quote?
- A bunch of players have put up huge rebounding numbers in the playoffs, including Rudy Gobert’s and Nikola Jokic’s 20 each in their most recent games. But with so many teams back-pedaling after they shoot, many defensive rebounders are only competing against their teammates for rebounds. I want to have a “Contested Rebounds” count, in which we only consider offensive rebounds or those in which players from the offensive team is in the key battling for the ball.
- Wow, Donovan Mitchell is a remarkably good offensive player. He should give Spurs fans hope in the upcoming draft, because Mitchell was selected 13th in the first round. Jazz greats Karl Malone and John Stockton went 12th and 16th, and perhaps most impressively, Rudy Gobert was drafted 27th. And we thought the Spurs drafted well.
- Many of the teams that went out in the first round are really suffering from that early exit. For instance, the Portland Trail Blazers fired long-time coach Terry Stotts, and star guard Damian Lillard expressed extreme frustration with the team make-up. Similarly, Dallas is trying to figure themselves out after blowing a 2-0 lead, with unofficial number two player Kristaps Porzingis unsure of his role in the Luka Doncic-dominated Mavs offense. A team not unhappy with their first round exit? The Memphis Grizzlies, who won two “Game Sevens” (win or go home) in the Play-In Tourney, and then put a scare into the top-ranked Jazz by winning Game 1 in Salt Lake City. The Grizzlies know that their future is so bright, they gotta wear shades.