Where’s the drama? Blowouts the rule in these NBA playoffs

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Think back to the very first game of this NBA postseason: A one-point nail-biter of a win for Cleveland over Indiana, that outcome not getting decided until the final second.

Hardly any have gone like that since.

Dramatic playoff finishes have been very rare this year. Through 68 games, the average victory margin is 12.9 points. More than half of the 23 games in May have seen one team lead by 25 points or more. A postseason record has already been tied with four 4-0 sweeps – all by Golden State and Cleveland, who are a combined 19-0 and en route to what seems like an inevitable third consecutive NBA Finals matchup.

If you like blowouts, you love these NBA playoffs.

“Double-digit leads and wins are pretty surprising,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “But it’s just part of it right now.”

They seem less surprising every day.

Only eight playoff games this season have been decided by three points or less, while 40 have been decided by 10 points or more – a rate significantly higher than the NBA average over the last 30 years. San Antonio’s blowout-filled postseason has included winning a game by 39 and losing another by 36, both without star forward Kawhi Leonard. And the lone “upset” in a series so far was fifth-seeded Utah topping the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers in their first-round Western Conference matchup.

Calling that an upset is a real stretch, since both teams finished the regular season 51-31.

“So many blowouts, it has surprised me a little bit,” Miami center Willie Reed said. “Playoffs, the crowd intensifies, the games get a lot tougher. I can see why the home teams are blowing out teams, jumping on them early. But it’s happening a lot. Seeing 10-point games doesn’t surprise me, but seeing the 20-point, 30-point games, that does.”

It’s certainly odd. But nobody seems to be complaining.

Every ticket for every game has been sold so far; it was the fourth straight year all first-round games were sold out and the third straight year where all conference semifinal tickets were purchased. Combined viewership for playoff games across the league’s network partners – ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV – is up 3 percent over last year’s pace, averaging 3.7 million.

Turner is enjoying its best numbers for playoffs since 2014, the network saying it’s up 6 percent over last year with gains across all key demographics. Blowouts might have people leaving arenas before the final horn, but the at-home audience – the main reason why the league has a new $24 billion television deal that is changing the financial landscape of the game – remains strong.

“What you look at, it doesn’t matter how many points you win by,” Golden State acting coach Mike Brown said.

The top teams are predictably driving the storylines, as are stars like Cleveland’s LeBron James, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Houston’s James Harden and San Antonio’s Leonard. When those stars are matched up, like Westbrook vs. Harden were in the first round and Harden vs. Leonard were in the second round, the interest level rose accordingly.

Although injuries derailed some teams – Chicago seemed poised to knock off Boston before Rajon Rondo got hurt, the Clippers finished the first round without Blake Griffin, San Antonio was already without Tony Parker and saw its best hope in the West finals damaged when Leonard re-rolled his ankle, and Toronto’s slim chance against Cleveland got slimmer when Kyle Lowry turned his ankle – the interest level isn’t ailing.

The top two teams in both conferences are the ones still playing now.

Whether they’re close games or routs, the matchups now are the ones many probably have been waiting for.

“This is the best time of the year,” Golden State forward Draymond Green said. “Every game matters. Every single possession matters. I love to play that way. When you’re just out there playing and it doesn’t mean anything, and whether you’re good or bad, it does not matter. It’s kind of boring to me. But every possession matters in the playoffs, every little detail. I love playing that way.”

AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower in Boston contributed to this report.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade on time they faced off 1-on-1: “We was out there killing each other”

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LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are good friends, they go together like peanut butter and jelly. They and their families hang out and ride banana boats together in the off-season.

They are also both incredibly competitive men.

So you had to figure they went 1-on-1 against each other at some point. It happened, once. Wade and LeBron talked about it on Channing Frye’s Road Trippin’ podcast(transcription via the USA Today).

James: “We played 1-on-1 one time in our whole life, and it was during the finals. Eastern Conference finals 2010 (they meant the 2010-11 season, that ECF was in May 2011). Our first year.”

Wade: “It was more-so to set a precedent for our teammates because we got our ass kicked the game before, Game 1 by Chicago. They tore us.”

James: “MVP Rose tore our ass up in Chicago, and we came in the next day, we was like we need to set the tone, so we was out there killing each other playing 1-on-1.”

Wade: “We never finished.”

James: “We never finished. We got to the point where (head coach Erik Spoelstra) blew the whistle, like bring it in.”

Wade: “Everybody was just watching us. We was going at it. We competitive, we was going at it, but we was setting a tone for this is how it’s gotta go. You gotta be able to go at this. We’re two of the best players in this game. We going at each other in the Eastern Conference finals right now. We out there killing each other, and this is what ya’ll better do tomorrow. Because we got beat on the boards by 20-something and we have to come with it, and we won four in a row.”

A 2011 Heat practice? There has to be video of this somewhere.

Miami did win that Eastern Conference Finals, but LeBron and Wade should have gone at it again during the NBA Finals, where the Heat lost to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.

Report: Rockets’ Luc Mbah a Moute expected to miss 2-3 weeks

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The Rockets’ rotation is excellent, and their deep bench is lacking.

That’s part of the reason Luc Richard Mbah a Moute posted a ridiculous +57 in a 30-point win earlier this season.

But Houston will miss the forward for a while after he injured his shoulder against the Hornets yesterday.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s first inclination might be to shorten his rotation. He should mostly resist it.

Home-court advantage is important, and P.J. Tucker and Trevor Ariza can play more power forward (with Eric Gordon absorbing more minutes at small forward). But it’s also better to play Troy Williams more now than to wear down the players Houston will rely on in the playoffs, when D’Antoni will surely keep his rotation tight.

PBT Podcast: Early trade deadline breakdown with Dan Feldman

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The NBA’s trade market did not collapse after the Jahlil Okafor trade.

There’s more to come, but with the trade deadline is less than two months away, we have more questions than answers. DeAndre Jordan very likely could be on the move from the Clippers (and Lou Williams, too). But what is Memphis going to do about Mark Gasol? New Orleans with DeMarcus Cousins? Oklahoma City with Paul George? And if any of those guys are available, who is a buyer? Cleveland? Milwaukee? Portland?

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down the high end of the trade market, plus talk about other guys who could be on the move — maybe Nikola Mirotic from Chicago, and what about someone like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from Charlotte — before Feb. 8 gets here. The last couple of trade deadlines have been interesting, but will we see a move that changes the landscape of the NBA playoffs in a meaningful way?

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Joel Embiid calls out Karl Anthony-Towns’ defense during Instagram trash talk

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Joel Embiid often gloats on Instagram after 76ers wins.

Of course he did after Philadelphia beat Minnesota on Tuesday, specifically calling attention to this move on Karl-Anthony Towns (and this 76ers fan custom):

Embiid:

Towns commented:

That caption was as trash as your picture quality

Embiid replied:

Better quality than your defense

Embiid insisted it’s all in good fun.

Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

https://twitter.com/JCameratoNBCS/status/941395953113804800

I’m not sure Towns is having as much fun as Towns. But I know this:

Embiid had a valid point.