Tell me you don’t think the Eastern Conference Finals are going to be fun… that felt like a rivalry game.
The Miami Heat’s 83-72 win over the Chicago Bulls is not an indication of how a playoff series between these teams plays out — not with Bulls MVP Derrick Rose and the Heat’s Chris Bosh in street clothes. Besides, by the time we get a month into the playoffs these teams will have evolved and be different.
But the Heat did send a message — not to the Bulls, but to themselves. One week ago the Bulls beat the Heat with ferocity and execution Miami could not match. Derrick Rose sat out the overtime and the Bulls outscored the Heat 8-2. This week the Heat matched that intensity and showed some execution of their own. The message was clear — we’re here and we’re not backing down
We did get a glimpse of what is to come in the playoffs… and these teams don’t like each other. It was intense, it was chippy, it felt like a playoff game. Dwyane Wade picked up a flagrant foul for throwing Rip Hamilton around like a rag doll. Hamilton spent all game trying to get under Wade’s skin. When those two line up against each other night after night for seven games it is going to be bloody good entertainment. Maybe literally.
The Heat came out and matched the physicality of the Bulls. They pushed back. At times a little too hard, like when James Jones cross-checked Joakim Noah and was ejected.
In the end the Heat won because LeBron James is playing very well right now — 27 points on 18 shots, plus 11 boards. They won because Udonis Haslem was attacking the rim and Mario Chalmers was in the middle of everything — they need their role players to step up. They won because Wade won the battle with Rip for a night.
Oh, the Eastern Conference finals are going to be fun. This intensity was only the tip of the iceberg.
Philadelphia had its chance. It got the ball with 27.5 seconds left in a tie game in Atlanta, a chance for Jimmy Butler to ice another game and… nothing. The Sixers had a shot clock violation after a scrambled play (watch the video above).
That left 3.5 seconds for Trae Young, and that’s all the time he needed.
Young’s floater has improved over the course of the season, and he was quick enough to get in a position where Butler could not block his shot. And he drained it.
The combination of a Sixers team that looked flat coming off their win over the Celtics, combined with Young’s energy was too much. Atlanta has played better since the All-Star break and teams sleep on them at their own peril.
Boban Marjanovic was 0-of-6 from three in his career before Saturday night. Then this happened.
Boban is just fun. Basketball should be fun.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with his free agency this summer, but you can bet the fans in Philly want him to stick around.
Lonzo Ball has played in just 99 games through his first two NBA seasons, 60 percent of the possible games. His rookie season, it was shoulder and knee issues that sidelined him for 30 games.
This past season, he went down on Jan. 19 with a sprained ankle against the Rockets, a severe one that also had a bone bruise, which slowed the healing. Ball has been shut down for the season because of it.
The Lakers are concerned that his Big Baller Brand shoes may have contributed to the ankle issues, something Ball confirmed the Lakers talked to him about in an ESPN story by Ramona Shelburne and Paula Lavigne.
[The January injury] marked his third separate ankle injury, which left the Lakers searching for what could be the root issue of his troubles — including asking about his Big Baller Brand shoes.
“Yeah, they talked to me,” Lonzo Ball told ESPN two weeks ago. “They asked me about it, and I told ’em, ‘I feel comfortable. If I wasn’t comfortable, I wouldn’t play in ’em. If I didn’t play in [his signature BBB shoes], I’d play in Kobe [Bryant’s signature Nike shoe]. I work out in [LeBron James’ signature Nike shoe], but that’s because they’re heavier.”
Lonzo also said he told the Lakers he was open to making adjustments — “just minor things,” he said — to his Big Baller Brand shoes if needed.
There are trainers around the league who believe a lot of foot and ankle issues in the NBA are about poorly designed or ill-fitting shoes (that can include major, trusted brands, but the player wears something that does not fit his needs).
Whether the ZO2 is part of the problem or not is impossible to say from the outside.
However, Ball recently severed some ties with the Big Baller Brand over the business manager’s handling of his money. Ball also deleted pictures of himself wearing Big Baller Brand gear from his Instagram. What does that mean? We’re not going to speculate here, but take your own best guess.
Malcolm Brogdon is out for the remainder of the regular season, likely the first round of the playoffs, and maybe longer with a plantar fascia tear. Nikola Mirotic is out likely through the end of the regular season (and maybe a little longer) with a thumb fracture. The injury bug that the Bucks avoided much of the season is catching up with them.
And Pau Gasol can now be added to the list, according to ESPN’s Malika Andrews.
Gasol is going to play a limited role for Milwaukee, but his depth along the front line would have been helpful as the Bucks try to rest guys and get right for the postseason.
If these injuries — particularly Brogdon, who is an important glue piece for them — lingers into the second round of the playoffs for Milwaukee, it could mean an earlier end to the season than they hoped.