Are The Top Teams in the NBA Playoffs in Trouble?
Day 2 of the NBA Playoffs wrapped up last night, and it proved that being at the top isn't always fun.
On Tuesday night the two top seeds in the playoffs saw game 1 upsets as the Orlando Magic beat the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks 122-110, and the Los Angeles Lakers suffered a defeat to the 8th seeded Portland Trailblazers 100-93.
The Los Angeles Clippers, who many deem to be the clear cut favorites, took a game 1 lead over the Dallas Mavericks, but the Mavericks managed to steal game 2 away and even the series 1-1. The first two days of action left me some lingering questions, should the Clippers, Lakers and Bucks be worried?
My answer to that question is yes.
The restart in Orlando has showed me so far that no team is safe and anybody can win on any given night. There is no perfect team in the playoffs, regardless of how the media paints it out to be. The Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat can easily give Milwaukee a run for their money, and the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets could pose threats to the Lakers and Clippers.
The top dogs in the NBA are flawed in many ways and I'll address them below:
Los Angeles Lakers lack of shooting and coaching will cost them a championship
The Lakers shocked the NBA world when they secured the top spot in the Western Conference, but regular season and playoffs are two different animals.
The Lakers managed to go 3-4 in the bubble restart and are last in field goal percentage (39.8%), last in three-point percentage (25.2%), and last in PPG (96.6%). They purple and gold also boast a 2nd worst free-throw percentage (73.8%), those numbers are inexcusable and downright embarrassing. You are not going to win championships on any level shooting the ball like that.
The coaching style of Frank Vogel and his subpar lineups are going tho be the biggest reason the Lakers don't win a championship this year. Vogel doesn't utilize the team's strengths and he keeps the wrong guys on the floor for long periods of time. Both Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played 30 minutes in game 1 against Portland and scored a combined 3 points and 1-15 from the field.
Danny Green has been awful in Orlando and is not as effective on the defensive end like he used to be and he doesn't need to be on the floor in late-game situations. Frank Vogel has instant offense on the bench with Dion Waiters and J.R Smith and they don't suit up at all. If the Lakers don't figure it out and get it together then they will be going home to LA a lot sooner than they think.
The Bucks need more consistency on both ends of the floor
Milwaukee has been in a funk since March and it could be a problem in the playoff.
Orlando hit the Bucks on the chin in game 1 because of their lack perimeter defense, which has plagued them for most of the season. Outside of Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo the Bucks are limited with perimeter defenders, and that could be a factor against the weapons that Boston, Toronto and Miami have.
The Bucks have size but their bigs aren't reliable post scorers and interior defenders and are too reliant on three-point shooting. They also lack a reliable scorer off the bench that can give them 15-20 points a night consistently. These inconsistencies cost Milwaukee a championship last season when they blew a 2-0 lead against Toronto in the Conference Finals.
Simply put, the Bucks need Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton to start earning those massive paychecks that they are receiving.
Giannis has the capability to carry Milwaukee offensively and defensively but he'll need more help from his supporting cast in order to raise that gold ball in October.
The Clippers lack rebounding, shot blocking and backcourt help
As good as the Clippers been on paper, that hasn't translated on the court.
Luka Doncic scored the 2nd most points through his first two playoff games against the Clippers in game 2, and that's simply because the Clippers aren't as great defensive team as their painted out to be.
The loss of Patrick Beverly leaves Kawhi Leonard and Paul George splitting the defensive duties on Doncic because the Clippers struggle with the depth at point guard. Lou Williams is strictly a scorer and Reggie Jackson is not a true point guard, which leaves the Clippers with limited options at the guard position and with Leonard handling the ball a majority of time on offensive.
Los Angeles has a pair of high energy centers with Montrezl Harrell and Ivica Zubac, but their not great shot blockers and rebounders. Harrell averages 7.1 RPG and 1.1 BPG, while Zubac is averaging a mere 7.5 RPG and 0.9 BPG.
Not great stats for two starting centers on a championship contending team. When the Clippers put this team together this season they focused more on scoring and taking free agents away from the Lakers and neglected the biggest team needs.
The Dallas Mavericks have exposed the Clippers flaws and they could make this a very interesting series if the Clippers let them.