Khris Middleton Is An Enigma

Khris Middleton reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan’s filmography. It’s a neverending circle of confusion that starts as good, turns to bad at the halfway mark, and circles back up to good.

There are times where Shymalan looks like one of the most important directors of the last 30 years with films such as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. Then, Shymalan will direct bad films like The Happening and After Earth and make you question if he’s the same guy who was nominated for two Oscars. But, the circle must close back at the top, and adding good films like The Visit and Split completes the circle of confusion.

Apologies for my handwriting

Are you confused yet? Thankfully, HoopAnalysisNet created Middleton’s circle of confusion.

Just like Shyamalan’s plot twists, Middleton is an enigma. There will be games where he looks like the best player on the floor. Down 3-2 to the Brooklyn Nets, Middleton played the game of his life in a Game 6 win, scoring 38 points. He followed up that performance with 23 points in Game 7 including 11 points in the fourth quarter to help the Bucks advance past the Nets.

Following the circle, Middleton must come back to Earth, which he did in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, scoring 15 points in a Game 1 loss and 15 points in a Game 2 win. In the next four games, Middleton becomes Michael Jordan as the Bucks win three of the next four games to advance to the NBA Finals.

https://twitter.com/KB824Lukas/status/1411715658358923264?s=20

If we follow the circle, Middleton must forget how to play basketball at some point. Guess what? That’s exactly what happened in Game 2 of the NBA Finals where Middleton looked lost on the offensive end. Middleton ended the game with 11 points on 5 of 16 shooting and a Plus/Minus of -15.

Middleton either plays like of the 20 best players in the NBA or someone outside of the top 100. It’s baffling considering the Bucks paid him a max contract when he only showcases his true potential 70% of the time. Players can have bad games, but as the second-best player on the Bucks, it’s inexcusable to have this many no-shows.

For the Bucks to win, Middleton needs to become the lethal scorer from the end of the Nets and Bucks series. Jrue Holiday isn’t helping out whatsoever on the offensive side, but he’s still the third option. Middleton is the clear second option behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Greek Freak cannot win this series alone.

We can sit here and draw up offensive strategies where Middleton can exploit the Suns’ defense. If the Bucks can get Deandre Ayton into foul trouble, then Middleton can put Ayton’s backups (Frank Kaminsky and Jalen Smith) into pick and rolls and either create easy jump shots or get to the foul line.

That being said, it comes down to consistency. If Middleton can shoot over 40% from the field and score more than 25 points, the Bucks will win games. If he doesn’t, then it could be a short series.

Middleton has been good with his team’s back against the wall all playoffs. Let’s see which player shows up for Game 3 on Sunday night.

NBA Instant Replay Continues To Hurt, Not Help, The Game

NBA refs looking over a replays / Flickr

NBA Instant Replay revolves around the idea of accuracy. No one wants games decided by a missed call so replay is all about getting it right. But what happens when the quest for precision becomes a problem?

Tuesday night’s game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns was the poster boy for the case against instant replay.

The Clippers and Suns were in an exciting battle all night. Role players like Cameron Payne and Ivica Zubac were playing like seasoned vets. No team could get an edge as they traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter.

Then, the last 90 seconds became a new game in itself.

90 seconds of the game took 33 REAL MINUTES. Not 3 minutes, not 13 minutes, but 33 minutes. That makes me want to puke. You could have started and finished the basketball episode of The Office with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter and not miss much from the real basketball game.

Something has to change.

Nothing personifies what’s wrong with replay more than the Devin Booker-Patrick Beverley situation. With just under 14 seconds left, Devin Booker drove to the right-wing. Patrick Beverley moved his feet, swatted at the ball, and knocked it out of bounds. The refs ruled Suns ball.

Not so fast my friend.

Beverley spun his index finger in the air like he was calling for a daiquiri break in Wedding Crashers. In the last two minutes of an NBA game, the spinning finger motion has more power over the officials than any coach or player. If you swing your finger in the air on an out-of-bounds play, nine times out of ten, the officials will huddle up and go to the table for review.

This situation was no different. The refs huddled up and went to the table for the review. After viewing super slow-mo replays for a few minutes, the refs decided to overturn the call on the floor and award the ball to the Clippers.

Awful.

Throughout basketball’s illustrious history, we know that the Booker-Beverley play should have resulted in Suns ball. If this game was in a local park, then it would be Suns ball. If that play that happened with 2:01 left in the fourth quarter, then it would be Suns ball. However, because of super slow-mo, the ball probably went off Booker’s fingertips at the last nanosecond so the refs changed the call to Clippers ball.

If Booker reached for the ball before it went out of bounds, then I have no problem with awarding the ball to the Clippers. But that’s not what happened. The ball was knocked out of his hands in one motion. That’s Suns ball, and you can’t convince me otherwise.

Even worse, replays take way too long. Five reviews in 30 minutes are unacceptable for a product that’s struggling with its ratings. I have friends who always complain about the end of games, saying the “last two minutes take two hours.” I love the NBA and will always watch the game, but the casual fan has a point in terms of length. Why should casual fans watch a game that spends more time at the scorer’s table than on the court at the end of games?

If replays are long, tedious, and inaccurate, why use them?

To fix replay, the NBA should steal a page from tennis. In my opinion, tennis has the best use of replay. It’s quick and accurate and gives players a definitive answer as to whether the ball is in or out.

The NBA should adopt the same principles. The league can still keep replay in the last two minutes of the game, but put a time limit of 30 seconds on each replay. If the refs can’t make a decision within 30 seconds, then it’s not a clear and obvious reversal so stick with the call on the floor. With a 30-second review, the coaches and players won’t receive a free three-minute timeout. The flow of the game will be preserved. Most importantly, the fans won’t get restless.

I’m all for getting the call right, but it’s time to adjust replay in the NBA.

Do you agree or disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Knicks Series Preview: How New York Can Defeat The Atlanta Hawks

RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Derrick Rose / Knicks

After a stellar regular season, the New York Knicks secured the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and will play the No. 5 seed Atlanta Hawks in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs.

This is not a joke. Hell, it’s not even a dream.

To quote Amar’e Stoudemire, “The Knicks are back.”

Thanks to Tom Thibodeau and Julius Randle, the Knicks not only made the playoffs but have a great chance to win a series, which is unfathomable considering the team hasn’t made the playoffs in eight years. The Knicks won all three matchups against the Hawks during the regular season. But this is the playoffs so throw the records out the door.

The Hawks are a different team since Nate McMillian took over for Lloyd Pierce. On paper, the Hawks have the more talented roster with Trae Young, John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Deandre Hunter, and Clint Capela. However, the Knicks are the embodiment of toughness and grit, ranking third in team defensive efficiency.

For the Knicks to win the series, they must accomplish three things.

Julius Randle Must Assert His Dominance

To say Julius Randle dominated the Hawks during the regular season would be the understatement of the century. There’s dominance, and then there’s Randle against the Hawks. In three games versus the Hawks, Randle averaged 37.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 6.7 assists on 58.1/50.0/81.8 shooting splits.

The Hawks are an average defense so Randle should be able to exploit matchups regularly. If Deandre Hunter isn’t 100%, then Solomon Hill is probably the best option to defend Randle. I’ll choose Randle in that matchup eleven times out of ten. Even if Randle puts up his season averages of 24.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg, and 6.0 apg, the Knicks will be in good shape to advance.

Alec Burks Must Be A Scoring Threat Off The Bench

The Knicks’ three best scoring options are Randle, RJ Barrett, and Derrick Rose. If all goes according to plan, those three will lead the team in scoring. Reggie Bullock will chip in some threes, but he’s more of a catch-and-shoot player, not so much a creator. There has to be that fourth guy to create offense and provide some scoring off the bench especially when Randle and RJ sit. The best player to fill that role is Alec Burks.

Burks has been one of the bargain signings of the past season. Burks signed a one-year contract worth $6 million, and he’s completely exceeded expectations. Burks provides the Knicks with a guard who can create his own shot, shoot over 40% from three, and provide solid defense. Pairing him with Rose and Immanuel Quickley gives the Knicks three viable threats to create offense off the bench.

In Burks last three games, he’s scored 30, 14, and 17 points in just under 30 minutes per game. If Burks can score over 10 each game of the series, that’s one more option the Hawks need to worry about, which will help open up the offense.

Stop Bogdan Bogdanovic

Trae Young is going to score at least 20 points per game. Young is good at drawing fouls and hitting bombs from beyond the arc. John Collins will also provide some matchup problems for the Knicks.

That being said, the Knicks must stop Bogdan Bogdanovic. McMillian deserves a ton of credit for the Hawks’ turnaround, but Bogdanovic sparked their success on the court. Since Bogdanovic returned from a fractured knee, the Hawks are 27-11 including seven wins in their last eight games. McMillian has allowed Bogdanovic to create off the dribble and get to his spots instead of serving as someone to space the floor for Young. When Young’s off the floor, the Hawks don’t miss a beat with Bogdanovic serving as the primary ball-handler.

The Knicks are expected to play good, team defense. They’ve done it all year so there’s no reason why it would disappear now. However, the Knicks must contain Bogdanovic or risk getting into shootouts, which isn’t their strength.

Bottomline

No matter what happens, this season will go down as a success. The Knicks shattered their projected win total of 22.5 games with 41 wins. They finally have a stable front office, an above-average head coach, a star in the making with Randle, and a definitive identity.

The Knicks were not supposed to be here. But, since they are here, they might as well win it, right?

Knicks in 7.

Who do you think will win, Hawks or Knicks? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @danny_giro.

NBA Bubble Week 10 Recap: One More Win

After 10 weeks inside the NBA Bubble, by this time next week, there will be an NBA Champion, which is something that seemed impossible back in March.

Top Story: Lakers Are One Win Away From The Title

When we last spoke, the Los Angeles Lakers dismantled the Miami Heat in Game 1, 116-98. After the Heat jumped out to a 23-10 lead, the Lakers went on a remarkable 75-30 run to seize control of the game. Since Game 1, the contests have been a lot closer, but some things like LeBron’s dominance haven’t changed.

In Game 2, the Lakers proved they have the best duo in the game with James and Anthony Davis. The pair combined for 65 points and 23 rebounds as the Lakers came out on top, 124-114. Even though the Heat missed both Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo, Miami played pretty well all things considered. They shot 50% from the field, 40% from 3, and 91% from the line. However, they couldn’t stop James and Davis with the latter making 14 of his first 15 shots.

To describe Game 3, use one name and one name only: Jimmy Butler. What Butler did was one of the most impressive and inspiring acts I’ve ever witnessed on a basketball court. Without Dragic and Bam, Butler said, “Guys, get on my back and get out of the way.” Butler accumulated a triple-double with 40 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists. Jimmy Buckets joined LeBron James and Jerry West as the third player in NBA history to record a 40+ point triple-double in the NBA Finals.

Game 4 was the ugliest and grittiest game of the series. It was back and forth throughout the entire game. Then, the King put on his crown and asserted himself in the final quarter, scoring 11 points (7 of them from the line), 5 rebounds, and 2 assists to secure a 102-96 victory. The biggest takeaway was Davis’ defense on Butler, who personally held the Miami star to 1 of 7 shooting, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

LeBron knows a thing or two about 3-1 leads so I don’t expect the Lakers to take their feet off the gas in Game 5.

The MVP Is…

Before Game 3, there were some rumblings that AD was making a case for Finals MVP if the Lakers took home the title.

Heading into Game 5, let me be the first to tell you that Anthony Davis will not win MVP as long as LeBron James is on the court. Coming into the series, there was a path for Davis to edge out LeBron for MVP. It would take something along the lines of 30+ points, 10+ rebounds, and pure domination on the defensive end. That being said, AD’s performance in Game 3 threw out his chances for MVP. Had Butler not had a historic showcase, the biggest story would revolve around AD’s “no show” because that’s exactly what happened. Davis had a mere 15 points on 9 (!!!!) shots from the field to go along with -26 +/- rating. This is the difference between Davis, a top 5 player in the world, and LeBron, the best player in the world. Even in LeBron’s “bad games,” he’s usually in the neighborhood of 20+ points, 6+ rebounds, 7+ assists. LeBron’s averaging 27/11/8. If the Lakers win it all, it’s his MVP.

If the Heat do the unthinkable and come back from a 3-1 deficit to win it all, Butler will be the unanimous MVP.

Week 10 MVP: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

KCP, I’m sorry. I used to slander your name. Now, you’re shoving that slander right in my face. KCP’s been a godsend for the Lakers this series. He’s third on the team in scoring with 11 points per game. However, KCP’s clutch scoring has been the difference. In Game 1, when the Lakers had no answers in the first quarter, KCP ignited their offensive surge with 10 points in the quarter. With under four minutes left in Game 4, KCP scored 5-straight points to increase the Laker lead from 2 to 7. KCP, you have my respect. Danny Green, you’ve lost my respect until further notice.

Week 4 LVP: Tyler Herro

This hurts, but I have to call it as it is. Tyler Herro is having a productive series, but he will live forever in Internet history after LeBron bodied the budding star.

I still love you, Herro!

Week 11 Storyline: A Champion Will Be Crowned

Will the title belong to the King or will it belong to his former employer in South Beach?

What are your top storylines from Week 10 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Bubble Week 9 Recap: LeBron The Conqueror

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers

I had high hopes for the NBA Finals inside the NBA Bubble. LeBron going for his fourth ring and having to do it against the team that helped him win his first is a great storyline. However, after Game 1, those high hopes quickly evaporated.

Top Story: LeBron And The Lakers Dominate Game 1

In Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals, the Heat came out firing. Jimmy Butler was 4 of 4 from the field, the Lakers couldn’t stop the Heat’s ball movement, and Miami appeared to be a resectable advisory to the favored Lakers. The Heat jumped out to a 23-10 lead. Then, all hell broke loose. The Lakers went on a jaw-dropping 75-30 run on their way to a commanding 116-98 win. LeBron James was LeBron, finishing with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists. However, Anthony Davis was on another level of dominance. The Heat had no answers for AD as the superstar big man finished with 34 points and 9 rebounds.

https://twitter.com/LegionHoops/status/1311497448930516992?s=20

The Heat Are In Trouble Thanks To Their Lack Of Size And Depth

The Lakers were the better team going into the series because they have the best player in the world and another player ranked in the top 5. However, Miami’s top 6 players and their ability to frustrate opponents on defense led many people to believe that the Heat had a chance to upset the Lakers. I was one of those people and right now, my prediction is not looking so good. Going into the series, the Heat would have no answers for LeBron, but at least they have an athletic big man in Bam Adebayo who could contain AD to an extent. In Game 1, Bam was in foul trouble early, and the Lakers had clear mismatches inside and on the glass. The Heat had no answers for AD especially when the Heat went small. The rebounding disparity was noticeable as the Lakers outrebounded the Heat, 54-36. Simply put, the Lakers were bigger, stronger, and tougher in Game 1.

Unfortunately, the Heat were decimated with injuries to three of their key players. Goran Dragic suffered a left foot torn plantar fascia and is doubtful for Game 2. Dragic is the team’s second-leading scorer and when he left the game, the score was only 41-40 in favor of the Lakers. I would be shocked if Dragic returned at any point in this series. Bam is also listed as doubtful for Game 2 due to a neck strain. If Dragic and Bam don’t return to the series, it will most likely end in a Lakers sweep. Keep in mind that Jimmy Butler rolled his ankle in Game 1 so even if he plays in Game 2, he may not be 100%.

Week 9 MVP: Lakers Supporting Cast

I will be first to admit that I did not believe in the Lakers’ supporting cast behind LeBron and AD. I would take five to six guys on the Heat before I would take the third-best player on the Lakers. Clearly, they heard my comment and came firing in Game 1. The Lakers hit a franchise-record 11 3-pointers in the first half and according to ESPN Stats & Information research, 8 of 12 were open looks. KCP, Rondo, Danny Green, and Caruso were all great, especially in the first half. I wouldn’t expect the Lakers to make 11 3-pointers again in the first half, but if they can continue to make consistent shots from behind the arc, Miami is in for a rude awakening.

One quick thought: Do not be a prisoner of the moment. The Lakers supporting cast played a great game. but do not act like they’ve been great all year. I saw so many takes about how we all “knew this was a good supporting cast.” Really? The same people making those takes were the same people banishing Danny Green and KCP to Mars for their poor shooting performances earlier in the NBA Bubble. They played well, but let’s all stop pretending that we didn’t slander the entire Lakers bench all season.

Week 9 LVP: Me

I stand by this rationale. However, right now it seems as if I was incorrect and will be taking a huge “L” within the next week. What’s ironic is I picked the Lakers to win the title both before the season and before the bubble.

Week 10 Storyline: Erik Spoelstra Needs To Be Houdini

If there was ever a time for Erik Spoelstra to pull a rabbit out of his hat, it would be now. Spo faces a tall task especially if he loses both Dragic and Bam. It’s clear the Heat need more size, but can Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard, and Solomon Hill be trusted to play tough defense and rebound? I’m not sure. However, Spo has made the right adjustments in every series so far so I’m expecting an improved game plan from here on out. I’m not ready to declare the Heat dead just yet, but they will be on life support if they lose Game 2.

What are your top storylines from Week 9 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Bubble Week 8 Recap: There Goes My Herro

Tyler Herro

You know what’s coming in this NBA Bubble recap. Did somebody say Tyler Tuesday?

Top Story: Tyler Herro’s Coming Out Party

For some players, the lights are a little too bright for them on the biggest stage. For Tyler Herro, the lights aren’t bright enough. The 20-year old rookie sensation saved his best performance for the biggest game of the season as the Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics, 112-109, to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. The eclectic Herro led the Heat with 37 points on 14-21 shooting including 5-10 from behind the arc. Herro also tallied 6 boards and 6 assists. Simply put, Herro was sensational.

I’ve been on the Herro bandwagon for a few months, but even I will admit that I never expected this star trajectory in such a short amount of time. It’s not that Herro is scoring the ball, but it’s how he’s creating offensive opportunities for him and his teammates. If you’re slow to close out, he’ll hit the 3. If you’re too aggressive, Herro will take you off the dribble and finish with either hand at the rim. I’m most impressed with his ability to attack off the pick-and-roll. Herro does this hesitation move where he has his defender on his back, which freezes the help man. He’s in full control of the moment and in a split second, makes a decision to shoot, drive, or pass. It’s so impressive to watch this level of offensive creativity from a 20-year-old kid.

I mentioned it before, but Herro shines when the lights are brightest. He has no fear in his eyes. This confidence in oneself is something that cannot be taught. Herro is the type of guy to bring a knife to a gunfight and still think he’ll win easily. Now, we’re all left to imagine Herro’s ceiling as a player. If last night was a preview of the future, Herro will be an all-star sooner rather than later.

Should The Lakers Be Worried?

No… at least, not yet.

Jamal Murray isn’t wrong. First of all, the Nuggets should not be overlooked. Rightfully so, Denver earned America’s respect after overcoming 3-1 series deficits to both the Jazz and Clippers. Secondly, the Nuggets should be up 2-1 They couldn’t grab a rebound at the end of Game 2, allowing the Lakers to extend the game and eventually hit a game-winning shot. Plus, if Plumlee follows Anthony Davis instead of trapping LeBron, the Lakers probably have to take a tougher shot instead of the three that Davis made to win the game. Also, the Nuggets outplayed the Lakers for three and half quarters in Game 3 in their 114-106 win.

With all that being said, the Lakers are still the best team standing inside the NBA Bubble. As long as LeBron James stays healthy, the Lakers should win the NBA Finals. Even in Game 3, where the Lakers were outplayed for most of the game, LeBron still accumulated a triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. I also wouldn’t expect AD to only grab 2 rebounds in the next game. The Lakers are going to be fine in the long run if they’re healthy, but that doesn’t mean the road to a championship will be bumpy. Do not be surprised if the Nuggets win another game to force the series to a sixth, or even seventh game.

Week 8 MVP: Miami’s Zone Defense

We’ve all heard the stereotypes about zone defense. They include “Zones are lazy defenders,” “Zone defense is a cop-out,” and “Zones will never work at a professional level.” Erik Spoelstra and his zone defense are putting those stereotypes to rest because the Celtics have few answers for Miami’s zone. According to Miami Herald, the Celtics scored just 41 points in 48 total possessions against the Heat’s zone in the first two games. Although the Celtics figured the zone out in Game 3 thanks to the return of Gordon Hayward, the Heat played zone for most of the Game 4, stifling the Boston offense and in particular, Jayson Tatum, who had zero points in the first half. The zone may not be the future of the NBA, but for now, it’s working as Miami is one game away from the NBA Finals.

Week 8 LVP: The Nuggets Strategy At The End Of Game 2

https://twitter.com/LakeShowYo/status/1307864481460936704?s=20

For the Nuggets, I truly don’t know what happened on this play. Was it miscommunication or a missed assignment? Whatever the case may be, it was a gigantic mistake, plain and simple. I hate to blame one play for the reason why a team lost, but this play makes a strong argument for blaming one specific play that led to a loss.

Storyline For Week 9: Will The Heat And Lakers Put Away Their Respective Opponents Sooner Rather Than Later?

The worst thing a team can do is to give their opponent hope. Both the Heat and Lakers are in the driver’s seat in their respective series. Put away the Celtics and Nuggets early because the longer they hang around, the more dangerous they become. My advice is to do the exact opposite of what the Jazz and Clippers did.

What are your top storylines from Week 8 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Bubble Week 7 Recap: To Choke, Or Not To Choke

Nikola Jokic

Just when you think the NBA Bubble couldn’t get any crazier, the Denver Nuggets decided to eliminate Los Angeles Clippers in humiliating fashion. Let’s not beat around the bush. Let’s talk about the Clippers.

Top Story: Bye Bye, Clippers

1, 2, 3, Cancun! For a team that talked the talk the entire season, the Los Angeles Clippers did not walk the walk. Saying they walked even a little is disrespectful to those who can walk! In Game 7, the Nuggets came back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Clippers, 104-89. When the Clippers needed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George the most, they were nowhere to be found.

NBA Twitter had a field day. It may have been the wildest night on NBA Twitter since the Rockets-Clippers secret tunnel brawl.

Why did we believe in the Clippers? I am not free from ridicule. I believed the Clippers would at least make the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Lakers. I thought Kawhi, PG, and the boys could “turn it on” when it mattered most. Boy, was I WRONG. This team showed no heart whatsoever. The Nuggets came back from deficits of 16 points, 18 points, and 12 points in the final three games of the series to send the Clippers on a one way trip to Cancun. The Nuggets deserve all the credit in the world. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray played like superstars, but unfortunately, the bigger story lies with the underachieving Clippers.

Anchor // iTunes // Spotify // Breaker // PocketCasts // Google Play // Stitcher // RadioPublic // Castbox // Overcast 

Did the Clippers choke? I see a lot of writers saying they don’t like to use the word, “choke.” What other words would you use to describe this situation? The Clippers blew a 3-1 lead as a double-digit favorite to a team with 1 player who has made it past the second round. The Clippers choked.

Miami Heat Thought Of The Week: This Team Doesn’t Die

Last week, I professed my love for the Miami Heat. I am fully on the Heat bandwagon. Butler, Dragic, Bam, Herro, Duncan, and Jae have made me a believer. This team plays hard on both ends of the floor for 48 minutes. In the first two games against the Celtics, the Heat overcame deficits of 14 points and 17 points to win both games and take a 2-0 series lead. To quote Austin Powers, “Why won’t you die?”

The biggest mismatch in this series occurs in the coaching department. Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the NBA, but he’s getting dominated by Erik Spoelstra. In fact, Spoelstra, who’s a Top-5 coach in the league, is running laps around Stevens. From playing zone defense to shortening his lineup, Spoelstra has made the perfect adjustment to everything thrown his way. It’s a coaching clinic. If Stevens doesn’t figure it out, the Celtics will join the Clippers in Cancun.

Week 7 MVP: Bam Adebayo

That Bam Adebayo is some player, huh? Bam is having the week of his life. Bam, a runnerup for Most Improved Player, has been a true game-changer for the Heat. Bam made one of the best blocks I’ve ever seen in my life to seal the victory in Game 1. LeBron’s block in Game 7 is the best defensive play I’ve ever seen, but if I’m judging it purely based on the block itself and degree of difficulty, Bam’s could be the best ever.

In Game 2, Bam got to the rim at will, especially in the second half. Bam finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists as the Heat took a commanding 2-0 series lead.

Jimmy Butler is the most important player on the Heat, but Bam is X-factor.

Week 7 LVP: Every Player And Coach On The Clippers

I hate beating a dead horse, but for all the shit the Clippers talked, they deserve every joke thrown their way. The Clippers will be a favorite to make the NBA Finals next year (if the team stays together), but for now, let’s enjoy the roast while we can.

https://twitter.com/kaelinphoebe/status/1306072632127782917?s=20

Storyline For Week 8: All Eyes On LeBron

Remember LeBron James, one of the greatest basketball players to ever live? Yeah, that guy has a chance to win his fourth title. The stage is set for LeBron to win his fourth ring as the Lakers are the clear favorite to win it all inside the NBA Bubble. Can the King deliver?

What are your top storylines from Week 7 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Bubble Week 6 Recap: Miami Vice And The City Of Angels

LeBron James Lakers

Last week, the players went on strike. This week, the players put on a show as the competition was at an all-time high. A soon-to-be two-time MVP bounced from the bubble, the LA teams established their dominance, and two words, Game 7. That’s a hell of a week inside the NBA Bubble.

Top Story: Welcome To Miami

In the end, Miami was too hot to handle. Before we talk about Giannis, let’s give the Heat the majority of the credit. They were the better team the entire series. Even if you take away the bogus calls to end Game 2, Miami still wins that game. Despite two of the games ending with a differential of a combined five points, this series really wasn’t that close. The Heat dominated almost every statistical category including assists, rebounds, 3 pointers made, and free throws made. Jimmy Butler looks like a genius for asking out of Philadelphia to join a young Heat squad led by Erik Spoelstra, who coached circles around Mike Budenholzer. To quote Mr. Buckets, “I told you. We got some motherfuckers that can ball on this team. Say I’m fucking right. Say I’m fucking right. I told you.” Jimmy, you were right. Your squad can ball and currently owns the best record in the playoffs at 8-1. In an unprecedented season, toughness will prevail, and the Heat are as tough as they come.

https://twitter.com/TheHoopCentral/status/1302097569284157440?s=20

The Giannis Thought Of The Week: The Giannis Sweepstakes Are In Full Force

This was supposed to be the year Giannis got over the hump. Everything was set up for Giannis and the Bucks to reach the Finals. Did the pandemic change things? Absolutely. Milwaukee earned the right to play in front of their fans. However, every single team had to face the same set of circumstances inside the NBA Bubble. The Heat rose to the occasion while the Bucks floundered their opportunity. I’m not going to hold Game 5 against the Bucks because their star didn’t play, but in Games 1-4, the Bucks were outplayed and outcoached. The right group of players is not surrounding Giannis. The Greek Freak is not a point forward who can create his own jump shot and pull up from 3. (Giannis shot 21% from 3 in the Heat series.) Giannis is a downhill, dominant wing who thrives in transition, where he can get to the basket at will.

The elephant in the room is Giannis’s contract situation in Milwaukee. He’s eligible for the largest contract in NBA history and can sign it this fall. If he chooses to wait, all hell will break loose. Every team will try to make a play for the 25-year-old superstar. Take LeBron’s decision and the Kawhi trade and multiply it by 10. That’s what’s in store for the NBA if Giannis doesn’t sign the deal this fall. Giannis needs a point guard, and Chris Paul could be the perfect fit. My advice to the Milwaukee front office is to buy more phones because the lines will be ringing nonstop this offseason.

LA Question Of The Week: Will The Clippers And Lakers Make The Conference Finals?

Yes.

Next question.

Can the Nuggets and Rockets make it interesting? It’s possible. Maybe both teams steal Game 5 and keep their respective seasons alive. Can they both win Game 6 and Game 7? No chance. Kawhi and LeBron will not let that happen. Fans want Clippers vs. Lakers. The NBA wants Clippers vs. Lakers. I want Clippers vs. Lakers. Do you see a reoccurring theme?

Two Greatest Words In Sports: Game 7

Week 6 MVP: Tyler Herro

Did somebody say “Tyler Tuesday?” Tyler Herro has a swagger and confidence you can’t teach. From shooting his shot with model Katya Elise Henry to wanting the ball in big situations, this kid is fearless. Miami will only go as far as Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic take them, but if Miami wants to make the NBA Finals, they will need Herro to bring that confidence every night.

Week 6 MVP: Danuel House

We have some drama in the bubble! I hope the cameras behind the scenes documented this moment. Is Danuel House lying about not having contact with a female? Is House a fall guy for his teammate? Where is TMZ when you need them?

Storyline For Week 7: Conference Finals

If I have to pick the Conference Finals, I’ll say Heat vs. Celtics in the East and Lakers vs. Clippers in the West. Sign me up.

What are your top storylines from Week 6 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Bubble Week 5 Recap: We’re On To The Second Round

Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray

Last week was monumental when the players went on strike. After talking it over, the players and owners agreed on new social justice initiatives to carry out for the near future. Once basketball started up again in the NBA Bubble, it was a damn treat to watch. However, as Bill Belichick would say in this exact situation, “We’re on to the Second Round.”

Top Story: Young Talent Takeover

In terms of talent, the NBA is positioned for great success over the next decade because of their wealth of young talent. Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell, both 23-years-old, slugged it out for seven games, one-upping each other with each possession. It felt like a battle of two heavyweights. Check out these stat lines from both players.

Jamal Murray

Donovan Mitchell

These two young men gave it everything they had and more. Unfortunately, one guy had to go home and that team belonged to Mitchell. The Nuggets may have bested the Jazz thanks to a wild final sequence, but both Murray and Mitchell realized the gravity of the situation and showed nothing but respect towards each other.

Murray and Mitchell are two budding superstars that have the potential to become All-NBA guys and faces of the league. Add Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic and the NBA could have their version of “Four Horseman.” LeBron is still the top dog, but the young guns are coming.

Surprise Of The Week: James Harden Makes The Defensive Play Of The Bubble

James Harden’s legacy and narrative were set to experience a crushing blow last night. Quite simply, Harden had an atrocious night on the offensive side of the ball. Despite being the most gifted scorer in the NBA, Harden couldn’t hit the Atlantic Ocean while standing in a boat. The beard had a pedestrian 17 points on 4-15 shooting including 1-9 from 3. If the Rockets lost, that would have been the final straw for Harden’s defenders. As talented as he is, last night would have been added to Harden’s list of playoff clunkers and hiccups. Right before pressing “Send” on the anti-Harden tweets, Harden made the play of the NBA Bubble. Harden blocked Lu Dort on a game-winning 3 point attempt to preserve the win. Who would’ve thought that a Harden defensive play would be the reason why the Rockets advance? Now, Harden can add to his legacy if he slays the beast that is LeBron.

Time to Gloat: I Was Right About The Miami Heat

Full disclosure, I picked the Bucks to win the Eastern Conference so you can take my tweets with a grain of salt. However, I bet the Heat both games and so far, it’s paid off nicely. I’m in love with the Miami Heat. From their coaches to their players, I love the toughness they bring every night. Butler and the kids look like a team that is not afraid of the moment. With a 2-0 lead, the Heat may throw a wrench in everyone’s bracket.

Concern Of The Week: Are The Bucks Done?

In my Week 1 recap, I asked if we should be worried about the Bucks following a loss to the Brooklyn Nets in a game where Milwaukee was the biggest regular-season favorite in history. One week later, I asked if the Bucks were in trouble due to a lack of support for Giannis. It’s now been three weeks since that post and I’m close to pronouncing the Bucks as dead. They were outplayed in both games and despite a controversial foul call against Giannis in Game 2, the Heat deserved to win that game. Giannis needs to find his Superman cape quickly or his 2021 free agency discussions will only intensify.

Week 5 MVP: Lu Dort

I had no idea who Lu Dort was, but now, he’s an Internet darling. Good for this kid. From undrafted rookie to 30 point scorer in a winner-take-all game, I have to give my props to the Church of Dort.

Week 5 LVP: Billy Donovan

https://twitter.com/spurs_legacy/status/1301369399404830721?s=20

For a coach that exceeded expectations, that last play will be the stain on Billy Donovan’s 2019-2020 season.

Storyline For Week 6: Second Round

It’s 2:30 EST on Sept. 3. Here’s where the second round stands.

  • 4 Heat lead 1 Bucks, 2-0
  • 3 Celtics lead 2 Raptors, 2-0
  • 2 Clippers vs. 3. Nuggets, 0-0
  • 1 Lakers vs. 4 Rockets, 0-0

If either the Clippers or Lakers lose Game 1, I can’t wait for the “rest vs. rust” takes.

What are your top storylines from Week 5 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Bubble Week 4 Recap And Storylines: The NBA Pressed Pause

LeBron James and Anthony Davis

Had this been a normal week, I would start this NBA Bubble recap with an ode to Luka Dončić, who gave one of the greatest performances I’ve seen in years. However, this was no normal week. In fact, this will be a week that will go down in history. The storyline of the week revolves around the strike.

Top Story: The NBA Players Decide To Strike

To quickly summarize what happened, the Milwaukee Bucks decided to not play their game against the Magic. The strike was in response to the situation involving Jacob Blake, an African American man who was shot seven times in the back by police officers. It’s important to note that the incident occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which is about an hour away from where the Bucks play at Fiserv Forum.

The Bucks-Magic cancellation set off a domino effect that shook not only the entire league but the entire sports world.

The bombshell from the meeting involved the Lakers and Clippers, who voted to abandon the season. Notably, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, the two best players in the bubble, spoke up about not wanting to play.

After taking some time to think it over, the players once again met in the morning and decided to restart the league.

The decision to not play games inside the NBA and WNBA bubbles trickled into the MLB and NHL.

It’s truly been an unprecedented two days in sports. We are going to look back years from now and remember August 26, the day the players took action. Many former players and coaches such as Chris Webber, Doc Rivers, and Renee Montgomery gave passioned speeches that put a spotlight on social justice. In particular, a line in Webber’s speech is one that has stuck with me since I watched the clip. Webber said, “I don’t know the next steps. I don’t really care what the next steps are because the first steps are to garner attention. And they have everyone’s attention… Don’t listen to these people telling you to not do anything because it’s not gonna end right away. You are starting something for the next generation.”

Whether you agree or disagree with the decision to strike, the fact is the NBA and many athletes have our attention. What happens next? I leave you with an article about Maya Moore, who literally put her athletic career on hold to fight for social justice.

What are your top storylines from Week 4 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.