10/26 Bucks @ Timberwolves Rapid Reactions

Bucks and Timberwolves

Final Score: Bucks: 125, Timberwolves: 95

Timberwolves:

  • What a brutal showing. This isn’t the way Minnesota wanted to play in front of a solid Target Center showing on a Friday night. There is so much going on around the team, that everyone is starting to wonder how long the drama can go on. While the players are expected to be professionals, there is little doubt the drama is bothering the team and carrying over into their performances.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns had a brutal first half, performed better in the third quarter. Towns finished the first half with two points. Yes, you heard that right. The All-NBA Center had just two points at half. He was getting shots, but not hitting them. Fortunately, Towns had a terrific third quarter. KAT recorded 14 points in the third quarter, on 6-8 shooting in that frame. With tonight’s 16-point showing, Towns is now averaging just 16.3 points per game. That number is a cause for concern. Maybe it’s a matter of time before he heats up, or maybe the Butler situation is taking a toll on the big man, but things need to change.
  • Timberwolves go cold from three. After shooting 50% from three in Toronto on Wednesday, the Timberwolves were 10-43 (23.3%) from three tonight. It’s good to see Minnesota taking more threes, but they were not hitting the shots tonight, so it would’ve been nice to see Minnesota attack the basket more.
  • Minnesota has a big night on the offensive boards. One slight positive from tonight’s game was Minnesota’s effort on the offensive glass. Minnesota grabbed 17 offensive rebounds in the game, turning those rebounds into second chance points. While Minnesota has struggled grabbing defensive rebounds at times this season, the Wolves have been terrific crashing the offensive glass.
  • How long can the Jimmy Butler saga continue? Tonight’s effort was pathetic, and it won’t be getting any easier for Minnesota. Sitting at 2-4 with their next six games against the Lakers, Jazz, Warriors, Blazers, Clippers, and Lakers again, the Timberwolves have no easy upcoming contests.

Bucks:

  • Milwaukee was about as hot as a team can get from three. The Bucks shot 19-46 (41.3%) from deep. Middleton led the way making four threes with Henson and Lopez each connecting on three shots from deep.
  • Mike Budenholzer is the right coach for this group. The Bucks have started the season 5-0 and look primed for success this year. In a game where Giannis was held under 20 points, the Bucks handled Minnesota easily. If the Bucks continue to get support around Giannis, they will be in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
  • Donte DiVincenzo knows how to play. DiVincenzo won’t always make his presence felt in the box score, but the rookie understands the game. DiVincenzo made a number of hustle plays tonight and recorded nine points. For DiVincenzo, he has the chance to develop into a great role player for Milwaukee this season.
  • The Bucks shared and moved the basketball. Milwaukee recorded 32 assists on their 49 made field goals. Compared to the Wolves’ 19 assists on their 36 made field goals, Milwaukee moved the ball and found the open shooter in Minnesota.

10/18 Bulls @ 76ers Rapid Reactions

Final Score: Sixers: 127, Bulls: 108

Philadelphia 76ers

  • Sixers are really good, but not quite ready. They followed up their 18-point loss to the Celtics, Tuesday, with a commanding 19-point W tonight over the Bulls, but there’s still a lot of growing to do here.
  • Markelle Fultz ain’t it. I know, I know, it’s only game 2 for them and he’s coming off an injury, but he’s playing about 30 minutes a night and his 17 combined points on 7-22 from the field as the #1 overall draft pick a year ago, just isn’t going to cut it. The crowd did go crazy when he hit his only 3 of the night late in the 4th quarter, though, so the fans obviously love him and are willing to be a little more patient with him than I am. Go figure.
  • Ben Simmons is really good. He can virtually do whatever he wants on the floor except shoot a jump shot. Logging his first triple double of the season with 13, 13, & 11 assists, don’t be surprised if he does that kind of thing often this year, you should probably just expect it.
  • Joel Embiid picked up right where he left off last season. His 4 blocks and 1 steal to go with his 30 & 13 double double make him an extremely early candidate for DPOY. His trash talk is still A1, too, if you were wondering.

Chicago Bulls

  • Defense is a foreign concept. The Bulls led 41-38 after the 1st but would only score 67 points over the next 3 while allowing Philadelphia to put up almost 90. Everybody was lost out there and Fred Hoiberg had no idea what to do either. *Long Sigh*
  • Jabari showed flashes of  quality scoring and rebounding, but clearly he’s out of shape. His 15 off the bench tonight can definitely come in handy throughout the season, but he’ll need to shoot better than 7-16 and improve on defense if he wants to stay in the rotation. And for $20 million this year, he better.
  • Bulls are going to live and die by the 3. They opened the game 6-11 from behind the arc and looked to be on their way to a hot night. They only knocked down 5 more in the game, finishing 11-33 from deep. When they’re hitting their shots they can be a really fun team to watch, but those inevitable cold stretches are going to be brutal.
  • Bobby Portis is going to be a problem for whoever is guarding him all season. He’s the Bulls best player right now, and did it all tonight scoring 20 and grabbing 11 boards. He also had 1 block, 1 steal and dished 2 dimes, too.
  • Zach LaVine looks good. Back for his first full season since the ACL injury, he seems to have the same bounce he had before. He scored 30 on 11-19 shooting, and played hard and seemingly unbothered by the knee injury from a year ago. He could be in a huge year barring any health issues.

100 Bold NBA Predictions

The NBA season is finally here. Tuesday night will mark the start of the 2018/19 season, and it’s about time. With LeBron going to the Lakers, Cousins to the Warriors, and Kawhi to the Raptors, it was a crazy summer for the NBA. The offseason is what makes the NBA so much fun. It seems like there is a new storyline every week in the NBA. However, it’s time the real games begin. Here are “100 Bold NBA Predictions” for the 2018/19 season.

 

  • Markelle Fultz wins Most Improved Player.
  • Ben Simmons goes another season without a three.
  • Joel Embiid averages over 25 points and 10 rebounds per game.
  • Ben Simmons wins Rookie of the Year, wait a second.
  • Terry Rozier is traded before the NBA Trade Deadline.
  • Gordon Hayward makes the Eastern Conference All-Star team coming off his injury.
  • Al Horford flinches on over 10 free throws.
  • The Brooklyn Nets finish top ten in the Eastern Conference.
  • D’Angelo Russell averages over 20 points per game.
  • Allen Crabbe attempts seven threes per game and makes them at a 40% clip.
  • Kristaps Porzingis has a hard time staying on the court. Plays under 35 games.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. has a 40-point game.
  • Enes Kanter gets ejected at least three times.
  • The Toronto Raptors finish with the best defensive rating in the NBA.
  • Kyle Lowry averages under 14 points per game.
  • Kawhi Leonard averages three steals per game.
  • Zach LaVine enters and wins the Dunk Contest.
  • Jabari Parker wins Sixth Man of the Year.
  • Justin Holiday shoots over 38% from three.
  • J.R. Smith drops a 30-point game on LeBron and the Lakers.
  • Kevin Love averages over 23 points and 10 rebounds per game.
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers win the Eastern Conference, just kidding (sorry Tristan Thompson.)
  • Andre Drummond shoots above 70% from the free-throw line.
  • Khyri Thomas makes an NBA All-Rookie team.
  • Blake Griffin posterizes Joel Embiid.
  • Victor Oladipo doesn’t make the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
  • Myles Turner makes over 75 three-pointers.
  • The Pacers win less than 12 games on the road.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo wins MVP.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo averages 30 points per game.
  • Brook Lopez is an Eastern Conference All-Star.
  • The Miami Heat win a playoff series with Jimmy Butler on their roster.
  • D-Wade explodes for a 40-point game.
  • Hassan Whiteside puts forth effort.
  • Malik Monk has a breakout year. Shoots at least 40% from three.
  • Kemba Walker doesn’t make the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
  • Miles Bridges makes the NBA First Team All-Rookie.
  • Kelly Oubre Jr. starts over Otto Porter Jr. by the end of the season.
  • The Washington Wizards finish in the top three in the Eastern Conference.
  • John Wall attempts close to 400 three-pointers.
  • The Atlanta Hawks win less than 15 games.
  • Trae Young attempts more threes than Steph Curry.
  • John Collins averages a double-double.
  • Aaron Gordon averages over 20 points per game.
  • Mo Bamba averages over two blocks per game.
  • Evan Fournier gets traded by the Trade Deadline.
  • Steph Curry shoots over 45% from three.
  • The Warriors are never fully healthy. Never have a game with Curry/Thompson/Durant/Green/Cousins.
  • Jordan Bell appears in at least 75 games this season.
  • Marvin Bagley III gets third in NBA Rookie of the Year.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein averages a double-double.
  • Buddy Hield has a breakout year. Averages over 16 points per game while shooting over 43% from three.
  • JaVale McGee averages 25 minutes per game.
  • Lance Stephenson blows in LeBron’s ear at least once during the season.
  • LeBron James starts at center for the Lakers at least once over the course of the season.
  • Tobias Harris averages over 20 points per game.
  • The Clippers beat the Lakers in each head-to-head matchup this season.
  • Lou Williams is the last one out again on the Western Conference All-Star team.
  • DeAndre Ayton wins NBA Rookie of the Year.
  • Devin Booker shoots under 35% from three.
  • The Suns make the most trades at the Trade Deadline.
  • Dirk Nowitzki plays under 18 minutes per game.
  • Luka Doncic finishes second in NBA Rookie of the Year.
  • Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic combine for over 40 points per game.
  • Carmelo Anthony starts and plays a vital role for Houston down the stretch of the season.
  • James Harden drops a guy and stares him down again before shooting. Sorry Wes Johnson.
  • Clint Capela shoots above 70% from the field.
  • Anthony Davis finishes second in NBA MVP voting.
  • Nikola Mirotic shoots below 36% from three.
  • Jrue Holiday has his best year as a pro, averages over 20 points per game.
  • Despite injuries, the San Antonio Spurs make the playoffs for the 22nd straight year.
  • DeMar DeRozan is a Western Conference All-Star.
  • Jakob Poeltl averages at least 10 points per game, while splitting time in the starting lineup.
  • Memphis decides to sell at the Trade Deadline, moving Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.
  • Kyle Anderson breaks out with heavy playing time. Averages over two steals per game.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies get another top-five pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
  • Isaiah Thomas is a starter for the Denver Nuggets at the end of the year.
  • Nikola Jokic makes his first ever NBA All-Star Game.
  • Jamal Murray and Gary Harris combine to average over 45 points per game.
  • The Utah Jazz finish as a top three seed in the Western Conference.
  • Quin Snyder wins NBA Coach of the Year.
  • Donovan Mitchell posterizes Ben Simmons, allowing NBA Twitter to go crazy.
  • Russell Westbrook averages a triple-double for the third consecutive season.
  • Paul George sets a personal record for most three-pointers made in a season.
  • Dennis Schroder finishes second in NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns has a 50/40/90 season. 50% from the field, 40% from three, and 90% at the line.
  • Andrew Wiggins starts playing defense, sounds crazy, I know.
  • The Timberwolves get in a fight on the court with their own teammates. Shouting match and chaos breaks loose.

  • The Trail Blazers miss the Western Conference Playoffs.
  • Damian Lillard is not a member of the Western Conference All-Star Team.
  • Seth Curry makes over 175 three-pointers on the season.
  • The Golden State Warriors don’t win the NBA Finals.
  • Kevin Durant leaves the Warriors after this season.
  • Kawhi Leonard stays in Toronto after the season.
  • Tom Thibodeau is fired from the Timberwolves at the conclusion of the season.
  • A rookie will make the NBA All-Star Game.
  • There will be a record number of trades at the NBA Trade Deadline.
  • There will be over five coaches fired in the NBA at the end of the season.
  • The Portland Trail Blazers will enter into a rebuild.
  • The NBA will continue to break viewing records, and NBA Twitter will be at an all-time high.

THE NBA IS BACK.

The Nuggets Are Fully Committed To Bolstering Their Offensive Firepower

For a franchise that hasn’t experienced a ton of postseason success, the Nuggets, led by their young pact of hungry up-and-comers, are destined to get this organization back to a place the city of Denver hasn’t been to since the days of George Karl and his run-and-gun offensive squads.

With the current construction of the roster, the strategy for a successful season is simple; score a s**t ton of points. 

Thankfully, offense has never been a problem for the Nuggets. They posted the 4th best offensive rating in the league in 2016-17 –2nd best post All-Star– and then 6th best the following season –1st post All-Star. They were 6th in points, 6th in three-point percentage and 5th in assists. 

Their young trio of Jamal Murray (21), Gary Harris (23), and Nikola Jokic (23), looked like veterans at times. And their individual numbers weren’t too shabby either:

Murray: 16.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.4 APG, 45%(FG)-37%(3PT)-90%(FT)

Harris: 17.5 PPG, 2.9 APG, 1.8 SPG, 48%(FG)-39%(3PT)-82%(FT)

Jokic: 18.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 6.1 APG, 49%(FG)-39%(3PT)-85%(FT)

Unfortunately, the same could not be said about the Nuggets’ effort on the defensive end. They were abysmal when it came to defending, and that might be an understatement.

They ranked 26th in defensive rating and allowed opponents to shoot 37.8 percent from three and 47.8 percent from the floor–both were the worst marks among all thirty NBA teams.

Because of their inability to close out shooters and properly rotate –and a few injuries– the Nuggets found themselves on the outside looking in late in the season. Though they put together an impressive six-game win streak towards the end of their 82 game schedule, their hopeful playoff push came to a halt against the Timberwolves in the last game of the season and the Nuggets, much like the previous season, missed out on playoffs. 

Now that Will Barton and Nikola Jokic have re-signed to long-term contracts, and Paul Millsap and Gary Harris’ injuries have healed, the team is ready to run things back and fully embrace their top-tier offense.

Will Barton

In an effort to save money, the Nuggets shipped off Wilson Chandler –who was one of the Nuggets’ better defenders– to Philadelphia, thus making Barton the teams new starting small forward.

At just 6’5″, 170 lbs, Barton is clearly undersized and exploitable at the forward position. However, he makes up for it with how dynamic of a player he is.

On the season, Barton averaged 15.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 45-37-80 shooting splits. He’s equally capable of giving Denver a much-needed bucket as he is at creating scoring opportunities for others.

In 13 regular season games (65 minutes), the Nuggets ran a 5-man lineup of Murray, Harris, Barton, Millsap and Jokic that posted an offensive rating of 124.7, eighth best among all 5-man lineups in the NBA.

That number can only continue to increase the more minutes and games those guys play together.

Isaiah Thomas

The Nuggets are also bringing Isaiah Thomas onboard; a player who’ll give them a whole lot of offense and not much of that defensive stuff that they lack. Perfect fit, right?

Thomas does give them much-needed firepower off the bench, though. He also relieves some pressure off Murray who is still adjusting to the point guard position and gives Denver another shot creator and playmaker that they desperately needed. He and Jokic could also shred opposing defenses with hand-offs, something the Nuggets have made a killing out of. 

For the 2017-18 season, the Nuggets scored the third most points in handoff situations (612). That translated to 0.97 points per possession on a 7.0% frequency.

During his time with the Celtics, Isaiah averaged the second most points (3.0) across the rest of the league in hand off plays converting 1.06 points per possession.

The Jokic-Thomas handoff could be a huge component in the Nuggets’ half-court set, much like it has with shooting guard Gary Harris, who finished third among all players in points (3.6) in same situations.

With Isaiah’s playmaking ability, Mike Malone could run him at the one next to Murray –whose natural position is at the two– and Gary Harris at the three. Giving them a small, quick, outside shooting lineup that’s bound to give teams headaches.

On catch-and-shoot plays, Jamal Murray averaged 4.2 points on 41% shooting from three, while Harris scored 5.4 points on 40% from three, helping give Denver a top 10 ranking in three-pointers made and three-point percentage for catch-and-shoot plays.

Throw Jokic on the floor with these three and you have one of the most dangerous shooting lineups in the league.

In addition, the Nuggets might have made a huge steal in this years draft by taking Michael Porter Jr. at #14. It was a low-risk high-reward pick by Denver to take Porter, who dropped all the way from a projected top three pick, to fourteen because his back issues.

MPJ

Whenever he’s given the go-ahead to make his NBA debut, he could give the Nuggets scoring versatility, lineup flexibility and yet another talented piece to their already special young core. 

Standing at 6’10”, Porter has potential to be an extremely lethal forward for Denver. Because of his size and outside shooting, he could be utilized at either forward position. Pinning him in the front court next to Jokic is sure to give opposing defenses fits with their dynamic skill-sets.

Porter will probably be best suited as a stretch four in Denver’s offense. Like Jokic, he’ll be a perfect partner in the pick-and-pop, creating more spacing and easy looks for everyone on the floor.

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And who knows, with his size and length, maybe he could even develop into a capable defender. 

With so many offensive weapons intact, it’s become clear that the Nuggets are looking to ditch the defense and go all in to boosting their offense. After all, who needs defense when you can just straight up outscore the other team?

Behind the wizardry of Nikola Jokic’s mesmerizing passing, the exceptional off-ball movement and sharpshooting of Gary Harris, the continued development of Jamal Murray and other key pieces in Paul Millsap, Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas, the Nuggets should have no problem running up the scoreboard and competing with the rest of the top teams in the Western Conference. 

 

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’95 Hakeem or ’03 Duncan – Who Had The Greater Playoff Run?

The year is 1995. Hakeem Olajuwon just followed up one of the greatest individual seasons in ‘94 with an equally as great postseason run the following year. The Rockets plowed through the best the West had to offer. From the high-powered offense of the Utah Jazz led by Stockton and Malone, to Barkley’s ‘93 runner up champions, the Phoenix Suns, league MVP David Robinson’s hungry San Antonio Spurs, and eventually crushed the young tandem of Shaq and Penny in the finals, all while Hakeem dominated the box score series after series. Truly, one of the all-time great runs in NBA history.

But fast-forward 8 years later and another giant out West is giving teams all they can handle. Tim Duncan played like a man possessed in 2003. He went head-to-head with some of the games top talent at the time. Squaring off against a young, athletic frontcourt in Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion in Phoenix. Had his hands full with a behemoth in Los Angeles, Shaquille O’Neal, who was accompanied by his trusty sidekick, Kobe Bryant. He dueled with the master of the fadeaway jumper Dirk Nowitzki down in Texas, and finally, annihilated J.Kidd’s Nets in the finals while putting up some of the most remarkable numbers in finals history.

So who had the greater the playoff run?

Was it Hakeem for defeating FIVE 50+ win teams and dragging the 6th seeded Rockets to their second straight championship? Or was it The Big Fundamental who took a young Tony Parker (20 years old) and an on-the-way-out David Robinson (37 years old) to the promise land and did it with no teammate averaging more than 15 points throughout the entire playoffs?

Well, we’re going to have to dig deeper. Starting with each players first round, working our way through the semi and conference finals, and all the way to the championship round.

So let’s begin.

Round 1:

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Duncan: 18.7 PPG, 16.0 RPG, 5.2 APG, 3.5 BPG, 50% FG

Though the Suns might not have had any All-NBA or All-Defensive selections, they did have a Rookie of The Year winner in Amare Stoudemire, and two All-Stars in Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion. Behind those three, the Suns finished 44-39 for an 8th place finish in the Western Conference.

The Spurs won the series in 6 games though it probably should’ve been over sooner if Suns didn’t steal the first matchup in San Antonio on a game-winning heave from Marbury.

Duncan had two monstrous performances coming at the most critical time of the series.

Game 5: 23 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 blocks in an 92-84 win.

Game 6: 15 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and 4 blocks in an 87-85 win to closeout the series.

Duncan’s 20 defensive rebounds in game six were the most defensive rebounds in a single playoff game. He also finished the series with 21 total blocks. To put that into perspective, the Suns as a team had 35 blocks. It was just a dominating performance on both ends of the floor.

 

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Hakeem: 35.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.6 BPG, 57% FG 

As mentioned earlier, the Rockets finished the season as the 6th seed, so right out the gate the odds were stacked against them.

They found themselves facing a tough and scrappy 60-win Jazz team that was equally good defensively (8th in defensive rating) as they were offensively (4th in offensive rating). John Stockton and Karl Malone – both members of the All-NBA first team that season – had the high pick-and-roll down to a science. Getting past them in the opening round would be a battle.  

Hakeem did everything you could ask for on the offensive end and more.

He had two 40-point performances and two more 30-point games. And after going down 2-1 in the first three games, he helped Houston fight off elimination in the two biggest games of the series by averaging 36.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists while converting 12.0 field-goals on 19.0 attempts (63%).

This would be the first of three MVP candidates Hakeem would conquer throughout the playoffs.

 

Semi-finals:

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Duncan: 28.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.3 BPG, 53% FG.

After getting bounced in the semi-finals by the Lakers the previous season, Duncan and the Spurs would have their revenge the following year.

The Lakers finished the season 50-32 and posted the 4th best offensive rating in the league. Going up against the defending champs and one of, if not the, best duos of all-time would certainly be a handful. And dealing with the massive giant known as Shaq down low would be no less difficult.

Duncan was otherworldly in this one. He played a brilliant offensive game, giving L.A. buckets in a variety of ways, held his own against Shaq on the defensive end, and led the team minutes, points, rebounds, and assists.

As expected, his two best games of the series came in the final two games:

Game 5: 27 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 50% shooting.

Game 6: 37 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 64% shooting.

If you have the chance, you should definitely get on Youtube and watch both of those games. Tim Duncan at his absolute best.

Also worth mentioning, the Spurs won this series with no other player on the team besides Duncan averaging more than 14 points.

 

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Hakeem: 29.6 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.3 BPG, 50% FG.

Another series and another offensive juggernaut standing in front of Houston.

The Phoenix Suns finished 3rd in offensive rating, second in pace and had two all-stars in Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle. The offensive trio of Majerle, point guard Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley – member of the All-NBA second team – led the franchise to its third straight 55+ win season and the third overall best record in the NBA. This was a team that was determined to get back to the finals and redeem their ‘93 loss to the Bulls.

After going down 3-1 in the series, the Suns smelt blood and this one looked all but over.

Finding themselves facing adversity and on the brink of elimination yet again, Hakeem played out of his mind in the final three games, extending the series to a deciding game 7 on the road.

His averages during that stretch: 30.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.3 blocks and 1.0 steals on 50% shooting.

Olajuwon closed out game 7 with a 29-11-4 (pts,rebs,asts) and the Rockets won 115-114 on a Mario Elie game-winning three-pointer, also known as “The Kiss of Death.”

The Houston Rockets became just the fifth team in NBA history at the time to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win the series.

 

Conference Finals:

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Duncan: 28.0 PPG, 16.7 RPG, 5.8 APG, 3.0 BPG, 56% FG.

Led by the All-Star tandem of Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki – who were also apart of the All-NBA teams (Dirk second, Nash third) – the Dallas Mavericks had an offense that was built to outshoot opposing teams and run up the scoreboard.

As a team, they finished first in the following categories: offensive rating, points, free throw percentage, and turnovers. They also finished third in three-point percentage at 38%.

A good ‘ol fashioned defense vs offense matchup down in Texas. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, Tim Duncan played for San Antonio, not Dallas.  

The Big Fundamental had multiple “holy s***, he had how much?” performances in this showdown. From a 40-15-7 with one block and one steal in game one – a game that San Antonio lost – to a 32-15-5 with three blocks in the following matchup, and then followed that up with a ludicrous 34-24-6 with six blocks and two steals in the third game.

Yes, you read that right. Tim Duncan had 34 points, 24 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 blocks and 2 steals in game freaking three. Wilt Chamberlain, who?

But hold on, we’re not done.

In those three games, he shot 37-for-60 from the floor for a field goal percentage of sixty-one percent! Spurs went 2-1 in that stretch and eventually found themselves up 3-1 in the series after Duncan delivered a 21-20-7 with 4 blocks performance in game four.

His dominance “calmed down” in games five (23-15-6) and six (18-11-4). The Spurs ended the series in six games after Dirk Nowitzki suffered a knee injury in game three and was sidelined for the remainder of the playoffs.

Duncan ended the series with 100 total rebounds. The next closest? Michael Finley with 38. If that’s not enough then how about this: Michael Finley, Dirk Nowitzki and starting center Raef LaFrentz combined for 99 total rebounds.

Timothy Theodore Duncan, ladies and gentlemen.

 

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Hakeem: 35.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 5.0 APG, 4.2 BPG, 1.3 SPG, 56% FG.

No one expected the Rockets to get this far, but if any team was equipped to tame Hakeem and crush Houston’s spirit, it was the San Antonio Spurs.

Not only did they have the league MVP, David Robinson, but his frontcourt teammate, Dennis Rodman, made All-Defensive first team that year. Oh, David Robinson was also apart of that same defensive team.

On the season, San Antonio finished top 5 in both defensive rating and offensive rating, and had the league’s best overall record at 62-20. It was obvious Hakeem would be in for a long series… or so we thought.

Hakeem downright embarrassed Robinson. He gave it to him inside and outside, showing him every move in his arsenal and putting on an offensive clinic. And it didn’t stop there. Hakeem went down on the other side and held Robinson well below his season averages. This was the MVP of the National Basketball Association and Hakeem made him look completely insignificant.

To say Hakeem had Robinson’s number would be an understatement. Hakeem had Robinson’s entire soul, and if you don’t believe me then maybe you’ll believe his teammate, Dennis Rodman.  

“Before those games, he looked so f***ing scared in the locker room, he couldn’t stop shaking.” That was a direct quote from Rodman himself from his book Bad As I Wanna Be.

I mean, just look how demoralized David Robinson is in this photo.

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Olajuwon had three 40-point games in the series. He led his team in nearly every category – points, rebounds, blocks, assists, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and minutes. He ended up with a whopping 212 points and had as many blocks (25) as the Spurs did as a team.

He put the finishing touches on the series and David by averaging 40.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 5.0 blocks on 63% in games five and six to put the Spurs away and send the Rockets to their second straight finals appearance.

Robinson still hasn’t fully recovered from that beat-down.

 

The Finals:

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Duncan: 24.2 PPG, 17.0 RPG, 5.3 APG, 5.3 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 49% FG.

Tim Duncan would save his best for last.

The New Jersey Nets were the best defensive team in the NBA. Ran by their All-Star floor general, Jason Kidd, the Nets had reached the finals just a season ago but were swept by the Lakers. If the Nets thought going up against Duncan and the Spurs would be any less difficult than dealing with Shaq and Kobe, then they were about to be in for a rude awakening.

Duncan did a lot in this series, and I mean A LOT.

After six games, he tallied 145 total points, 102 rebounds and 32 blocks – the most blocks in a 6-game series in playoff history. The Nets as a team only had six more blocks than Duncan did.

Timmy had himself another 30-20 performance in game 1. He dropped 29-17-4-4 in game 5. In game 6 he was screwed out of two blocks, so what should’ve been a quadruple-double ended up being a 21-20-10-8. Still ridiculous, I know, but why couldn’t they just give him the damn quadruple-double!? It’s all on footage, you can’t sit here and tell me those two blocks don’t count. Watch it for yourself if you don’t believe me.

Anyways, the Spurs sent the Nets packing in six games. Duncan led both teams in points, rebounds and blocks, he played an enormous role in effectively shutting down New Jersey – the Nets shot 37% from the floor as a team – and he was awarded with his second finals MVP.

It’s just a shame they robbed him of a quadruple-double.

 

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Hakeem: 32.8 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 49% FG.

Though Hakeem didn’t lead his team in nearly every statistical category like Duncan did against New Jersey, he did closeout the deadliest offensive team in the league and the only team to beat the Bulls from ‘91 to ‘98 in just four games.

After outplaying the league’s MVP in the previous matchup, Hakeem would now have to do the same against the runner-up, Shaquille O’Neal.

He did. In every game.

Olajuwon became 1 of 6 players in history to score at least 30 points in every game of a playoff series. And scoring wasn’t all he did. Take a look at his stat lines in each game.

Game 1: 31 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals.

Game 2: 34 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks, and 1 steal.

Game 3: 31 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals.

Game 4: 35 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals.

Hakeem also scored 56 field goals, giving him the record for most made field goals in a 4-game series.

Oh, and he also had one of the most forgotten game-winners in NBA history in game 1.

Olajuwon and the Rockets did it. He was an NBA Champion once again and captured his second straight Finals MVP trophy. The Rockets became the lowest seeded team to ever win it all.

As head coach Rudy Tomjanovich shouted after game four, “don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.”

You’re damn right, Rudy.  

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In the end, both Hakeem and Duncan ran through an entire conference without a single All-Star teammate, came away with the Larry O’Brien trophy, and gave us two of the greatest individual playoff performances in the process.

Olajuwon – and the Rockets – defeated 7 members from the All-NBA team (4 first team, 2 second team, 1 third team), 4 All-Defensive representatives (2 first, 2 second), the top 3 MVP candidates (Robinson, Malone, Shaq) and ended up with the third most points ever scored (725) in a single playoff run.

We can’t knock Duncan for playing lower seeded teams or only going up against one MVP candidate, because after all, HE was the MVP that year and HIS team lost the least amount of games. But, Duncan – and the Spurs – did win every series comfortably, never requiring a game 7 and without having any other player average more than 15 points throughout the run.

So I ask you, who’s playoff run was better?

 

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The People’s Champ: Will Barton Got Paid

The People's Champ

Since he arrived in Denver and took to transforming his game, Will Barton has vastly outplayed the number penned into his contract. Despite garnering 99 total Sixth Man of the Year votes over the last three seasons, the 27-year-old has only made around $3.4 million annually in Colorado.

 

When the NBA free agency gates burst open at the stroke of midnight on July 1, the man who hilariously dubbed himself ‘The People’s Champ’ finally secured the bag he had balled so hard for. Within the first hour of the free agency frenzy, Barton committed to returning to the Nuggets on a four-year, $54 million contract. According to Def Pen Hoops, Indiana Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan and president Kevin Pritchard flew to Baltimore to engage with the 6-foot-6 wing, although they were quickly spurned in favor of Denver.

 

With the majority of the league still hungover from the cap-rising shopping spree of 2016, there are plenty of impact players who will be getting under $10 million on the Mid-Level Exception this summer. However, after averaging 15.7 points, 5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game last season, Barton was justifiably rewarded with a nice chunk of Denver’s salary cap.

 

The People’s Champ and his teammates finished with a six-win increase over the previous season, missing the playoffs by the skin of their teeth after losing their final game – and playoff hopes – to Minnesota on the final day of the regular season.

 

Nikola Jokic was his usual transcendent self, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray’s potential started to shine and Paul Millsap was helpful when he was healthy, but Barton was the glue that held these young stars together. When the $54 million man was surrounded by the regular starters, Denver put up a blistering 124.7 offensive rating and an extremely staunch 92.0 defensive rating. Those gaudy numbers make it easy to see why the Nuggets brass moved quickly to lock up their spark plug on a long-term deal.

One of the biggest keys to Barton’s best year yet was simple – a major improvement in shot selection. According to Cleaning the Glass, he shot a career-low percentage of his shots in the short and long mid-range areas, opting to attack the rim more frequently and letting fly on more triples. Those triples were landing too, nailing 37 percent from downtown. This change in mindset led to a career-best 53.2 percent effective field goal percentage, alleviating the biggest worry of Barton’s game.

 

The People’s Champ is never going to win any titles for his work on the defensive end, his 405th ranked defensive real plus-minus is a testament to that. However, his instant offensive impact as a starter or sixth man is undeniably valuable.

 

Denver locked up Harris to a four-year, $84 million deal last summer and Jokic to a $146.5 million max contract, so they already had plenty of money invested in their future stars. The fact that they were willing to shell out for Barton shows the faith that general manager Arturas Karnisovas has in his offensive flamethrower.

 

Time will tell whether Barton can live up to his new deal.