"As the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers face off in the second round of the NBA playoffs, here is a full breakdown of the series."
"James Harden and Russell Westbrook versus LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Small-ball versus a group of giants. Two high-scoring offenses and two of the league’s top 10 defenses. This NBA playoffs matchup in the second round between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers has everything an NBA fan could ask for.
While this series between the Rockets and Lakers is sure to provide tons of excitement, the two teams had very different experiences in the first round.
After losing Game 1 to the Portland Trail Blazers many people thought the Lakers might be in trouble, including Charles Barkley who said they would get swept. But James and Davis had other plans. The duo took over the series, putting up incredible numbers, to help the Lakers win the next four games and make quick work of Portland.
On the other hand, it appeared as if the Rockets would cruise past the OKC Thunder after they got out to a 2-0 series lead. But things quickly changed and OKC pushed Houston to the brink of elimination, forcing a Game 7 in which the Rockets needed every single second of to come out on top.
The two different paths the Lakers and Rockets took to get to this point makes this series even more intriguing. The Lakers are fully rested but also have gone six days without playing a game that could hurt them. Meanwhile, the Rockets are still gassed from their first-round series but the fact that the series went seven could serve as a benefit because it let Westbrook get his legs back under him after missing four straight games.
This is just one of the many storylines to follow during this series. Continue reading to for a breakdown of a key matchup, key questions, and predictions for this second-round series"
Danny Ainge working hard to make something from nothing "I was out in the yard raking leaves when I found out that Gordon Hayward was leaving the Celtics. I saw the news and let out a audible yelp/gasp. Turns out Gordon is the one raking - to the tune of $120M.
Two quick points on this before I move on. First, that’s absolutely a gut-punch for the Celtics. They lose a core piece of their rotation and a very valuable asset for nothing*. (More on that asterisk later) Second, I don’t know if you can blame this on Danny Ainge. If some random team was going to be willing to give Hayward that much money, he’s right to take that money and Danny is right to wish him happy trails. Maybe we all should have seen this coming based on the “it only takes one” rule.
That’s not to say that Ainge is perfect and never makes mistakes (I really wish he had addressed the bench more last season, I don’t know how he hasn’t consolidated picks in the last few years, his recent record of mid-to-late draft picks has been suspect). I mean, if Hayward was willing to take $20M less to go home to Indy and the deal fell through because Ainge got greedy, that’s certainly an “L” (as they say). That’s a big “if” though and I kind of doubt it played out that way. Charlotte came with the big bags of cash late in the game and that was the end. Good for Gordon and his agent.
Once the Gordon Hayward shoe dropped, it seemed like all was lost. The Hornets weren’t even willing to play ball on a sign-and-trade. Instead electing to waive and stretch Batum (which would have resulted in $9M in dead money over the course of the next 3 seasons). It was the worst case scenario for the Celtics because their options for adding talent dwindled down to using the full MLE and the bi-annual exception.
On that front, the Celtics moved rather quickly. After flirting with Paul Millsap (who eventually signed in Denver again) Boston signed longtime nemesis Tristan Thompson with the MLE. Then they were able to sign Jeff Teague to be the veteran guard we’ve needed for years.
Finally, (and here’s where that asterisk comes in) it seems that the Hornets had a change of heart. They will consider working out a sign-and-trade deal with the Celtics. Which only makes sense because the right kind of deal would benefit both sides. How that deal actually goes down is anyone’s guess at this point. It could be as simple as creating a big trade exception or it could be some complicated 3 team deal with lots of moving parts. Frankly that part makes my head hurt but the cap guys are all excited about it and that’s good enough for me.
So stay tuned for more rollercoaster rides today and in the coming days. This shortened offseason has been a wild ride already but it feels like there’s more drama left to play out."Los Angeles Lakers Face Masks
"Winning is done when a team sacrifices to reach a common goal. The LA Clippers have sacrificed from roster spots 1-through-15.
Coming to Orlando to win the franchise’s first championship ever was a decision made by the whole team. Winning a title would mean a new era for a team with a ruffled past.
Great players have suited up for the Clippers. Players have made the All-Star team. Also, they have received great honors. The team though has always been known for losing.
Los Angeles is legendary. Some of the greatest talents in the world have made a name for themselves in this town. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are homegrown talents and need no introduction to the glamour and glitz of LA.
In this first-round matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, both players knew they had to be great. Both players needed each other to be great. Eventually, that was accomplished. The result?
The LA Clippers finally ending their first-round drought."Houston Rockets Face Masks
"The Milwaukee Bucks have revolutionized the way defense is played in the NBA. They take away the rim and force opponents to get the bulk of their offense from the mid-range and behind the 3-point line. They had the NBA’s best defense in the regular season, but surrendered a massive number of 3s along the way to the tune of 37.1 per 100 possessions. As it happens, their second-round matchup in the NBA playoffs, the Miami Heat, might be the best-crafted team to derail their quest to the Finals.
The Heat were just seventh in 3-point attempts, putting up just 35.4 per 100 possessions, but they were prolific in efficiency. They shot 37.9 percent from behind the arc, behind only the Utah Jazz and their 38.0 percent.
In the NBA, scheme matters, but personnel still gets the job done. For the Miami Heat, they’ve definitely got the personnel, and as Hassan Whiteside would say, they’ve got shooters.
The Heat have four players shooting over 40.0 percent from 3-point range, led by Duncan Robinson at 44.6 percent (on an incredible 8.3 attempts per game), Jae Crowder at 44.5 percent (since coming over at the trade deadline from the Memphis Grizzlies), Meyers Leonard at 41.4 percent and Kelly Olynyk at 40.6 percent.
Just outside this most elite of classes are Tyler Herro at 38.9 percent and Goran Dragic at 36.7 percent, and streaky scoring rookie Kendrick Nunn who can fill it up with a volume approach at 35.0 percent."NBA Face Masks NBA Face Covers