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Brooks no longer talking

The NBA playoffs are rolling on at different speeds but it all came to a shuddering halt for Dillon Brooks and the Memphis Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler drags the Miami Heat further and the Denver Nuggets remind everybody they’re still contenders.

Jimmy Butler, Man

This dude…

He averaged 37 points, six rebounds and 4.8 assists per game on 67.1% true shooting for the Miami Heat to beat the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the First Round.

Butler’s 56 points and Miami’s 15-point comeback is the most points in a comeback playoff win since Michael Jordan did it in Game 3 of the 1992 First Round.

While he may not want to admit it himself, Butler is a different player in the post-season. A switch goes off in his head and he plays at a level and intensity that simply isn’t possible across a full 82-game NBA season. However, the Heat did enough to sneak into the playoffs as the 8th seed and have given Butler the platform to do what he does best.

If he can drag the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals, his $8 to win the Conference Finals Most Valuable Player award will look mighty fine.

Meanwhile for the Bucks…

News surfaced after the final defeat that Mike Budenholzer lost his brother in a car accident during the series. It’s devastating news, but from a pure sporting standpoint, the Bucks were outplayed and outcoached.

The Bucks spent much of the NBA season as championship favourites. Their 58-24 record ended as the best in the league and it felt as though they’d cruised to it ahead of a deep playoff run. While a disappointing an unexpected defeat, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s response to a “ringz” question is one that should be on repeat every year.

“Do you get a promotion every year? In your job? No, right? So every year you work is a failure? Yes or no? No. Every year you work, you work towards something, towards a goal — which is to get a promotion, to be able to take care of your family, provide a house for them, or take care of your parents. You work towards a goal — it’s not a failure. It’s steps to success. I don’t want to make it personal. There’s always steps to it. Michael Jordan played 15 years, won six championships. The other nine years was a failure? That’s what you’re telling me. I’m asking you a question, yes or no? Exactly. So why you ask me that question? It’s the wrong question.”

The Bucks failed to play up to the expectations of themselves and the general NBA public. That much can’t be denied. However, only one team can win it. With the extended break and learnings from this season, there is every chance that this lost series is a step to a successful 2023-24 campaign.

Lakers Advance, Rise In Market

The Los Angeles Lakers moved into $11 to win the NBA championship after winning Game 1. Going on to win the series in six games, they’re now well and truly in the hunt at $7.50.

The Lakers didn’t only beat the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 6, but thrashed them 125-85 – a fitting 40-point win…

D’Angelo Russell is getting into his groove back in the purple and gold. His late three-point shots in Game 4 proved to be the difference and he led the Lakers in scoring to win Game 6.

Most encouraging for the Lakers is their depth and options with the ball.

Top scorers in this series:

Game 1 – Rui Hachimura (29)
Game 2 – LeBron James (28)
Game 3 – Anthony Davis (31)
Game 4 – Austin Reaves (23)
Game 5 – Anthony Davis (31)
Game 6 – D’Angelo Russell (31)

James is 38 years old. He can’t do it all, and while he can explode and win a game on his own, he can’t win a series. Anthony Davis is playing out a purple patch alongside Russell. Austin Reaves is growing in confidence and playing at a level to justify it right now, too.

The Western Conference is a strange beast. The Phoenix Suns are stacked but are a new team. The Denver Nuggets have been up there all season but many put their ceiling at the Conference Finals. Whoever advances out of the Sacramento Kings (G7: $1.85/-1.5) v Golden State Warriors series will do so on the back of a hard-fought seven games.

A lot still needs to go right for the Lakers to win it, but they’re trending in the right direction. That in itself is a significant achievement given how things looked only a couple of months ago.

Brooks No Longer Talking

Dillion Brooks played poorly enough on the court throughout the series but his performance off it could be considered worse.

He poked the bear and came to regret it.

With a chance to stick up for his actions off the court and lack of action on it, he skipped the media session once again.

Brooks is an unrestricted free agent and it will be interesting to see whether or not his off-court actions and the distractions they have brought recently play a part in negotiations. The general feeling is that his time with the Grizzlies is done and he will be looking elsewhere over the summer.

Embiid Update

It’s not looking good for Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers…

More serious than a Grade 1 LCL sprain, a Grade 2 sprain can take two to four weeks to recover while a Grade 3 can be up to six weeks.

The Sixers haven’t specified the grade but if it’s anything more than Grade 1, there is a good chance the series is gone by the time Embiid returns – if he returns at all.

The Boston Celtics are significant $1.20 and -9.5 favourites to win Game 1.

Nuggets Make a Statement

They’re somewhat the forgotten team in the Western Conference.

With Nikola Jokic leading the way as an MVP favourite, the Nuggets have sat towards the top of the standings all season. Still, the chat is around the Suns, the improving Lakers, defending champion Warriors, and the upstart Kings.

They beat the Suns rather convincingly in Game 1, though…

Jamal Murray, in particular, balled out.

Kevin Durant wasn’t surprised.

“Am I surprised about the Nuggets? Hell no. They’re the number one seed for a reason. They’ve got a two-time MVP, they’ve got a deep team. No I’m not surprised. They can go off and win games.”

Playing at home with a 1-0 series lead, the Nuggets are $1.53 and -4.5 favourites to win Game 2.

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