The NBA Playoffs was beginning to splutter, courtesy of the tepid start to the Conference Finals, when the Milwaukee-Toronto Series came alive. The Conference Semi-Finals had provided basketball fans with so much excitement: in the West, Golden State and Houston gave us a six-game thriller, while Portland came up with the goods late in the series to defeat Denver. In the East, Milwaukee lost the first game before trampling over Boston, while Kawhi and Toronto fans sat on their haunches before the buzzer-beating game winner sent Canada into a frenzy.
Then came the Conference Finals. Golden State Warriors swept Portland Blazers…then Milwaukee Bucks ‘effortlessly’ took a 2-0 lead, and basketball fans the world heaved a collective sigh, in anticipation of a disappointing Conference Finals…but then:
Milwaukee Buckled. Milwaukee lost back-to-back games only once in the Regular Season: at Utah and Phoenix way back in March. They always managed to bounce back after losses on the way to their biggest regular season record in 39 years. It was with that information at the back of their minds, that analysts the world predicted a win for the Bucks after they took the first two games against Toronto…then the wheels fell off. The Bucks have now lost three games in a row – their worst run since they dropped four straight games between late February and early match in 2018. Now, the Bucks have to find a way back (at least level the series) otherwise, they will become (an unpleasant) footnote in NBA history.
The New Orleans Conversation. If there is something the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard story taught us last season, it is that if a superstar player wants a move, he will get it. That will probably be a reason the fans of The Pelicans will not be holding their breath on Anthony Davis…but the arrival of Zion Williamson can change the narrative, no matter what Davis decides. Like San Antonio, the Pelicans can determine where The Brow will go, while adding good pieces to Zion. Expect the story of the Pelicans to be one of the regulars in the course of the summer.
Is Laker-land tainted? True or false, but it came out that Kevin Durant alleged nobody of note wants to play with LeBron James. Then, Magic Johnson suddenly resigned his post without explanation; and followed that up by going on record on national television, to complain about the ‘toxic environment’ at Lakers. Tyronn Lue (who may be or may not be LeBron’s choice) showed up for, but failed to get the Lakers coaching job; and as soon as Frank Vogel gets the job, he starts fielding questions about whether Jason Kidd will replace him. All these drama throws up the question: is Laker-land tainted? Will any top quality free agent agree to join the team? Another topic for the summer.
Rookie of the Year: Luca Doncic or Trae Young? In the hearts of many, the choice of RoY is already settled, but for others, the debate is still on. And the choice is between Luca Doncic and Trae Young. Both have proved to be worthy of the title, albeit at different times of the season: In the first part of the year, before the All Star break, Doncic averaged 20.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and added 5.6 assists per game; while Young totaled 16.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and added 7.6 assists. At this point, the choice was clear.
Then comes the second part of the season, and Young went nuclear. The Texas native ramped-up his numbers in those last 22 games, and averaged 24.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 9.1 assists; meanwhile, Luka also upped his numbers – 22.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists, but Trae ‘won’ that round. Whichever of them emerges RoY would deserve it.
Finally, the gap is closing…two seasons ago, the gap between the top teams in the Western Conference and those in the East was ‘huge’. So much so that the talk of ‘collapsing the playoffs’ gained ground. That seems to be changing. The top Eastern teams are getting stronger, normalcy is being restored.
No, leave the Warriors out of the conversation.