Giannis, in paint — Doc’s chokes — Mavs mess

Friday, June 18th, 2021

  The Opening Tip

  • Can Khris Middleton get a little bit of respect?
  • Doc Rivers has had great moments, but he’s also let a Liberty Bell’s load of series slip away. 
  • A quick primer on what’s going on with the Mavericks.  

Tonight's playoff game

1. Giannis kicked his worst habits in Game 6 last night

There are certain truths in one’s life he or she must accept. For one of us, it came when our Division III baseball coach said, “No one has ever been drafted from Emerson College ... and how did you get my home phone number?” For the other, it was the same, but with our Division III soccer coach.

For Giannis, for one night at least, his accepted truth was that he shouldn’t be shooting 3s -- and shouldn’t be near the 3-point line -- in a legacy-defining playoff game.

In last night’s Game 6, he didn’t shoot a 3 for the first time in a full game since February, and it worked out: He had an easy 30 points on 20 shots, helping the Bucks win by 15.

Here’s his shot breakdown, via NBA.com:

  • From less than 5 feet: 14 attempts, 10 makes 
  • 5-9 feet: 1 attempt, no makes
  • 10-14 feet: 2 attempts, 1 make
  • 15-19 feet: 3 attempts, 1 make

In different terms, his average shot distance last night was 5.6 feet from the basket, a huge dropoff from the first five games.

In graph form (data via Kirk Goldsberry):

Welcome to the world of adjustments, playoff basketball, and accepted truths, Giannis and Mike Budenholzer.

[READ: The biggest showdown of the NBA playoffs is set]

2. Daily GIFKhris Middleton James Hardened James Harden

Khris Middleton, who is on the short list of players whose every shot looks like it’s going to go on, played the best game of his life last night, dropping 38 points on 16 shots, including the 4-point play above. 

According to ESPN, he and Giannis became the third teammates last night to each score 30-plus on 60 percent shooting when facing elimination, which registers as a solid 9 out of 10 on the obscure stats scale.

3. Trivia time

The Kawhi-less Clippers are once again a game away from advancing to their first ever conference finals. They are one of three teams never to make it that far.

Who are they?

Answers at the bottom.

4. Doc Rivers’ worst playoff losses as a coach, ranked

Doc Rivers and the 76ers are a game away from losing their second-round series to a far less talented Hawks team.

If Atlanta pulls this off, it’ll be one of a sizable list of playoff failures for Doc, some justifiable, others not.

His worst series losses, ranked:

  • 6. Boston's blown 3-2 lead to the Magic, Eastern Conference Semifinals, 2009
  • 5. Boston’s blown 3-2 lead to the Heat, Eastern Conference Finals, 2012
  • 4. Orlando’s blown 3-1 lead to the Pistons, first round, 2003
  • 3. Boston’s blown 3-2 lead to the Lakers, NBA Finals, 2010
  • 2. The Clippers’ blown 3-1 lead to the Nuggets, Western Conference Semifinals, 2020
  • 1. The Clippers’ blown 3-1 lead to the Rockets, Western Conference Semifinals, 2015


FWIW, the 76ers are -150 to win tonight in Atlanta.

[READ: The Sixers are where they've always been, waiting for Ben Simmons]

5. What the hell is happening with the Mavericks?

In case you’ve only been peripherally paying attention to what’s happening in Dallas, here’s a quick primer.

On Monday … The Athletic dropped an interesting piece centered around Haralabos Voulgaris, the former professional gambler who has worked with the Mavs since 2018 as their “Director of Quantitative Research and Development.” 

  • The point of the article was to illustrate that he’s actually been the team’s “shadow GM” over the last few years, which has caused a riff among team brass. (Also, Luka Doncic seems to not like him.) 
  • If you don’t know Voulgaris, he’s the ******* with zero people skills who used to appear on the Bill Simmons Podcast, and once told ESPN “I’d be able to put together a better team than almost any general manager in the league.” 

Also on Monday … Mark Cuban put his Trump hat on and tweeted that the article was “total bullshit.”

On Wednesday … longtime Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson (son of Don) agreed “to mutually part ways” with the team. It would seem a major source in the Athletic piece was Nelson, who reportedly felt he was being boxed out by Voulgaris.

On Thursday ... longtime coach Rick Carlisle, who had been with the Mavs since 2009, left the team, which was “solely” his decision.

So … in a two-day span in the aftermath of a big story which Cuban called “total bullshit," one of the best coaches in the league and a well-liked GM with a combined 37 years of current job experience decided to get out of Dallas. Seems like something. 

6.  Quick hits

  • The Celtics just traded Kemba Walker and their 2021 first-rounder to OKC for Al Horford. The 2017-18 reunion is back on. 
  • Zion Williamson, who has played 82 career NBA games, is already getting the murmurs out there that he isn’t happy in New Orleans. 
  • Remember the Suns fan who knocked out two delinquent Nuggets fans? Expect to see him at Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. 
  • So ... it turns out John Stockton is a huge anti-vaxxer.
  • James Harden is so done with Giannis’ long free-throw routine.

7.  Reads

  • The decade-long odyssey of Blake Griffin’s dunk-contest Kia [The Ringer]
  • How the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz save their seasons [ESPN]
  • Mavs dysfunction, injury woes and the Sixers collapse [The Lowe Post]

Trivia answer: Clippers, Hornets, Pelicans.


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