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The Night in the Association: September 6th, 2020

Last Night, we were able to witness great playoff games that really came down to the closing minutes of the matchup. We saw game four between the Bucks and the Heat (Miami leads the series 3-1) and game 2 between the Rockets and the Lakers (series tied at 1-1).

For additional context, prior to this game, the Bucks were on the verge of being swept as they were trailing in the series three games to none and the Rockets were up on the Lakers prior to this game 1-0. With that being said, let us jump into the game breakdowns:

Bucks vs Heat

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was doing everything he could to keep the Bucks alive. In his eleven minutes of action, he was absolutely sensational, scoring 19 points on 8/10 shooting from the field. Until his devastating injury early in the second quarter. Antetokounmpo re-aggravated his ankle sprain and was ruled out for the rest of game 4. Things looked like it was going against the Bucks, as they were on the verge of elimination.

That was until the Bucks got red hot and outscored the Heat 28-17 in the second quarter. That is credited to their high powered offense and shooting combined with their defensive play to hold the Heat to under 20 points in that quarter. The team as a whole in the second quarter shot 55% from the field, 38% from 3, and made all of their free throws, led by Eric Bledsoe’s six points after Giannis went down.

In the third quarter, the momentum was in Milwaukee’s favor. Their defense was poor as they allowed Miami to score 40 points in the quarter but Khris Middleton exploded for 21 out of the 35 Bucks points in the quarter on an efficient 6/9 shooting from the field. Miami kept the game close in the third as mentioned before due to Bam Adebayo’s perfect scoring from the field and ability to pass and grab rebounds at a high rate. 

Once the game got to overtime after DiVincenzo tied it in the fourth with a free throw, it became the Khris Middleton vs Tyler Herro show. Herro scored 6 points on perfect shooting for Miami, hitting multiple timely shots to keep Miami in it but ultimately, Khris Middleton, the All-Star, came up just a little bit bigger. Middleton scored 9 points on 3/5 shooting from the field including the game-winner while facing a double team.

All in all, a collective team effort from the Bucks and their ability to get over the loss of their MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo is what propelled them to win this game and keep them alive in these playoffs.

They also learned a valuable lesson from this game that might help them moving forward especially if Giannis Antetokounmpo returns: Khris Middleton is the closer. Khris Middleton must be the go to guy down the stretch who can create his own shots from the perimeter while Giannis operates in the post, and produces off of putbacks and lobs.

For Miami, Jimmy Butler had an off-game, scoring 17 points but on an inefficient 6/15 shooting including only a combined total of 4 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. He’ll look to bounce back for game 5, where Miami will have a chance to close out the Bucks once and for all.

Lakers vs Rockets

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The Lakers were able to get past the Rockets down the stretch with ease thanks to the terrific play of their dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis and a little bit of help from Russell Westbrook, or as some would like to say “Russell Westbrick” from the other end.

Let us start off on a positive note, which is highlighting what went well for the Lakers, before we get to the inevitable, which is highlighting Russell Westbrook’s horrendous performance and how it ultimately cost the Rockets this victory.. 

LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the best duo in the NBA, once again showcased why they hold that title due to their stellar play last night. LeBron led the way with 28 points, 9 assists, and 11 rebounds while shooting at an efficient clip (10/17 from the field). Anthony Davis was also spectacular scoring 34 points and grabbing 10 rebounds on 15/24 shooting from the field.

They also got plentiful depth contributions from Rajon Rondo, Markieff Morris (shoutout my guy Keef), and Kyle Kuzma. Those three combined for 39 points on a combined 16/24 shooting while playing exceptional defense. What I’ve been preaching all along is that 2 or 3 guys off of the Lakers’ bench need to hit consistent perimeter shots and combine for at least 40 points. Last night, they pretty much met those expectations.

For Houston, everyone was playing great with the exception of one man. Literally everyone else. James Harden had a typical James Harden-esque performance scoring 27 points on 6/12 shooting while dishing out 7 assists. P.J. Tucker was sensational yet again scoring 18 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and making 7 out of his 10 shot attempts while playing elite defense and making all the right reads.

Same case for Robert Covington, who had 17 points on 5/10 shooting while playing exceptional defense as well. Eric Gordon has returned to that version of Eric Gordon who we saw runaway with the sixth man of the year award a couple of years ago, scoring 24 points on 8/16 shooting from the field. Even Daniel House was terrific off the bench.

Now, let us get to the man of the hour, Russell Westbrook. This man consistently underperforms when his team needs him most and he’s back at it yet again, stubborn about not adjusting his playstyle for the benefit of the team. Last Night, he hurt the Rockets more than he helped them. It is sad when one believes that the Rockets would’ve pulled away with this win had Russell Westbrook not played, but it has gotten to that point.

Yesterday, he had a grand total of 10 points throughout the entire contest, only had 4 assists, shot an extremely inefficient 4/15 from the field, while turning over the ball 7 times. Not to mention he was in foul trouble with 5 personals, so he wasn’t a factor on the defensive end either. He attempted 7-three point shots and only made one. He finished as a -14 on the game.

He is really building up a great case for being not one of, but the worst star playoff performer in NBA history. It isn’t just this year, it is every year. One would say, do better, but at this point, Russ can only go up from here. It’s a shame that the NBA community expects him to perform like this. 

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