Amazing Performances by Luka Doncic and Jamal Murray, Underachieving 76ers, and Other Playoff Thoughts

August 26th, 2020

by Alan Lu

Dallas Mavericks forward, Luka Doncic’s sterling Game 4 performance to lift his team to an overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers to tie up the series was one of the more memorable moments of the first round of the 2020 NBA playoffs so far. The Los Angeles Clippers currently lead in their series, 3-2.
(Photo:
Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP, via The Dallas Morning News)

We’ve experienced a roller coaster of ups and downs in the first round of the NBA playoffs.  Luka Doncic had a magical, 47-point, triple-double game where he made the game-winning three over Reggie Jackson to help the Dallas Mavericks tie up the series at 2 all with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Denver Nuggets’ guard, Jamal Murray has played excellent basketball recently for his team, and he’s helped them stay alive in the playoffs, as they won Game 5 against the Utah Jazz, and currently trail in the series to Utah 3-2.
(Photo:
Mike Ehrmann, Pool Photo/USA Today Sports)

Also, Denver Nuggets’ guard, Jamal Murray has played fantastically as of late, as he’s scored 40 points or more in his last two playoff games, and Murray has helped Denver stave off elimination to get them the Game 5 win over the Utah Jazz.

The Los Angeles Clippers though, did manage to play considerably better to win Game 5, as they are now up 3-2 in the series, and most noticeably, Paul George played much better, and their defense was crisper.  It’s also refreshing to see that many of the games out in the West are tough and competitive, with the only lackluster series now being the Los Angeles Lakers-Portland Trail Blazers series, as the Lakers have easily handled their opponent in Games 2 through 4, that a series win seems to be imminent in Game 5.

Philadelphia 76ers’ former head coach, Brett Brown got fired recently for his team’s poor performance in the playoffs, as they were swept by the Boston Celtics, but their management also deserves some of the blame for putting out an ill-fitting roster this season.
(Photo:
Kim Klement – Pool/Getty Images, via CBC)

Unfortunately, everything that has thrilled me about the strong competitive play out in the West has been the opposite out in the East.  In the 1st Round among Eastern Conference teams, there have been three sweeps, with the most disappointing one being the Philadelphia 76ers getting the broom by the Boston Celtics, and the 76ers head coach Brett Brown then got fired shortly afterwards.  Brown got canned and likely deserved that due to hold his players to be accountable, I also think that their management deserves some of the blame, too, as they put an ill-fitting roster that highlighted these weaknesses.

The bold moves that 76ers’ executive Elton Brand made in going all in for star players in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, and then re-signing Harris and adding Al Horford and Josh Richardson in free agency, now look to be questionable moves in hindsight. 

Last year, Brand traded Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and draft picks to acquire Jimmy Butler, but since he did not re-sign him, it turns out, it was just to rent him.  I thought back then, that they would try to pull all the stops to re-sign him, but they didn’t, as he had the 76ers basically lowball Butler, and he walked.  Therefore, that trade now doesn’t look good in retrospect.

He had also dealt budding sharpshooting guard Landry Shamet, cap filler, and picks last season to the Clippers for Tobias Harris.  After losing to the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the second round on a buzzer-beating shot, they gave him a five-year, max contract.  In the playoffs, he did not look at all like a player worthy of that money, as he played poorly in the first three games.  He did play well in Game 4, but by then it was too little, too late.

Also, in the offseason prior to the start of the season, Brand had signed former Boston Celtics’ center, Al Horford to a gigantic contract, even those his two best players, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are essentially centers in the modern game (even if Ben Simmons can play the point, and quit well at that, his shot chart looks more like a modern-day center than a modern point guard).  As a result, Horford never was able to truly settle into a proper role like he had in either Atlanta or Boston.

The Oklahoma City Thunder-Houston Rockets’ series has been fun to watch, and the Thunder have made some solid adjustments to both even the series, and to make things much more difficult on their opponents. Lu Dort also has been integral to their success, as he’s defended James Harden very well in this series so far.
(Photo:
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

I’ve been entertained with the Oklahoma City Thunder-Houston Rockets’ series, as it’s tied 2-2.  I thought that the Thunder’s head coach, Billy Donovan made the necessary adjustments in Games 3 and 4, as he finally went small to strategically unplug Steven Adams, he’s played Nerlens Noel considerably less, and he’s used Lu Dort as the primary defender on James Harden, in which Dort has continued to be very effective in guarding him.  The Thunder have done a better job in deploying Dennis Schroder to use his quickness against Houston’s slower wing players to create favorable mismatches.  This adjustment has seemed to expose the limitations of Houston’s role players, as P.J. Tucker, Danuel House, and Robert Covington can’t create their own offense and are merely spot-up shooters on the offensive end.  Houston’s second best player in this series has actually been Jeff Green, who is currently on his 9th team.  It’s been a fun series, and Oklahoma City has made the adjustments to even it up and possibly leverage it into a favorable scenario for themselves.

With the second round of the playoffs almost underway, I figured that it’s time to make some of my round-by-round picks. 

To recap, here is how I’m doing in the 1st Round since having made those picks for my website:

The Toronto Raptors did beat the Brooklyn Nets (but did so in 4, not 5 games)
The Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers (also did it in 4, not 6 games)
The Miami Heat also defeated the Indiana Pacers (also did it in 4, not 6 games)

Record wise, I’m 3-0, but have not picked the correct number of games in any of those.

Here I will post my 2nd Round pick(s) among those that have already made it there:

Toronto over Boston in 7 games
Assuming Milwaukee ends up beating Orlando, Milwaukee over Miami in 6 games*

(* denotes that series is still going on.)

I feel that both will be close, tough, hard-fought series, and will be much more fun to watch than how the playoffs in the Eastern Conference has played out so far in the first round.

Anyways, we’ve got more NBA basketball to watch, and some of the teams are still playing in the first round of the playoffs.  It’s been fun to watch, and we’ve had some exciting basketball games that went all the way down to the wire.  That’s it for now, and thanks for reading.

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