It only took a global pandemic, a four-month hiatus and a tab of approximately $150 million, but all is right in the world because the NBA Playoffs have officially begun. To the delight of sports fans far and wide, August Madness kicked off on Monday, and here are some takeaways from Day 1.
Considering the timing and circumstances surrounding this pandemic, the free-agent market this offseason is expected to have a lot less money and a lot less movement than in recent years. But one dude who’s getting cashed out regardless is Raptors flamethrower Fred Van Vleet, who erupted for 30 points, 11 dimes and eight (Eight? Eight.) goddamn three-pointers in a 134-110 massacre that was about as competitive as Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden fighting for your vote in November.
Van Fleet’s playoff struggles are long documented. Before this season, he averaged a minuscule 5.6 points per game in the playoffs. But ever since the birth of his son, Fred Jr., in the middle of the 2019 Eastern Conference finals, he’s been playing like a man possessed. And by “a man possessed” I mean a dude who’s about to drop kick a hole in the Raptors’ cap space if they want to keep him next season, though I’m sure the Knicks have other plans.
Oh, and Donovan Mitchell dropped 57 in the Jazz’s 135-125 overtime loss to the Nuggets, while Joel Embiid got his ass stomped out by the Celtics while demonstrating the type of effort typically reserved for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron—the same guy who refuses to charge the police responsible for Breonna Taylor’s death.
I hope the players enjoyed that four-month breather because they’re gonna be busting their asses from here on out. The NBA has quite a bit of time to make up for, which means they’re cramming four games a day into their playoff schedule. And with many of these games starting as early as 10 a.m. PST, hoop heads are calling this August Madness for a reason.
This means that much like March Madness if your ass is stuck at work (like me) or otherwise preoccupied (also me), you could be missing plenty of NBA action. I hate watching games after they’ve already aired when I know the outcome, so I’m not particularly fond of how these playoffs will play out. But if you think I’m about to complain about the NBA being back on TV, that ain’t about to happen. Just go into these playoffs knowing you might spend just as much time watching recaps on Sportscenter as you will the games themselves.
Yo, somebody gotta check this dude’s birth certificate because there’s no way in hell this dude is 21 years old. Last night, I watched the Mavericks bounce back from being down 14 points in the first quarter, only to take the same lead against the Clippers minutes later.
That. Shit. Don’t. Make. No. Sense.
And neither does Doncic, who Clippers coach Doc Rivers hails as having the passing ability of Jason Kidd combined with the shooting touch of Larry Bird. In what realm of reality is that even close to fair?
In his first playoff game ever—I refuse to believe this is only his second NBA season—dude casually dropped 42 points, seven boards and nine dimes in a 118-110 loss to the future NBA champions: the Los Angeles Clippers. And more importantly, when teammate Kristaps Porzingis was ejected in the third quarter for some bullshit—more on that later—Doncic just ripped off his jacket, flashed the “S” on his chest and got busy to keep the game competitive until the final buzzer.
But he shouldn’t have had to do it by himself, which leads me to...
Boy, did they fuck that Mavericks-Clippers game up.
With Dallas up 71-66 with 9:10 left in third, this happened:
After Doncic was called for palming the ball, Marcus Morris and Porzingis got into a shoving match that ended with both players being assessed technical fouls. Slight problem: Porzingis already drew a tech earlier in the game, which meant he was ejected.
Over that?! In the playoffs?!
That was some Grade-A bullshit. You gotta let them boys cook.
“I didn’t think it was enough to get technical fouls,” Morris told reporters after the game. “I wish that Porzingis played cause it’s the playoffs. Nobody should get thrown out the playoffs. Not my fault, but I didn’t think it was that serious.”
I couldn’t agree more. We suffered without basketball enough. Don’t deprive the fans of quality basketball and the players of quality competition, over some weak ass calls.
Hopefully, that was merely an aberration, but I won’t hold my breath.