Around the NBA: Playoff time

Much of the madness of the basketball world has subsided, but around the NBA, things are just heating up.

Many of the stories around the NBA recently have been about Magic Johnson stepping down as the President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. There has also been a lot made (deservedly so) about Dwyane Wade’s career reaching its conclusion as well as Dirk Nowitzki, who recently made his retirement official.

As interesting or nostalgic as these happenings are, they are still footnotes to the main story that is unfolding; the 2018-19 NBA regular season has ended and it is time to fight it out to see who is crowned champion.

For several years now, the NBA Playoffs and even the Finals have been predictable. LeBron James would rise out of the East to meet one of the greatest teams in history in the Golden State Warriors. This year is certainly different. No LeBron James means plenty of new faces will be duking it out for a Finals appearance. At least on one side of the bracket.

In the West, it is still the Warriors race to lose. They have appeared vulnerable at times this season with a less enthused bench and more hit-or-miss performances from Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Still, they boast a starting five that consists of five current or recent All-Stars. Big offseason signing, DeMarcus Cousins has looked good considering the achilles injury that sidelined him for so long. Still, he has been a liability at times, unable to mesh with the Warriors offensive and defensive flow.

Teams that could upset the Warriors in the West? See for yourselves what they are up against below:

The Jazz and Nuggets play a different brand of basketball that could potentially mess with the Warriors tempo. The Rockets, Thunder, or Trailblazers have the firepower to hang with anyone, but would need to bring it every single night to have a shot. The Spurs are just inexplicably consistent and therefore tough to get a read on…

In the East, the Milwaukee Bucks appear to have the most clear path to at least the Eastern Conference Finals, unless the Celtics flip a switch that they were unable to find most games this season. The 76ers may be the biggest wildcard, as they likely have the most talented starting five in the NBA, Warriors aside. They will have tough sledding facing the experience of the Raptors, assuming both teams take their first round matchups, which is never a given.

LeBron James fans may be a bit down in the dumps right now, but his playoff absence at least means fresh blood will rise in the East. As usual, the NBA Playoffs are primed to be exciting and engaging. We can’t wait for tipoff.

Stay tuned for coverage, learn how to pronounce Antetokounmpo, and let the games begin!

Around the NBA: A Playoff picture that excludes LeBron James?

We are in uncharted territory with the NBA season nearing its home stretch. An NBA Playoff picture without LeBron James is difficult to imagine.

Most team have around 20 games to go to wrap up their 2018-19 NBA seasons. 16 of 30 teams get to continue playing into the postseason, so most are fighting for seeding or just to make it in. A few of course are locked in the battle of futility, hoping for little more than improved draft odds.

In the East, there are five teams currently standing head-and-shoulders above the rest. The Bucks and Raptors appear to be all but locked into the one and two seeds. The Pacers are clinging to third, but surely the loss of star Victor Oladipo to injury will catch up to them eventually. Coach Nate McMillan and the Indiana role players still deserve a lot of credit.

One of the most talented rosters on paper, the 76ers will be a contender once the dust settles. The Boston Celtics have had a turbulent season despite maintaining about the same roster that led them near the top of the East last year.

The six seed on down currently have sub .500 records. The Brooklyn Nets have been a pleasant surprise with the Pistons, Hornets, Magic, and Heat in contention. The John Wall-less Wizards are looking like a long-shot.

Wild West as usual

As it often is, the Western Conference seeding race is a tight one. The Golden State Warriors are on top as expected, but have already dropped 19 games. That only puts them 1.5 games ahead of the talented Denver Nuggets. The Nugs have a four game lead over the OKC Thunder; that’s where it starts getting very close.

An underrated Trailblazers squad is clinging to fourth, just ahead of the Rockets, Jazz, Spurs and Clippers. Yes, the Spurs are back again after a slow start to their 2018-19 campaign. Conversely, the Clippers overachieved to start the year and initiated a rebuild despite their success. With LA being a desirable free agent destination, they are hoping they can land a star or two next year.

If the Clippers fall off, that leaves two squads that could possibly take their place. The young, surprisingly good Sacremento Kings or LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers stumbled during LeBron’s longest injury absence of his career. Now that he’s back, he says that he has activated “playoff mode”. That didn’t seem to help them much, as they have suffered some of their ugliest losses of the season since.

LeBron doesn’t just have a playoff streak on the line. LeBron James has been to eight consecutive NBA Finals. Eight. Not having him in the playoff picture at all would be incredibly unusual in this era of NBA basketball. To an extent, he knew what he was signing up for with the young Lakers that added bigger personalities than stars over the offseason. Still wild.

The kicker in all this for the Lakers is there remaining schedule, which is one of the toughest in the Association down the stretch (below, from Basketball Reference).

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There are still five weeks to hammer out the final standings. The current playoff picture is an interesting one, with surprises both inside and outside the top eight squads from each conference.

Keep up with The Basketball Movement as we continue to fill you in on happenings around the NBA.

NBA Finals game two tonight - Can the Cavaliers rally?

After an extremely tough loss in game one, Cleveland will have to dig deep to get back in these Finals.

Few individuals believed at any point that the Cleveland Cavaliers could win these NBA Finals. An electric 51/8/8 performance by LeBron James had every appearance of being enough to pull off a game one upset. It was not meant to be.

The final sequence of regulation could not have gone much worse than it did for Cleveland. They got a good free throw shooter to the line, but he missed the second attempt. An offensive rebound by JR Smith was wasted as well as he dribbled away pointlessly, unaware of the score.

Understandably deflated, the Cavs got drubbed in overtime by the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

Already underdogs, a game one victory on the road could have turned the tables in this series. Instead, the Warriors get another home game tonight, up 1-0 in the series.

Mentality will be paramount for both teams in game two

For the Warriors, it may be easy to relax a bit after stealing back the game one victory. They need to maintain a "killer" mentality and keep their feet on the gas to try and put away the Finals as quickly as possible.

They had better, because they are still playing LeBron after all.

Cleveland probably hung their heads for a while after the tough loss. If that is still going on, they had better snap out of it. A lot of that starts with their leader, LeBron James. He said that game one was one of the toughest losses of his career.

It’s one of the toughest losses I’ve had in my career as well because of everything that kind of went on with the game and the way we played. It was a tough 24 hours not only for Hill and for myself but for our whole ballclub because we put ourselves in a great position to be successful.
— LeBron James

James is one of the most scrutinized players of our generation, constantly being compared to the greats. For the sake of his legacy, he must rally his troops and get them into the same position they were in in game one. Maybe this time, there will be a different outcome.

The game will be nationally televised tonight at 7:00 PM (CT) on ABC. Tune in for more great basketball.

NBA Conference Finals will feature two game sevens

Basketball fans are in for a treat as both the Western and Eastern Conference Finals go to game seven.

The NBA regular season has 82 games and each playoff series is best of seven. There has been a lot of basketball played, but it all comes down to one game for the four remaining teams to stay alive.

Last night, the Houston Rockets held their own in Golden State through the first half despite the loss of Chris Paul to injury. The Warriors turned it on in the 3rd quarter and wound up winning easily. Chris Paul's availability for game seven in Houston has been reported as doubtful at best.

In the East, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have come to life. Turnovers by the young Boston Celtic squad and dominant performances by King James have now led to the game seven showdown in Boston.

When and what to watch for

The Cavs and Celtics face off tonight at 7:30 Central time in the Celtics gym. The Cavaliers appear to have to momentum, as Boston has not looked as sharp in the last few contests.

The defensive and offensive sets that Coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics blitzed the Cavs with early in the series are becoming more predictable. It is difficult to argue the LeBron is a great basketball mind, capable of adjusting to any strategy given a little time.

A win for Cleveland would be LeBron's eighth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. The Celtics have not made it since the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen big three.

Game seven of the Western Conference Finals will be tomorrow night at 8:00 PM Central time in Houston.

The Rockets will have home court advantage, but with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson all looking sharp in game six, it could be a tall task. If Chris Paul cannot go, it will take a herculian effort from James Harden and the Rockets to advance.

Game sevens are as good as it gets for sports fans. These will both be must-see games, so make sure that you do not miss the action!

 

2018 NBA Conference Finals are set

Four teams remain as the NBA playoffs second round concludes, giving way to the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.

Many NBA fans will tell you that the second round matchups ended predictably. In the West, the 1 seed Houston Rockets knocked off a tough young Utah Jazz squad 4-1. The Golden State Warriors, now fully healthy with the return of Steph Curry, defeated Anthony Davis' New Orleans Pelicans 4-1 as well.

In the Eastern Conference side of things, one constant has remained predictable over the last decade; LeBron James own the East until further notice.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have bumped the Toronto Raptors from the playoffs for three straight years. They made a clean 4-0 sweep of them this year despite a franchise best 59 wins and a 1 seed for the Raps. The Boston Celtics bounced the Philadelphia 76ers last night in a thriller (4-1) despite losing Kyrie Irving to surgery before the playoffs.

This was a relatively quick second round, considering the seven-game-series format for all four matchups. One sweep and three 4-1 victories means a little break and then to the Conference Finals.

What to watch for in the ECF and WCF

Games resume this Sunday, May 13th with the Cavs in Boston for game one. The Celtics are lacking their biggest stars in Irving and Gordon Hayward due to injuries, but have been as tough as anyone. The scrappyness of Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and rookie Jayson Tatum paired with the steadying hand of veteran Al Horford has made for a lethal combination.

For the Cavs, this is likely the weakest squad LeBron has had in years. That hasn't slowed him down though, as a he personally sliced through a tough Raptors squad like butter. The winner in the East will have a brief celebration as they enter the NBA Finals as severe underdogs.

Many pundits agree that the winner of the Rockets/Warriors series will with the NBA Finals as well. Both teams, especially at full strength, are offensive juggernauts with improved defenses to boot.

The Western Conference Championship will be must-see-basketball. The reigining champion Warriors return the same four All-Stars that led them last year. The Rockets sport two unproven (in the playoffs) All-Stars in James Harden and Chris Paul. This is Paul's first WCF despite his successes with the Clippers previously.

Don't forget to tune in to these matchups and stay up to date with all the NBA movement by keeping it right here with us! 

Let's talk about LeBron James

One of the greatest basketball players of all time, LeBron James just keeps doing his thing.

James came into the league out of high school, bringing a ridiculous amount of hype with him. The expectations for LeBron were through the roof, yet somehow, he delivered. Great things were anticipated, but going down as one of the top players of all-time is never a reasonable expectation for any individual.

A one-of-a-kind physical specimen, the league had not seen anything like him since Magic Johnson. For all Johnson's skill, not even he had James' speed and strength.

The ball-handling, passing, athleticism, leadership, defense, basketball I.Q., and improved shooting in a 6-8, 250lb man; his place among the best of all-time is not really up for debate. Where exactly he falls may be, but not his overall basketball greatness.

He isn't done yet

LeBron James entered in the league in 2003, so it feels like he has been around forever. This year is his 15th season. That totals 1,143 regular season games, not to mention 225 playoff contests. How is there still tread on his basketball tires?

The sustained greatness is certainly one of the things that propels the "greatness" conversation. His Cleveland Cavaliers had an up-and-down season, yet are still hanging around in the playoffs. If they go all the way, it will be LeBron's 8th consecutive NBA Finals appearance.

LeBron has owned the Eastern Conference for almost a decade.

Last night, his Cavs, fresh off a seven game series with Indy, beat the 1 seed Raptors in Toronto. It took overtime to do it; 46 minutes and a triple-double from James.

Can he keep it up?

Even with a less-familiar host of teammates than in recent seasons, LeBron is finding a way to get it done. In his age-33 season, he played all 82 games for the first time in his career.

Getting to the Finals will be tougher this year than in any of the previous seven seasons. Once the Eastern team gets there, they will likely earn a date with the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors. Maybe not as fun when you think of it that way.

Regardless of how it all shakes out, one thing is certain: LeBron James is a constant, dependable force in the NBA.

He won't be going anywhere for a few years (well, aside from his pending free agency). Appreciate his basketball mastery while you can. He is physically gifted, but there are parts of his game that any player can work to emulate.

Keep a close eye on King James and stay involved with The Basketball Movement to get the most out of your hoops experience.

Perspective: Erin Popovich passes away at 67

Greg Popovich's wife, Erin passed away Wednesday after battling an illness for a long time according to ESPN.

The head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, Greg Popovich has been a key figure in the NBA for a long time. The news of the passing of his wife, Erin is a tough blow to the basketball community. Gregg and Erin Popovich had been married for over 40 years, had two children, and two grandchildren. The couple met while Coach Pop was an assistant coach at the Air Force Academy. 

As devastating as it must be to the Popovich family, it also serves a reminder of what it truly important.

The game seems insignificant in the face of such real-life tragedy. However, the fraternity created by basketball can be a tremendous source of support and family. Stars such as Kevin Durant and LeBron James both used the term "family" when presented with the news of Erin's passing.

This is not enjoyable news to deliver, but we hope that it brings about feelings of appreciation for the people and things that we have. Gregg Popovich has been a polarizing figure of late, becoming more bold with political statements and always firing off sarcasm and wit. No-matter your stance on him, this is a tragedy that must be respected. 

ESPN staff writer, Michael C. Wright reported the following quote from the Spurs General Manager.

We’re all suffering a profound loss to a really important member of our family and our team. Erin and Gregg were best friends who were together for 40 years, and Erin’s impact and influence on our organization, on our families, on our players and their families will be felt for years to come. I spoke to Pop this morning. He’s overwhelmed by the support. He’s very appreciative of the love that’s been shared with our group, and with him and his family and Erin’s family. As you’d expect from Pop, he wants our focus to be about the game today, about this series, and that’s what today will be about. We’ll miss Erin a lot, and the focus of our team will be on supporting Pop. But we’ve got basketball to get back to
— Spus G.M., R.C. Buford

The Basketball Movement's thoughts are with the Popovich family and the Spurs organization in this difficult time. Coach Pop will of course miss game 3 of the first round series with the Golden State Warriors (GSW leads 2-0).

Kyrie Irving to miss the 2018 NBA playoffs

Irving had successful surgery on March 24, but it has been revealed that he has a bacterial infection at the surgical site.

The surgery Kyrie Irving had was to remove a tension wire that was placed to mend his left patellar fracture from a 2015 playoff injury. An infection has since appeared where the hardware is in his leg. He must now undergo surgery on his patella to remove two screws.

Early estimates suggest that he will miss 4-6 months following the procedure. This is of course a huge blow to Irving and his team, who thought they would have him back early in the 2018 NBA playoffs

Irving spoke out to his fans about the new happenings on Instagram:

The hardest thing to do sometimes is accept the uncontrollable things life throws at you. You try consistently to learn, grow, and prepare everyday to equip your mind, body, and spirit with tools to deal with some of those things, but I feel when those moments arise they all give you a sense of unfulfillment, simply because it puts some of your professional journey and goals on a brief hold. It’s simply a test of your perseverance and Will, to be present, even in the wake of what’s going on. In this case, finding out I have an infection in my knee is definitely a moment that I now accept and move past without holding on to the all the what ifs, proving the nay-Sayers completely f***ing wrong, and accomplishing the goals I’ve set out for the team and myself. This season was only a snapshot of what’s to come from me. Trust Me. “The journey back to the top of Mt. Everest continues.” #StandingRockSiouxTribe Let’s go Celtics!! Celtics fans, I look forward to hearing how loud it gets in the TD Garden during the playoffs and experiencing how intense the environment gets. Thank you all!

Kyrie was dealt to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas and company this offseason. His transition was seamless in regards to the game of basketball. Despite losing running-mate Gordan Hayward to injury in their first game, Irving propelled the team, putting up MVP-like effort.

The Boston Celtics are currently the 2 seed in the East behind the Toronto Raptors. This clearly changes their playoffs hopes a bit. They will still be a tough out for someone, executing their scrappy style under head coach Brad Stevens.

With this and all of the other injuries going into the 2018 playoffs, it has become a two-team race in the Eastern Conference. We will see if the Raptors can hold off LeBron James and his new-look Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Basketball Movement wishes Kyrie Irving a speedy and effective recovery.

Injuries abound for many NBA playoffs teams

With the regular season winding down, many playoff-bound teams in the NBA are monitoring injuries to key players.

NBA and NCAA basketball fans alike are in the middle of one of the best times of the year for the sport. March Madness is in full swing and the NBA regular season is coming to a close, which means one very exciting thing: the playoffs are almost here.

Unfortunately, there are many teams this year that are dealing with injuries while the playoffs are quickly approaching (playoffs begin Saturday, Apr 14). There is still plenty of time for those players that are dealing with very minor injuries, but for many playoff teams, there are longer-term issues at hand.

We already saw the Boston Celtics lose Gordon Hayward to a leg injury to start the season, so we knew he would be out at this point. Kyrie Irving is the big question mark for the C's right now. The Celtics are number 2 in the East and have already declared that Irving is out for the regular season. His return in the playoffs will truly shift the balance of power. Marcus Smart is also nursing a thumb injury, not expected back until May.

Welcome back, Markelle Fultz

For the Philidelphia 76ers, they finally look healthy, with number 1 pick Markelle Fultz coming back from his season-long shoulder injury last night. "The process" is shaping up nicely in Philly. The Washington Wizards are now expecting star John Wall back after a lengthy absence as well.

The Milwaukee Bucks are hoping that last year's Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon will be back sometime in April, so chalk him up as questionable for the playoffs. Current 8 seed Miami is hoping that Hassan Whiteside can hold up after missing a lot of time this season. He is currently out with a hip injury.

In the Western Conference, the top seeded Houston Rockets are healthy and already starting to rest players to stay that way. It is the 2 seed that is one of the biggest playoff mysteries, injury-wise...

The Golden State Warriors are banged up

Before the emergence of Houston, the only thing that everyone said could stop the Warriors was injuries. Well, they are pretty battered and bruised right now. Draymond Green is just sick at the moment, ready to return soon. However, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson had more serious injuries, though they are expected back before April begins.

Thompson's shooting thumb and Durant's rib are two things the Warriors can ill-afford to chance as far as rushing them back. Steph Curry is the real story though. A grade 2 MCL sprain will sideline Curry for what coach Steve Kerr says will be at least the first round of the playoffs. 

Hopefully, I prove what coach said was wrong and put myself in position to get back as soon as possible, but right now, who knows? Just try to do my job in the rehab process and get back as soon as I can.
— Stephen Curry

The rest of the West

C.J. Wilcox of the Portland Trailblazers is out indefinitely with a knee issue. The Oklahoma City Thunder have already lost all-pro defender Andre Roberson to season-ending surgery. The New Orleans Pelicans took one of the biggest injury hits of the season, losing DeMarcus Cousins to an achilles injury. The Pels have lost a couple role players as well.

The only San Antonio Spur on the injury report is Kawhi Leonard, but there seems to be more to the story there than an injury keeping him from playing. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, All-Star Jimmy Butler is determined to return before the playoffs, though his surgery for his torn meniscus was only in February.

The Utah Jazz currently hold down the final playoff spot and are missing perimeter defender, Thabo Sefolosha, who is out for the season. The Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers are fighting to overtake the Jazz for that spot. Gary Harris should be back soon for the Nuggets while the Clips have lost a couple of guards for the season: Avery Bradley and Patrick Beverly.

Hopefully these teams and players can heal up, because no-matter who you root for, the game is at its best when everyone is fully healthy and ready to go. For more on the NBA and everything basketball, you are in the right place - The Basketball Movement. Check out our NCAA final four preview here.

Injury notes per Rotoworld.