Basketball, Basketball, Columnists, Sports

The 2-3 Zone, excitement for two historic franchises

The “2”

I am writing this column just after Game 2 between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets.

Now, I was originally prepared to write about LeBron James, especially after I heard a right-wing conspiracy theorist call him an “Illuminati Wizard” earlier this week. Then, as I watched Game 2, I was preparing to write about Nikola Jokić, as he scored the Nuggets’ last 12 points of the game — including a mystifying tip-in off of a Jamal Murray airball.

But finally, I made the decision to write about Anthony Davis because he hit an absurd buzzer- beating, game-winning triple to give the Lakers a two-game lead in the Western Conference Finals. And that shot has been the highlight of my Sunday. 

Just a few minutes before that, Davis hit his only other three of the game: a nasty step back over Paul Millsap that almost no one else of Davis’s size could ever make.

With 68 points combined over the first two games of the series, Davis is cementing himself as James’s best-ever teammate. And if Davis continues on this unstoppable streak, the Lakers will be all but guaranteed a championship.

The Boston Celtics’ “best five” lineup is back, and I am beyond excited.

Last Saturday, Gordon Hayward returned to the Celtics’ rotation after suffering an ankle injury in the team’s first playoff game this postseason.

With Hayward’s return, the Celtics were able to run out a lineup of their five best players — Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart — against the Miami Heat. And those five wreaked havoc.

In just seven minutes together, Boston’s “best five” lineup had a net rating of 86.0, while making 73 percent of their shots and outscoring the Heat by 13.

With their five best players on the floor together, the Celtics can attack Miami with a lethal combination of elite shot creation and elite shot making. Hayward plays a key role in that because his dribble penetrations prevent the Heat from completely shutting Boston down with their variety of zone defenses. 

If the Heat can’t generate more points from Jimmy Butler running isolation plays, they may not be able to stave off a Celtics comeback in this series.

The “3”

The Los Angeles Clippers are an embarrassment. I want to start by putting the spotlight on the one guy who hasn’t received nearly enough criticism for his performance this past season: Kawhi Leonard.

A lot of criticism has deservedly gone to Paul George for some truly miserable shooting performances this postseason and Doc Rivers for being the first coach in NBA history to blow three 3-1 series leads in the playoffs. But Leonard is the reigning Finals Most Valuable Player and a consensus top-five player in the league.

Yet all of his load management and preparation for the postseason throughout the regular season didn’t seem to matter as Leonard shot 6-for-22 from the field in the biggest game of the Clippers’ season, including 1-for-11 in the second half.

Leonard needs to be better, and more people in the NBA media need to be talking about that.

Unfortunately, problems with the NBA media don’t exactly stop there.

The regular-season NBA awards are voted on by the media, and frankly, there are just too many media members who do not deserve a vote. 

A Chicago Sun-Times writer was the only voter to not put Ja Morant first on his Rookie of the Year ballot, and more importantly, he put Patrick Beverley at first place on his Defensive Player of the Year ballot. Someone with such an indefensible vote, who does not seem to even watch the game of basketball, should not be able to impact who wins the NBA’s awards, especially when those awards have contract implications for so many players.

The system has long been broken, as evidenced by James being robbed of both unanimous MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. But it is time to make some sort of change to the system.

Fortunately, not all is wrong with the NBA media. 

Since the NBA restart, Draymond Green has occasionally played the role of analyst on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” 

Despite how annoying Green can sometimes be on the court, his analysis has been insightful, digestible and incredibly compelling. Green undoubtedly has a high basketball IQ, and he has helped make “Inside the NBA” more enjoyable than ever before during the NBA restart.


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