Saturday, June 02, 2018

Top 10 Moments of the 2018 NBA Playoffs

The Finals – Warriors vs. Cavaliers Part 4 – are upon us.  In the end, it will surely have tons of noteworthy moments.  But, first things first, let me enumerate what I think are the best moments of the rest of the 2018 NBA Playoffs (a.k.a. The LeBron James Show).

10.) When Jayson Tatum Dunked on LeBron
It’s a rare thing to dunk on LeBron.  Partly because it’s not often he makes a defensive effort.  But partly  because the playoffs have been his stage, and everyone else is just performing in it.

9.) This Chris Paul Layup
In the basketball anime Kuroko no Basuke, characters possess special skills unique to each of them.  These skills are so over-the-top that they are basically superpowers.  That layup is like one of those special skills from that anime.  That’s how absurd it is.

8.) When D-Wade Turned Back the Clock to Deliver a Vintage Performance
The Heat would eventually lose their series with the Sixers, 1-4.  But that one win came at Game 2 on the Sixers’ home floor, and was due to D-Wade drawing out which is probably the last juice of Flash in him.   He scored 28 points in 26 minutes.  Only seven of those points came from the second half, but they occurred on key, timely moments that kept any Sixers comeback at bay and sealed the game.

Gabrielle Union’s tweet for him was the perfect way to cap this chapter.

P.S. I wish Cavs didn’t trade him at the deadline.  His veteran savvy would have been invaluable for them in this playoff run.

7.) When Draymond Green Sneaked Into the Pelicans Huddle
It wasn’t out of a timeout so Draymond isn’t technically prohibited of doing it.  But still.  That was some entertaining trolling right there.  Plus, next to him was Rajon Rondo – a guy he was beefing with in that series.  He was probably baiting him to elbow him.  Surprised Rondo didn’t notice him immediately.

Stay sassy, Dray.

6.) This Ferocious Donovan Mitchell Putback Dunk
Melted the Rockets’ faces right there.  Also got the W.

5.) The Crazy Closing Seconds of Game 1 between the Celtics and the Bucks

In Game 1 of the first round series between the Celtics and Bucks, with 10.3 seconds left on the clock, with the score tied, Terry Rozier proceeded to do this:

The game should have been over at that point.  But Khris Middleton had other plans.  Half a second was long enough and 35 feet was close enough for him to do this:

Bucks eventually lost in overtime.  Nevertheless, what a fantastic sequence!

4.) When Westbrook Led the Thunder to a Shocking Game 5 Comeback
Heading into Game 5, the Thunder found themselves down 1-3 against the Jazz.  In the third quarter, it looked like they would be eliminated as they were behind 25 points.  Then the unexpected happened.  In the closing minutes of the third, the Thunder went on a 32-7 run to tie the game, as Russ went ballistic (20 of that 32 points came from him).  That would tie the game at 78 entering the final frame.  Russ would then score 13 points in the 4th to secure the win.  He finished with 45 points, and extended the Thunder’s season for one  more game.

3.) When LeBron Hit a Buzzer-Beating Gamewinner over the Raptors

LeBron has arguably been the centerpiece of these playoffs.  Game after game, he has delivered one legendary performance after another.  That’s why, despite having the weakest team he’s ever had in years, he’s in the Finals again – his 8th straight; 9th overall.

For me, he has really showcased in the 2018 playoffs how he has evolved as a player.  It seems like he has improved much in the aspects in which in the past would have been considered his weaknesses.  He’s been making an insane amount of mid-range shots, and he’s performed tremendously in the clutch.
He had two buzzer-beating gamewinners in the playoffs.  But, between them, his shot over the pathetic Raptors will probably go down as the more iconic one.  Most importantly, it was also at that particular point that I had that realization stated in the previous paragraph.

This almost made me root for him to win the championship for the first time since 2007.  Almost.  I’m still going with the Warriors this year.

2.) The Rockets’ Mindboggling 50-Point Third Quarter
The Rockets won their first two games against the Timberwolves in the first round.  However, when the series shifted to Target Center, the home team won a blowout game.  In Game 4, the Wolves were once again in position to win at home again, as the Rockets only led by a mere point at the half.  But what happened in the third quarter was unimaginable.  Not only did the Rockets erupt, but their eruption resulted to 50 friggin’ points (22 of which were courtesy of likely MVP James Harden).  That’s insane!

The shellshocked Timberwolves never recovered.  They lost that game as well as the succeeding Game 5.

However, unfortunately for the Rockets, this isn’t what they will be remembered for in these playoffs.

1.) When the Rockets Missed 27 Straight Three-Pointers in Game 7 of the West Finals

The Rockets, despite registering the best record of the season, were considered the underdogs against the defending champion Warriors in their inevitable Western Conference Finals matchup.  Many thought it would only take the champs 4 or 5 games to beat them.  Me myself, pick the Dubs winning in six.  But the Rockets actually managed to get a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6.  In the first half of the game, it looked like they could complete the upset over the champs as they led by 17 after the first quarter and 10 after the half.  But as what has been continually been the case this season, the Warriors dominated the third quarter.  They took an 84-77 lead into the fourth, where they continued their domination as they shockingly hold the Rockets to just 9 points (!).

But that wouldn’t even be the worst lowlight of the Rockets in this series.  It happened in the next game – the winner-take-all Game 7 at their home floor.

Just like Game 6, the first half was the Rockets’.  At intermission, they led by 11.  But just like Game 6, the Dubs woke up and started taking control in the third quarter.  The defending champs would win again, 101-92, propelling them to their fourth straight Finals date with LeBron James.

A huge reason why the Rockets lost in Game 7 was they kept true to their identity, which is, living and dying by the three.  And at that case, they died.  From 6:43 left in the second quarter to 6:28 remaining in the fourth, the Rockets were a ridiculous 0-of-27 from three-point land.
There’s a valid criticism that the Rockets should have attacked the paint more, which had been a significant reason why they were winning in the first half.  Instead, they stubbornly jacked up treys even if they weren’t falling.  On the other hand, shooting in large volume have worked for them countless of times before.  For in theory, if you attempt a lot of treys, a good amount of them should go in.  Hence, missing 27 straight three-pointers was a crazy statistical anomaly.  Now, it’s true that statistics aren’t always reliable as they can’t always take the real-life factors of a game, much less a Game 7, into consideration – like fatigue and the pressure of the moment.   But consider this: if only the Rockets made three of those 27 misses (just 11.11%!), the game would have been tied and have gone to overtime.  Higher than that, and they would have won the game.  Hence, I couldn’t really blame them if they continued betting on treys when the potential yields were great.  And it’s not like all 27 were bad shots; a lot of them were open.

Still, this game perfectly illustrates how a three-point-heavy offense, which the Warriors have proven can win championships, can also backfire considerably.

On a side note, there’s something satisfying about seeing a pissed CP3.
Sorry, Chris Paul.  Maybe next year.

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