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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:

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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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Swaggy Picasso's Sole Talk had the Wizards taking notice opening night

Swaggy Picasso's Sole Talk had the Wizards taking notice opening night

The connection between athletes and their fans is a powerful thing in sports. The NBA is one of the trendiest, fashion-forward leagues in the world. From shoe design to overall wardrobe to eccentric personalities...the Association has it all on display for fans across the globe to consume. 

Lloyd Ferguson, a fan himself and native of Silver Spring, Md., is bursting onto the customized sneakers scene as an up-and-coming artist. 

His Instagram (@SwaggyPicasso) serves as his personal laboratory and a platform to share his creations. 

Prior to the start of Thursday night's Wizards-Heat game, NBC Sports Washington invited Ferguson to Capital One Arena for what would become a memorable night for the 23-year-old. 

Chris Miller and Drew Gooden featured Swaggy Picasso on the pregame show for an interview and sneaker showcase.

"The inside of my body was jiggling and moving. I was like 'I gotta keep composed and stay cool. You're on national televison, Lloyd.'" 

You would have never known it. 

Ferguson, who was a basketball player himself locally, grew up a Wizards and D.C. sports fan all around. 

Little did he know several Wizards would take notice of his artwork. 

Kelly Oubre, Devin Robinson and John Wall - each known for their wardrobes and respective styles - stopped by to take a peek at Ferguson's kicks. 

"Their reactions to my art was all I needed, honestly. They see the potential and growth. It's very overwhelming." 

It was a groundbreaking night for a young talent with lofty dreams and aspirations. 

Swaggy Picasso has no plans of stopping anytime soon. 

"I've been busting out these shoes day and night. I don't sleep. My desire to paint shoes is ridiculous." 

 

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Wizards vs. Raptors: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Wizards vs. Raptors: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Wizards take to the court Saturday night looking for their first win of the season against the Toronto Raptors. 

In their first game of the season the Wizards laid an egg after the Miami Heat were missing three rotation players on the second end of a back-to-back. Similar problems emerged even with new offseason additions Jeff Green and Austin Rivers having stellar debuts. Dwight Howard did not play in the contest, still dealing with a butt injury. 

Now, the Wizards will go up against one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, the Raptors. They also acquired a former All-Star in Kwahi Leonard this offseason, trading away DeMar DeRozan. Besides the switch, this is pretty much the same squad that knocked the Wizards out of the First Round of the playoffs last season.

On Saturday the Raptors will be coming off a back-to-back after hosting the Boston Celtics on Friday night. Once again, another big opportunity for the Wizards against an Eastern Conference foe early in the season.

The Wizards-Raptors will take place on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7:00 p.m. at Capital One Arena and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Toronto Raptors, 2018 NBA regular season Game 2
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Raptors will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Raptors on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the new MyTeams App.
Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS TV SCHEDULE
6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)
6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)
7:00 PM: Toronto Raptors @ Wizards (LIVE)
9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)
10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)
10:30 PM: Redskins GameDay: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Dwight Howard (questionable)
Raptors: Delon Wright (day-to-day), OG Anunoby (probable)

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS PLAYERS TO WATCH

John Wall, Wizards: After speculation on if Wall would return to his peak form, he showed out on Thursday night. With 26 points, nine assists, and four blocks, the point guard was all around the court for the Wizards. 

Otto Porter Jr./ Jeff Green, Wizards: Covering Leonard is going to be a tall task. It is anticipated that the taller Otto Porter Jr. and Jeff Green to be the duo that will be covering the lengthy guard.  Neither guy are going to light-up the stat sheet on the offensive end, but after a nice showing by Green on Thursday look for them to split time defensively. 

Khawi Leonard: Leonard had 24 points and 12 rebounds in his debut with the Raptors, picking up right where he left off before his injury. Will a back-to-back affect the star that hasn't played consistently since 2016? 

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 95 games
Regular Season Record: Raptors lead 48-37
Postseason Record: Wizards lead 6-4
Last Meeting: Raptors won 102-92
Last 10: Raptors lead 6-4

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