Following the most unprecedented regular season in the history of the NBA, the 2020 playoffs have officially kicked off. Familiarity truly does breed contempt, and housing all of the postseason adversaries in one compound has only furthered the intensity.
Here are four of the standout performers from the first week of the NBA playoffs.
Every generational superstar has a defining moment or game in their career when their greatness becomes abundantly clear. Kobe Bryant’s came during the 2000 NBA Finals when he was just 21 years old, as he led the Lakers to a game four victory in overtime after Shaquille O’Neal fouled out. For LeBron James, it was scoring 25 straight points as the Cavaliers upset the Detroit Pistons in 2007. Despite it only being the first round of the playoffs, Luka Doncic’s Game 4 performance was his moment.
Nothing signifies the gravity of a moment quite like a “double BANG” from Mike Breen. The only thing more impressive than the shot itself was that it served as the exclamation point to cap off Doncic’s 43 points, 17 rebounds, 13 assists triple-double effort. After rolling his ankle in the Maverick’s Game 3 loss, there was little reason for optimism in Dallas until Doncic delivered the most memorable game of the postseason so far. Doncic’s game has never been based around quickness; even on an injured ankle he’s been able to penetrate the Clippers’ defense at will.
In the playoffs, the Mavericks have simplified their offense. They regularly allowed Doncic to seek the mismatch he desires by forcing a switch through a ball screen. Watching Doncic dissect the defense is puzzling at times, as it appears almost as if he is lumbering around the screen until the moment he detects the opening and in one powerful burst he’s gone. His underrated explosion and size are reminiscent of James Harden, and factoring in the number of stepback threes each player makes, their shot profiles are remarkably similar.
The ultimate compliment for an NBA player comes from their opponents; look at what some of the NBA’s best had to say about Doncic.
Anthony Davis took a funny jab at his teammate LeBron James on Thursday night.
Davis and James were feeling pretty good after their Los Angeles Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers 111-88 in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series. Davis paid some respect to James, talking about what an influence the veteran has been.
Davis decided to get cheeky about James’ age and joked about the 25 years James has been playing the NBA. James heard the joke and responded to Davis with the F-word.
The two were obviously just joking around with each other. Fans will appreciate that they felt comfortable doing so after being all-business before that.
Davis had 31 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Lakers in their victory. There’s a reason we said the road to the NBA Finals goes through him.
LeBron James has seen just about everything during his basketball career, so his comments about the challenge that the 2020 NBA playoffs pose are quite telling.
Citing the pause in the season and the fact that the playoffs will take place in a bubble environment, James said he anticipates this playoff run being the most difficult of his career.
It’s not just the circumstances, either. James and the Los Angeles Lakers will have to maneuver through a loaded Western Conference that features five other teams with winning percentages over .600. Even the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers’ first round opponents, boast a superstar in Damian Lillard who can steal any game.
Remember, James has not been particularly excited about playing in the bubble. The circumstances are definitely strange, and the competition is difficult. Whoever wins the NBA title will have earned it.
Charles Barkley is known for bringing the jokes on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” show, and Thursday night was no exception.
Barkley cracked a funny line about LeBron James, saying he takes his clothes off more than strippers do.
Not only was James showing some skin in that clip played by TNT, but the Los Angeles Lakers star also had an open shirt look around the NBA’s campus in Orlando that Dwyane Wade trolled him over.
Barkley may have been poking fun at LeBron, but let’s not forget that Chuck has been known to take his shirt off on the show from time-to-time.
James’ Lakers have clinched the top spot in the Western Conference and are awaiting the winner of the Grizzlies-Blazers play-in to see who will be their opponent in the first round of the playoffs.
Many people view Giannis Antetokounmpo as worthy of winning his second straight NBA MVP award, but ESPN reporter Ramona Shelburne says she voted for LeBron James instead.
Why did Shelburne vote for James? She shared her reason during a Tuesday appearance on ESPN’s “The Jump.”
“I did not vote for [Giannis Antetokounmpo] for MVP. I voted for LeBron James because I tend to be more of a narrative-based voter. I feel like LeBron James took a Lakers team that had missed the playoffs six years in a row up to the stop spot in the West after all the dysfunction the summer before. So I think he gets credit for that as well,” Shelburne explained.
Shelburne’s explanation mostly centers around preferring the story of what James has done over the story of what Antetokounmpo has done.
That’s tough for many to accept when Antetokounmpo is ascending and averaging a career-high 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 1.4 three-pointers made per game. He’s also averaging 5.6 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game for Milwaukee, which maintains the best record in the NBA.
James is leading the league with 10.3 assists per game but trails Giannis in every other statistical category, including team record. One could also argue that Anthony Davis’ arrival is more responsible for the Lakers’ turnaround than anything else. Comparatively, the Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic and still have posted an even better winning percentage this season.
An unofficial tracker seems to show Antetokounmpo will win the MVP award for the second year in a row, with James finishing a distant second. Shelburne would be one of a few voters to rank James ahead of the Bucks star this year. Giannis is probably more focused on something else anyway.
Dwyane Wade could not help but respond to LeBron James’ supposed “Miami Drip.”
The Los Angeles Lakers star James showed up before Monday’s bubble game against the Denver Nuggets in an interesting open-chested fit.
Wade, James’ former Miami Heat teammate and good friend, was guesting on Monday’s NBA pregame show on TNT and poked fun at James’ outfit by showing up to the studio wearing one of his own. The retired star even put on some baby oil to suggest that James had done the same.
Both Wade and James, who won two championships in their four seasons together in Miami, have definitely made some unique fashion statements over their many years in the spotlight. Now we will have to wait and see if another of their old teammates decides to get in on the fun too.
The Los Angeles Lakers have lost two games in a row since clinching the top seed in the Western Conference, and now LeBron James is hinting at some possible issues off the floor.
The Lakers lost on Wednesday 105-86 to the Oklahoma City Thunder even though both James and Anthony Davis played in the game. On Thursday, they lost 113-97 to the Houston Rockets. James and JaVale McGee did not play in the game.
James spoke with reporters and talked about the Lakers looking for a rhythm on offense. Then he said something that caught the ear of The Athletic’s Joe Vardon.
“It’s just some things that you can’t control that’s here, that I really don’t want to talk about, that’s off the floor,” James said, via Vardon.
James declined to elaborate on what the issue might have been. The point seems to be that things are not going exactly the way James would like.
James and Kyle Kuzma were celebrating after clinching the top spot on Monday. Now that they accomplished the goal, they seem to be less focused on winning the rest of their games prior to the start of the playoffs.
LeBron James responded on Wednesday to President Donald Trump’s claim that he won’t watch the NBA due to players kneeling for the national anthem.
James’ Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-86. After the game, James was asked about Trump’s comments about the NBA. James said he didn’t think the basketball community would be sad to lose Trump’s viewership.
“I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership,” James said.
Earlier in the day, Trump appeared on “Fox and Friends” for a phone interview and shared his thoughts.
“When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our flag and national anthem, what I do personally is turn off the game,” Trump said.
“I think it’s disgraceful. We work with (the NBA), we worked with them very hard trying to get open. I was pushing for them to get open. Then I see everybody kneeling during the anthem. That’s not acceptable to me. When I see them kneeling during the game, I just turn off the game. I have no interest in the game. Let me tell you this, plenty of other people out there, too.”
Trump also credited himself for helping the black community with “criminal justice reform, opportunity zones, best employment numbers in history.”
James and Trump have clashed for years, going back to when LeBron supported Hillary Clinton during the last presidential election. The two have sparred many times since then, with James taking shots at Trump and vice versa. The saga between them continues.
This week’s series between Major League Baseball’s two Ohio teams is getting a little personal.
Ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Indians in Cleveland, the Cincinnati Reds tweeted some action shots of their players on the field and got in a shot at the city of Cleveland, saying it was so nice that LeBron James left it twice.
The Indians then hit back by pointing out that Cincinnati didn’t even have an NBA team. The Reds replied that their NBA team had never lost a game.
James, who indeed left Cleveland for the second time in 2018 to join the Los Angeles Lakers, was actually a pretty big fan of the Indians. It is probably a lot harder to support them now that he is thousands of miles away though.
Still, The King brought Cleveland to five total NBA Finals appearances and won the city their first professional sports championship in 52 years with the Cavaliers’ 2016 title. Thus, the Indians probably aren’t sweating the Reds’ Twitter fingers too much.
The new face of the WNBA is getting some well wishes from the current face of the NBA.
New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s WNBA Draft, went down with a scary-looking ankle injury during Friday’s game against the Atlanta Dream. She had to be helped off the court and did not return to the game.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that X-rays on Ionescu’s ankle were negative and showed no fracture.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James tweeted his good wishes to Ionescu.
The 22-year-old Ionescu was selected by the Liberty after a standout four-year career at the University of Oregon. She entered play Friday averaging 22.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game in her first two contests.
Ionescu was close with the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, and now she is getting some love from another basketball giant as well.