Apr 24, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) and center Jakob Poeltl (42) celebrate a basket during the fourth quarter in game five of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 118-93. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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On Day 10 of 2017 NBA Playoffs Roundup, the Warriors look like they could go 16-0, the Raptors got the Powell and the Trail Blazers’ season ends.
The 2017 NBA Playoffs are in full swing and even as we hurtle toward the Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers Finals showdown everyone’s been expecting since last summer, would anyone be disappointed as long as the playoffs remain this exciting?
Though the Dubs and Cavs both emerged with first round playoff sweeps, almost every game of the postseason — even the blowouts by the last two defending NBA champions — has been entertaining.
As we advance through the postseason, we’ll be taking a look at what stood out from each day of playoff action. Here’s what we took away from the Raptors taking Game 5 at home over the Bucks, the Hawks getting a Calderon flashback to tie their series with the Wizards, and the Warriors’ routine dominance ending the Trail Blazers’ season.
THEY’VE GOT THE POWELL!
Aside from the unforgettable superstar performances, the best part of the NBA playoffs every year is watching unheralded role players earn the limelight with a breakout game when their team needs it the most and expects it the least.
This shouldn’t be a surprise given what we saw from Norman Powell last season, but since he’s been out of Dwane Casey’s rotation for the better part of the 2016-17 campaign, his emergence as the X-factor for the Toronto Raptors has been a very welcome turn of events for this worried fan base.
In his second season, Powell averaged just 18.0 minutes per game. Through the first three games of this series, he had logged a grand total of 21 minutes. Then, with the Bucks holding a 2-1 series lead and the Raptors facing a backs-against-the-wall Game 4 on the road, Casey moved Powell into the starting lineup. Everything’s changed ever since.
In his 34 minutes in Game 4, Powell only shot 3-for-7, but he made all three of his attempts from long range for 12 points. Playing Serge Ibaka at the 5 also allowed Toronto to capitalize on its small-ball advantage in an 11-point win.
The result was pretty much the same in Game 5, only this time, Powell fed off the home crowd en route to a team- and career-high 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 from deep. He also tallied four assists, four rebounds, three steals and a block with a +23 plus/minus.
Norm Powell has 21 points, is chirping the Bucks bench after every bucket and has again made Khris Middleton disappear. World peace is next
Will Powell continue to shoot 100 percent from downtown? Probably not. Are the Bucks down and out given what we know about the Playoff Raptors? Probably not. But if you’re looking for the reason Toronto has turned this series around, it’s because THEY’VE GOT THE POWELL!
Apr 24, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd watches the play during the third quarter in game five of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 118-93. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Bucks Aren’t Done Yet
It doesn’t look good for the Milwaukee Bucks. The average age of their starting lineup is barely over 23, Jabari Parker is missed right about now and inserting Norman Powell into the starting five has totally changed the series for Toronto.
But the Bucks also haven’t played particularly well over the last two games. That, plus home-court advantage in Game 6, plus Giannis Antetokounmpo, plus the Playoff Raptors being the Playoffs Raptors tells us this series could go the distance.
In Game 5, Milwaukee got just eight points on 3-of-8 shooting out of Khris Middleton. The Bucks were out-rebounded by 18. Matthew Dellavedova was a -21 in 22 minutes off the bench. Aside from the Greek Freak (30 points, nine rebounds), only Malcolm Brogdon showed up to help.
That has to change — and should change — in a do-or-die Game 6 at home, where the Bucks went 23-18 this season. It’s time for a reappearance from Playoff Giannis.
Apr 24, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Jose Calderon (13) reacts after making a basket against the Washington Wizards in the second quarter in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
More Like Jose Scalderon, Amirite?
Like we mentioned with Norman Powell, the best part of the postseason is when unheralded, unappreciated bench players step up and swing a playoff series. In a 2017 postseason that’s included big-time performances from Gerald Green, Joe Johnson, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee, we can now add Jose Calderon to the list.
When the Wizards went up 2-0 over the Atlanta Hawks in their first round playoff series, it felt like an inevitable sweep. Even when the Hawks decisively took Game 3 at home, a John Wall takeover and bounce-back Game 4 win seemed like a logical expectation for Washington.
But then Calderon entered the game and defied all logic.
Coach Bud on Jose Calderón: He’s infected us with his spirit, I might need to write Golden State a thank you note
His numbers weren’t anything special, with the 35-year-old backup putting up 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting. But in his 20 minutes off the bench, he was an unstoppable +29 for the Hawks, who watched a nine-point deficit when Calderon first entered the game metamorphose into a six-point lead when he finally got a breather 11 minutes later.
In the fourth quarter, his tip-in on a fast break extended Atlanta’s lead to eight with just over nine minutes remaining, helping the Hawks brace for Washington’s final comeback attempts.
Apr 24, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) calls a play against the Atlanta Hawks in the second quarter in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Wonder Wall Needs His Oasis
John Wall does everything for the Washington Wizards. He was their leader in points, assists and steals during the regular season. He’s the face of the franchise, the floor general who makes the offense hum and the one whose defensive effort sets (or doesn’t set) the tone for his team.
With the series tied up at 2-2, I’ll say maybe, he’s gonna be the one that saves them. After all, he’s their Wonder Wall.
As of right now though, there’s no Oasis in the middle of this barren desert where his teammates’ contributions have gone bone dry.
For the series, Wall is averaging a team-leading 28.8 points and 10.0 assists per game on 38-of-75 shooting (50.7 percent). Without Wall, the Wizards would be shooting 119-for-285 from the floor (41.8 percent) with only 45 total assists.
Markieff Morris is the team’s third-leading scorer with a measly 10.5 points per game. Brandon Jennings just got shown up by Jose Calderon. Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre have both disappeared. There’s a reason Wall only has 40 assists through four games despite having 89 potential assists, per NBA.com.
Yes, Bradley Beal just dropped 32 points in Game 4. And yes, he’s still averaging 24.3 points per game for the series against Atlanta. But even he’s dropped off, shooting just 41.8 percent from the floor and 26.8 percent from deep in the series after posting .482/.404/.825 shooting splits during the regular season. Someone get John Wall some help.
Apr 24, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts with a smile after a foul is called on the Warriors in the second half of game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Routine Warriors Checkup
We’ll try to keep this as short and simple as possible without calling at a day after something like Are the Golden State Warriors still incredible? Yes? Okay, moving on.
The Dubs swept Portland last night in Kevin Durant‘s second game of the series. Stephen Curry looked like his MVP self of not-so-long-ago, finishing with a scorching hot 37 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and seven three-pointers in just 30 minutes.
KD had 10 points in 20 minutes. Draymond Green added 21, Klay Thompson finished with 18 and the Warriors led 72-48 at halftime thanks to a 45-point first quarter.
Finishing off the sweep means the Dubs get about a week of rest while they await the winner of the Jazz-Clippers series that’s currently tied at 2-2. That means more rest for a healthy Durant and hopefully also Steve Kerr, who’s been sidelined thanks to the unfortunate side effects of that back surgery gone wrong.
But at this point, would anyone really be surprised to see a Mike Brown-led team go a perfect 16-0 en route to the title?
Apr 24, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum (3) and guard Damian Lillard (0) talk during a break in the action against the Golden State Warriors in the second half of game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Happy Trails, Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers were swept in the first round of the playoffs. They won three fewer games than they did in 2015-16, they didn’t make it back to the Western Conference semifinals, and many of the gaudy contracts they handed last summer out looked questionable over the course of the 2016-17 campaign.
And yet, thanks to the trade for Jusuf Nurkic, it somehow feels like Rip City made progress this season, despite all other signs pointing to regression — especially after an embarrassing Game 4 rout at home that was never even competitive.
While we didn’t see the full extent of what the Bosnian Beast could do in a playoff series against the mighty Warriors, his impact during his 20 regular season games with the team was quite clear. Portland went 14-6 with Nurkic on the floor, with a +3.9 point differential in those games.
During that 20-game span, the Blazers had the fourth-best record in the league and the seventh-best point differential, with Nurkic posting an impressive 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals pr game on 50.8 percent shooting.
He helped the Blazers drastically improve their offense and defense, breathed life into Damian Lillard‘s season and helped Portland secure a playoff spot, instantly turning what was looking like an underwhelming season into a success story.
Nurkic made the Blazers fun again, and even after a first round sweep that featured only 17 minutes of the big guy on the court, Rip City has every reason to be excited about the 2017-18 campaign. There are worse ways to end a season.