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10 takeaways from the first three rounds of NBA playoffs

10 takeaways from the first three rounds of NBA playoffs

Though the Eastern Conference was nip and tuck all season because of the parity, the playoff matchups were less-than-intriguing.

The West, however, was a different animal.

Not as strong top to bottom as it had been in the past, the Golden State Warriors had an entertaining path:


10. Officiating overhaul

The officiating has been brutal, but got better. Those last two-minute reports for games when the margin is five points or less aren’t new. The blown calls, however, have been more high profile.

The Spurs couldn’t catch a break in their series with the Thunder, though blaming their six-game defeat on refs is a reach and inaccurate. The better team did win. The process, however, needs to be revamped.

Pulling Scott Foster out of the rotation for Game 7 of Warriors-Thunder was a good start though an explanation from the league about that elephant in the room would've been nice.

9. Not worth the money

DeMar DeRozan is not a max talent though he’ll still get max money because the market will dictate salaries.  It’s basic math: Twenty-plus teams with the salary cap room to make a max offer with less than five genuinely max players available.

While DeRozan is an All-Star talent, he’s a low-efficiency shooter who dribbles out the shot clock and devours the basketball.

He’s a good fantasy pickup when just points matter but if basketball was just about shooting J.R. Smith would be LeBron James. DeRozan was terrible on the road vs. the Cavs before his team was eliminated. He was terrible overall in the postseason, shooting less than 40% from the field and just 15.4% from three. The highest he’s ever shot in the three playoff appearances? Exactly 40%.

8. Winning the 2013 NBA Draft

Thunder center Steven Adams could prove to be the most impactful player taken in the 2013 draft.

C.J. McCollum will have plenty to stay about that, too, but Adams does it without having to stuff a stat sheet. It’s his defense and ability to switch out onto smaller players. Adams averaged 10.1 points on 61.3% shooting and 9.5 rebounds in these playoffs.

His strength is his intangibles such as toughness and hustle and not needing the ball to impact the outcome of a game. Pretty good for a No. 12 pick. Adams had a minus-33 plus/minus for the Warriors series which proves how stupid and irrelevant that statistic truly is.

7. Father Time still undefeated

Tim Duncan finally is old. It has taken five years of me predicting this for it to finally hold true. In 10 playoff games, he didn’t score in double digits until the Game 6 elimination vs. the Thunder. He had double-digit rebounds just once.

According to a person close to Duncan to CSNmidatlantic.com, the 40-year-old still hasn’t made his decision on retiring but it’s time.

6. Superstar split-up?

I’m not sure Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook work together.

Both are All-Stars. Both are great individual talents. Both will end up with their names in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

But with a bunch of new teammates and even a new coach and new schemes, the results remained the same. They wilted down the stretch in each of their last two losses to Golden State to lose a 3-1 series lead.

5. Defense wins championships

The Cavs might’ve started the postseason 10-0, but that’s fool’s gold until Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Kyrie Irving can prove they can defend.

Offense comes much easier for bad defensive players when they can take half of the game off, and Golden State will go after the weak link until it snaps. If (when?) Cleveland has to play from a deficit, we’ll finally see what they’re actually made of because the jury is still out. Golden State will bring out their best -- or worst. Their track record suggests the latter.

4. Playing the "What if?" game

Let’s stop the “if LeBron had Kyrie and Love” they would’ve won the title last year unless someone wants to play the “What if” game with the Miami Heat.

With a healthy Hassan Whiteside and Chris Bosh, would Cleveland be home watching the NBA Finals?

Like the R.E.M. song said, “Everybody hurts … sometime.” Excuses for everyone or no one. I prefer no one, and that includes Golden State when Curry’s knee ligament sprain was an issue raised when they were losing to the Thunder but never mentioned when they won.  

3. Hitting the jackpot

Joe Johnson is the luckiest man in the NBA.

While he’s at home, in Miami, watching with the rest of us, he has cashed about $173 million in salary since 2005, gotten out of the cesspool that became the Brooklyn Nets and landed in South Beach with a good playoff team.

And unlike DeRozan or Durant or Westbrook, Johnson won’t get blamed one lick for losing the series to Toronto in which he made just three three-pointers in seven games. He's truly undefeated and if he has taken an "L" in life, please tell me when did that happen. His agent should have a shrine built in his honor on the Johnson family grounds.

A very likable guy is Johnson, by the way. And great work if you can find it.

2. Return of the 'Mack?

Bismack Biyombo has said publicly that he’ll take a “hometown discount” to stay with the Raptors who’d have to use their salary cap space to retain him (don’t own his Bird rights).

He’ll opt out of a deal that pays him just $3 million next season and could earn in the neighborhood of $15 million-plus based on his playoff performance, CSNmidatlantic.com was told by a Western Conference GM. That’s noble of Biyombo, especially if he truly loves Toronto. Who doesn’t? But that means his agent takes a discount on his commission, too. He might not be as happy pending on how much less Biyombo takes.

1. There is no "I(so)" in T-E-A-M

Isolation basketball doesn't win championships.

Teams can play man-to-man and zone defense on the best players and effectively take him — or them — away by forcing the worse offensive players to make shots. 

That’s where Portland unraveled vs. Golden State, San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City, and its why Golden State almost unraveled vs. Oklahoma City.

It also was a large part of the season Oklahoma City blew its lead.

Isolation kills.

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.


Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:


Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two guys have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.



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Don't expect a big role for Ramon Sessions with Wizards after signing as free agent

Don't expect a big role for Ramon Sessions with Wizards after signing as free agent

When Ramon Sessions was last with the Wizards, he was the primary backup point guard behind starter John Wall. Now back with the team on a 10-day contract, he is expected to play a much more muted role.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks spoke of Sessions as the fourth-string point guard, not only behind Wall who remains out to recover from left knee surgery, but also behind Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier. The presence of Sessions should not affect Satoransky's minutes as the replacement starter and it doesn't sound like Frazier is in jeopardy of moving down the depth chart, either.

"I don't know how many minutes or opportunities he will get, but with the way he holds himself I feel comfortable if we need him in a pinch," Brooks said. "We have some coverage now if one of our guards goes down or gets in foul trouble."


Brooks mentioned Sessions' ability to play some at shooting guard if needed. He also praised Sessions' penchant for getting to the free throw line. Sessions has averaged 3.9 free throw attempts in just 23.5 minutes per game. That's highest among active players who have averaged 24 minutes or less in their career.

Sessions played well for the Wizards down the stretch of the 2014-15 season and in the 2015-16 campaign. As a member of the Wizards, he averaged 9.2 points and 3.0 assists per game.


He has played for eight different teams, but has always felt a connection to Washington.

"It just always felt like a place I could end up back one day," he said. "People always ask me, being on so many teams, 'what's the home team to you?' I always come back to the Wizards. It was a place I was only here a year-and-a-half, but it feels like much longer than that with the run we had and the fans and the support I get when I come here."

Exactly how long Sessions will be here is unclear. He couldn't crack the Knicks' rotation earlier this season and has a lot to prove. Still, he's excited for the opportunity.