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A Richly Informative And In Fact Quite Punctual Preview Of The 2022 NBA Playoffs

Fidel Castro, hooping
AFP via Getty Images|

I know I have used this photo before. But I just love it! Let me have this!

Hello, casual basketball viewer! Welcome to the 2022 NBA playoffs, which definitely have not started yet. I am not sweating or rushing right now, at all, because as I write this the playoffs for sure are not near to tipping off. It definitely is not late Saturday morning right now, mere hours from when the flow of time will make the word "preview" no longer apply to this blog! And thus there is no need to hurry through previewing the first-round matchups at all.

What is with all of this stuff? Who are the fellows bouncing the ball on the television? Are any of them "LeBron James"? What type of noises should I be making at the other bar patrons, to convince them of my deep and abiding love of professional hoops? It is for the purpose of answering these and other questions that this rich informational text has been called forth into being, and also for the lesser reason that if I do not turn in a draft soon then it will be hard for me to claim that I was working on this blog pretty much all week. And that would be a real problem for your buddy right here!

Below you will find (once again, incredibly and indeed insanely thorough and informative) previews of each of the [counts on fingers] eight, I guess, first-round NBA playoff series beginning this weekend. They appear in the chronological order in which the series begin, hoo buddy, alarmingly soon, ah jeez. When you have read them all, you will never have any more questions about basketball or sports or life, ever.

Utah Jazz (5) at Dallas Mavericks (4)
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

When is the game?
The first game of this series is Saturday at 1:00 pm Eastern, on ESPN. That's the future.

What are the respective deals of these basketball, uh, firms?
The Mavericks continued their valiant but also somehow deathly boring ascent up the Western Conference this season, the fourth straight they've finished with a higher winning percentage (.634) than the year before (.583 in 2021). That's pretty cool, and in broad outline close to the ideal for a team that rebuilds around a young lottery pick: In each campaign of Luka Doncic's career, the results have improved. At least as far as the regular season is concerned, anyway. Each of the past two playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers eliminated the Mavs in the first round; if you want to give them some minor credit for having lasted one more game in 2021 than in 2020, fine, but in any case that implies this is the year they ought to actually win a series.

As for the Jazz, their deal is uuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh. I'm so sick of them.

Who are their guys?
I already mentioned Doncic. That's Dallas's guy. Sure, yes, fine, OK, earlier this season they traded away erstwhile and failed co-star Kristaps Porzingis for some guys. If this were a regular-season preview I might feel obligated to mention them, but this is the dang playoffs! Stars win playoff series! Their guy is Luka Doncic.

I think it is fair, here at the end of Luka's fourth season, to say that at least as far as can be measured in numbers, he's pretty much still the player he was at the end of his second. If this is maybe ever so slightly bitterly anticlimactic for Mavericks fans, and for all the rest of us who hoped he might be, like, the Slovenian Michael Jordan, it is very convenient for me, the guy trying to write a preview for this series in the few hours immediately prior to its beginning.

The record is remarkably consistent on this. Regular season after regular season, whether he gains or loses weight, or motivation, or Rick Carlisle, or incompatible 7-foot-3 teammates from Latvia, Luka is going to take around 22 shots per 36 minutes of play, and he's going to make around 10 of them; he's gonna shoot nine threes and make three; he's gonna make around five-and-a-half out of around seven-and-a-half free-throws; he's gonna record around nine rebounds and nine assists; he's going to turn the ball over four or five times; he's gonna be splendidly tricky and creative with the ball, whenever he is not dribbling the air out of it; when he thinks he has been fouled and the referees do not, he is going to turn the color of a pomegranate and get back on defense at geologic speeds. The great news for Mavs fans is that this outline—29 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists per 36 minutes—is that of a spectacular professional basketball player, even before you get to the part where he only recently turned 23 years old. Luka is great! He's the best player in this series, by far.

On the other hand:

Apparently there is also "significant concern" about whether Doncic will be available for Game 2, on Monday. Uh oh.

The Jazz's guys, once again, are Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Jazz coach Quin Snyder feels it's vitally important you understand that they do not want to murder each other. If the Jazz do not win at least two series in these playoffs, I will simply demand that they trade one or both of Gobert and Mitchell away, or else I am really gonna kick some ass.

Are any of them LeBron James?
No, none of them are LeBron James. LeBron James plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, a very lousy team eliminated from playoff contention like two weeks ag—

That is too much information. Simply tell me whether any of these people are LeBron James.
None of them are LeBron James. None of the people in any of these series are LeBron James, who is not participating in the 2022 NBA playoffs. LeBron James will not be mentioned again in this blog.

Is this series a good series or is this series a bad series.
A loss in this series could be brutally disappointing for either of these teams. The big mysterious variable is Luka's health. If (Game 1 aside) he plays and the Mavs lose, it'll be a pretty harsh verdict for Dallas's latest attempt at building a team he can take anywhere in the postseason; if he doesn't play, or can't play until they've already gone dropped two games on their home court, well, that's different. For the Jazz, a loss would be their sixth straight elimination shy of the conference finals. If Doncic plays and the Jazz lose, it's an existential crisis; if the Jazz were to lose to a Luka-less Mavs team, I dunno man, contract the franchise. In theory this ought to be a setup for intense, potentially desperate basketball, which is a certain type of "good." On the other hand, neither of these teams are much fun to watch, and the Mavericks are a good bet to look like a damn G-League outfit without Doncic. I predict ugly games, which are bad.

Upon whomst shall triumph bestow glory?
The Jazz have fucked vibes. The Mavs (if Luka is not crabbed) have the best player and their vibes are at least not horrendous. What I am trying to say here is I have no idea, but I'm sure it will be ugly either way.

Minnesota Timberwolves (7) at Memphis Grizzlies (2)
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
Justin Ford/Getty Images

Please, sir, please: At what time is the game?
The game is on Saturday at 3:30 pm Eastern, on ESPN.

The Timberwolves and the Grizzlies, huh.
I know! It's weird. Normally when anyone is talking about those two teams in the spring, they are talking about the draft lottery, and someone else is saying "This is a Wendy's."

The Grizzlies are terrific. They're fun and they have fun and they're extremely good. It's impossible to root against them unless you're a truly committed fan of whomever they're playing against. In fact, I'm saying it now: The Memphis Grizzlies are the People's Team in these playoffs! Go Grizzlies! Pay no attention to the fact that last spring's People's Team, the New York freaking Knicks, utterly shamed themselves in the first round, got smoked on their home court by the lower-seeded Atlanta Hawks, and then lost 55 percent of their games the next season and missed the playoffs entirely! Being the People's Team is a good thing, I swear.

The Timberwolves, meanwhile, won the stupid play-in tournament for the seventh seed; it's their first playoff appearance since 2018 and their second since 2004. The general sweatiness of the play-in gimmick should not be held against the Timberwolves: All a team can do is try to win the games it has to play. And in any event the Wolves did authentically have the seventh-best record in the West this season, and shouldn't have had to validate that in one tacked-on game against a Clippers team they clearly outperformed by any meaningful measure over the previous 82.

They're a fun story. Karl-Anthony Towns won the freaking three-point contest, a thing precisely zero people on Earth would have predicted when he was coming out of Kentucky, oh God, seven years ago already. How time flies! How it is flying right now, as I try to get this dang blog done. Anthony Edwards is great and certainly looks like he is flowering into a big-time star. Unfortunately this blog is already like 400,000 words and we simply must move on.

Explain to me the key persons.
Here's Ja Morant:

Jeez, man! Jeez! If anybody in the NBA did anything this season cooler than Ja's dunk at 1:30 in the above video, I missed it. He's like my height, man. He shot 22-for-30 in that damn game. It's ridiculous. Nobody is like this.

I already mentioned Minnesota's guys! KAT and Ant are their guys. If they have any other guys whose names sound like animals or insects, you will have to find out by watching the games, or possibly by simply looking it up online.

Will this be a good series or a pile of crapola?
This, I think, is my favorite type of first-round series: Two young teams without a whole lot at stake, each of them already having more-or-less equalled or surpassed last season's results, testing each other. A series win would be a terrific validating step forward for either of them. A loss would be disappointing for the Grizzlies just because they're the second seed, but it wouldn't have to introduce any real doubts as to their overall clearly upward trajectory; for the Timberwolves it's simply great to have made it this far, and to find out how they handle the bigger moments and higher demands of a playoff series. That's a fun setup, even before you get into the Grizzlies playing extremely fun basketball, or the possibility that Anthony Edwards will reveal in a postgame presser, casually and charmingly, that he had never previously registered that there was an NBA team named after bears.

Who's gonna win it?
The Grizzlies are a lot better. Also, Paul George of the Clippers got put into the league's health and safety (COVID-19) protocols Friday morning; three nights prior, Anthony Edwards spent most of that play-in game in George's extremely close proximity and likely shared quite a lot of air and aerosolized mouth-germs with him. That's ominous. Anyway the Grizzlies probably will win.

Toronto Raptors (5) at Philadelphia 76ers (4)
James Harden, Joel Embiid
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

A che ora inizia la partita?
Oh, hello, Italian NBA fan! The partita is at 6:00 pm Eastern, Saturday, on ESPN.

Allora qual è l'accordo con queste squadre?
The Sixers accomplished something incredibly special this season. They traded Ben Simmons away, midway through a season he'd entirely sat out due to ... whatever, man, the yips or mental illness or protest or because he was sick of Philadelphia fans or a combination of those or all of them ... and somehow came away from the whole thing shakier on the court, and even weirder than when their second-best player was a 6-foot-10 point guard so afraid of trying to score baskets that he'd pass up literal slam dunks just to get the ball away from himself. That doesn't seem as though it should be possible, but it happened. For all that, they won 51 games, and are making their fifth straight playoff appearance, due to Joel Embiid.

The Raptors' deal is, they just keep trucking. I dunno, man. I don't have much to say about the Raptors! They traded Kyle Lowry away back in August, retooled around Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., and the extremely promising rookie forward Scottie Barnes, and just kinda ... were good. They're very good. They win more than they lose.

Chi sono i giocatori importanti in questo?
I just mentioned a bunch of Raptors, OK? Get off my case!

For the Sixers, the giocatori importanti are James Harden, brought over from the Brooklyn Nets in that Simmons trade, and Joel Embiid, who won his first scoring title this season and may very well wind up winning his first MVP award to go with it. For Harden, this seems likely to go down as the season in which his productivity declined into uncomfortable balance with his flakiness: He scored less efficiently than he has since his rookie year and the holistic stats were unkinder to him than they've been in a decade, and if the reporting is to be believed, he sulked his way out of Brooklyn, which would make this the second straight season he's sulked into a change of teams. Then again even this diminished, serially unhappy, unreliable version of James Harden is both more productive and less flaky than Ben Simmons, and a better point guard, and a better pairing with Embiid.

Embiid was incredible this year! It is a source of continual amazement to me that, after those long years when the center position supposedly had been made an irrelevant antiquity by the rise of positionless basketball, in 2022 you can make a perfectly credible argument that two of the, like, three best players in the world are Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, a pair of 100-percent positional seven-foot centers. One of them is the reigning MVP; the other just became the first center to win a scoring title since Shaquille O'Neal; they're both the cornerstones of playoff teams. That's rad. Here is a video of Embiid wrecking shit and going for 41 and 20 the other night:

That was the third time in Philadelphia's final five games, and the 12th time this season, that he went for 40-plus points. The man's real good! Moving on now!

Andrà bene o sarà una cazzata?
It's interessantissimo, in any case! The Sixers, for all Embiid's brilliance, are weird and wobbly and occasionally put DeAndre Jordan on the court in the year 20-damn-22; the Raptors are tough and configurable and play their home games in Canada, where at least one unvaccinated Philadelphia player (Matisse Thybulle, no great loss) can't go.

Zach Lowe's podcast Raptorpilled Tom Ley on Friday, which has sort of Raptorpilled me by proxy (I will never listen to a basketball podcast). I'm moved by arguments I haven't even heard, which is a truly incredible level of basketball wisdom. On my part. The Raptors have a real shot! It'll be a real catastrophe for the 76ers if they blow this! That's interesting.

Chi vincerà?
No idea. If the best-player theory of the NBA playoffs—that the team with the best player usually wins—holds up (it usually does), the Sixers should win.

Denver Nuggets (6) at Golden State Warriors (3)
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

When's the dang friggin' game?
Hey, cool it. The game is Saturday night at 8:30 pm Eastern, on ABC.

What the frick's the deal with this, with all of it.
Please relax! These are two very fun and proud teams. It's probably true that both of them come into these playoffs seeding a little lower than they might realistically have hoped, but it's also true that nobody would be very shocked to see either of them represent the West in the Finals.

The Warriors did a couple years in the wilderness, after that disastrous 2019 Finals in which Klay Thompson blew out his knee and Kevin Durant blew out his ankle (and then left in free-agency). Now they're back to being terrific, more or less, or anyway all of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson played this season, if only very rarely at the same time. It's a little weird and not quite how it used to be, naturally. Curry, for example, endured the deepest shooting slump of his career, and finished the season with the worst shooting figures he's posted in a decade (even if they were still the sort for which 97 percent of all the basketball players who ever lived would sell their souls). Still! Everybody remembers how terrifying they were just a little while ago; I feel confident stating as fact that nobody wants to play them.

Speaking of terrible injuries and fun teams and things not being how they used to be! The Nuggets played this entire season without Jamal Murray, who tore his ACL almost exactly a year ago, and played all but the first few weeks without Michael Porter Jr., and it showed. They posted their lowest winning percentage in four years and needed to outperform the friggin' Timberwolves over the season's last couple weeks to avoid the play-in games. Yuck. On the other hand...

About which of these duders should I give a frig?
Bones Hyland!

I do not want to make too much of Bones, here. Five other Denver players scored more points per game; six played more minutes per game. He is not, like, a star of the Denver Nuggets. It's very possible, likely even, that Bones will turn out to be just a guy, a perfectly respectable outcome for a 26th overall pick in the NBA draft. If it is very obviously some lemonade-out-of-lemons type shit to note that Murray's extended absence is what made it possible for this fun rookie with a funky jumpshot and a herky-jerky game to find a role as a bench burner for the Denver Nuggets, well, the lemonade tastes pretty good anyway. Bones Hyland is a delight.

You know Nikola Jokic. There's a chance he'll receive his second consecutive MVP award soon, though public sentiment for his case seems to have cooled off over the second half of the season, as Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo and probably some other dude or two I'm not thinking of wrecked shit for their various teams and Jokic just kinda trucked along at the head of a team that wound up in the lower half of a fairly weak Western Conference's playoff stack. Hoo boy, look at the time. Gotta get moving here.

I already named the key Warriors. Here's a link to a blog about some cool stuff Steph Curry did earlier this season. He's dealing with a foot injury right now—it's always some damn thing with these friggin' Warriors—but will probably play in Game 1:

Will this series be good or baloney?
It'll be good. Jokic is one of the NBA's premier cool shit doers, and the Warriors still have it in them to tap into the hivemind that made them so mesmerizing in their dynastic years. Both of these teams want to make deep runs and will be pissed off if they don't. The Warriors know they only have so many more shots at it before age does away with them. It'll be good.

Who's gonna win?
Hm. I dunno, man! This series seems like the one likeliest to be derailed by injuries. That would suck pretty bad.

TBD (8) at Miami Heat (1)
Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Wait, who is TBD?
This series tips off at 1:00 pm on Sunday, and the first game will be broadcast on TNT.

No, really, who is TBD? Does Tampa Bay have a team now?
Why no, silly! TBD is just my personal nickname for the winner of Friday night's final Eastern Conference play-in game, a result I definitely am aware of, not having irresponsibly written this part of the blog before that game could be played!

OK, well, why wouldn't you list the actual name of that team up there?
I simply like to call that team, and only that team, "TBD." It's our little personal thing, me and that team. One thing it definitely does not stand for is "to be determined"!

Can you at least tell us who the participants were in the play-in game?
Sure, what the hell. The participants were the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were just one game out of the East's top playoff seed on February 11th, then lost 17 of their final 26 regular-season games to fall to eighth, then lost their first play-in game to the Brooklyn Nets; and the Atlanta Hawks, who took a step backward to ninth in the conference after last season's breakout, but then annihilated the Charlotte Hornets by 29 points in their first play-in game.

One of those teams definitely won the shit out of the play-in game, as both you and crucially I know very well. It certainly completed/staved off one of the great second-half-of-the-season collapses in NBA history on Cleveland's part!

It seems as though the Miami Heat are being shortchanged by this gambit.
The Heat will win this series.

Brooklyn Nets (7) at Boston Celtics (2)
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Justin Ford/Getty Images

Sunday! 3:30 pm Eastern! The ABC television network!

It brings me great pain to report that these Boston Celtics are good as hell. It didn't seem like it was gonna go this way for them. Back in November, and then again in January, they were crappy and unhappy. New coach Ime Udoka seemed to have a weird and bad rapport with the team, and the team just kinda seemed misshapen and awkward and not good. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what changed! Boston's front office made bold moves in the Deal Zone, sure—but the Deal Zone didn't even open until the second week of February, by which time these damn Celtics were already in the midst of a nine-game winning streak. They just flipped from being crappy to being real dang good, and then the Deal Zone deals made them even better, and now, I dunno man, I kind of think, or suspect, or maybe fear, that they're the best team in the East. A real friggin' rollercoaster.

Oh hey right, speaking of rollercoasters: The Brooklyn Nets. Blllleccchhhhhhhhh. It's very probable that you, the median Defector reader, already know way more than you'd like about this Nets season. About Kyrie Irving wrenching it into clown shape with his pointless, dumb, ridiculous vaccine holdout, which made him ineligible to practice or play in home games for most of the season. About James Harden finagling a trade to Philadelphia, and about how the Nets folded up their previous fake-principled Kyrie stance (that they didn't want any part-time players, and so wouldn't play him on the road if he couldn't practice or play at home) and allowed him to play on the road as soon as the Harden situation left them short another shot-creating superstar on the roster. About how the city of New York absurdly pulled the plug on its own vaccine mandate when it became politically desirable to unfurl a big shameful "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner over the still-ongoing pandemic, handing Kyrie a nauseating public victory over the very idea of social responsibility. It has all sucked real bad, and I am sick of talking about it.

Here's Kevin Durant hanging a career-high 55 points on the Atlanta Hawks a couple weeks ago:

At least there's still Kevin Durant.

The Celtics' guys are Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the young and splendidly gifted wings about whom I had nothing to say back in October, and about whom I have nothing much to say now. They're very good. They do all the stuff. They're surrounded by a deep and versatile collection of sharp professionals, notably cleansed of unhappy Dennis Schroeder and preening sideshow idiot Enes Freedom back at the trade deadline. This is all great. On the other hand, by informal count this is like the eighth year in a row that has seemed like it might be the year the Celtics were ready to do more than just tune up the East's eventual finalist; if this is the movie it seems like, then I know how it ends.

There's mayyyybe a little juice left in the Celtics being the team Kyrie notably jilted a couple years ago, or anyway you can anticipate that Boston's home crowd will think so, even if none of the players do. That could be a little spicy, I guess. There's also the outside possibility that Ben Simmons will play his first games of the season, and his first as a Brooklyn Net, in this series. That could be awkward and fascinating: Would he be willing to score buckets, or would putting him on the court amount to putting an extra defender on his own teammates?

Mostly this is just a series between a pair of teams that, for differing reasons, will be bitterly disappointed by any run that ends short of the conference finals. The Celtics have been building toward championship contention for like a thousand years; the Nets have serially mortgaged every scrap of their future for a shot at cannonballing into the Finals. There's also the possibility that, if the Nets can get to an elimination game, Kevin Durant will go Durant Mode and score like 25 devastating fourth-quarter points in front of a shattered Boston home crowd to send the Celtics packing. Seems fun to me.

Who the hell knows with these Nets. On principle you should always assume a team's playoff seed tells you how good that team is: The NBA regular season does a better job than any other major sport's of sorting the teams according to their actual quality, and the playoffs rarely contradict its findings. If a team enters the playoffs seeded seventh, it almost certainly is not up to the job of knocking off the team seeded second. That's probably the case here. On the other hand we live in the hell dimension, where the outcome optimized for maximum bummerage is the likeliest. Kyrie Irving winning Finals MVP and Earth's most obnoxious pricks taking it as some type of vindication of, like, having had the courage to refuse to participate in responsible public health practice is definitely that. Does that make the Celtics... underdogs? Oh God.

(Then again, Kyrie having to miss four games of a potential Nets-Raptors series because he can't enter Canada would be pretty damn funny. Maybe that's the thing to root for.)

Chicago Bulls (6) at Milwaukee Bucks (3)
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When's the game?
The game is on Sunday, at 6:30 pm Eastern, on TNT.

What do I need to know about this?
The Bulls had a very nice season. After spending the previous four at various depths of the Eastern Conference's toilet, they very sensibly just ... added some good veteran players of the sort pretty much always available in either free agency or trade? ... and got better? ... I dunno, that's what it says here. Must be a mistake. In any event they spent much of the season at or near the top of the East standings. DeMar DeRozan, newly arrived from San Antonio, had the best season of his career, scored like crazy, and put himself in the MVP conversation. Alex Caruso, newly arrived from Los Angeles, played like a first-team all-defense guy. Lonzo Ball, newly arrived from New Orleans, flowered into one of the league's best two-way guards, crucially without needing a high volume of shots or exclusive control of the ball. Zach LaVine, not newly arrived from anywhere but newly surrounded by worth-a-damn teammates for the first time, continued doing Zach LaVine stuff, but more efficiently, and to better effect. It was cool.

Then it all kinda fell apart. Caruso got injured toward the end of December, by noted goon Grayson Allen (of this series's own Milwaukee Bucks!), and missed pretty much two whole months in the middle of the campaign. Ball went down with a knee injury just a couple of weeks later and won't return before next season. Those are the Bulls' two best guards, by miles, and also their two best and most versatile perimeter defenders; Ball's injury, in particular, was an absolute killer. The Bulls went 23-27 in the 2022 calendar year, a .451 winning percentage that would have been good for 11th in the conference. What I am saying here is: Go to hell, Grayson Allen!

Anyway they're dead now. Dead dead dead. They're dead. Here is a video of DeRozan doing cool shit in the first half of the season, before it all went sideways:

Ah right, yes, the Bucks. The deal with the Bucks is they are going to boot the poor hard-luck Chicago Bulls into the dumpster.

I guess I just mentioned Chicago's guys. Milwaukee's guy is Giannis Antetokounmpo, of course. Here's Giannis smashing the Indiana Pacers back in February:

And here he is going for 44-and-14 against the Nets, just a couple weeks ago:

He's gonna smush the Bulls so damn flat.

Good? Bad?
The Bulls and their fans deserve a good series. I don't think this is going to be one!

Who can say. Certainly not me, several times, in the previous few minutes.

TBD (8) at Phoenix Suns (1)
JaVale McGee, Phoenix Suns
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Not this crap again!
I'm kidding. TBD can't play in two different first-round series in the same year! Due to being able to see the future from the point several days ago when I diligently completed this NBA playoff preview, I have learned that the Suns' opponents will be the New Orleans Pelicans, who will have won the final play-in game on Friday night, over the Los Angeles Clippers, who were without their best player, Paul George, because he ran afoul of the league's COVID protocols.

I found that out by clicking over to a different website while you were jerking around and pretending to have written this days ago. I also know what time the game is.
The game is on Sunday evening, at 9:00 pm Eastern, on TNT.

Great. I also already know the deal with these te—
The Suns, runners-up in last season's Finals, were by miles the NBA's best team in this regular season. They're deep, they're extremely good, they know how to win in the playoffs, and if they do not win the Finals this year I feel there is a dangerously high probability that Chris Paul will become the Joker.

I do not want to dismiss the Pelicans, who took a big swing when they traded a bucket of not-special young dudes and flotsam for C.J. McCollum back in February; a kind of exception to the earlier principle (that a team's seeding after 82 games almost certainly is the seeding it deserves) is when a previously shitty team meaningfully overhauls its roster midway through the season, and gets a lot better as a result, and the Pelicans did that. If they weren't great in the season's back half—and they weren't!—they were certainly sharply better, and may in fact be Decent now. That's great! It's especially impressive that they did it despite getting nothing from Zion Williamson, the erstwhile mega-prospect I now routine forget about, whose situation seems fucked up and bad and has made me pretty much give up on him ever being an NBA player of consequence.

The two people in Louisiana who give a damn about the Pelicans deserve this season's happy back half, and a team to feel good about. I hope that they will still see this season as a success like 10 days from now, when the Pelicans have been gentleman-swept into vacation.

Stop this. Leave me alone.
Here is Devin Booker whining about how people don't like the Suns as much as they should like the Suns, or something:

Boo hoo hoo, ya big weiner!

And here is New Orleans head coach Willie Green giving a pretty stirring little motivational speech before his Pelicans went and closed out the Clippers on Friday night:

Heck yeah. I'm ready to kick some ass now.

Anyway barring some truly freakish injury shit the Pelicans are going to lose this series by like 60 total points.

I demand that you exit my home immediately.
I do not expect this to be a close or good series, if I have not made that clear. But the Pelicans are probably about as unknown a quantity as an eighth seed that played two extra games at the end of the season can be: There's maybe some juice to Game 1, and the faint but not totally nonexistent possibility that they will turn out to be much tougher foes than the Suns are prepared for.

I'm calling the po—
The Phoenix Suns will win this series.

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