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NBA WEEK: Blowouts making playoffs a snoozefest, Giddey unlucky to miss All-Rookie Team

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Expert
19th May, 2022
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The NBA playoffs are supposed to be the most exciting time of the year but this year’s post-season has not yet reached any great heights.

When you reward mediocrity by having 20 of the 30 teams progress beyond the regular season and only eliminate four of those franchises before the real playoffs begin, there’s bound to be lopsided results.

None of the eight first-round series went to a deciding game seven and the home-court favourites were all victorious. Half of them went to six games, three were 4-1 cakewalks with Boston’s sweep of Brooklyn the only shut-out.

The second round was better with the Celtics ending Milwaukee’s title defence in seven games easily the best series. Dallas provided an upset when they won the last two games to knock out Phoenix, Golden State’s 4-2 win over Memphis would have been closer if not for Ja Morant’s injury while Philadelphia bowed out with barely a whimper inside six games to Miami.

What has added to the lack of spark in the playoffs has been the high number of blowouts.

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Teams in the era of the three-point focus often trail by double-digit leads early in matches but overcome them by going on a run with a barrage from long range.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 18: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors fights for the ball against Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter in Game One of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Finals at Chase Center on May 18, 2022 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

However, in the playoffs when defences don’t take nights off because the schedule is nowhere near as gruelling as the regular season, it is a lot harder for trailing teams to bomb their way back into the contest.

Several times in the playoffs when teams have had an off night, they have tried to make a run mid-game, it hasn’t worked and we’ve been forced to put up with psuedo garbage time from early in the third quarter.

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Even the teams that have progressed to the conference finals have been guilty of this.

Golden State lost in Memphis when the Grizzlies were without Morant by 39 points and the final scoreline flattered the Warriors. At one stage the Grizzlies were up by 55 before the Warriors kept the home team’s deep bench players to 15 in the final term to reduce the margin.

Such is the way of the NBA that Golden State bounced back at home in the following game to win by 14 and clinch the series. 

It was a similar situation when Dallas upset the Suns in their series finale in Phoenix. The Mavericks led 57-27 at the half – with Luka Doncic scoring as many points as the opposing team – and the final two quarters serving as a painful funeral procession for the Suns on their home floor.

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Even the Celtics-Bucks series only had two games with a final margin in single digits.

The conference finals have also got off to a lopsided start with the Heat keeping Boston at arm’s length after a third-quarter surge to win by 11 and Golden State demolishing Dallas on Thursday by 25.

That means from the playoff 72 matches so far, more than half of them (38) have been decided by double-digit margins – 21 of 44 in the first round, incongruously 15 of 26 in the second round when the gap between the teams is supposed to be closer and both game ones of the conference finals. (Funnily enough the only series that had all single-digit margins was the Celtics’ sweep of the Nets).

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Refereeing is often tighter in the playoffs, leading to more fouls, lower game totals and tighter scorelines but that can’t even be blamed for this year’s mediocre post-season.

Even though playoff scores have been lower than a lot of the regular-season free-for-alls, the victory margins have not also shrunk.

The NBA’s head honchos are highly unlikely to consider the idea because the more playoff games there are, the higher the revenue will be, but first-round series should go back to five-match contests.

DENVER, CO - JUNE 11: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets accepts the 2021 NBA MVP award before Game Three of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Ball Arena on June 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Nikola Jokic. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

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Stars make playoffs and the NBA is undergoing something of a transitional phase at the moment as it gets ready for the post-LeBron James era. The King’s Lakers didn’t even make the play-in tournament and his contemporaries like Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul and slightly younger stars such as Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden appear to be entering the twilight years of their effectiveness.

The back-to-back MVP, Nikola Jokic, is naturally publicity shy and his team bombed out in the first round when Denver were case aside by the Warriors.

Giannis Antetekounmpo is pretty much the biggest star in the NBA now but his team is also out. Steph Curry is left to carry the flag for the established stars while the NBA will market the hell out of Doncic if he can get the Mavericks into the finals.

In the East, the Heat are the epitome of a team-first franchise with Jimmy Butler the closest they have to a genuine superstar while if a traditional powerhouse in Boston can get past Miami, it will be time for Jayson Tatum to ascend to becoming one of the league’s marquee names.

At the very least there will be a new champion team which gives the final three series a much-needed extra bit of storyline oomph even if the matches may not necessarily be tight.

Josh Giddey in action

(Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

GIddey unlucky to miss All Rookie First Team

Boomers rising star Josh Giddey was definitely unlucky not to make the All-NBA Rookie First Team when it was announced on Thursday. 

The OKC guard made his feelings clear with a couple of crying laughing emojis on Twitter when The Athletic’s Shams Charania broke the story on the first and second teams.

Toronto’s rookie of the year Scottie Barnes, Cleveland big Evan Mobley and Detroit forward Cade Cunningham were no-brainer selections while Orlando’s Franz Wagner got in after posting 15 points and five rebounds per game and Houston’s Jalen Green, the No.2 overall pick, made it after averaging 17 points per game in his 67 appearances for the Rockets.

Giddey won Western Conference Rookie of the Month four times (more than anyone else) and averaged 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in his 54 games before hs season ended prematurely due to “hip soreness”. 

That’s where he lost the award – the Thunder’s blatant policy of shutting down players who contribute to winning in the final months of the season to boost their draft lottery odds. 

If he had played another 10 games or so, Giddey would have been a shoo-in. 

There’s no way Giddey would have missed out if his tally was similar to Green’s when it came to games played. Green’s only Rookie of the Month honour in the West was the final one of the season when Giddey was no longer on the hardwood.

It’s also clear from the official breakdown that virtually all of the voters selected the three main rookies with only four votes cast for Green, Wagner and Pelicans defensive dynamo Herb Jones, probably from representatives from their local markets in the 100-strong panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.

The NBA is still refusing to give me an official vote but Giddey would have been on my ballot ahead of Wagner and Green with Jones the other member of the First Team.

At least Giddey was not snubbed altogether, named on the Second Team with Jones, Denver’s Bones Hyland, Chicago’s Ayo Dosunmu and Pacers sharpshooter Chris Duarte.

More importantly for Giddey, his franchise lucked out in the draft lottery to get the No.2 pick which will mean the Thunder will pick one of the three bigs projected to be the first three selections – Chet Holmgren, Pailo Banchero or Jabari Smith jnr. 

Whichever one they end up with will fit in perfectly with Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the backcourt and Lu Dort as their defensive stopper on the wing.

Must-see matches

Friday – Celtics at Heat, 10.30am AEST 

Boston missed the services of defensive player of the year Marcus Smart in game one but he has been upgraded to probable as he recovers from his foot injury but veteran centre Al Horford looks set to return after being in the COVID-19 protocols. Miami veteran Kyle Lowry sat out game one and has already been ruled out of the second encounter due to his hamstring strain.

Saturday – Mavericks at Warriors, 11am AEST

Luka Doncic was shut down by the much-maligned Andrew Wiggins in game one to score just 20 points on 6/18 shooting. Yeesh. If Dallas coach Jason Kidd can’t come up with a scheme to get his star some space, this could be a short series. 

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