The NBA playoffs continue but the Celtics and Lakers will do well to last much longer following poor starts to the Conference Finals.
Don’t. Poke. The. Bear
There are some players you simply shouldn’t fire up.
Dillion Brooks learned that the hard way as the Memphis Grizzlies lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round.
In the Conference Finals, it’s Grant Williams and the Boston Celtics learning a hard lesson.
Making one three, Williams chirped Jimmy Butler on his way back down the court.
That was a mistake…
Heat outscored Celtics 22-9 after Grant Williams came at Jimmy Butler.
Butler had 7 points from that point on. Celtics had 9.
— Justin Phan (@jphanned) May 20, 2023
On track to level the series at 1-1 at that point, the Celtics crumbled. They allowed the Miami Heat to claw their way back and take a 2-0 series lead. At $1.20 to win the Eastern Conference Finals and $2 to win the NBA Finals before the series tipped off, the Celtics have blown out to $2.30 and $4.20 respectively.
Butler has been outstanding for the Heat. He knows when to involve himself in the game and when to get his teammates the ball. In crunch time, Butler demanded control and picked off the Celtics’ defence with relative ease.
This season — This playoffs —
22.9 PPG 31.1 PPG
5.9 RPG 6.6 RPG
5.3 APG 5.6 APG
1.8 SPG 2.2 SPG
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 20, 2023
For Boston, they look great when it’s all clicking. They’ve looked like the better team for much of the series so far, but when the 4th quarter rolls around, this group crumbles like a cheap deck chair.
Jayson Tatum, in particular, has been absent. He scored 34 points, dragged down 13 rebounds and handed out eight assists – an excellent stat line. However, Tatum is without a field goal in the conference finals so far. When the Celtics need him most, he hasn’t produced and they’re in a 0-2 hole as a result.
It all comes down to Game 3 now. As the Lakers are well aware, no team in NBA history has come back to win a series from 0-3 down (0-149). Nonetheless, the Celtics are $1.57 and -3.5 favourites to avoid the need to make history if they’re to reach the NBA Finals.
Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone was surprised that more people spoke about the world-recognised Los Angeles Lakers than they did the small-market Nuggets after Game 1. It created a desperate discourse around giving credit where credit is due as though credit wins NBA championships.
Now, none of that matters.
The Nuggets are 3-0 in front and the Lakers need to make history if they’re to dig themselves out of this hole.
The Lakers have been in this position before as a franchise; they’re 0-8 in a series they’ve been down 0-3. In fact, they’ve never even forced a Game 5 in this scenario.
It’s all a result of the stellar play of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Both have dominated through different periods to ensure the Nuggets are at least one step ahead of the Lakers at all times. Jokic is averaging 27 points, 14.7 rebounds and 11.3 assists per game. Murray is adding 35 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. They’ve undoubtedly been the two best players throughout the series to be at $1.45 and $2.70, respectively, to win the Western Conference Finals MVP award.
Jamal Murray tonight:
Joins Jokic as the only Nuggets to reach those numbers in a playoff game. pic.twitter.com/1SerrYghrs
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 21, 2023
The Lakers haven’t been bad all series. They’ve produced some nice moments and played themselves back into the series numerous times. But they’ve only been moments – not matches. In Game 3 Anthony Davis scored 28 points and dragged down 18 rebounds, LeBron James finished up with 23 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists while Austin Reaves added 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists. However, the Lakers trio didn’t get enough out of the supporting cast to keep up with the Nuggets to the end.
“I think it’s been the timely shots by their role players,” James said after the latest defeat. “… That’s allowed them to kind of have the edge.”
It always felt as though the Lakers bench would play a significant role in this series whether it be positive or negative. It’s not been positive enough to give the Lakers much of a chance so far…
The Lakers have everything to play for as $1.60 and -3.5 favourites in Game 4.
NBA Odds Update
Top 10 Odds
|TEAM||Championship Winner||Conference Winner|
|Los Angeles Lakers||$23||–|
NBA Draft Lottery
The San Antonio Spurs won the Victor Wembanyama stakes after escaping the NBA Draft Lottery with the #1 pick in the draft.
With a 14% chance of landing the #1 pick alongside the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons, San Antonio’s future is bright with one of the best prospects in NBA history primed to land on their doorstep following the draft on June 22.
The last time the Spurs won the lottery they didn't miss the playoffs again for the next 22 years
— J.A. Adande (@jadande) May 17, 2023
The Pistons will feel hard done by after the lottery. They worked hard to finish with the worst record in the league to win only 17 games all season. A franchise that needs some luck, they didn’t get any on the day. The Portland Trail Blazers, on the other hand, finished the season with a 33-49 record and a 42.1% chance to end up with a Top 4 pick before being awarded the #3 pick in the draft.
First Round: Picks 1-14
1. San Antonio
11. Orlando (from Chicago)
12. Oklahoma City
14. New Orleans
Wembanyama will go #1. The Spurs don’t even need to waste time with workouts, combines or interviews. We’ve seen enough…
Bonkers that Wembanyama won MVP, Best Defender, Best Young Player, and All-First Team while leading the league in minutes played, points, blocks, and rebounds as a teenager. AND THE KID WILL OFFICIALLY BE A SAN ANTONIO SPUR IN ONE MONTH.
— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) May 21, 2023
Brandon Miller, Scoot Henderson, Anthony Black, Taylor Hendricks, Amen Thompson and Gradey Dick will more than likely make up the rest of the picks towards the top of the NBA Draft.