What a start to the playoffs! I watched basketball all weekend. My whole life is watching basketball during the playoffs. The first games did not waste my time.
I’ve got some takeaways from these games. A few involve the play-in, the rest relate to the first playoff games played this weekend. Here we go!
(Before we start, I’ll mention the rebranding this blog went through. Finn’s Basketball Blog wasn’t an awful name, but the Bench Mob Blog is a lot better. Shoutout to my dad for designing the logo. I chose the Bench Mob because I have a strange obsession with lots of random bench guys in the NBA. Mike James, Tim Frazier, and Mamadi Diakite are a few of my favorites.)
Middleton for the win! You love to see it. In the 2018 playoffs, Middleton made one of the five best shots I’ve seen/watched live. He made another clutch shot this year. It put the cap on a game that was kind of a struggle for a lot of players. Giannis was inefficient (10-27 from the field, 6-13 from the free throw line), Jimmy was extremely inefficient (4-22 from the field), Bam was inefficient (4-15), Tyler Herro was very inefficient (2-10), Divincenzo struggled (1-5), and a few others guys struggled as well. That’s kind of how I expected this series to go. It’s definitely a defensive battle type of matchup. I’m excited for the rest of the series (although if the Bucks lose, I’m going to lose it). This is definitely a top three (maybe top one) first round matchup in terms of viewing enjoyment and competitiveness.
Luka has help, but not from who you would expect
Luka, as usual, was amazing in the first game against the Clippers. In a double-digit win, he put up 30 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, and 2 blocks. Of course, in order to win in the playoffs, the supporting cast needs to play well. That’s what happened on Saturday. Tim Hardaway Jr. put up 21 points (that man’s been hooping lately), Dorian Finney-Smith had 18, and Jalen Brunson added 15.
However, the man getting paid $30 million to be Luka’s sidekick, Kristaps Porzingis, had a bad game. His problem is inconsistency (and injury). I don’t like his shot selection. He’s a seven-foot tall player that fades away when a small guard is switched on to him. I think the Mavericks (unless they have a crazy playoff run) should look to move on from KP this offseason. I’m not sure what they could get in return, but I don’t think he’s good as a second option.
Jokic needs Jamal Murray. He was able to keep the Nuggets afloat after Jamal’s injury in the regular season, but he just lost by 20 to the Blazers in game one (and C.J. McCollum and Norman Powell weren’t efficient). Michael Porter Jr. (who I will admit is better this year than last. He’s pretty good. I do think R.J. Barrett deserved the nomination for MIP over MPJ though) shot 1-10 from three. This may be a five game exit for Denver. That’s an unfortunate way to end an MVP season for Nikola Jokic.
Ice Trae is in full force, and Danilo Gallinari’s hair sucks
Chants of “Eff Trae Young” turned into silence after Trae’s game winner against the Knicks. What a way to start his playoff career. Stop the Trae Young hate.
It really helped Atlanta that the Knicks were struggling. Julius Randle shot an ugly 6-23, R.J. Barrett shot 6-15 and Reggie Bullock was 0-5 from three. I’m sure they’ll turn it around. When they do, this will be an even more competitive series.
(Shoutout to Alec Burks. He’s a bucket.)
Tobias Harris deserves his money
Tobias had an All-Star level regular season. He also had a superstar first game against the Wizards. He put up 37 points. Tobias is the perfect third option for a contender. He’s great, and his contract isn’t looking so bad anymore.
Joel Embiid added 30 points with 12 free throws. Ben Simmons had a Draymond performance (3-9 from the field, 0-6 from the free throw line, 15 rebounds, 15 assists). The 76ers looked really good on Sunday.
Start Daniel Gafford please
In a game for Washington where every starter had a negative plus/minus, Daniel Gafford had +14. He’s an interior defender and a rim protector. Alex Len is solid, and Robin Lopez has an elite post hook (not kidding, he led the league in hook percentage this year. He makes them like everytime), but Daniel Gafford should be Washington’s starting center.
Anthony Davis needs to get off the struggle bus or LA is screwed
The Lakers aren’t scary at all when AD isn’t playing well. Game one against the Suns is a great example of that. That’s because the supporting cast is a bit iffy at times. Dennis Schroder is an inconsistent scorer, Andre Drummond is a bad decision maker, KCP can be quite streaky (he was chucking up bricks on Sunday), and Kyle Kuzma’s inconsistent. Alex Caruso has been a bright spot recently, having solid offensive performances against Golden State and Phoenix, and he also plays solid defense.
If AD doesn’t turn it around, then the Lakers could legitimately lose in five. LeBron can carry a team, but he still needs his supporting cast to make shots.
The Phoenix Suns are serious contenders
Although picking him to win MIP this year didn’t work out, Deandre Ayton just had a great first game against the Lakers. Maybe he’ll win it in 2022.
Devin Booker had an excellent playoff debut. He’s still not better than Donovan Mitchell, but he is still a top five shooting guard.
Chris Paul is a trooper. He left the game twice due to a shoulder injury, and still played 36 minutes. He’s the ultimate true point guard, and he’s such a great fit in Phoenix.
Mikal Bridges is such a good 3&D wing. I don’t know if he’ll ever be an All-Star, but he’ll definitely become a top role player on a championship team. His skillset is so valuable.
Phoenix also has a solid supporting cast. Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, Cameron Payne, Dario Saric, and Torrey Craig all play specific roles and play them well.
I think Phoenix has a great chance of making the Finals. Potentially the best in the West.
Them boys in Memphis are HOOPING
Wow, the Grizzlies have been playing great lately. They surprisingly made it out of the play-in, and then had a great win over Utah on Sunday. All of their guys are playing excellent basketball.
Jonas Valanciunas is a top six or seven center. He led the league in 20-20 games this season. He sets great screens, and grabs every single offensive rebound.
Ja Morant is doing usual Ja Morant things, but he’s shot the ball well from downtown in the last couple games and that’s making him even harder to guard. He made five triples against Golden State.
Kyle Anderson may be very slow, but he has a big impact for Memphis. This has truly been a breakout year for him. He’s a good defender, and his shot has improved this year.
Desmond Bane is a sniper, and so is Grayson Allen. I thought it was wild that Grayson closed the game against Golden State with back-to-back triples.
Finally, Dillon Brooks has been playoff MVP so far. He’s played truly excellent defense (especially on DeMar), and he’s also been great on offense, especially when getting to the rim. He’s only 25. Could he maybe be an All-Star one day? We’ll see.
So, those are some random takeaways and thoughts I have after watching the first 2021 playoff games. Do you agree with anything I said, or do you disagree? Do you have any other thoughts? Let me know! See you next time!