Article by: Harrison Weaver
We are only a week into the NBA Playoffs, but there is already so much to talk about. There are a few of surprising series, some players who have been really stepping up, some who are really letting things slip away, and there has been some drama developing as well. In this week’s article, I am going to divide some key elements of this year’s NBA Playoffs into three categories, which will be known as the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. You may agree or disagree with some of these placements, but these are all about how I personally perceive the game of basketball, as well as what I like, and do not like to see.
The rules: situations that I have seen about these playoffs that demonstrate the positive aspects of what basketball is all about. This would be as some edgy play, or a lower-seed really playing well, or a high-seed truly fulfilling expectations, which is what I will call a “Good.” A “Bad” is basically the opposite. An underperforming team, a player who is not getting the job done, and so on. Lastly, the “Ugly” is all about stuff that either makes a player(s) look bad on or off the court, or it could simply be atrocious basketball. So now that you know the ground rules, let's dive into it.
Patrick Beverley being Patrick Beverley
The Clippers are doing an incredible job, given their current circumstances. They have been overachieving all year, and they earned an 8 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, but on the flip-side, they are unfortunately matched up against the Golden State Warriors. This is a spot where a lot of other 8 seeds would throw in the towel, but not the Clippers, especially not Patrick Beverley. To sum up how he plays and how he has been approaching this series, let me tell you something. The Warriors filed a complaint to the league office about how Patrick Beverley has been playing defense on Kevin Durant. Yes, this is legit information. Patrick Beverley has been up in Kevin Durant’s space, getting his hands in the air, swatting at the ball, doing a little pushing and grabbing. Kevin Durant has referred to him as a “pest”, and he even fouled out of Game 2 in the crucial final minutes, which allowed LA to secure the biggest comeback win in NBA Playoffs history.
Beverley also fouled out of that game, but he had some huge steals, he was guarding Kevin Durant the whole game, and was such a pivotal piece in their comeback. I absolutely love it. This is playoff basketball, and if you can get away with some pushing, pulling, playing pesky defense, then there is no reason to stop. When you are playing a team as explosive and extremely talented as Golden State, you need to do everything you can to find a way to disrupt their rhythm and get under their skin. Round of applause to Patrick Beverley, keep up the annoying defense.
Assertive Ben Simmons
Sixers fans all have nightmares about last postseason. When it came time to face Boston in the second round, Ben Simmons was nowhere to be found. The Celtics walled him off from the paint, and he was too timid to shoot, and unfortunately allowed himself to become a non-factor. This time around, things already seem a little different. After only scoring 9 points in a Game 1 loss to Brooklyn, he followed up with a Game 2 triple-double and 31 points (his playoff high) in Game 3. He is also been tasked with guarding All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell, and has for the most part, taken him completely out of the series by playing shut-down defense.
After being called out by Net’s forward and NBA veteran Jared Dudley, who said that Ben Simmons is an average player in the half-court, Simmons chose to take it to heart and step up his game in response. The Sixers now lead the series 2-1 and will continue to need Ben to step up as they advance further in the playoffs when they will need his aggressive attacks in the paint and shutdown defense if they want to compete in future rounds.
DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White, and the Spurs
There is something about Spurs postseason basketball that all NBA fans love to see. Led by one of the most influential faces in NBA history in Coach Popovich. No matter how many injuries they suffer, how much talent they may or may not have, they always find a way to play really sound, fundamental basketball at the right time. This Pop dynasty has been around for as long as many of us have been alive. Every year, you can count on Pop and the Spurs to reach the playoffs and put up a respectable fight. DeMar DeRozan has been an incredible surprise this series. In my playoff preview article from last week, I accused him of being a poor playoff player, and he has proved me wrong so far against Denver. As well as Derrick White, who has really flown under the radar this season. White had 36 and DeRozan had 25 points last night to propel San Antonio to a 2-1 series lead against the 2-seeded Nuggets. If the Spurs can continue to maintain this balanced attack led by DeRozan, Aldridge, and White, they might have a real chance at not just winning this series but being a threat deeper into the postseason.
The Jazz and Thunder
Two teams that I really hyped up the most for my playoff preview, OKC and Utah, have both failed to gain any footing in their respective playoff series. Both are trailing 0-2 and have yet to even keep a game within single digits. The Jazz lost Game 1 against Houston by 20, and then lost Game 2 by 32 points. The Jazz are a team that I thought could play tough defense against Harden and Chris Paul, and believed that through Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Gobert, and company, that they would be able to score enough to keep the games close. That just has not been the case whatsoever. Their shooting percentages are terrible, they cannot stop the Rockets defensively. I predicted the series to go 7 games, but it is starting to look like it will only go to 4, maybe 5 if the Jazz can shoot better and keep one of these close.
The Thunder are in the same boat, Paul George is shooting a poor 27 percent from three, and Westbrook’s shooting has been hideous, as he is shooting 10 percent from three in this series. The only guys averaging double figures have been George, Westbrook, and Steven Adams. They have just shown no ability to be able to keep up with the red-hot Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum duo. Both promising series are looking like they may not go any longer than 4 or 5 games.
The Warriors: Team Chemistry
This is all based around a really, really awkward 60 Minutes Interview that the Warriors were a part of what aired last weekend. The interviewer was speaking to five Golden State players: Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry. As they were fielding questions about how they formed chemistry, how they share the spotlight, get through the season and manage success, both Durant and Klay seemed completely checked out and very uncomfortable. Then came a question about free-agency. This is where it really got ‘cringy’. Seriously, this was super awkward, and as Livingston, Iguodala, and Steph all laughed about how much it would take for them to leave Golden State, KD and Klay both sat there in silence, looking around the room to try to escape the weird tension. It was bad sight to see.
So as talented as the Warriors are, this year’s team has a problem it has never faced before. They have key players who appear to be very ready to leave the Bay Area come free-agency this summer. Say Golden State gets in an edgy series against a Houston, or Portland, or Denver/San Antonio. Suddenly, they need to be clicking and playing at the top of their game, but instead, they are fighting and worrying about who may be leaving. This is just a hypothetical situation at this point, as they just beat LA by 27 last night.
The cracks have certainly shown this season, they have looked vulnerable at times, but are still on a different level than anyone else in terms of talent. I am going to highlight what looks like a second-round matchup between Golden State and Houston as an upset alert. Houston has been nearly invincible when Harden, CP3, and Clint Capela are all healthy at the same time. We will just have to see if the Warriors can hold themselves together long enough to win their third straight title.
An attack on Ben Simmons... by Jared Dudley
I have already mentioned about this from Ben Simmons’ side of it. I could not resist a short section that focuses more on Dudley. Dudley called Simmons an average player in the half-court. Laying out a situational defensive game plan on how to stop Simmons on offense. What happened after that? Simmons drops 31 points on Brooklyn in a 16-point Nets loss, while Dudley had zero points and launched an airball on one of his two three-point attempts. When your team is a 6 seed underdog, please do not fuel one of the opponent’s star players. Especially when you are a declining role player. This may have been what Ben needed to elevate his game this postseason.
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