We’re deep in the playoffs and all sorts of chaos has unfolded. Before the Warriors and Celtics go to war for the title, we break down the biggest winners and losers from the Conference Finals.
Most of Jimmy Butler’s teammates let him down at one point or another, but Kyle Lowry’s shortcomings were the most glaring. Lowry may be the only player to go to Miami and get in there worse form. The Heat’s bootcamp approach to conditioning is legendary, and yet Lowry somehow has more junk in the trunk than Nicki Minaj.
Lowry’s weight means he has no chance of getting past his man, creating space or locking anyone out. His inability to move his feet causes him to reach out in defense and throw trash kicks in attack.
Speaking of trash shots, take a look at Lowry’s shooting numbers during the playoffs:
- 4-8 (50%)
- 2-8 (25%)
- 2-7 (28.6%)
- 0-4 (0%)
- 3-10 (30%)
- 4-11 (36.4%)
- 1-6 (16.7%)
- 0-6 (0%)
- 5-14 (35.7%)
- 4-12 (33.3%)
Overall, he shot 25-86 (29.1%).
It’s not who Miami thought they were trading for. If Pat Riley and co. knew they were getting this version of Kyle Lowry, they would have stuck with Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa.
Lowry’s premature injury problems haven’t helped matters, but he just needs to get in better shape to be effective at this stage of his career.
THE “OTHER GUYS” OF THE MAVERICKS
Davis Bertans, Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber may all be hot, but when the conference finals rolled around, they turned freezing. Here are the numbers:
Reggie Bullock: 38.3% BF
Maxi Kleber: 38.5% FG, 26.3% 3PT
Davis Bertans: 33.3% FG, 21.4% 3PT
Bullock was particularly bad at times, shooting 0-10 from the field in Game 3, while Kleber went 0-5. Later in the series, they managed just five combined field goals while facing elimination in Game 5. Add in huge top-and-bottom Spencer Dinwiddie – who would have 30 points one night and four the next – and there wasn’t a single player Luka Doncic could count on to back him up in the goalscoring department.
GAME LOVERS CLOSE
One evening in late March 2000, Drew Carey opened his beloved improv comedy show with the following line: “Welcome to Whose Line Is It Anyway, the show where it’s all made up and dots don’t matter. matter…like the first three quarters of an NBA game.
Carey was putting his spin on a running joke that some people actually believe to be true: the idea that NBA games are always so close that you don’t need to tune in before the finals. Well, this year’s blowout-laden playoffs sent that theory to hell.
Time and time again in these playoffs, we’ve seen one team roll over the other in the opening minutes, with the rest of the game becoming a mere formality. The average margin of victory was 12.5 points in the Conference Finals, while on average, the biggest lead in each game was 23.5 points.
In eight of 12 games in the Conference Finals, a team had a lead of more than 20 points at some point. Seven of 12 games were decided by 10 or more points, and 11 of 12 were decided by five or more points. There were no overtime games.
If there is a basketball god, he surely won’t allow this to continue to the final.
THE ARENA WORKER WHO DROP STEPH CURRY
After all the talk of bench players getting too close to the action, it was a Dallas salesman who filled in Larry David and accidentally tripped Steph Curry in Game 3.
Whether it’s their owner, their bench players or the popcorn vendor near the field, apparently everyone in Dallas likes to get in on the action.
Jimmy Butler nearly overcame Boston’s stifling defense to lead his team to the Finals despite Tyler Herro’s debilitating injury, Bam Adebayo’s deep-seated fear of attacking the Celtics greats and Kyle Lowry’s three-man team Victor Oladipo and Max Strus shooting. 30 percent from the field throughout the Conference Finals.
Butler may have missed those questionable three at the end of Game 7, but he was the only reason Miami even had a whiff of victory in the first place.
If Butler had dragged Miami to the Finals despite the carnage unfolding around him, it would have been one of the all-time carry jobs and called back (although admittedly not as good as) LeBron James dragging Kevin Love, George Hill and the ghost of JR Smith to the Finals in 2018.
Al Horford’s career could have been in limbo when he was seemingly put on pasture at OKC. But not only did his career still have a pulse, he bounced back with an almighty revenge that no one saw coming.
The 35-year-old not only reclaimed his defensive dominance in Boston, but even sprinkled in some offensive brilliance, including his 30-point blowout on an 11-14 shot in Game 4 against the Bucks. If the Celtics go all the way, Horford will be one of the best stories in the league. In fact, it already is.
Jayson Tatum shot 3-10 when the Celtics were eliminated in 2019. He went 9-26 when they were eliminated in 2020 and 12-27 when they were eliminated in 2021. This year he showed up at the most important moment, putting up 26 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks in Game 7 against Miami to advance to its first NBA Finals.
When Tatum has wrestled in the past, questions have invariably been raised about whether he was trying too hard to emulate the heroism of his idol Kobe Bryant. But he has come a long way since entering the league. He takes smarter shots, makes better plays for others, and his defense is elite.
Tatum is always prone to the occasional bad play, and knocking them out will be crucial in his quest to become an all-time great. But Tatum has shown enough that Boston thinks he can be “that guy” in the big moments.
An ineffective volume scorer in Minnesota, Andrew Wiggins has settled into the best version of himself with Golden State. No longer expected to carry a heavy offensive load, he now has the luxury of picking his places in attack and channeling more energy to wreak havoc as a pesky wing defender.
Wiggins is clearly not a superstar, but if he continues to play his part with the Warriors he will will be to be an NBA champion.
Just a week after grabbing a career-high 22 rebounds in a second-round win over Memphis, Kevon Looney scored a career-high 21 points in Game 3 of the Conference Finals against Dallas. He then pulled out another 18 rebounds as the Warriors knocked out the Mavs in Game 5.
He may not feature on many highlight reels, but every championship-level team needs a no-nonsense workhorse like Kevon Looney.
Brad Stevens no longer coaches the Celtics, but he’s still making behind-the-scenes moves as president of basketball operations. Just two weeks into his front office tenure last summer, Stevens sold his shares in Kemba Walker just before he collapsed and landed Al Horford in exchange just before his spectacular revival.
Stevens chose to fill the head coaching role with former Gregg Popovich understudy Ime Udoka, whose game-changing impact on Celtics culture. Then in February, Stevens sent a package featuring Josh Richardson to San Antonio for Derrick White, whose perimeter defense has been perfectly suited to Boston.
Derrick White defends Lowry/Strus/Oladipo/Robinson:
— 188 properties
— 9 spikes
— 3-28 FG (11%)
— 1-14 3P (7%)
— 7 turnover
— 6 blocked shots
— 0 shooting faults pic.twitter.com/2EAncyZIoo
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 30, 2022
The head coach-turned-manager also continued to make moves during the season. He knew Enes Kanter, Evan Fournier, Dennis Schroder and Tristan Thompson weren’t the answer (whatever the question) and traded them all mid-season.
This was all in pursuit of a roster built entirely from hard-nosed defensive dogs, and with the Celtics four title wins away, all of Stevens’ maneuvers and trades paid off.