The NBA Playoffs Semifinals 2023 is wrapping up with teams gearing up to advance to the Eastern and Western Conference finals throughout the week.
MVP for the first time Joel Embiid and Philadelphia 76ers leading 3-2 in the series against Boston Celticsand Heat Miami is a victory from overcoming New York Knicksin hopes of becoming the first 8th seed to reach the NBA Finals since the 1998-99 Knicks.
In the west, LeBron James showed glimmers of her younger self as Los Angeles Lakers keep the lead 3-2 first Stephen’s Curry and golden empire warriors. Meanwhile, the phoenix sun there won’t be Chris Paul (groin injury) in game 6 of the semifinals, and Kevin Durant And Booker Devin their work was eliminated before the MVP twice Nikola Jokić and Denver nuggets.
Our experts answer the hottest questions from the conference semi-finals. From the heat star Jimmy the butlerof the hot playoff streak ahead of the 76ers’ championship chances, we’re sorting out what’s real and what’s not.
True or not: The Suns need more than Devin Booker and Kevin Durant
Reality. Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s 1988 hit certainly doesn’t apply to the NBA knockouts. It took more than twice for everything to go smoothly, especially after the first round.
So while Booker and Durant would be the obvious favorites in the NBA Jam, they couldn’t bring the Suns to the franchise’s first title without help. That’s true even with both wearing superhero capes, as they did when combined to score 158 points, 32 rebounds and 35 assists in two home wins. of Phoenix before the Nuggets. But the Suns wouldn’t have won those games without great contributions from the people who played the part Jock Landale And Embarrassed Landry.
It’s fair to wonder if those performances are sustainable, though both Booker and Durant insist fatigue didn’t affect their nights off in the Game 5 loss.
“Everybody played over 40 minutes in the knockout stages, so we had to dig deep,” Durant said.
In fact, they’re the only two players whose teams are still alive in these knockouts, each averaging over 40 minutes per game. It can help can be on the way. protection point Chris Paulwho missed the last three games because of a strain in his left groin, underwent an extensive training session in Game 5 before the game that included dribbling and defensive slip work, but he was eliminated in Game 6.
— Tim MacMahon
Real or not: Knicks can’t score
Reality. Of the teams that made it to the second round, the Knicks are the only team that hasn’t earned a 100 point average, placing 14th overall in playoff points against two teams that won a combined game in the first round (the team that made it to the second round). brooklyn network And Cleveland Cavaliers). Despite the sluggish pace, the Knicks averaged 116 points per game in the regular season, making their drought a surprise.
To some extent, the Knicks were unlucky. According to Second Spectrum’s quantified shot performance, no team underperformed the expected value of 3 pointers based on location, type, distance to nearby defenders, and player ability. shot than New York. The Knicks are gaining 28% from 3, which allows the opposing defense to pack paint.
However, New York’s expected value for those three teams would place 15th out of 16 playoff teams based on Second Spectrum’s quantifiable shot probability, so the addition of shooting — and Developing it for young players — is a must. Better distance helps Jalen Brunson And Julius Randle found success working directly with them during the regular season.
It might not be so bad for the Knicks to come under attack when they still have draft picks and young players in exchange for a star. New York must now upgrade offense, preferably shooting.
True or not: With a healthy Butler, Heat is the favorite of the East
Not really. Butler gives the Heat confidence that they can achieve anything. His ability to hit another level in the post-season permeates the Miami dressing room – but to call this group the best-loved group in the East is a bit difficult. The Heat are playing good basketball, but they still don’t have the consistent outside threats to stretch the court like Tyler Herro recovering from a broken arm.
But if Bam Adebayo Continuing to play at a high level, he gives the Heat the defensive anchor they need in any series.
Coach Erik Spoelstra continued to remind the rest of the league how talented he was at tuning while also instilling in his team the belief that it could win every night. The Heat won’t back down from anyone – and there’s always a chance with Butler – but they still don’t have the depth to be the favorites.
The Heat failed to end the series with Knicks in game 5and will have two more opportunities to do so.
True or not: LeBron James’s age is catching up with him
Reality. But petty. There’s no denying that his body betraying him has cost him 80 games since the 2020 championship in Orlando, Florida, bubble, essentially a missed season over the past three seasons. . However, James, 38, has yet to miss a playoff due to injury in his career.
And the Lakers are just one game away from the Western Conference final.
Is he the same physical player he was five, 10, 15 years ago? Of course not. His 22.6 points and 5.2 assists per game in these knockouts are the lowest averages of his career. But with the Lakers’ line-up, with Anthony Davis as the lead pick and a handful of role players who can score 20 pluses on any given night, James can choose when he has the ball in his hand and has everything through him. that.
“He finds that he doesn’t have to do it all,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham. “He can still do it all at a very high level. But the teammates around him right now, they can carry a huge load.”
Twenty seasons into his NBA career, James knows the commitment it takes to compete at the highest level and seems determined to continue challenging Father Time.
“Obviously I have to continue to keep my body and mind fresh,” James said after Game 3 with the Warriors when asked what it would take to stay in the NBA long enough to play with his son, Bronny. “I think my mind is the most important. If my mind works then my body is like, ‘Okay, what are we doing?'”
Right now, his body and mind are locked in winning games.
— Dave McMenamin
True or not: 76ers should be favorites to win the title
Reality. Entering the knockout stages, the NBA’s three best teams – by record – are Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and 76ers. Milwaukee was stunned in the first half, opening a clear path for the Celtics-Sixers series winners to be strong contenders in the Eastern finals.
Now, with one more win, Philadelphia not only has the home advantage in that series, but is in the Finals against any team from the West.
Part of the reason this is true is that no matter who comes from the West, the Western Conference finals will be seen as much more even than Philadelphia facing New York or Miami.
But it’s also partly because This year’s 76ers team feels different from previous versions. Some of it is the appearance of PJ Tucker in freelance company and De’Anthony Melton through commerce, giving this team much-needed toughness and endurance. Then there was the maturation of Joel Embiid, who had his best season this year and has just produced a methodically superior, clinically superior performance to take the Sixers for the first time in a game. match of the congress final in a generation.
There’s a reason the 76ers admit it will be difficult to shut down Boston. But assuming Philadelphia can do it – and because it has two chances to do so – the Sixers will be the top pick to lift the Larry O’Brien Cup next month.
— Tim Bontemps