Best second round ever

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The final buzzer sounded on the second round of the 2019 playoffs.

Yet, the suspense was still rising.

Kawhi Leonard‘s final shot bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced then hung on the rim for an excruciatingly long split second. Finally, it fell – the fitting end to an all-time great second round.

The first Game 7 game-winner at the buzzer in NBA history capped a playoff round that also included triumph, heartbreak, redemption, hostility, high stakes, close games, quadruple overtime, two tight Game 7s, an intensifying rivalry and a comically bad prediction.

Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo played great. Kevin Durant played great until he got hurt. Stephen Curry played terribly until he played great. C.J. McCollum played great when it mattered most.

The Bucks, Raptors, Warriors and Trail Blazers advanced. The Celtics, 76ers, Rockets and Nuggets will have a summer to lick their wounds.

There’s no simple way to judge a playoff series, but it generally rests on the quality of teams and quality of games.

These eight teams were excellent. For the first time since 2008, there were no first-round upsets by seed. That left only the league’s strongest teams for the second round. The Bucks have been excellent all season. Nobody questions the Warriors’ talent. The Raptors could be a sleeping giant after their moves around the trade deadline.

Milwaukee, Toronto, Golden State, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, Houston and Denver combined to outscore opponents by 5.5 points per game (regular season and first round) entering the second round. That’s the sixth-highest mark since the NBA adopted its current 16-team postseason format in 1984.

To judge game quality, I created an excitement score – one point for every game decided by five or fewer points, one point for every overtime and one point for every Game 7. Admittedly, the system is skewed toward this year. But after watching these fun games, how could it not be? The 2019 second round’s excitement score of 18 (11 close games, five overtimes and two Game 7s) is higher than any other year’s second round.

Here’s how every second round in the current playoff era rates by margin per game entering the round and excitement score within the round:

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Year Margin per game Excitement score
2019 5.5 18
2018 4.6 8
2017 5.1 5
2016 5.9 12
2015 4.8 8
2014 4.2 5
2013 4.7 8
2012 4.3 8
2011 4.5 7
2010 5.3 2
2009 5.4 7
2008 5.9 10
2007 4.0 6
2006 4.4 17
2005 4.3 7
2004 4.7 11
2003 4.2 14
2002 4.4 5
2001 4.4 9
2000 4.3 10
1999 4.3 5
1998 5.4 5
1997 6.3 15
1996 5.6 7
1995 4.0 14
1994 4.3 15
1993 4.9 12
1992 5.7 10
1991 4.9 11
1990 4.9 8
1989 4.0 7
1988 4.5 9
1987 3.9 17
1986 4.7 16
1985 4.2 5
1984 2.7 9

So, is this the best second round ever?

There’s a case for 1997, which featured Bulls (69-13) over Hawks (56-26), Heat (61-21) over Knicks (57-25), Rockets (57-25) over SuperSonics (57-25) and Jazz (64-18) over Lakers (56-26). That year also had two Game 7s (Miami-New York and Houston-Seattle).

But, considering the ramifications for the teams involved, I’d favor the round we just watched.

The Bucks are more likely to pay to keep humming. The Warriors are seemingly improving their odds of keeping Durant. The Raptors have a better chance of retaining Leonard. The Trail Blazers and Damian Lillard are more likely to sign a super-max extension this summer.

On the other hand, the Celtics could lose Kyrie Irving. The 76ers might fire Brett Brown and must deal with pending free agents Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick. The Rockets are still stuck behind Golden State and only getting more desperate as they age. (At least the young Nuggets should feel content with their playoff run).

So much rode on this second round, and the games lived up to the hype.

Report: Bulls paying Billy Donovan $6 million-plus annual salary

New Bulls coach and former Thunder coach Billy Donovan
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Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf just spent the NBA hiatus – at least if you looked beyond “The Last Dance” itself – getting dragged for not spending enough to give Michael Jordan another year of title contention in Chicago.

Paying to hire Billy Donovan is a way for Reinsdorf and the Bulls to repair their reputations.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’d be surprised if all four years are fully guaranteed. Coaching contracts of this length usually contain a team option or two.

But that’s still a hefty salary. Especially in these times. Especially considering it was believed the Bulls would keep Jim Boylen for financial reasons.

Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering him a new contract. He likely knew he could get more elsewhere.

Credit Chicago for being the team to spend. The Bulls needed a solid coach after Boylen and Fred Hoiberg.

Donovan won’t solve all Chicago’s problems, but he should help on multiple fronts. This upgrade costs nothing but Reinsdorf’s money, which every Chicago fan is perfectly willing to spend.

NBA playoff schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

NBA playoff schedule 2020
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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA has released an NBA Finals schedule to teams and their target is still a Sept. 30 Game 1. If either conference finals goes seven games that date will need to be pushed back.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106
Game 4: Heat 112, Celtics 109 (Miami leads series 3-1)
Game 5: Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 7: TBD (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103
Game 3: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106 (Lakers lead series 2-1)
Game 4: Sept. 24, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 6: Sept. 28, TBD (TNT)*
Game 7: Sept. 30, TBD (TNT)*
*If necessary

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

PBT Podcast: Which players’ stock rose most in the bubble?

Jamal Murray Donovan Mitchell
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In the wake of Tyler Herro looking like the best offensive player Miami has seen since some guy decided to go back home to Cleveland, the question becomes what players have helped themselves the most in the bubble, and in the playoffs in particular?

Not coincidentally, Miami and Denver have a lot of those players, with the Nuggets Jamal Murray probably topping the list.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports get into that, talk some Boston/Miami series, and also talk about the recent coaching carousel including Billy Donovan to Chicago and the fact no team has hired a Black coach this offseason.

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.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Juancho Hernangomez missing Timberwolves workouts to film Adam Sandler movie

Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez
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The Timberwolves, like the other seven teams not invited to the NBA’s restart at Disney World, are holding workouts.

Not in Minnesota: Forward Juancho Hernangomez.

Chris Hine of the StarTribune:

A team spokesperson said Hernangomez is filming Adam Sandler’s latest project in Philadelphia.

Netflix is producing the film, called “Hustle.”

And people thought LeBron James – also a producer of “Hustle,” which is about a basketball scout who finds talent oversees – prioritized Hollywood over hoops.

A Spain native, Hernangomez will be a free agent this offseason. The Timberwolves can make him restricted.

But how could anyone want a player who doesn’t respect the sanctity of voluntary workouts occurring several months before next season (besides his 3-point shooting, rebounding and defensive versatility)?