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.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?

Report: Warriors “perplexed” by Kevin Durant’s offseason fighting old battles

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Kevin Durant made his move to Golden State last summer — it was an emotional, wrenching decision for him — and it went as well as he could have dreamed. He felt at home. He’s got a ring (or will have one on opening night), he was Finals MVP, and he not only strengthened his legacy with a title, but also helped it out by taking a paycut that made it easier for the Warriors to keep their core together this summer.

So why is he living in the past? Why release a shoe line taking shots at his detractorsWhy did he blast his former organization on Twitter? Sure, he apologized, but why slide back down that rabbit hole? For that matter, why take a shot at Stephen Curry’s shoe line?

Chris Mannix at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said some with the Warriors are wondering the same thing.

But make no mistake: Many in Golden State, team officials and players alike, have taken note of Durant’s oddball offseason and are perplexed by it. They see a bright future for Durant in Oakland, league and team sources told The Vertical, and are bewildered as to why he is still addressing his past.

Oklahoma City will always be in Durant’s DNA, but it’s time for him to move on. Slapping around a team that was loyal to him, even in rejection, is a bad look. He’s a Warrior, and the possibilities for this Golden State team are endless. He can win championships, can win awards, can build one of the great dynasties in NBA history. The Thunder are doing their thing. Durant should forget about them, and do his.

This will all blow over. Soon the season will start, Durant and the Warriors will look dominant, and this will all seem like a minor distraction in the deadest part of the offseason. The focus will be on the rings.

But if you want an answer as to why, Durant’s response to a YouTube comment to someone who told him “who cares what other people think, just do you.” (Hat tip For the Win.)

…of my stature, I play basketball, I got acne, I grew up with nothing, in still figuring myself out in my late 20, I slide in DMs, I make fun of my friends, I drink beers and play Xbox. I’m closer to you than u think

Durant still can be a little immature, still wants to be a regular guy, and just like a regular guy he wants to be liked. And like a lot of people, he snaps at people when he knows he should just let it go and rise above. Maybe that will come with the lessons of this offseason.