The Grip - Solo KD — Kawhi-light — Suns in 4

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

  The Opening Tip

  • Kawhi Leonard did something terrible to Derrick Favors last night. 
  • We salute you, #Sunsin4 guy. 
  • Trae Young continues to make a mockery of traditional NBA stats.

Tonight's playoff game

1. Will KD be a solo act tonight?

Kyrie Irving is out for tonight’s all-important Game 5 against the Bucks.

Kevin Durant is in.

James Harden is … questionable.

(Since today began, he's gone from out to doubtful to questionable.)

Per Adrian Wojnarowski:

 
“Harden is expected to test his hamstring in shoot-around today and has been determined to try and find a way to get cleared to play Game 5.” 

If Harden plays, it will be a truncated version of himself who will have convinced the medical staff to sign away its medical reasoning.

If he doesn’t, it’ll be Durant’s first solo playoff game (without the help of stars like Harden, Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, Draymond Green or Kyrie Irving) since 2013, when …

  • He was forced to take on the Grizzlies by himself for an entire second-round series, because Patrick Beverley took out Westbrook in the series prior. 

What unfolded: Durant was the leading scorer in the first four games of the series. Memphis threw a combination of Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince at him. He shot 54 more shots than anyone on the Thunder and averaged 28.8 PPG on 22.8 field goals per game

His usage rate* was an astronomical 32.5 percent ... and OKC lost in five games.

In P.J.Tucker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, the Bucks tonight certainly have the personnel to do what Memphis did eight years ago.

*Usage rate = what percentage of team plays a player was involved in while he was on the floor.

[READ: Kyrie’s injury resets Nets-Bucks and puts all eyes on Kevin Durant]

2. Daily GIFWhere did this come from?

Kawhi Lennit (Mark Jarkson pronunciation) is a wonderful player for so many reasons. But posterizing a poor soul isn’t usually a move you associate with him.

Unfortunately for Derrick Favors last night, that poor soul was him. Maybe he and Maxi Kleber can start a club.

Two things:

  1. Ian Eagle nailed the call. “A major Kawhi-light!”
  2. Joel Embiid saw the dunk on a nearby TV during his postgame news conference. “Oh my God! You see that Kawhi dunk?”

3. Trivia time

The 2012 Thunder beat three straight former MVPs in a row to make it to the NBA Finals. Who were those MVPs?

Answers at the bottom.

4. Devin Booker wants to know who this prophetic, heavy-handed king is

In Game 3 on Friday night of the Nuggets-Suns series, a fight (if you want to call it that) broke out between two Nuggets fans and one Suns fan.

  • Here is the video, which picks up as one of the Nuggets fans pretends to walk away, then goes back at the Suns fan. 

  • Despite having the higher ground, the Nuggets fan swings errantly and is immediately headlocked by the lone Suns fan, who proceeds to throw a quick succession of eight successful punches at the Nuggets fan.

  • Once the lunging Nuggets fan is conquered, the Suns fan, still headlocking Nuggets fan No. 1, proceeds to land a few on Nuggets fan No. 2, all despite having the lower ground. 

Once both Nuggets fans recede, beaten and bruised, the Suns fan lets out a primal “SUNS IN FOUR!!!”

It was a tone likely akin to the sound of the victors in the great battles of millenniums past.

It was, in short, undeniably bad-ass behavior, made even better when, on Sunday, the Suns fan’s prophecy came true. Phoenix beat Denver in four.

After the sweep … Devin Booker put out a call on social media. With the above picture attached, Booker tweeted “Need mans info.”

They have found each other: Booker posted a screenshot of a DM on his Instagram page, with a message from the Suns fan, who is named Nick McKellar:
 

“Hey Book! Not sure if you saw the viral video from last night, but I just want (sic) say sorry. Hate to make us fans look like heathens. Just acting on self defense. Sentiment hasn’t changed, #sunsin4”

(Here’s McKellar’s Instagram, which is now called “suns.in.4.”)

What’s next? We’re not sure, but the Suns would do a great service to justice if they gave McKellar courtside seats for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals and a tribute video after the first timeout. 

5. By the numbers

25 points, 18 assists

Trae Young had 25 points and 18 assists in last night’s Game 4 win over the 76ers. He’s the youngest player in playoff history with 25 points and 15-plus assists.


0-for-12

Conversely, Joel Embiid shot 0-for-12 last night in the second half of 76ers-Hawks, which included a botched layup with the game on the line.


+325

We have a new NBA Finals favorite for the first time since the postseason began: The Bucks.

They’re now +325, followed by Brooklyn (+375), Phoenix (+400), Utah (+500), L.A. (+550), Philadelphia (+650) and Atlanta (+3000).


21-20-10-8

On this day 18 years ago, Tim Duncan put up 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and 8 blocks in a Finals-clinching Game 6 win over the New Jersey Nets. To this day, Spurs fans think Duncan was robbed of two blocks (and a Finals quadruple-double) by the official scorers.

6.  Quick hits

  • ICYM Nikola Jokic going Serbian mob boss on Devin Booker, here you go. And here’s a curation of the hijinks that followed.
  • Kawhi, on the outside world: "I didn't even know we took criticism. I don't pay attention to the outside world."
  • Marcus Morris, on Utah: “I don’t know anybody that wants to go to Utah.” 
  • Shaq and Kenny wore similar suits last night. Shaq says they got them from the “six rings store.”
  • Here are the All-Defense teams.
  • There’s a billboard in Allston urging Brad Stevens to hire a woman head coach.
  • Here’s a chart on which reporters get aggregated the most on r/nba. And here's the newsletter of the guy who made it.

7.  Reads

  • Inside the Mavericks front office, Mark Cuban’s shadow GM is causing a rift with Luka Doncic [The Athletic]
  • The Clippers may finally be starting to look like the superteam we expected [The Ringer]
  • The 2021 NBA champions will join a long list of asterisk wins [NBC Sports]
  • Show Nikola Jokic some respect [The Right Time with Bomani Jones]

Trivia answer: Dirk in round one, Kobe in round two, Tim Duncan in round three.


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