D.C.’s playoff miracle — Play-in ghost stats — Kwame Brown!

Friday, May 21st, 2021

  The Opening Tip

  • The Wizards had no business making the playoffs this season.
  • Before there was Julius Randle and James Harden, there was Alexey Shved and Henry Sims. 
  • Kwame Brown has finally had enough.

Tonight's play-in game

1. The Wizards’ playoff chances, preseason-today

(Data via FiveThirtyEight)

The Wizards blew out the Pacers last night, 142-115, to clinch a spot in the playoffs. They’ll play the 76ers in a one-eight matchup, which you must admit is a little bit juicy. (Washington is +600.)

A month and 12 days ago, the very idea of the Wiz qualifying for the playoffs was, by FiveThirtyEight’s projections, 1 in 100. At various points throughout the season, they were 2-8, 3-12, 6-17, 14-25 and 17-32. On April 9, when their playoff odds cratered at one percent, they were 19-32.

Then, Russell Westbrook went nuts, Washington finished the season 15-5, and here we are. Game 1 is tomorrow at 1 p.m.

[READ: Russell Westbrook delivers on midseason vow]

2. Daily GIF: Where will all these stats go?

Here are a few great stat lines from the five play-in games so far:

  • Jayson Tatum: 50 points, 8 rebounds, +25. 
  • LeBron James: 22 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, the dagger above.
  • Steph Curry: 37 points, 6 made 3s. 
  • Russell Westbrook: 18 points, 8 rebounds, 15 assists.

Our question: Where will these stats live? They won’t count toward regular season or playoff stats, according to the NBA, and they haven’t shown up on Basketball Reference in players’ game logs or as part of a team’s schedule. (“It's just an odd duck that we are having some issues incorporating,” said Sean Forman, president of Sports Reference, when we reached out.)

So … Tatum has scored 50 or more points three times this season -- or is it two times + once in a play-in game? Is this the wild west? The Oklahoma City Land Run of 1891? Is it OK to say Tatum is the best player in the history of the play-in? And LeBron the most clutch?

The NBA better figure this out, or over-caring NBA newsletters like this one will continue to dial up the outrage. And we have at least a few more levels of outrage we can get to.

3. Trivia time

Who has the longest active streak of qualifying for the playoffs? Who has the longest active playoff drought?

Answers at the bottom.

4. The worst starting lineups of Knicks and Nets past

This is a momentous weekend for New York basketball. The Knicks and Nets -- two sad-sack teams as recently as one and three years ago, respectively -- are each hosting round one playoff games.

Knicks fans and Nets fans -- all 97 of them -- have been through a lot to make it to this point, and they’ve seen a lot of so-so basketball.

To prove it, here are three random Knicks + Nets lineups from the last six years to help them appreciate what they currently have.

1. Knicks, March 9, 2015:

  • Langston Galloway
  • Alexey Shved
  • Andrea Bargnani
  • Lance Thomas
  • Jason Smith

Result: A 28-point loss to Denver to fall to 12-50.

2. Nets, Jan. 22, 2016:

  • Wayne Ellington
  • Thaddeus Young
  • Donald Sloan
  • Joe Johnson
  • Brook Lopez

Result: A 22-point loss to Utah to fall to 11-33. 

3. Knicks, April 10, 2019:

  • Damyean Dotson
  • Luke Kornet
  • Kevin Knox
  • Mitchell Robinson
  • Mario Hezonja

Result: A 26-point loss to Detroit to fall to 17-65.

4. Nets, Dec. 20, 2016:

  • Brook Lopez
  • Isaiah Whitehead
  • Sean Kilpatrick
  • Trevor Booker
  • Bojan Bogdanović

Result: A 23-point loss to Washington to fall to 8-24.

5. Knicks, April 2, 2017: 

  • Courtney Lee
  • Ron Baker
  • Kristaps Porzingis
  • Sasha Vujačić
  • Willy Hernangómez

Result: A 16-point loss to Boston to fall to 29-48.

6. Nets, April 11, 2016:

  • Shane Larkin
  • Bojan Bogdanović
  • Henry Sims
  • Wayne Ellington
  • Chris McCullough

Result: A nine-point loss to Washington to fall to 21-60.

5. Why is Kwame Brown roasting the entire world?

You know a situation has gone haywire when Kwame Brown is channeling his inner “Man Driving While Making YouTube Video To Explain How PC Culture Is Destroying America.”

Here’s why he’s so mad, and why he’s been all over social media lately, in six bullet points:

  • On May 13, Gilbert Arenas went on an episode of “All the Smoke” with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. Arenas, a teammate of Brown’s on the Wizards, started playfully poking fun at Brown -- he called him a “show pony,” among other things -- while Barnes and Jackson egged him on. 
  • Context: People have been making fun of Brown for years. (Stephen A. Smith basically launched a second career out of it.) It’s been a steady mockery -- mostly because of his status as an underachieving No. 1 pick -- and radio silence on his end. 
  • No longer! Brown fought back with a 75-minute YouTube video, which was mostly him smoking hookah and talking trash about Jackson (“I seen you crying every time Charles Oakley ‘bout to slap the shit out you”) and Barnes (“the emotional *****).
  • In the aftermath, Brown has since challenged Stephen A. to a boxing match and called out Jemele Hill and Rachel Nichols. There’s a lot going on. 
  • Barnes has also responded, inviting Brown on “All the Smoke.” 
  • Brown has responded to that response by sporadically going on Instagram Live to continue to unload roasts upon Barnes. Here is one that’s particularly enjoyable because a Twitter user put Nas’s Ether beat over it. Enjoy.      

The big takeaway: Well, there are two actually ... 

  1. Brown, a Georgia native, has a hypnotizing Southern drawl and a fantastic interpretation of the English language, and should probably have a podcast himself. 
  2. We shouldn’t have taken so many cheap shots at Brown over the years, because he’s a person and not a punchline, because he’s 6-foot-11 and could beat up 99.99999 percent of America, and because there’s no such thing as a rich bust. 

6.  Quick hits

  • Chuck thinks Adam Silver is rigging the play-in games to give TNT the blowouts. 
  • Wednesday’s Lakers-Warriors game averaged 5.6 million viewers. Last year’s NBA Finals Game 6 averaged 8.3 million. 
  • The Spurs losing to the Grizzlies on Wednesday means the first back-to-back non-playoff seasons in franchise history. 
  • Here’s high school Julius Randle locking up some poor kid. 
  • The Knicks fans are dunking on the Nets fans because it appears Brooklyn is having trouble selling out its first two playoff games. 
  • Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Steph Curry are the three finalists for MVP. 
  • Enjoy this picture of Joakim Noah standing in front of a mural of Joakim Noah. 

7.  Reads and podcast pick

  • There’s joy in Tom Thibodeau and the playoff-bound Knicks [The Ringer]
  • How the Sixers’ bubble burst -- and what this year’s team can learn from it [Sports Illustrated]
  • The Atlanta Hawks were going nowhere until Nate McMillan came along [FiveThirtyEight]
  • Lamar Odom on his journey through the NBA, addiction, and being reborn [The Ringer NBA Show]

Trivia answer:  Portland (8 in a row), Sacramento (15 missed playoffs)


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