We are getting to the point of the NBA season where the teams are eager to start the post season. As the points are blocked, the image of the playoffs focuses more on each game and we can have an idea of which matchups will exist in the first round. Some teams are catching on fire at the right time, while others are stumbling in the standings as the playoff door closes with every loss.
There are many storylines around the league which include the return of injured players, teams that win claims and even more coaching changes. Let’s analyze some of the stories bubbled to the surface in the NBA and find out what’s real and what’s not.
Buy or sell: the Lakers have a championship level defense
Without much depth in the Lakers’ roster, this team has relied on two things throughout the season: LeBron James and Anthony Davis in attack and the NBA defense in third place. They rank in the top five most defensive statistical categories, including blocks (6.9) and steals (8.6) per game, while keeping teams at only 34.2 percent from a 3-point interval, which ranks fourth in the league . Their defense has won many games over the course of the season, but none more important than the two statements the Lakers won in the last few days on the Bucks and Clippers.
On Friday against the Bucks, LeBron James took on the incredible task of protecting Giannis Antetokounmpo when Davis had a bad initial foul. While the reigning MVP still popped for 32 points,. The Lakers’ defense neutralized the players around Giannis. Khris Middleton went 2 by 10 from the bottom, finishing with only 12 points and Eric Bledsoe was held back by 11 points. As a team, the Bucks fired a terrible 27.9 percent from 3. Milwaukee is proud to have numerous players that Giannis can count on when he can’t find his shot. Instead, the Lakers forced the Bucks to 20 turnovers, far above their average of 6.8 per game. LeBron and Davis didn’t get attacking help from their teammates as usual, but they made up for the defensive end. JaVale McGee and Danny Green, for example, scored a total of 11 points but also finished with five points combined.
After the impressive victory over the best NBA team, the Lakers beat the Clippers 112-103 on Sunday afternoon, this time slowing down their powerful bench unit. Avery Bradley scored 24 points in the season, while LeBron and A.D. they combined 58 points, but defense was once again the X factor for purple and gold. Being in the right place at the right time, Bradley forced a couple of turnovers, played a tight defense on Kawhi Leonard and finished the game with a team plus-13. The Clippers bench was held at 37 points – below the usual 51.3 points per game – and the Lakers have finally made it past the hump by beating their nearby Staples Center for the first time this season.
The Lakers have not been able to get consistent offensive performances from their supporting cast throughout the season, and this will likely continue in the playoffs. However, these two wins against the top contenders for the title have proven that their defense will be where the LeBron Lakers will hang their hats this season. Both games were heavily contested, and it was due to the blocked defense played by several players – not just by LeBron and A.D. – who decided these games. This should be an encouraging sign for the Lakers if they meet these two teams again in the playoffs.
Buy or Sell: Kyrie Irving is responsible for Kenny Atkinson’s loss of Nets’ job
Brooklyn shocked the NBA world by firing coach Kenny Atkinson over the weekend and as reports began to surface on why,is thrown to the star guard of the star Nets Kyrie Irving. Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill has reported that Irving has “turned sour” on Atkinson and would like to see his former head coach Ty Lue take over from Brooklyn. Also in the report, Atkinson wasn’t “fond” of the idea of coaching Irving and Kevin Durant based on what he saw this season, so he wanted to come out as much as the nets.
Irving has a reputation for stimulating drama wherever he goes. He wanted to go out to Cleveland because he didn’t want to play in the shadow of LeBron and repeatedly called his teammates during his time in Boston. Furthermore, he has not been able to stay healthy long enough to make that drama worthy. So obviously, all eyes are on Irving after this latest uproar, but to be honest, there were early warning signs that this marriage between Irving, Durant and Atkinson would not work.
In October, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan wrote an in-depth article on Brooklyn networks and how this franchise went from underdog to a free agent destination. In it, he describes in detail the first two years of Atkinson’s tenure and how he built the culture of networking, as well as trying to bring K.D. and Irving in that fold. There were curiosities in there that mentioned that Irving did not like some of the training regimes that nets imposed on their players.
The nets were happy when their new power trio organized summer training for the team at a Los Angeles middle school in July and August. The aim was to develop chemistry and learn about mutual trends in the field. He was booming until Brooklyn sent his exhibition team to Santa Monica for a two-day annual minicamp with players, which involved, among other things, the collection of biometric data via wearable devices. Irving, who has spent the past nine years working with his performance specialist, Robin Pound, has hesitated.
When the networks politely urged him to participate, he did not mince the words: “I’m not doing it.” It created an embarrassing moment, the team sources say, for the current players who had benefited from the performance staff and rooted that input into their routine.
Atkinson later points out in the article that the networks are run as a college team in terms of scheduled programming for the players. In Cleveland, John Beilein resigned between the bad chemistry between him and the players because his approach was reportedly. This could work for guys like Caris LeVert and Joe Harris, who need to be developed and haven’t won the NBA championships, but try to force it on superstar players like K.D. and Irving will not have the same effect. Those guys have routines that have stuck to all their careers and are trying to change which probably won’t go well. Atkinson was able to build network culture in a place where superstars wanted to come and play, but that doesn’t mean he was the right man to lead a team with superstars. Atkinson even told the general manager of the networks, Sean Marks, that “ “, signaling that his time to build the franchise was over and it was time for someone else to take control. Irving is not faultless, but based on all that has been reported, he no longer seemed suitable for Atkinson in Brooklyn.
Buy or Sell: Jusuf Nurkic’s return will push the Trail Blazers into the playoffs
As of Monday afternoon, the Portland Trail Blazers are currently 4 and a half games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the last place in the playoffs outside the west. They went 3-7 in the last 10 games, including defeats against the Kings, the Suns and the Hawks with games against the Rockets, 76ers, Clippers and Jazz still on the horizon. At this moment it seems rather bleak for the Blazers’ chances to make the postseason, but a welcome return from the center of 7 feet Jusuf Nurkic could reverse the trend in favor of Portland with the season that is running out. Nurkic hasn’t played for nearly a year after suffering a gruesome leg fracture last March, butMarch 15 when Portland plays Houston. The big man had a career year last season (15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds) before he was stopped due to a leg injury, and was essential in helping Portland win 53 games and block seed n . 3 in the Western Conference.
It made a positive impact on Portland on both ends of the floor. At his size, he could go out and defend himself on the wing or pole, and in attack he was the perfect partner in the pick-and-roll game for Damian Lillard. He had a soft touch around the edge and established himself as one of the best big men in the league, finishing third in the team in total assists. Bringing anyone back to full health at this point is good for the Blazers, who have been overwhelmed with injuries all season, but expecting Nurkic to intervene immediately and turn this team upside down is a result.
He will likely have a limitation of minutes when he returns, and with Hassan Whiteside as the starting center, Nurkic would likely come off the bench outside the gate. Its size will certainly help the Blazers in defense, but as with any injury that requires you to waste a significant amount of time, Nurkic will be rusty in his first few games. The Blazers have one of the easiest programs left in the league, which will be useful as Nurkic re-queues in the game. However, nearly five return games with kings and pelicans gathering steam to chase that end point seem too much to overcome even with the “Bosnian beast”. Bringing it back to the mix is a win for Portland, but it’s a little too late for it to have a significant impact on this team’s playoff hopes.