The first-ever NBA Cup, deemed necessary as a way to get the league going again after weeks of no games, has captured the imagination of basketball fans everywhere. Or at least basketball fans who read this story. For the uninformed, the single elimination bracket tournament began last week. The Bucks and Lakers both received byes into the sweet 16 while the other 28 teams slugged it out in a series of memorable first round games about which you can find details here and here. The results of the upper half of the sweet 16 bracket are here. If you need to go back to the very beginning, you can get details on this sensational idea right here.
Rick Turner, who in another life was a producer at KJR Radio, has taken time away from his busy schedule as head coach of the Jamaican National Basketball team to dope out how these games might play out. You can follow Coach Turner on Twitter right here and on Facebook here. In the spirit of killing time, I’m sure he’d love to virtually debate the virtual results of virtual basketball games with you. Every word below is his except photo captions. Here’s how he sees the bottom half of the bracket playing out in the round of 16.
3 Toronto v 18 New Orleans
Between November 23rd and December 17th of this season, the New Orleans Pelicans lost 13 games in a row. Yes, that was without The Savior, young Zion – but even so – since then, they have found something that works and it’s all about pace.
The addition of Zion back on January 22nd further solidified a group who found its footing, going 11-5 since ending the streak and waiting for their prodigy to return. It also didn’t hurt to have Brandon Ingram finally breakout and be what many are calling the Most-Improved Player in the league, averaging 24ppg. Throw in Jrue Holiday, Josh Hart and JJ Reddick and the Pelicans can speed you up and spread you out.
Unfortunately, however for this upstart NO team, they match-up against probably the top defensive team in the league… who also happens to be pretty effective on the offensive end as well.
With your indulgence, I’d like to get my inner stats geek on for a moment and talk about a defensive stat for Toronto that I find fascinating.
Toronto is second overall defensively behind Milwaukee. They’re first in opponent scoring (106.5ppg), second (again to the Bucks) in opponent scoring in the paint, first in opponent field goal % from the three but here’s the weird one: they are nearly last (29th) in opponent three-point attempts. In other words, they don’t give up many two point baskets but they do give up a ton of three’s (38.5per game)… HOWEVER… they are holding teams to a league best (or worst I guess depending on how you look at it), 33.7% shooting.
New Orleans is fun to watch and will be for a while. Don’t be surprised if they make this one interesting. But ultimately, it’s just not yet their turn.
Toronto 105 New Orleans 97
6 Denver v 12 Indiana
This should be the game of the Round of 16.
The two teams split their series this year each winning on the others home floor. The good news for the Pacers was that it was their first win in Denver since 2007. Ironically, that was the same year the movie Pandemic was released, starring Tiffani Amber-Theissen, French Stewart – and of course, Faye Dunaway (why not, huh?).
Just because I’m lazy, I thought I’d take an IMDb review of Pandemic and plug it in here for what one might expect from this one…
“Pandemic” Nuggets/Pacers was entertaining actually for what it turned out to be, and despite being such a generic story line, there were actually some enjoyable moments throughout the course of the movie ballgame. And the story line actually was entertaining, although it has already been seen before in other such disease movies playoff games.
My initial reservations towards Tiffani Amber-Thiessen Indiana were actually put to shame, because she really performed quite well here in this movie game and proved that she has indeed stepped out of those “Saved by the Bell” Bob Hill and “Beverly Hills 90210” Donnie Walsh shackles. It was somewhat odd to witness French Stewart Myles Turner in a serious role such as this, and he did feel like a fish out of water. Faye Dunaway TJ McConnell and Eric Roberts TJ Leaf also made some short appearances in the movie game and actually did flavor it up with their grace T’s and charms J’s.
“Pandemic” Nuggets/Pacers is nowhere near being a masterpiece, nor was it an innovative or revolutionary movie game in the disease genre – if there is such a genre. But it still turned out to be entertaining and enjoyable.
Sounds about right…
The story of this game will be rebounding, an issue for Indiana early in the year. And the pace should recall playoff games of years past.
Does a Game 7 home loss in the Western Conference Semi-Finals to Portland a year ago linger in the back of the minds of Mike Malone and the Nugs? I think it might, as Coach Nate will have his guys ready… and with a complete team effort from the Pacers – including a triple-double from Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis – they spoil a Mile-High party.
Indiana 104 Denver 100 in overtime
7 Utah v 11 Dallas
As Luka Doncic goes, so go the Mavericks. That isn’t exactly scintillating analysis but as Red Fairly might have said about the Dallas star, “That’s a good player right there.” (Admit it, you did the
voice when you read that.)
The Mavs fly under-the-radar in a Western Conference that is flush with superstars and super-teams. Long and uber-skilled, they put up a lot of points (116.5per) and have a lot of weapons. At the same time, the Jazz are a resilient, well-rounded team who is consistent in so many categories.
To me, the stat for this one will be how Utah is able to defend the three and specifically, how (or if) they’re able to limit Dallas’ three-point looks.
Dallas is at the top of the league – actually number two, in three-point attempts per game at 41.5, while Utah is number three in the league at opponent three-point attempts at 31.6 per.
Now I’m no math major but that is nearly a ten-shot differential in three-point attempts per game for the Jazz. Which my Western Washington University Communications degree tells me is an advantage for Utah (in this category) of slightly over 11 points.
Something tells me that Joe Ingles comes up big in this one and the Jazz use the energy of a fantastic, rabid and rocking arena to sneak out a close one.
Utah 110 Dallas 108
2 LA Lakers v 19 Sacramento
Two more teams with extreme familiarity. Two Pacific Division neighbors and a head coach in Luke Walton, who is one year removed from steering the Lakers’ ship – albeit with a very different roster from a year ago.
It’s the classic coach’s conundrum for the massively underdog-ed Kings in this one, who are winless against the Lakers this season.
Do you change yourself in an effort to force LA to change? Or do you stay with what you do and find a plan within your system that will finally work?
I would think that Sacramento would consider going super-small and really, really up-tempo, against the best team in the West, as a way to keep JaVale McGee and a surprisingly-efficient Dwight Howard off the floor as much as possible. It would also make Anthony Davis have to extend and hopefully open up opportunities at the basket.
However, most teams (especially NBA teams) don’t try and reinvent the wheel from one game to the next and I wouldn’t expect that Coach Walton will either.
The only slight knock you could try to manufacture as a critic this season of the Lakers is that they haven’t had the same focus at home as they have had on the road. But focus will not be an issue in this one. You can bet that LeBron will be dialed in, as will the rest of his guys.
No problem in LA.
Lakers 118 Sacramento 100
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our tournament field will again be reseeded after this round. So the Elite Eight match ups look like this:
1 Milwaukee Bucks vs 12 Indiana Pacers
2 Los Angeles Lakers vs 8 Miami Heat
3 Toronto vs 7 Utah Jazz
4 Los Angeles Clippers vs 5 Boston Celtics