The good, the bad and the ugly through two weekends of NBA playoffs


Monday marks 10 days of NBA playoff games, and as it always seems to the NBA playoffs are living up to the hype.

We have stars emerging, upstart teams pushing title favorites, expected title favorites getting run out of the building, and dramatic game-winners. The NBA’s best are putting on a show, and we are just getting started.

Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly through 10 days of the NBA playoffs


Jayson Tatum

Welcome to the NBA elite, Jayson Tatum. He already was there if we’re being honest, the man has an Olympic Gold Medal from Tokyo — where he played a key role in the Gold Medal game — and is likely will finish top five in MVP voting this year. However, to truly establish yourself as elite in the NBA in the minds of many fans, you have to do it in the playoffs.

Tatum has dominated on both ends. He has averaged 29.7 points and eight assists a game through three games, and more importantly, he has been the primary defender keeping Kevin Durant in relative check for the Celtics. Tatum also has a spinning game-winner as time expired this series.

The Warriors

Entering the playoffs, the theory of peak Golden State was a legitimate threat to the Phoenix Suns’ dominance in the West — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green were together with good role players. Could they turn back the clock to 2015 again? The thing is, we had never seen it: Injuries prevented the Warriors’ big three from playing more than seven seconds together all season. It was a grand theory, but in practice…

It looks amazing. The Warriors are up 3-1 on the Nuggets, Jordan Poole is averaging 24.3 points a game, Stephen Curry has become a super-sub, the Warriors have the best offense in the playoffs (126.9 offensive rating, via Cleaning the Glass), and Draymond Green is running the defense. With the Suns stumbling, the Warriors could be the best team in the West.

The Pelicans

Ten weeks ago, back at the All-Star break, the talk around the Pelicans was about what a bad teammate Zion Williamson was and how he didn’t get along with management. It’s amazing what one strong locker room leader in CJ McCollum, and a little health, can change. The Pelicans are tied 2-2 with the Phoenix Suns, Brandon Ingram may be the best player in this series, and New Orleans has been the aggressor in a series against the defending Western Conference champs. This is why the play-in works — get the team coming together at the right time into the playoffs.


The Nets

It seems fitting that a disappointing season in Brooklyn could end with the team being swept out of the playoffs. Jayson Tatum has outplayed Kevin Durant, Brooklyn’s defense is unimpressive (as expected), but the most significant thing holding the Nets back is a lack of chemistry. Kyrie Irving being out most of the season because he refused to get vaccinated, a mid-season trade for a player in Ben Simmons who has yet to step on the court, and the usual assortment of injuries and COVID absences that hit every team left the Nets with little time to develop chemistry and build good habits this season. And it shows against a Celtics team coming together at the right time.

The officiating

I am reluctant to blame the officials for a loss — the Suns didn’t lose Sunday because of the free throw disparity, they lost because the Pelicans played harder — but consistently this postseason the referees are injecting themselves into games and series by calling things tight. For example (as noted by Drew Hill), the Grizzlies/Pelicans series averages 52.5 fouls per game, way up from the league average of 39.3 fouls per game during the regular season.

John Hollinger at The Athletic had the data across the playoffs through Saturday and basically found every playoff game has looked like the James Harden-era Rockets. The officiating seems inconsistent game-to-game, quarter-to-quarter even, and it’s not helping the product.



Injuries always have some impact on the playoffs, but this is ridiculous.

Phoenix is in trouble with the Pelicans in part because Devin Booker is out with a strained hamstring. Khris Middleton is out for two weeks with a sprained MCL and the Bucks are vulnerable without him. Kyle Lowry is out with a hamstring strain and the Heat will miss him if (as expected) he is still out when the second round starts. Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes missed time in Toronto with a left ankle sprain but is trying to play through it. Fred VanVleet is missing time for the Raptors with a left hip flexor strain. Joel Embiid is playing through torn ligaments in his thumb. Luka Doncic missed games with a strained calf (but appears to be back).

And none of that touches on the Clippers not having Kawhi Leonard then losing Paul George for the last play-in game (COVID). Or Jarrett Allen being out in Cleveland. Or no Jamal Murray or Michael Porter Jr. in Denver.

All that just cracks the surface. The basketball gods need to ease up so we can just see the best players play. That’s all we want — some basketball with a bit of flow to it.

Watch Victor Wembanyama drop 30-point double-double in France


Maybe you spent your Saturday afternoon watching Lionel Messi doing Lionel Messi things. Or intense college football rivalries.

In France, they spent part of the day watching Kylian Mbappe be brilliant but then flipped over and watched future No.1 pick Victor Wembanyama drop a 30-point double-double.

That’s two straight 30-point double-doubles for Wembanyama.

He will be the No.1 pick next June (barring something catastrophic), and teams are already thinking about the lottery next June.

Expect some other teams to jump in that mix at the bottom because the depth of this class goes well beyond just Wembanyama with Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson and others. The tanking is coming people.


Boogie Cousins called Warriors GM Myers and got reality check on why he’s not in NBA

2022 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

DeMarcus Cousins didn’t understand why he didn’t have an NBA contract this season.

He thought he had proven he could help teams in need of front-line depth last season, first in Milwaukee when Brook Lopez was out following back surgery and gave them 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game of solid play. The Bucks ultimately let Cousins go for financial reasons, so the Nuggets picked him up to backup Nikola Jokic. He was again solid, averaging 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game (and he had a 31-point night against the Rockets).

Confused, he called one of the former GMs who brought him in, Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors. Myers relayed their conversation on the All That Smoke podcast (via NBC Sports Bay Area).

“DeMarcus called me a month ago and he said, ‘Why am I not in the NBA?’ ” Myers told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the “All The Smoke” podcast earlier this week. “And I said, ‘You want that answer? … Because people are afraid of how you’re going to act.’ And he’s like ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Well whatever the reason is, it’s here now.’

“And I like DeMarcus. You guys may know him. He’s just, I can’t blame him for him because of all he’s been through.”

Not long after that conversation, Cousins spoke with Chris Haynes and said he learned from his past mistakes.

“Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. Have I done things the wrong way? Absolutely. For that, I’m very apologetic. But I’ve done even more things the correct way and I’ve done even more positive things compared to my negatives. I just don’t want those positives to be overlooked. And obviously, whenever it gets to the point where the negatives outweigh the positives, you should probably move away from him. That’s just how life goes. But I don’t believe I’m in that boat. I’m just asking for a chance to show my growth as a man and a player.”

Cousins also had physical issues, including a torn ACL that cost him a season with the Lakers in 2019-20. He also had domestic abuse allegations at the time (those charges were dropped a few months later).

Cousins just wants the chance to prove he is past all that and can help a team like he did last season. There have been rumors out of Taiwan that Cousins could join Dwight Howard in that league, but Cousins has not confirmed that. He still wants his shot in the NBA. So he waits, and hopes he can change the narrative around him.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says of Evan Mobley, ‘He can be better than me’

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
John Fisher/Getty Images

Evan Mobley hasn’t taken the leap forward in his second season many expected, partly because he has to adjust to playing with a new, dominant backcourt in Cleveland of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Mobley is getting nearly five fewer touches a game and is not getting the same chances to use his off-the-bounce skills (73% of his shots this season come off zero or one-dribble) as he did when he was a rookie.

That doesn’t mean his superstar potential has gone away. Just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo, as Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did.

“He can be better than me,” Antetokounmpo told in an exclusive interview while walking out of Fiserv Forum… “I don’t see why he can’t. It’s up to him. I will always try to improve. Every day. But he has the skill set to be a very, very good player. He’s 7-feet tall. He can move really well. He can shoot. He is very smart. As you said, he watches tapes of other players, which is very, very good for a young player. If he takes this seriously, he is going to be great.”

Better than Giannis? What could possibly make him say that?

“I didn’t average what he is in my second season, so he’s already ahead of me,” Antetokounmpo told “It’s in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good.”

One of the players Mobley is known to study on tape is Antetokounmpo. Of course, mirroring the force and athleticism Antetokounmpo plays with is next to impossible, but Mobley has the skill set that could see him become a shot-creator and scorer on the wing with the ball.

The Cavaliers don’t need him to be that with Garland improving and Michell being better than advertised. Cleveland has a top-five offense and hasn’t had to turn to Mobley for more scoring and shot creation. But that can change, especially come the playoffs against the strong defenses of teams such as the Bucks and Celtics. Ultimately, how far these Cavaliers can go in the postseason over the next few years could come down to the growth of Mobley on the offensive end.

Antetokounmpo believes Mobley could be special in that role, which should give fans in Cleveland even more hope.


Watch Giannis throw down career-high nine dunks, score 38 in comeback win over Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
John Fisher/Getty Images

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks taught the Cleveland Cavaliers a lesson in playoff-type intensity well before the start of December.

Antetokounmpo scored 38 points and the Bucks capitalized on a 23-2 run in the first eight-plus minutes of the third quarter to rally past Cleveland 117-102 on Friday night to snap the Cavaliers’ four-game winning streak.

Milwaukee came back from a 16-point deficit by outscoring the Cavaliers 35-10 in the third period. The Bucks hadn’t outscored a team by such a wide margin in a single quarter since Jan. 4, 2019, when they outscored the Atlanta Hawks 43-14 in the opening period of a 144-112 victory.

“We had a little bit of luck on our side and were able to knock down some shots and get downhill and were able to get that momentum and keep it going,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had nine rebounds and six assists. “I think it started from our guards defending the pick-and-roll and Brook (Lopez) just contesting every shot on the defensive end.”

The Cavaliers hadn’t scored less than 15 points in any quarter this season before Friday.

“They turned it up to a level that we haven’t seen, that we haven’t experienced,” said Donovan Mitchell, who led he Cavaliers with 29 points. “That’s playoff basketball, and understanding that they’re going to turn up the physicality (and) everything has to be sharper, everything has to be more precise.”

Darius Garland added 20 for Cleveland. After combining to shoot 14 of 26 and score 38 points in the first half, Mitchell and Garland went 4 of 16 for 11 points over the final two periods.

Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen played only 12 minutes and scored one point before leaving with a hip injury.

The Cavaliers lost for the first time since their last visit to Milwaukee, a 113-98 Bucks victory on Nov. 16.

“We were trying so hard, and we were like running in quicksand,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the second-half struggles.

Jevon Carter scored 18 points and Bobby Portis had 14 for the Bucks.

After trailing 63-52 at halftime, the Bucks turned the game around in the third quarter.

“It felt like us again,” Portis said. “I feel like for the last couple of games, we haven’t felt like ourselves, for real, missing a lot of shots and just not playing how we play.”

Jrue Holiday, who committed three fouls in the first 1 1/2 quarters, scored his first points of the game in the opening minute of the third. He followed that up with a 3-pointer.

Carter then found Antetokounmpo for a dunk, though Antetokounmpo missed a free throw that would have given him a three-point play. Mitchell scored to extend Cleveland’s lead to 65-59, but a Brook Lopez 3-pointer and an Antetokounmpo dunk cut the lead to one.

Lopez then recorded one of his six blocks to set up an Antetokounmpo 3-pointer that gave the Bucks their first lead of the night with 7:19 left in the third. The Bucks eventually led by as many as 22.

“This is a great lesson for us,” Bickerstaff said. “We played against an established team who knows where they need to go when they need to take it to another level. That’s what we’re learning. They took the game to playoff-level physicality, and those are things we have to learn how to compete against.”